Last week I stood on the deck of a supply ferry inside the Arctic Circle and watched heaven fall.
There were folded curtains made of green light dropping towards the horizon, as if we were witnessing the moment just after the play had ended. Or the world.
Higher up the curtains, where the light was thin and stretched, stars were sewn on like sequins.
In the north ribs of light shimmered and flickered in spasms. Someone screamed, ‘Look, look,’ and pointed overhead to streaks of white veins thickening and twisting.
I lay on the deck to try to take in the whole Aurora, but the lights were too immense, covered too much of the sky for me to see in a single view. But I couldn’t remain there. It wasn’t just the cold, although the temperature was -1C, and the icy breeze had numbed my nose and cheeks. The experience was too huge, too awe-inspiring, too exciting and frightful to stay still without being overwhelmed.
Of course, I felt the expected “insignificance of man” under the immensity of the phenomena. How could you not? But what came as a complete surprise was that some part of me felt a strange interconnection with it. It was as if here I was, an individual standing on the deck of a ferry in Norway, but at the same time, was also an integral and indistinguishable part of something much greater and unfathomable, cosmic even.
I tried to capture what I could on my camera but I found the images as inadequate as my words to recreate this extraordinary experience.
Today, back in Australia with the bushfires raging, I was looking through Natalie Goldberg’s book Writing Down the Bones and stopped dead at this quote about watching a tribal snake dance,
“We who watched thought it was unfathomable and fantastic because it was new and foreign. It was also ordinary and had been done for hundreds of years. In order to write about it, we have to go to the heart of it and know it, so the ordinary and extraordinary flash before our eyes simultaneously. Go so deep into something that you understand its interpenetration with all things. Then automatically the detail is imbued with the cosmic; they are interchangeable.”