February is a test that the purgatory winter can bestow upon our souls. Christmas has long since been fashioned into a memory, and all of its cards have been stowed away or recycled. I felt a weight holding me down – a weight I feel every time during this part of the year. There is no shame, no guilt, no worry, no fear, and no depression with this weight – winter has long since over stayed its welcome. The weight I felt is a personal sensation of the notion that winter needs to end, and spring needs to emerge.
During the summer there is no weight – all it takes to shave thin the overwhelming mental gravity life can inflict is to use part of the long day to add a mile or two to the odometer of the motorcycle. A little travel in personal solitude to flip through the pages of my conscious and its atlas are a self-prescribed remedy to many mental ailments.
But the long days of summer are months away.
As February ticked down on its last day, winter was granted a chance to redeem part of its abominable anguish.
I caught an article online claiming the Northern Lights would be easily seen on the night of the 28th.
My laptop wasn’t even closed on my kitchen table and I was already getting fuel and a caffeine enriched beverage from a gas station in town. I didn’t care if I had to drive all night to find them – I was going to stand under the nightscape’s dancing lights.
I shot out west and struggled to find a radio station that was playing all the right music. Quickly out to the south I recognized the constellation of Orion; it would have been better suited to have him appear on the north side as then I could have claimed Orion was riding shotgun in my truck.
Soon I found the illumination of my headlights pointing north and there still wasn’t any hints of the Northern Lights – just a few stars and the synthetic glows from the farm yard light standards. I struggled with the radio – my truck has a weak antenna – and found I was slipping farther from the hope of hearing music for a while.
My mind had eased into gentle conscious hallucinations – I was daydreaming during the nighttime. After a stretch of heading north, my truck was now rolling east; and before long I was northbound again. I was on the fringe of receiving Edmonton’s radio signals when a station was suddenly received in full clarity spewing electric dance music and instantly the industrious lights of Genesee filled my windshield as a brief evening portrait.
I pulled off along a side road and watched a great crane operate to feed and satisfy the electric desires of man. The mechanized skeleton strained against its own structure and creaked furiously as it scavenged through the rich earth. I began to venture back home to Rimbey – I felt as though the Northern Lights were scrawled over by the glow of the artificial lights of man to remain unseen.
My truck, now travelling straight south, shot back home when I was teased by the reflection of my instrument panel lights in the driver’s side window. A few turns of the radio’s tune knob found a continuous stream of acoustic music. Another glance out the window banished any second thoughts of an illusion – the Northern Lights had finally emerged. I was eastbound on Highway 13 and found a quiet space to turn off the pavement.
I shut off the engine and the lights of my truck.
The towering pillars of emerald lights were winter’s gift to the nightscape. The Northern Lights are a diametric opposition to the emotions a dark winter can bestow. I stood on the side of the road and turned a full circle – there wasn’t a manmade light to be seen anywhere. Orion was still standing in the south and had a good view, like me, of the cascading green lights in the sky. My mind was relishing in moment only the moonlight, the starlight, and the Aurora Borealis can accentuate.
With the same ease I can turn the rheostat and dim the interior lights of truck, the Northern Lights had begun to fade from the sky. The last evening in February had been a gift of the beauty winter was capable of showing. Winter’s weight was no longer upon me.