How many of you have seen the northern lights? How many times have you seen them? How many of you wish you could see the northern lights? I think everybody has at least a slight fascination for this natural phenomena. A combination of its rarity and beauty fills me with excitement. The potential for the sky, that vast, open, ever present space above us, to put on a remarkable and unique show is something that turns me into a giddy child.
You can imagine how I felt when I spent a month in Shetland and saw nothing. My eyes tried to convince my brain a couple of times that they saw something of note, but the reality is that I missed them. All of them. In fact the Aurora Shetland social media page was kind enough to show me how close they were happening but a tiny screen is no match for the sky above. I signed up to a special app on my phone to give me updates about when they were likely to appear. I got the odd buzz that sent me running to the windows. Pressing my nose up against the cold glass and holding my breath to stop it fogging up, I would gaze out. Without blinking, I stared, my eyes fixed on the moving light! It’s not as green as I imagined but then again everyone says it’s the camera that exaggerates the saturation. Actually….nope. That is in fact the beam from the lighthouse. Nothing. The next day, the laptop would be filled with glorious displays of brilliance, the Mirrie Dancers. This was to my frustration and everyone else’s joy. During my time there, I travelled up to spend a night on Unst. You don’t get much more north for northern lights surely?! Nothing. I saw nothing. The next day, the laptop was filled with the boast posts of photo enthusiasts. It became like a joke. At least I told myself it was funny to try and cheat my brain out of the disappointment.
It’s not the first time I have gone to great lengths in the hope of stealing a special and unique glimmer of beauty. A couple of years ago, on a whim, two pals and I went on a wee adventure. Three different characters joined by our Thursday night activity and a desire to see something magical in the sky. Throwing caution to the wind we high tailed it down to Yellowcraigs beach, trying to rid ourselves of the city lights that clung to us for the length of the bypass. Given that it was last minute, we had the essentials. This included a chippie, a kettle (good job Catherine!) some exquisite cupcakes and a torch. Leaving the car we climbed over a stile in complete darkness, feeling our way to the clearing through the trees. The darkness magnified every sound, it fed every childhood fear. Creaking of branches and the rustling in leaves, swaying shadows and creatures of the night. The scene was effectively set for a horror film. I was starting to imagine the worst, that someone might leap out and prevent me from eating my chippie while it was still warm. Needless to say, it was a fruitless effort and Aurora did not grace us with her presence, sadly.
Tonight I went for a walk. I do love clear autumn evenings. The stars were out. They waved at me, twinkling. Remember us?! I had taken them for granted. They had been there all along and were generally visible most nights. Guilt washed over me. Here I was, wishing for brighter, better, bolder more memorable, spectacular swirls of green rippling through the nights’ sky. I was dismissing the nights without this display and all along the little guys were doing their best to impress. And you find that don’t you? When you catch sight of one star you all of a sudden see the one beside it and then the one beside that and the next and so on until you are gazing at a blanket of stars in an arrangement of patterns and prominence. And as with the stars, I am guilty of doing that in my own life. I look for, hope for, wait for something big to happen. Something good. A win. Something worthy of praise and adoration. And the whole time, small yet beautiful things have been going on in the background. The kindness of others. An encouragement when you needed it. A banana peel comedy moment when you’re down. These little things keep us afloat when we feel weary from treading water. They maybe don't give us all that we want, but we are given what we need. So while it’s okay to run to that window and hope for something spectacular, I’m learning that sometimes it’s okay to settle for stars.