Monday, March 12, 2012

Lights over the Atlantic - 3/9/12

When a stranger on a plane turns around suddenly and says in an elevated voice, “open the window,” you comply, expecting to see one of three things: flames, a gremlin or the rapidly approaching ground.
So it came as somewhat of a relief that I saw nothing that resembled my impending death. What I did see, however, was as unexpected as if a small green gremlin had been chomping on the wing.  

It looked as if a painter had swathed a green-purple ribbon across a pitch black canvas. But he wasn’t done; was continuously changed the colors, an invisible artist’s hand creating a piece of living, moving art in the midnight sky over the Atlantic.

The full-blown Aurora Borealis was literally moving in parallel with our 747. Greens, aquas, jades, violets and purples rippled in waves outside the window, like some eerie serpentine apparition.

The ribbon of light shimmered and pulsed and brought back memories of my childhood when I first saw the Northern Lights - from the ground in New Hampshire. Back then it was one of those rare mountain-vacation novelties. Mom woke us up in the middle of the night, took us out front of the condo to stare up at a beautiful, hazy glow above the pine trees. I was a child standing underneath the canvas, the paint dripping down toward earth.

The perspective changes dramatically when you yourself are on the canvas.

“The solar flare is causing Aurora Borealis,” the plane stranger said, his chin resting on the headrest in front of me. “They’ve been talking about how maybe this would happen.”

I don’t know which “they” he was referring to. Scientists, maybe. Perhaps a group of his friends. Probably just the generic, universal “they” we all use when we want to sound informed and intelligent.

I nodded him away and turned back to the window, pressing my face against the thick plastic. The cold from space permeated through to my skin as I watched the ghostly dragon suddenly deviate from our flight plan.

It trailed off; our plane outdistancing the green-lit stream. In moments it dissolved into the ether.

From the ground, it was just another celestial aberration explained away by the science story du jour. But midway over the Atlantic it was a singular look inside a cosmic artist’s studio; a masterpiece at work, then immediately lost to the world forever.

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