Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Just an old fashioned light show

Stepping out into the brisk November night on Sunday, we found ourselves gasping in awe. No, the Christmas lights hadn't been turned on for the first time this season; an incredible display of aurora borealis, northern lights, was dancing through the night sky. Seeing the aurora wasn't a completely novel experience--after all, my husband is from "up north" as is my dad. Even near our home in southwestern Wisconsin, seeing the northern lights wasn't a totally unique experience.
Yet the solar flare that swept across the globe on November 7 was particularly strong. The entire dome of the heavens shimmered with blankets of green, even a touch of pink greeted us as we looked up at the night sky.

As my family and I stood and watched the show, better than any reality tv, I could see why the shimmering lights of the night sky inspired. Though the night was dark and moonless, it seemed the entire sky was awash in green flame. Green flame! I tell a story in which a bad spirit, trapped in a burning lodge, explodes into a green flame and travels up into the sky, becoming an owl. Aiming my camera at the sight before me, caught in the tree branches, that story came back to my consciouness. Telling the story, I'd always puzzled about the green flame aspect.
Green flame? Why green? Looking at the awesome grandeuer before me on this night, green suddenly makes sense. How else to explain something supernatural than to recall that which seems so in the natural world?

I brought my digital camera to school the next day to show the kids what I'd seen. As one of my more imaginative little second graders said, "Oooh, look, it's spirits! The spirits were there, in the sky!" I had to agree. Yes, it is spirits indeed, the kind that inspired stories of bad spirits transformed in a blaze of green flame into an owl. Far better than any display on the cathode ray tube--or plasma screen--the lights of the northern sky inspire me days after they've faded from all but memory.



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