Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Bad Traveler, day 2...later that evening...

trepid tourist trips on northern lights....


quick lunch and dinner, blessed nap, and on my way to the 2nd tour of the day.  we drive out of the city and into the countryside to see, we hope, the famous aurora borealis.  as the travel brochure announces, there is no guarantee that the lights will appear to us; they promise that if not, we will be given free access to as many tours as needed until we experience a successful appearance.

i had been excited about the prospect, since by all reports the lights are astounding.  but i'm also tired and grumpy. when the bus pulls up by a small church in a large meadow, i'm reluctant to leave its warmth. but i do, of course.  on the way the guide had given us information about the lights, including that fact that they can come in any color, including white: white, she says, will show up on pictures as green.

we walk down a path away from the church, into  more darkness. i hadn't been prepared for this, and the path is very rocky. i keep stumbling, and with each stumble become more anxious. it is just about a year since my last fall--on the charles bridge in prague--and that seems ominous.  the year before that i had fallen down stairs at the castle.  i'd been hoping to skip this year's fall.  it's a short walk but by the time we get to the spot the guide decides on, i'm in nearly full-blown anxiety mode.  we're standing on a hill, which means i'm still stumbling. and we wait--don't worry, she says, we can wait for half an hour or so. by now, it's really cold.  the cold knifes its way into my lungs, so now i get to choose between falling and getting pneumonia, and the northern lights seem less interesting than the reading light in my hotel room.  and im bored and antsy.  i watch the cozy little church behind us, trying to imagine myself inside.  i'm been humming joni mitchell ['...like the nights when the northern lights perform...'], but the mind now switches into the mamas and the papas ['...i walk into a church along the way. the preacher likes the cold; he knows i'll have to stay'], and then the guide triumphantly calls out, 'look!' , so we all do.  but at what?  another cloud above the one that's been there all along.  then the new one grows and spreads, and soon covers the sky like a huge albino rainbow.

i try to feel awe.  i know i should; my brain tells me it's an awesome sight.  but awe, i discover, can't be conjured up any more than the lights themselves. i stare at the odd rainbow and, added to my pile of negative emotions, i'm pissed that it's white.  like the cold white knife in my lungs.  my brain knows it's still amazing, even if it isn't a blaze of colors.  i try to appreciate it.  but the awe and appreciation will come later; for now all i want to do is walk back to the bus.  but i'm scared; at least if i leave with the others, someone will see me when i fall and help me up.  eventually, i give up and start to walk back, and a few others are also doing that . again, i stumble but remain upright. i rush into the bus and sit awhile alone, all of my body but the icy lungs begins to thaw.  later, i remind myself, i'll be very glad i saw this.

and later, indeed, i am.

no pictures this time, though i have pored over the internet searching.  no whites at all. i guess they're all green.

2 comments:

Jim said...

Huh.

I have always wanted to see the Northern lights. I have always imagined they must be so spectacular that they just take your breath away. They always look that way on photos and time-lapse video. But perhaps it is more like the Milky Way when seen away from all light pollution in some mountain valley. Something that brings awe not from any direct spectacle, but from what it all implies.

karen lindsey said...

from all i've heard, they usually are all that spectacular. but they get to decide, not us--and in some way, i'm glad of that. then again, it may be that my expecting either all-or-nothing probably contributed to my lower enthusiasm at what i got.

funny, i hadn't put it together till just now, but earlier this evening i was reading tarot cards for one of my students, and the 5 of cups came up, reversed, surrounding her--the influence of someone who knows with the 3 cups spilled, there are 2 full ones waiting in the other direction. so i think i got my 2 cups worth with the white rainbow, and wasn't really prepared to see it with everything else going on......