Thursday, May 19, 2016

Aurora Borealis [Dairy Star Column]

It's easy to end up exhausted and frustrated when farm chores keep us outside until well after dark. But sometimes these late nights lead to memorable moments.

Tonight after chores, I wasn't nearly as tired as usual thanks to an early Mother's Day gift: a two-hour nap with no interruptions. So as I headed to the house, I kept going past our front steps and went out to the road. At the time, I had no idea why I felt an urge to go for a walk. I realize now that perhaps I was being led.

Photo by Bryan Hansel. Used with permission.

I crossed the paved county road and strolled down the gravel road across from our driveway. I walked for a couple hundred yards before my common sense caught up with me. It was late; Glen had no idea that I was going for a walk; and all I had with me was my cell phone. I turned around to head back. When I did, I was stopped by what I saw.

Flickering across the northern sky were the bright green lights of the aurora borealis. Growing up in northern Minnesota, the northern lights were a fairly common sight for country kids still outside after dark. When I was little, my dad would come get my sisters and me from the house so we could watch the spectacular dancing lights.

Science explains the northern lights as the result of collisions between atmospheric particles. But there are lots of legends about why they exist, too. My favorite legend is that the northern lights are the spirits of loved ones who have gone before us, greeting us from the afterworld.

This was the first time I'd seen the northern lights here in Stearns County, possibly because we have a bright yard light or possibly because I haven't been paying attention. I stood there in the silence of the night, watching the band of lights that stretched across the dark sky, as a memory washed over me.

The last time I had watched the northern lights was a late night in May, over ten years ago.

[Read the rest of this column here.]

P.S. I never even thought to take a picture that night. The photo above was captured by Bryan Hansel, who kindly allowed me to use it. Bryan is a northern Minnesota photographer who has even more amazing photos of the aurora borealis on his website: He also offers a series of highly popular photography workshops and courses.

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