and on Tuesday night at 11pm. I saw them.
One of my Italian friends has been keeping an eye on several websites that watch for the Aurora Borealis and give high, medium or low chances of seeing the phenomenon. And so, on Monday and Tuesday night he said that the websites (oh crystal ball) told him that that night would be a great chance for seeing them. So, on Tuesday, we had dinner together and set off for the lake (about a 5 minute walk from where we all stay) so that we could try see the aurora borealis without the city lights obstructing our view. But, we weren’t even 40 seconds into our journey when we saw the first greeny glow in the sky above us.
We had not even got to the lake and we saw the most magnificent displays of neon green and pink slithering through the sky. There was always only one in the sky at a time and it moved in the strangest way. Most of them moved and changed quite fast (sort of like at the pace of clapping 16 beats in a bar) and stayed in the sky for about 20 seconds and then the next one would come. I will try to describe this phenomenon, but I’m sure someone somewhere has described it better than I will.
There are three levels that you have to imagine this on:
Firstly: It was as if we were under a big glass table that someone was painting with neon water colours on with a big thick chinese paintbrush (you know, the ones that can paint really thin and really thick depending on how much pressure you put on the paintbrush). Sometimes the lights were thick and sometime they were thin. The colours were strong neons in the middle and watery on the edge.
Secondly: The lights were 3D. Sometimes it felt like the light was coming towards us, other times it felt like it was receding. Kind of like when you are watching fireworks and they fall towards you and make you go “ooh!”
Lastly: the colours changed… from green to pink to white in surprising ways.
Arriving at the frozen lake, we walked out on to it (my first time on a frozen lake) and stood there watching the lights for about 15 minutes. I loved seeing the lights, but I also loved seeing people’s reactions to them. When we were walking to the lake we had to stop and just ooh and ah at them. Sometimes the movements and colours were so surprising we had to shout out and most of the time we laughed out, like children delighted. I don’t think anyone who saw them thought, “Ag, how boring. I’m over this”. People’s facebook status afterwards (always a true measure of any situation) were to the effect of “You just can’t understand” and other stretches and strainings at an almost inexpressible sight. I said that seeing the northern lights was how I would imagine the Holy Spirit to look and move like if we could see him.
And we went home, made hot chocolate and ate chocolate and came off the high, slowly. It was 3am when I went to bed with a big smile on my face. It was a truly fantastic thing to see and I feel so honoured to have been able to see it. Thank you Jesus.
Postscript: The next morning when I woke up (it was light outside so, I had had a bit of a lay in) I found out that it had been the biggest solar eruption in the last six years and so the best Northern Lights too. Many around the world had been watching the lights that night and that it had even made the cover of one of my hometown newspapers. And I could say “Ke Nako. I was there.”
For more info and some professional photos of the same night, click here.
And here is a lovely time-lapse sequence that was taken quite near to where we were.