One thing I will never tire of is the Aurora Borealis, otherwise known as the Northern Lights. I have fed dogs under them. I’ve laid in the snow at 40 below and watched them until I began to stick to the ground. I’ve seen them from the comfort of an airplane seat. And I’ve mushed dogs while they danced and swirled above me. It has taken my breath away.
One winter night I was stalled on an Arctic lake. My team and I had had a very challenging day trying to find the hard-packed trail buried under a foot of fresh snow. I felt like I had said “gee” (right) and “haw” (left) for 10 hours straight as I attempted to keep the team on the trail. Apparently they felt the same way because they suddenly and most definitely went on strike. We were at a standstill.
Moments like these are a mental game and the fault lies with the musher. I should have trusted my sure-footed leaders Mobad and Scotty, to find the trail on their own. Some things though, I have to learn the hard way. We had of course stopped a few times for rests and snacks but this pit stop was unplanned. When a team does this there is not much a musher can do except wait it out. The dogs need some TLC and profuse apologies. I burrowed into my sled and grabbed the snack bag. I walked up the line and tossed each dog a generous portion of frozen fish. Then I made my way back down the team and removed booties so they could tend to their feet. I grabbed liniment from the sled and massaged the healing balm into each dog’s wrist, feet and shoulders. Eyes closed in ecstasy and after the massage each dog curled into a tight ball for a nap.
Then it was my turn for a snack – dry meat and hot tea. I chastised myself for my mistake and settled in to wait for my team to be ready. Suddenly the sky was lit with the Northern Lights. They were a curtain of green, red and purple that looked like it was waving in a breeze. I don’t imagine I will ever forget that night.
There are many tales associated with the Aurora Borealis. In almost all Northern cultures the Lights are spirits. They may be playing games or foretelling war. They were dreaded demons pursuing lost souls or Valkyries leading fallen warriors to Valhalla. One of my favorites is that the Lights are part of the circle of life and are the souls of those we have loved who have gone on before us. My other favorite is a more recent legend that the Lights are the flashing harnesses on the dogs we have loved.
We have had a few awesome displays of the Aurora Borealis this week. Darrel has stayed up late to capture some images. I am astounded that he can get such good photos with his small point and shoot camera. All these images are his and taken right in our yard!