Monday, July 17, 2017

NO_rthern Summer Lights

I didn't see any Northern Lights last night. Did you? About ten pm I wandered down the driveway and took a look toward the Northern sky. Nada! And I had spent more than an hour with my camera and manuals to get ready to take some pictures. That's probably what did it. If I had stayed my usual marginally ready self, we might have had an awesome display. For the record, there weren't any Northern Lights this morning at 4 am either. Maybe one of these days...

no Northern Lights here
no Northern Lights here
Photo by J. Harrington

Heading back toward the house, I did see three or four fireflies. Since I miss seeing fireflies in the Summer more than I've ever become accustomed to seeing Northern Lights, I consider it close to an even trade off, at least this time. And, I did finally learn what happens when I push a couple of the previously untouched buttons on the back of my camera, so the anticipation of Northern Lights had a couple of payoffs, even without seeing the Lights themselves. Life's often like that, isn't it?

source: Stockholm Resilience Centre

One reason suspected to contribute to fewer fireflies is increased light pollution. Now, think about that for a moment, please. It doesn't make much difference to the fireflies whether the source of power for the lights is coal or wind or solar. Too much light in the "wrong" place at night would seem to interfere with the bugs mating signals. I'm taking your time with this as an example of systems thinking, something we need to see lots more of if we're going to be able to provide our descendants a  halfway decent planet to live on. While everyone (except #45) seems to be getting panicky about climate change, there are a number of other systems that can get us into serious trouble. Look here. Much as it becomes an inconvenient truth, John Muir had it right when he wrote "When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the Universe." If you're interested in looking at the most detailed map of that universe, it's here. Since there weren't Northern Lights this morning, I had a pretty good look at some parts of our universe. It helped put me in my place. Try it some clear morning soon. Then "Hitch your wagon to a star."

Letter to the Northern Lights



The light here on earth keeps us plenty busy: a fire
in central Pennsylvania still burns bright since 1962.
Whole squads of tiny squid blaze up the coast of Japan
before sunrise. Of course you didn’t show when we went
searching for you, but we found other lights: firefly,
strawberry moon, a tiny catch of it in each other’s teeth.
Someone who saw you said they laid down
in the middle of the road and took you all in,
and I’m guessing you’re used to that—people falling
over themselves to catch a glimpse of you
and your weird mint-glow shushing itself over the lake.
Aurora, I’d rather stay indoors with him—even if it meant
a rickety hotel and its wood paneling, golf carpeting
in the bathrooms, and grainy soapcakes. Instead
of waiting until just the right hour of the shortest
blue-night of the year when you finally felt moved
enough to collide your gas particles with sun particles—
I’d rather share sunrise with him and loon call
over the lake with him, the slap of shoreline threaded
through screen windows with him. My heart
slams in my chest, against my shirt—it’s a kind
of kindling you’d never be able to light on your own. 


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