2020…What next?

You can’t have a conversation these days without the topic of the Covid Pandemic and 2020 in general being raised. In fact, it dominates even the most fleeting of chats. There isn’t anyone on earth who hasn’t been affected in some way – either physically, mentally, financially, or spiritually. It has brought people closer together and driven others apart. Posts and memes abound on Facebook asking what’s next? Here in Alberta we just spent a nerve-wracking 24 hours waiting for our premiere to deliver news of how our province was going to manage the severe uptick in cases. It was anyone’s guess…more shutdowns? Further restrictions? Were our jobs in jeopardy? The stress imparted by this microscopic terrorist is unfathomable. I don’t think I’m stressed at all, until one tiny thing goes awry and my patience snaps or I’m yelling at the screen because technology has befuddled me. The fear that we were all about to re-enter lockdown made me think that I needed to stop at the store and fill a cart (I suppressed the urge…for now, no guarantees for tomorrow). I began to eye my toilet paper supply suspiciously (which, although far short of hoarding, now takes up a little more space in my home than pre-covid). In fairness, my main thought was that if stores are further restricting the number of shoppers, in Northern Alberta that means standing outside the store in a line-up in sub-zero temperatures which I would rather avoid. On a positive note, wearing a mask in sub-zero temperatures does keep the face warm, especially when there is a windchill. The bad news is I need a seeing-eye dog to navigate with my fogged glasses.

When comet NEOWISE appeared in our skies over the summer, there might have been the slightest thought in my mind that of any year, this would be the one where a comet made contact. It did make a field goal over our local school yard (see below), which is infinitely better than a touch down. In all the craziness that is 2020, for the most part, there is not a lot of things in my direct control. I can wear a mask. I can protect myself and others. I can sanitize and wash my hands. I can social distance from friends and loved ones (the hardest part of doing my part). I can be prepared. Toilet paper and cat food…check. Accepting the bobbing and weaving that comes with the daily changes to my world is difficult. The one thing that remains a constant for me is the night sky. No matter what the stresses of the day, I can go out under a canopy of stars, look up, drop my shoulders, take a deep breath and let it go. Just…let…it…go. It’s easy to socially distance myself while I enjoy the wonders that the night sky offers. Jupiter and Saturn are getting closer together and will have a great conjunction on December 21st (the first since the 1600’s). Orion is up and rocking his place in the heavens. The Lady Aurora occasionally makes her nocturnal visit to dance above my head.

The day to day dealing with a pandemic makes me tired and fogs my brain. This past Saturday night I felt utterly exhausted. I knew there was a chance of aurora, the sky was clear, and there was a hint of green – but all I wanted was my pj’s and my bed. The Lady must have stomped into the night sky at some point because suddenly, at 1:02am, I awoke from my apparently not so deep sleep. Away to the window I flew like a flash, tore open the shutters and threw up the sash (oops, wrong story but close!). I did head to the window and did a test shot with my camera and there was no doubt…green pillars were showing in the sky. Since my housecoat is not rated for sub-zero temperatures, it was quickly on with the jeans and the ski pants, hoodie and winter jacket, with my winter Sorels on my feet. I corralled my now confused cats in the bathroom (wait? weren’t we all just curled up for the night?) so no one made their escape as I bumbled out the door. No longer feeling the least bit tired, the adrenaline of the chase filled my soul and within 15 minutes of seeing the green I had my gear out of the house and was standing in the middle of our street (tiny hamlet, no traffic). Much like a fast labor and no time to head to hospital – she was here and there was no time to find a clear horizon. And oh, did she dance! She began as a tightly curled fiddlehead and then unfurled herself across the sky. Ripples crossed the heavens like hands across piano keys as she turned and made a complete ring in the sky, accessorized with a red fringe. I wasn’t sure who was going to emerge…Will Smith or ET. It sure looked like the mother ship had arrived. And, this being 2020 I can honestly say I would not have really been surprised.

The chase took me a few blocks over to our local schoolyard where the ring transformed into a bright green bow from which emanated an ethereal fog. Such costume changes! A sky ballet extraordinaire! After trudging around the snowy schoolyard in the wee hours, camera and tripod frosting up, fingers frozen – I was happily content and ready again for sleep. I returned home, unleashed the kraken…I mean cats…from their corral, removed my many layers and once again laid my head to my pillow…this time to dream.

What’s next? Tomorrow is next…another group of 24 hours. That’s all I know for sure…

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