It happens fast. The days are already very short. Darkness is now falling when just a month ago I would have still been on the beach.
Last week’s harvest moon rose in the east, powder-white and ghostly, at the same time the sun was setting in the west. Maybe you saw this, too.
These celestial bodies rarely have the chance to look at each other head-on. It was a beautiful effect. Not for the first time I wished our sky was cluttered with a few more suns and moons. The “24-hour clock” as we know it seems so staid. Imagine a life divided into several dawns, several evenings. Imagine 3 chances to catch the sunset. The party would never stop!
Other heavenly events…
Rumour had it that the northern lights would be making an appearance this far south. My husband told me at bed time. Once my head hits the pillow is an unreliable time to try and motivate me. Once fully reclined I tend to ignore stimuli.
“The northern lights? Here? What’s your source?” I asked.
“A guy at the mill.”
R works at a mill now. Once I become a nurse, we will officially be a couple from the 1970s.
“I have always wanted to see the aurora borealis, my entire life,” I told R. “I want to name a daughter Aurora.”
“Will you set the alarm for midnight to go outside and look?” he asked.
“Fuck that,” I said, deep in pillows.
When I woke up in the prosaic morning I was filled with regret. While I could not find any news reports confirming that the sky above Port Alberni had undulated green and pink, like a celestial lava lamp, I was disheartened by my own laziness. I have wanted to see the northern lights ever since they last oozed this far south. To my knowledge, this was in my childhood:
One winter’s morning I woke up to the usual alarm clock (a whistling tea kettle and the smell of Players Unfiltered). When I plodded into the kitchen my father informed me that he had been up half the night watching the northern lights fill the sky. It was the most beautiful thing he’d ever seen, he reported happily. I would have been amazed, he bet.
“Why didn’t you wake me up,” I whined.
“It was late,” he responded. “You need your rest!”
Needed my rest! For stupid pointless school. For stupid pointless life, where nothing was ever different.
I recall that the furnace wasn’t working again, that morning. I ate breakfast in a housecoat and gumboots while my dad smoked, drank tea, and looked out the window.
Dancing lights in the sky would have gone far in helping me believe the world held some nice surprises.
Once I saw a crazy moon though. My memory is unreliable, but it seemed to fill the sky as it rose over the horizon. This was one time that I was summoned from bed. My mother woke me up, still wearing her coat. “Get your jacket on,” she said, her hands still cold from being outside. As she’d been driving home from choir practice (she played the organ at church on Sundays), she’d been amazed at the moon in the sky. “You have to see it. Let’s go,” she said.
It was only us in the car. I don’t know why she did not wake my brothers. We drove up a steep hill, the dead-end road that lead to the neighborhood’s reservoir. The moon filled half the sky, a vast cratered orb as large as a colliding world. It was no longer just the moon, a thing in the sky. It was dusty, orange-colored, and alien.
What makes this incident memorable is not so much the moon, the appearance of which must have some normal explanation and was probably not a phenomenon at all. My mother’s enthusiasm was unusual, and her desire to show me something. Normally she dismissed most things as a waste of time.
It was like this, honestly. Except larger.
What is this called? When does it happen?