|Northern Lights over the back of town|
I set the camera to a 30 second exposure at F2.5 and let it do its thing while I craned my neck to take in the brilliant display overhead. For over an hour we stood out in the freezing cold as the lights grew brighter and brighter. A relentlessly driving wind howled eerily through a chain link fence nearby, making the aurora seem even more ethereal, a full multi-sensory experience.
|Lights over some old shacks|
It occurred to me as I stood there that there really are no words — at least in English — to describe those lights. In all reality, they’re just solar electrons colliding with oxygen and nitrogen atoms in the upper atmosphere, but the fact that such an ancient and mundane natural event can evoke a human feeling of such awe-inspiring power is impossible to fathom.
|Had to do it… 😉|
I guess that’s why there are so many stories and legends about their existence. I was doing research at work about them the next day, and found that, not surprisingly, every northern indigenous group has its own beliefs regarding the aurora. Some see it as the spirits of dead animals, ancestors, warriors, or children dancing in the skies; many beliefs advise against whistling when the aurora is out, for fear they will swoop down and take you away; and still others try to attract the northern lights by banging pots and pans when they’re out because they area sign of good luck.
Although I’m not superstitious myself, the lights in the sky that night stunned my every sense. At one point they were so bright, I thought they would come down and touch the ground as a spike of white, green, pink, and purple dipped and shimmered overhead.
I expect I’ll be seeing a lot more of the Northern Lights as winter marches on, but I don’t think I will ever get used to them.