On August 25th the night skies over Denali National Park were ablaze with the Aurora Borealis. I know this because the next day at work everyone said, “Did you see the AMAZING northern lights show last night? It was AWESOME!”
I did not see them. I was asleep.
My co-worker Kevin posted some excellent photos on his blog and my friends blew up Facebook with pics. Some people went so crazy howling at the sky that security had to be called. The lights drove people crazy, it seems. This natural phenomenon was the talk of the community and I missed out.
The next evening, determined not to miss out again, I decided to stay up to see the Aurora myself. I went out at midnight with camera batteries charged and tripod in hand, ready to capture one of the 7 wonders of the natural world.
I waited. I took some long exposure photos of the northern sky.
And I took some more.
Then I went inside and drank hot chocolate and came out and took more long exposures out of boredom.
I contemplated the meaning of life. I had a chat with the night agent at the hotel. I pondered whether I’d ever be a 32-inch waist again. I wondered what I’d eat for breakfast. I thought about Congress and the President, and felt sorry for Boehner and Obama. And then I took photos of random things.
Once as I was waiting, looking up at the sky, I heard something in the tree next to me and felt the warm surge of adrenaline course through my veins. I was sure, for whatever reason, that it was a porcupine. I just knew he was eyeing me, ready to attack. Probably because earlier this summer I had a close encounter with a porcupine.
My eyes played tricks on me. I thought I saw Aurora when I didn’t. I thought I saw a bear or dog in the darkness, but it was just a rock. These are the things that happen late, late at night when you are (mostly) alone in the wilderness, in the dark. I wondered for a second if I’d accidentally eaten one of the crazy-ass mushrooms that are growing in Denali right now, and if that was causing my paranoia.
Then it happened. At 2:43 AM the night sky erupted with the northern lights. The tourists and co-workers of mine who were on the deck about 20 feet from me burst into oohs and awes of amazement. Some things in life are cool when shared with other people, and this was one of them. I was off to the side taking photos, but the amazement and joy of those seeing the spectacle for the first time delighted me.
The spectacle was awesome, in that it inspired awe. It only lasted about six minutes, according to the metadata on my camera photos, but it was worth the wait.
Have you ever seen the Aurora Borealis?
Have you ever stayed up all night in an attempt to get 6 minutes of pleasure?
If so, I’d like to hear your thoughts in the comments section.