THE NORTHERN LIGHTS
By Kortnee With-a-k
written June 2012, revised Jan 2014
(images & photos not my own)
The college I attended in upstate New York was way up north on the Canadian border. We were lucky to see the Northern Lights quite often each winter. So many nights, there it was; usually off on the horizon. Always impressive, a hazy, dancing neon-green glow bringing wonder and pause to our sophomoric minds. We knew we were lucky to get to this heavenly display. But on one particular night, our Northern Lights experience went far beyond the realm of being a simple eye candy display of nature.
It was sometime during the long winter of my junior year of college, I experienced the most dazzling display imaginable. It was something to write home about, a moment to remember, a wrinkle in time that changed my perception of self within the universe. It was, in short, one of those “religious experiences” that hippies and monks talk about in their autobiographies. Needless to say, on that day, these were not your average everyday north-country northern lights.
It was a freakishly cold night, as so many of them were, in the North Country of New York. For us it started as a normal Saturday night, out wandering in search of some fun with a group of college friends. Then, we noticed the sky. There were our northern lights, like an old friend coming to greet us. But this time we gasped at the dreamlike firmament, a movie scene from an alien planet. This was no ordinary display of nature. In that part of the world, northern lights usually appear on the horizon in dancing shades of neon green. Tonight was different. The whole sky was dazzling and brilliant: full of purples and shades of bright pink swirled through neon green and blue. We knew this was special! And we knew we would probably never see anything like this ever again in our lives.
Drawn like moths and without a word, my best friend and I ran to the parking lot to jump in her car. We needed more. Heading onto country roads, away from the college lights, and further out of town to get a better view of this phenomenal moment. We drove several miles, away from civilized lights and climbed out of the car into the sub-zero night. Disregarding our need for more layers of clothing necessary for such an adventure, we headed forward without a moment wasted. Gasping and trekking, we tramped out into a field that lay privately languishing in several feet of pristine knee–deep snow. We trudged outward, into a place that was complete with nothingness, except snow and sky. And then, breathing heavy and shivering, we stopped. The entire universe was there with us. It was complete silence except for the sound of the snow glistening around us. We gazed at Mother Nature’s gift.
We stood staring up into the sky in a space where time had disappeared. It was surreal.
The entire sky was covered in bands of dancing color. It was as though the night had become a kaleidoscope filled with all the colors of the rainbow. The apex of the darkness seemed to be the center of the dancing ribbons that reached all the way down to the horizon, touching the shimmering snow, wrapping the entire dome of the universe in every color imaginable. The entire heavens became a swirling tie-dye as a phantasm of color twisted and danced around us. It was indigo. It was purple. It was the brightest pink. There was deep emerald and neon green. There were streaks of golden agate. As we watched in awe, the colors shifted and swirled and twisted, an ever-changing display of light and beauty. A firmament of angels breathing giant wisps of multi-colored cotton candy, dipping their paintbrushes with long strokes on the palette we had become. With each gasp their breaths of color danced and swirled, flowing around us, wrapping us, holding us in their arms, casting their spell over us.
Mesmerized and hypnotized, dazzling our souls, we stood silently amazed. Our faces grew numb. Neither of us could speak, mute with awe and glacially cold. Toes frozen in the deep snow, numb up to our knees. A dream-like daze, the only thing keeping us warm. Finding ourselves in a moment that should never end, an unbelievable miracle to behold,a vision to carry forward forever.