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Something Wonderful: Aurora Borealis C. W. McCall

One night last summer we were camped at ten thousand feet up where the air is clear, high in the Rockies of Lost Lake, Colorado. And as the fire burned low and only a few glowing embers remained, we laid on our backs all warm in our sleeping bags and looked up at the stars.

And as I felt myself falling into the vastness of the Universe, I thought about things, and places, and times.

I thought about the time my grandma told me what to say when I saw the evening star. You know, Star light, star bright, first star I see tonight. I wish I may, I wish I might, have the wish I wish tonight.
The air is crystal-clear up here; that’s why you can see a million stars.

I remember a time a bunch of us were in a canyon of the Green River in Wyoming; it was a night like this. And we had our rafts pulled up on the bank an’ turned over so we could sleep on ’em, and one of the guys from New York said, “Hey! Look at the smog in the sky! Smog clear out here in the sticks!” And somebody said, “Hey, Joe, that’s not smog; that’s the Milky Way.”

Joe had never seen the Milky Way.

And we saw the Northern Lights once, in the Bitterroot Mountains of Montana. They’re like flames from some prehistoric campfire, leaping and dancing in the sky and changing colors. Red to gold, and blue to violet… Aurora Borealis. It’s like the equinox, the changing of the seasons. Summer to fall, young to old, then to now. And then tomorrow…

And then everyone was asleep, except me. And as I saw the morning star come up over the mountains, I realized that life is just a collection of memories. And memories are like starlight: they go on forever.

 

{ 13 comments… add one }
  • tim November 17, 2020, 12:32 PM

    Aurora borealis
    The icy sky at night
    Paddles cut the water
    In a long and hurried flight
    From the white man
    to the fields of green
    And the homeland
    we’ve never seen.

    Neil Young – Pocohontas

  • James ONeil November 17, 2020, 12:51 PM

    A few pics of the aurora as seen from my back yard, every winter: http://www.ipernity.com/doc/319805/album/1256840

  • Cynyr November 17, 2020, 1:30 PM

    Sublime. I memorized this as a teenager, and still love to recite it when the fire burns down. It can be powerful to susceptible females!

  • ghostsniper November 17, 2020, 1:41 PM

    I saw it, while standing on the roof of the parking garage at the Anchorage airport and smoking a fat bowl of sinse. Was up there for a coupla hours even though the temp was around zero. How could I ever forget that electric sky?

  • Terry November 17, 2020, 2:46 PM

    Well I’ll be dipped. My wife Susie and I live on the west facing side of the Bitterroot Mountains, which in is Idaho. Spectacular area and unbelievable sky scenes from sunrise to way past sunset and then sunrise again. The Northern Lights are like curtains waving by the hands of angels. Must be seen to be believed.

    The starscape on a cloud free night here is so crystal clear it seems the sky is a painting. And every star has a story to tell.

  • H November 17, 2020, 3:55 PM

    “like curtains waving by the hands of angels”

    I never heard them described better, Terry.

  • Terry November 17, 2020, 5:08 PM

    @ H

    Thank you for the compliment. I think I am seeing things from a simpler mindset in my old age.

    Gerard has renewed my appreciation of poetry. I now see things in a different light, so to say.

  • Hoss November 17, 2020, 5:27 PM

    Gerard, I am so glad that I found your site. Thank you.

  • patvann November 17, 2020, 8:46 PM

    The memories do NOT go on forever… My lifelong astronomer father, now suffering from Alzheimer’s tells me that truth…If I ever meet god, I’m punching him as hard as I can.

  • Snakepit Kansas November 18, 2020, 4:52 AM

    Patvann,
    I lost my father a year ago to this day after he struggled with Alzheimer’s. He was 80 and it wasn’t fair. Great father and husband. Worked hard his whole life. And still I think how unfair it was for him to die. None of us get out of this alive and the end probably isn’t going to be fun. This is not God’s fault but simply finite life. As a believer, I know I will be reunited with Dad, all part of His will.

  • EX-Californian Pete November 18, 2020, 7:38 AM

    Awesome, just plain awesome.

    20 years ago, while camping at Glencoe Campground in Sturgis, the Aurora Borealis exploded over the skies in every color imaginable for the entire night until sunrise.
    If that wasn’t awesome enough, it was combined with an all-night, nonstop Perseid meteor shower.

    I seriously doubt I’ll ever see anything more beautiful than that throughout the rest of my life.

  • gwbnyc November 18, 2020, 6:35 PM

    what’s that whining?

    oh …neil young.

  • David November 18, 2020, 7:46 PM

    I’ve worked in the arctic and been fortunate to see the aurora more than a few time and it is as spectacular as people here have described. I was camping in central British Columbia in mid august some years back and we were unfortunate enough to find ourselves in a downpour which went on for several days. We finally had our fill and packed up our soggy belongings and headed down the road for brighter pastures. We found ourselves in Vanderhoof at around suppertime so stopped for the night with just a light mist in the air. After midnight I exited the tent to empty my bladder and was greeted by the most incredible display of stars that I’m sure I will ever see. The air was crystal clear after all the rain and the sky seemed to be vibrating. I woke my companion and we sat naked and wrapt for some time beholding the grandeur of the heavens. It was not the aurora but that display of stars was just as transfixing, to me anyway.

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