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October 2008
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corvi [userpic]
In the footsteps of the aurora

(Day 2)
I came North looking for Light, chasing the aurora to its own country, to stand on snows that have known the sweep of the sun unmarred by night, and below the stars that need not hide their faces. To hear the aurora sing of ionic hydrogen, of magnetic fields, of the solar wind and the cold of space and the taste of night.

We're on the Canada-Alaska highway. Not to aurora country yet, but I have seen light strange beyond imagining. I have see the the petrochemical factories burn off oil byproducts in flickering columns of orange flame that dance in spirals and spill ruddy over the clouds.

Sunset here is a thing I have no words for. The sun set nearly four hours ago, in the west, stained-glass blues and golds and clouds the texture of knotted silk. A lovely sunset, the sort that looks like someone has rumpled the sky, but not all that remarkable, if you live in Seattle.

Three hours later, the sky was a soft luminous green, like glacier melt, bright enough to read by. It seemed a very strange thing: 10 PM, and light still leaking around the clouds. Until we realized a much stranger thing: the green glow was coming from the North. What we were seeing was light from the sun, circling below the horizon, heading to the east to begin again. The sun had set diagonally, skimming below the horizon on falcon wings, a heartbeat below the ends of the earth, close enough to light our way.

Wow. It's finally real to me. The ends of the earth. Wow.


I'm following your footsteps later this summer.. its amazing, isn't it, the way the edge of the map teases the light?

Cool! You'll have a very different journey- no snow, and all the motels and gas stations and campgrounds will be open, and you'll see lots of other travelers. I hope you write about it in great detail; I'd love to see the other face of the Alcan.

I want to experience both extremes - midnight sun and endless night. You know, I've never seen the aurora?

Oh yeah, most places don't have oil wells and refineries everywhere. I forgot. They're almost kind of comforting and homey to me at this point, a lot of weird northern Alberta/BC things are like that to me.

But I have never been that far north. I obviously need to.