Seeing the Light

Photo by Larry Schweiger

Photo by Larry Schweiger

According to the Irish, my name—Eileen—means “light.”  At this darkest time of the year, light is on my mind.

I was aching to see the aurora borealis (“Northern Lights”) when Paul and I visited Churchill, Manitoba in early November.  To see them, we learned upon arrival, is incredibly rare, but I held out a fervent hope that our luck would prevail.  As an expression of my eagerness to see the elusive Northern Lights, I penned a poem’s first two stanzas just before our plane landed in Churchill:

 To Aurora

Aurora borealis hear my prayer.
Come and dance with me
from way up there, where
light and dark are married
in sweet celestial affair.

 Spread your streamers of blue,
your long, satin gowns of green,
fringed with petticoats in purple hue
and I’ll throw my head back to you,
wide-eyed, and sing as if I flew.

 Our day unfolded like a children’s story. First we saw majestic polar bears, arrayed on the ice like clotted cream. Then we slipped through snow behind dogsleds guided by famed musher Dan Daley. After dinner, our guide Pat appeared in the doorway with the news I had been waiting for: “You are one lucky group. The Aurora just began.”

Out the door and onto the bus, we headed out of town to the fields of heaven. Pat stopped the bus and we spilled out, now witness to green light spewing out of a vortex in four strands encircling the sky. I lifted my head and howled with joy. The ululations of my voice mingled with the celestial lights, inspiring the second half of my poem:

 Ululations, as it turned out, fell short
of gratitude beneath your vernal spout,
disgorging ribbons from your open port
to stitch a giant bear paw in the sky
as we stood side-by-side, mere human spores.

 I hummed and trilled in time with flow
of dancing lights and barking dogs.
I even thought I heard a vibrant lowe
between the flaring braids and spears,
and later, with my head pressed in the pillow
it pulsed through me, as energetic spill.

I see the universe as one gigantic gill.

Tonight as I peer at the sky through my window, I think of all the electric lights that keep us from seeing the natural sparks and flames that breathe into and out of our planet.

Tonight, turn out the electric ones, and open yourself to all those natural lights.

What is the meaning of light to you?

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6 Responses to Seeing the Light

  1. joaneee says:

    Eileen, you are able to capture in beautiful description and poetry one the most unforgettable experiences in our lifetime: to see the aurora in all of its glory. Such talent! Always — and no matter how many times I have seen it, I have felt stunned – like something has hit my heart and it will never be the same – and I think the words I would choose is “privileged” . . . but more than that, “blessed”. This is experiencing another world that few have seen . . . and some nights I have thought that someone has known I was there and decided to pull out all stops in the length of the show and its beauty.

    It stand alone . . . but being in the remote Outback of Australia where there are no other lights and staring up at the night sky with every star in creation covering the skyline with lights – well, once seen stays with you forever. Put all else in the world beside the wonders of nature and nature wins every time! Joan

  2. Eileen Rockefeller says:

    Hi Joan, I agree with you about the night sky. So few of us ever see it without some light pollution. Your time in Australia sounds amazing. It reminds me of a time in Namibia with some of my family (written about in “Out of the Canyon” in my memoir) when we had an accidental night out under the stars. I felt like I was at the beginning of the universe. That was a uniquely amazing experience too, but your are right, that seeing the aurora does summon a feeling of being blessed.
    I feel the light in you, Eileen

  3. Phyll says:

    Sounds dreamy! Something I’ve always longed to see/experience, too. Is it usually (only) in November? Thank you for sharing your magnificent experience with us, Eileen.
    Magical in every way.

  4. Eileen Rockefeller says:

    You are welcome, Phyll. I hope you get to see them. There’s an ap you can get that’s a borealis alert. Check it out! Happy light viewing! Eileen

  5. Phyll says:

    Is it better to see the aurora borealis in Manitoba rather than other places (in the States, for example?) Here’s a link to some fabulous photos of the aurora. What a majestic experience. I hope to see it, some day, in person!

  6. I think its best to see the aurora wherever you can. Each one is its own magical mystery show. I hope you do get to see it Phyll.

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