Mae Clair’s Mythical Monday: The Northern Lights

This is another of those Mythical Monday posts that resonates strongly with me. As far back as I can remember I’ve been fascinated by the Northern Lights. When the movie Frequency debuted, I was in heaven. If you haven’t seen it, check it out. It ranks among my favorite movies of all time. Not only is the story utterly amazing and the Northern Lights key, but the ending rocked my world! Added plus: Jim Caviezel and Dennis Quaid in the lead roles. *happy sigh*

The Northern Lights are also featured prominently in my favorite book, The Terror by Dan Simmons. An amazing storyteller, Mr. Simmons skillfully uses them to evoke mood and setting so rich I can easily conjure it two years after finishing the book.

Although the aurora borealis is not a myth, legends and folktales have been attached to this wondrous spectacle from the beginning of time. Some believe the prophet Ezekiel was describing them when he referred to “a whirlwind out of the north.” The Cree called the Aurora “the dance of the spirits” and Inuit legend speculated the crackling and roaring of the lights resulted from the ghosts of the dead playing football with a walrus skull.

In Norse mythology, the lights are said to be the reflection from the armor of the Valkyries, immortal warrior women who carry fallen warriors to Odin’s hall. During medieval times the aurora was often seen as a warning of bloodshed brought on by war or plague. The Danes viewed them as reflections caused by light glinting off the wings of swans trapped in the ice on their way north. In almost all legends, the Aurora is seen as either an omen or a gathering of spirits.

Sadly, I’ve never seen the Northern Lights, but it’s a bucket list item. My husband saw the spectacle many years ago while in Maine and, while he found it interesting, didn’t feel the same “ooh, ahh” factor that would have flowed over me. I tried to employ that sense of wonder and magic in a short story I wrote a few years ago.  Here, I offer a snippet as a toast to the breathtaking beauty of the Northern Lights:

~ooOOoo~

There was something magical to the solitude, the air dense and cold, the sky riddled with flame.  It was like a symphony of sound and silence, wrapped in the breathtaking display of the Northern Lights.  Conner could peel away the enchantment in favor of science – – solar winds, magnetic fields, oxygen molecules – – but preferred to think about Ezekiel’s whirlwind and the Eskimos’ ghostly game played out with a walrus skull.  Watching the lights dance overhead, a phenomenon so ancient the prophet Ezekiel had written about them in 6 B.C., he couldn’t help imagining time stood still. What had Troy felt as his life ebbed away with that conflagration crackling overhead?  Would it be so wretched a fate to die with the fire of heaven singing you to sleep?

He jerked at the sound of someone emerging from the research dome.  In the stillness of the cold Arctic night, the closing door was a thunder-clap.

Bundled in a parka and gloves, Danny joined him on the ice. “Mind telling me what you’re doing out here?”  His breath formed an icy plume in the air, hanging for a moment before dissipating.

Conner nodded at the sky.  “Watching the show.”

Danny followed his glance.  “Kind of spooky if you ask me.”

“Electrically charged particles and magnetic fields?”

“No, that walrus skull thing.  Who the hell plays football with the head of a dead animal?”

“Spirits.” Conner pointed skyward as the aurora erupted with another bang.  He frowned slightly, trying to read the expression in his friend’s eyes.  Beneath the shimmering dance of light, Danny’s hair gleamed white-gold where it peeked from under his hood. “Did Porter send you out here to drag me back inside?”

“No, I decided to do that all on my own.  It case you hadn’t noticed, it’s cold out here.”

Conner hesitated. Hell, yes, it was cold, but he hadn’t come to terms with the weight of responsibility.  “I wish Troy had closure.” He glanced toward the heavens.  “Who knows . . . maybe he’s up there shooting the breeze, kicking around a walrus skull.”

Danny grinned and gripped his shoulder.  “Idiot,” he said affectionately.  “Troy couldn’t play football to save his tail.  Give him a cue stick and . . .” He thought for a moment, hooking an arm around Conner’s neck as he steered him toward the dome. “A whale’s eye for a pool ball and he’d clean house.  Those bozos in the sky wouldn’t stand a chance.”

