Oct 21, 1999
Bill Coton, Paul Wicklund, and Suzanne Ruby
The stargazers finish up a night of showing cub scouts and adults around the sky. The air still lingers with the oohís and ahís of planets, globular clusters and galaxies that had been found. Wait, whatís that in the sky? Itís glowing green up north. Could it be, maybe, discussion ensues, great knowledge flows forth. Votes taken, itís the Northern Lights back by popular demand. Telescopes are quickly dismantled and placed carefully in each vehicle. Maps are scrutinized. Quickest road chosen. Paul, Bill, and I were off to chase the aurora. Paul decides he will lead the way until he gets lost and then he will allow someone else to get lost. Goal, get ourselves out of the Suncrest Development and up on the flats of Wild Rose Prairie where we could photograph the colored sky. Finding ones way in the dark led us down roads we would not have traveled even in the daytime. Three headlights head off into the night in search of the ideal location to be one with the aurora. Up through the valley, down back roads of porch lights, dust and barking dogs we head in pursuit. The glow is growing, consuming the skies. We want to be there, with the tripods set, cameras focused and clicking. Is it this road? No, to many porch lights. Is it this road, no to many trees. This road is to big, that road is to small but this road is just right. Three cars parking. Three bodies downing the winter garb. Two bodies swung out the tripods. ( I had forgotten my camera.) Their cameras were relieved of their bindings and film was introduced to its slot for the next 24 shots.
Me, I was speechless, which is unusual. Welcome to Aurora Borealis 101. Each moment was new. There was not enough time to respond to all the aurora changes. Remember in Close Encounters when they where all standing along side of the road waiting for the ETís to come back? Well that was us. Waiting, expressing what we saw, moving down the road for one shot and up the embankment for another. The minds where counting the seconds of exposure, waiting with mouths ajar and responding by taking shot after shot.
Two hours later the glow is receding. The toes are going numb, the mind is full of wonder. Its off to home we go. Three sets of head lights separate at highway 395. On my way home the wave of color returned. My tires could not take me home fast enough, for at home was my camera. On Bills way home the aurora haunted him in the rear view mirror. At his house in town, Bill found to his amazement, the color of the aurora still held. Bill continued for that elusive perfect photo to capture what he had been viewing. At home in Mead, Paul found the need to nourish the body. Bill called saying "Get out there Man!" The pizza will have to wait. Paul took what appeared to be daylight pictures of his sisters house next door. Thirty miles north of Spokane I took my first pictures at the house. Cold, numb, exhilarated and emotionally out of control I grabbed my camera, did as the others had done and I pray the pictures will capture what my heart has been witness too. The aurora was everywhere. I am now in the belly of Jonah. An other hour slips away.
When my husband woke the next morning, to find a trail of discarded winter clothes dropped from the kitchen to the living room. My camera, tripod and lenses lay next to the clothes. My car was parked haphazardly in the driveway. He thought, she must have had a good time. Time has passed now and the photos are back. Even though the Moon was almost full, some of the pictures turned out great, ask the others, they will show you. Mine were the typical beginners photos. But I am happy. Learning and experiencing something new was the best part. Until the next chase.