Aurora Borealis | Overstuffed Overstuffed

Monday, July 16, 2012

Aurora Borealis

Do you have a bucket list?

I do.

I've never actually written it down, but it includes things like learn to play the bagpipes (much to the chagrin of my bagpipe-hating husband), visit every country in Europe (I think he's pretty cool with this one, though, just as long as I take him with me), play the role of Mimi in La Boheme (any production will do--at this point, I can't be too picky and may need to start my own backyard opera series), and see the Northern Lights.

IMG_3791 Northern Lights web_edited-1
Lucky for me, living as far north as I do, The Lights are often visible where I live. I saw them once this past fall (I think that's when it was...don't make me search through Facebook to verify). But I only saw them from my front porch, and there was too much light pollution to really appreciate their beauty.

Don't get me wrong. They were pretty cool. It was just when I saw the pictures taken by friends who had actually gone out to Lake Superior to watch them that I realized what I had missed. So, I didn't cross that item off of the bucket list that exists only in my mind after all. I needed to see them for real, over Lake Superior.

IMG_3790 Northern Lights web_edited-2
A few days ago, someone posted on Facebook about a sun flare that had happened, and that The Lights would be visible over the weekend. I liked the post, and tucked the information away in my mind, but mostly forgot about it. The show opened on Friday night and I was tuckered out. Then, on Saturday night (which was a day off of rehearsals and performances), after writing a stack of thank-you notes to the cast and crew, I checked Facebook one last time before I hit the proverbial sack. It was already 1:30 in the morning, but I saw a post about The Lights being out, so I put on some clothes and went out to my front porch to check it out. And just above the ski hill I could see the green tinge that meant The Lights were definitely out and strong!
IMG_3789 Northern Lights web_edited-1
I went in the house and shook Joel awake and told him I wanted to drive out to McLain State Park and see The Lights over Lake Superior. He knows how important this is to me, so he got up and got dressed and then we woke up the girls and put them in the car. The poor darlings were so confused and had no idea what was happening. Chloe, who is a very grumpy girl when awoken from sleep, had unfortunately fallen asleep already, even though it wasn't beyond the realm of possibility that she should be awake at 1:30 in the morning. It was a drama on the ride out to Lake Superior, even though I was trying to show them The Lights and how amazing they were. But they were difficult to see while driving and nobody could understand what was so important that they had to be dragged out of bed in the middle of the night to see it.

A little bit before we got to the lake, we came to a clearing where you could see The Lights pretty well. Joel stopped the car and we all got out to look. The girls could finally understand why we had made them get out of bed to see this. It's a once in a lifetime experience for most people, and how lucky we are that they will have many other chances as long as we are living here.

IMG_3797 Northern Lights web_edited-1
We all got back into the car and finished the drive out to Lake Superior. And it was just spectacular there. The Lights reflected in the lake, the millions of stars, the quiet of nature. Every bit of the experience was just exquisite.

The girls were a little scared because it was pretty dark out there, even with The Lights on, and Puccini cried for a long time until Joel just held her. She apparently isn't a fan of being in strange places in the dark.

IMG_3796 Northern Lights web_edited-1
Bria, in particular, was enthralled. Sophia is perhaps too young to really understand, and Chloe was still pretty grumpy. But Bria really appreciated the amazing gift she was given to see this natural phenomenon. While I took pictures, she and Joel laid on the hood of the car and watched the light undulate. They even saw a few falling stars, which was just the icing on the cake.

I had trouble at first figuring out how the heck to photograph the lights. The shutter had to be open for quite a while, and I didn't think to bring a tripod. I also didn't think to grab my f/1.8 lens, either, which would have been so much better. And they turned out blurry because I didn't have the presence of mind to change to manual focus and focus to infinity. Sigh. But who can be expected to think of these things at 2:30 in the morning?

Northern Lights over Lake Superior
Happy as I am to have actually seen such a beautiful display of the Northern Lights, I now have a new item on my bucket list:

Get a perfect photograph of the Northern Lights.

I guess I'll just have to see them again before I can die.


  1. You lucky lady! What an amazing experience you had! I can relate to you're girls, though. I remember being small and my sister woke me up to see our cat have babies. I was made and cried because i had no idea why she woke me up. It was disconcerting. But holy smokes, i am sure you're girls will thank you for waking them. And i am so jealous about the lights. Oh my goodness!

  2. What an experience! I have never seen the northern lights before, but maybe I need to add it to my bucket list

  3. I've always wanted to see the Northern Lights also. I keep thinking I'll go to Alaska to see them...I never thought of Michigan as an option. I'm looking forward to pictures from your next viewing-whenever it may be!

  4. Those are totally on my bucket list! I had no idea they were visible from Michigan!

  5. Very cool! I would like to see that myself someday...perhaps when I visit Alaska per my bucket list!

  6. Wow. I was always too far south in Finland to every see the No. Lights. What an enviable experience! The pictures are awesome.