Those Northern Lights

  Aurora ~ watercolor by RLHall

This has been a great winter for Aurora Borealis, though I missed seeing them except on the news. There were reports that they were visible here in the northeast continental United States and have been especially prominent across the rest of the northern hemisphere due to increased solar activity. The resulting solar flares affect the Earth's atmosphere by introducing charged particles which can produce a fantastic natural celestial light show.

I have only seen northern lights once in my far. Having always wanted to go to Alaska, seeing the Aurora is, of course, high on my bucket list. I penciled in a check mark next to that one for now, since having been lucky enough to see an apparently mild version of the phenomenon right here in my backyard several years ago. But maybe one day I will make it to Alaska after all...preferably in March or September, when hopefully clear skies will make it likely to be able to view any chance occurrence of an especially spectacular show, which would be most likely to occur at 1:30 in the morning - so I've read. And it would be nice if I could view them from an immense glacial field or perhaps an iceberg, if those geologic formations haven't completely melted due to global warming by then. I've seen gorgeous photos and video of aurora, but it just isn't like seeing them in person.

I have a keen interest in science and the environment, and astronomy long ago became a favorite pastime. So when my Dad came in from fishing on the dock late one autumn evening, and asked if I wanted to see some northern lights, I rushed outside with him to view the unexpected marvel. Though I'd studied the theory behind the occurrence of aurora, that is the last thing I was thinking about as he and I stood side by side on the lake shore watching the beautiful glowing curtains of ethereal green light as they continuously changed shape and hue over the small expanse of water. It was awe inspiring. We quietly oohed and aahed, occasionally pointing out a certain configuration or shade of color. But mostly we just took it all in, smiling in wonder and pleasure. We stayed there  long after the last glimmer faded away, hoping for another glimpse before walking back into the cottage to turn in for the night. It didn't seem scientific to me, it seemed...magical. Or maybe like a little piece of heaven here on earth. I'm glad we got to share it together. I think I'll check mark that bucket list entry with a permanent marker now, since even if I do get to see the northern lights again, it just wouldn't be the same anyway without my dad here to share it with. I prefer to believe that both he and my mom are able to enjoy that bit of heaven together often now, only with a much better view...          

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