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:
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.
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.
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?