The streetlights of this city mesmerize me. I have not encountered anything like them in the relatively short time I that have been fortunate enough to grace this planet. Perhaps they are common in many parts of the world. If this is so, I’ve simply never lived in such blessed, exotic locations.
For now, I find myself continually waking up in Helsinki. The Cleveland of the North. Or something like that.
I am amazed by the streetlights here. They don’t use poles, as their North American brethren choose to do. Rather, they hang – attached to cables that pierce the upright walls of the buildings on either side of the street. From only four stories high, they are like something a tightrope walker would use for a quick warm-up. Only thirty feet to the other side. Childs play.
Hanging from each cable are two orange light bulbs, which illuminate the street below. At this time of year, they’re on from 3 pm to 9 am – no lie. There is no shortage of work for a Helsinki streetlight in the winter months.
They dangle through the air and sway languidly in the soft breeze. When the wind screams across the sea and heads towards town, they’ll shake violently upon the apex of their cables; two lights desperately out of synch with each other. In the winter, a faint layer of snow sits glued upon the horizontal cable, bobbing along with every rhythmic movement of the sea breeze.
They sit outside my window. Every day they’re there. I watch them and they watch me. In the daytime I use their sway to tell me how cold the air outside will be – weather prophets revealing to me each day’s meteorological predictions. In the night I watch them swing. They paint shadows upon my low ceiling and this too tells me what the weather is like without so much as an outward glance at the streets below.
I sometimes find myself, for no particular reason, fantasizing about having to escape from my window. My father always taught me that it’s wise to have an escape plan. You never know when some Voorheesian villain may corner you in the bowels of your own studio apartment. It looks like it would be so easy to walk across those streetlight cables to the other side. I’d use the snow for traction. It’d be so badass.
In other parts of the city – the awkward corners and nonlinear corridors – the cables travel for far greater distances, twisting, contorting, and streeeeeetching themselves into odd angles and greater lengths. They always remain the same height from the ground.
On the main roads, the lower-lying cables of the tram system distort the beauty and simplicity of my streetlights. Some particularly busy intersections trap citizens under a canopy of crisscrossing cables. It is hard to make sense of what sits above; reason tangled up in a spider’s web of electric current carriers.
I will miss these lights when I move on.