Conner knew what he was doing – – what he’d always done and what he’d continue to do. It was second nature for Danny to fall into the role of big brother, especially when Conner was treading a line of melancholy.  “Do you think he’s in a better place?” he asked earnestly, needing to hear someone else say it.  He tried to keep the expressiveness from his eyes, but knew it lay bare, trapped in the smoked amber of his gaze.

“Guaranteed,” Danny told him.

And somehow that single word coming from his friend, from the man Conner considered a brother, sent a calming streak of peace through him.

~ooOOoo~

No poetry from me today, but I hope you enjoyed my attempt to pay homage to the Northern Lights. Do you find them as magical as I do?

19 thoughts on “Mae Clair’s Mythical Monday: The Northern Lights

  1. I love your Mythical Monday posts — but this was particularly enchanting. 🙂 I enjoyed reading the myths and explanations from the different cultures. The snippet was wonderful too. Thanks for sharing so many goodies!

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    • Thanks, Donna. I’ve always wanted to see the Northern Lights. I love the mythology tied up in them along with their beauty. And what did my husband say when he saw them – – “yeah, they were okay.” Men, LOL!

      Glad you enjoyed the snippet too. I had to write something utilizing them.

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  2. Mae, this Mythical Monday post, so twists me inside out and upside down emotionally. Your description of the Northern Lights is wonderfully beautiful. After a busy, stressful day at work,
    this cheered me up so much. “The Northern Lights” Yay, I love it and loved it so much ! 😉

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    • Aww, Sally, I thought you might like this particular post 😉 I’d be willing to bet you might find something enchanting in next week’s Mythical Monday post too.

      I’m glad I could share something that brought you enjoyment after your stressful work day! 🙂

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  3. Mae, how you love to take me back in time. I worked a case for a year in Norway and couldn’t figure out the big deal when everyone came rushing in to tell me to get my cold gear on – – – then – – – the most awesome site ever to behold. Thanks for the memory. My team and I talked about that particular memory for years to come althogh we never saw the Northern Lights again. Now that most of us are retired–it’s a topic of rememberance of a grand time together and thanksgiving that we experienced it as a team. And, to think we didn’t want to take that particular assignment.

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    • Wow! I got goosebumps reading your experience. How amazing that must have been. I can understand why it would be something you’d never forgot. And oooh, I bet you got to see the “midnight sun” too. As much as I love tropical weather and beaches, there is a part of me that has always wanted to visit Norway. I bet it was amazing. Thanks for sharing, Sheri!

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  4. You know, I hate the cold, but seeing the Northern Lights is on my bucket list. I love how you interwove Norse mythology into it. I love the Valkyrie and Odin…not to mention Thor…who, since the movie came out, now has an amazingly sexy face, twinkling blue eyes and fills out a pair of jeans nicely. And then there’s the accent. Ooh la la!

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    • Norse mythology is my favorite, Kitt. I once wrote an ms with the yggdrasil tree as the key plot element. It’s on my list to clean up for submission (one of these days . . . there are a few others ahead of it).

      And, oh yeah, Thor – – right there with you on Chris’s wonderfully sexy portrayal. I haven’t seen The Avengers yet but know it releases on DVD next week. Can’t wait!

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  5. Saw them once – summer of 1974. As you know I live way south so being in Alaska was kinda disconcerting, as it never really got dark, the glow faded for a couple of hours and then it was back. It was an odd week, didn’t sleep much. It was light like I had never seen before, you should take a cruise and go experience it. Diane

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    • I didn’t realize you’d been in Alaska! I’ve heard the cruises are great. I corresponded with a writer who lived there several years ago. Six months of sun and six months of darkness. Not sure I could adjust, but she grew used to it.

      I didn’t realize you’d seen the Northern Lights. Gad, how did I miss that?!?!?

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    • You are so lucky, LJ. What a sight that must have been, especially from the woodlands. I’ll see them one of these days. The fartherst north I’ve ever been in Northern California. Gotta work on getting futher up into the piney woods 🙂

      Glad you enjoyed my snippet!

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