A World Painted White


The last place I visited on my quest to see the Northern Lights in the European winter of 2015 was the Swedish town of Kiruna. When I touched down on the 15th of January, the sun had emerged from hibernation and the snow was aglow with a soft pastel light.

Although polar night was officially over, the next day dawned with an overcast sky. It did not bode well for aurora viewing and indeed, I did not end up seeing any lights dancing over Kiruna. Luckily for me, there was still magic in the air.

This was the view that greeted me when I ventured for a walk from my cabin at Camp Ripan. Five minutes down the path and I felt like I was the only person on earth. The world was still and silent, save for the satisfying crunch of snow under my feet.

Kiruna felt like a winter wonderland, moreso than any other polar town I visited (except perhaps for Saariselka in Finland, too). The magic was in the trees. They had not been exposed by the elements and stripped bare, left to sway like skeletons in the bitter Arctic winds. Rather, these trees wore the weight of the snowy weather like an insulated coat, until it was time to feel the warmth of the sun once more.

This type of winter is the stuff of childhood dreams. I could very well have been in Narnia, lost in a land encaptured in the midst of winter’s spell. But there was no White Witch at work here. The snow that fell around me was a gentle and pure form of magic, painting the world afresh in the cleanest shade of white. Perhaps somewhere amongst these fairytale trees, all the secrets of the world lay hidden.