I think Vampires must have been the first Aurora Chasers – maybe that is why daylight is so irksome to them. I know it is quite irksome to me! But that wasn’t always the case. Living in the North makes for some very long summer days. Daylight (not sunrise and sunset) begins near 2:30am and continues until well after 11:00pm. It used to feel like heaven, except for trying to get the kids indoors from playing and snuggled into their beds. It seems like you have so much extra time in spring and summer. In the winter it’s still dark at 8am and darkness strikes again by 4pm so there is no daylight to be had after supper. As a result there seems to be the illusion of so much less time. In summer, however, you could still get around to mowing the lawn at 10pm (if you didn’t care for your neighbours). You can sit with friends on the deck and still manage to play cards or yard games without artificial light or just read a book. Long summer evenings were the best! That love affair only lasted until my interests in astrophotography burgeoned.
The night sky has held my attention since I was a small child. Then the Auroras caught my photographer’s eye and suddenly there seemed no end to the treasures found in the night sky. Comets, meteors, and auroras, oh my! That’s when it became a struggle to embrace the light…it was clearly getting in the way of my passions! Once upon a time, I would count the days leading up the longest day…watching the daylight hours lengthen each day with glee. Then I would feel the loss as we pinnacled on the longest day – and watched the daylight hours begin to dwindle once again. Through my photography, I gained a new perspective. What had once felt like a blessing, now seemed like a curse. The Auroras don’t stop just because it is light out and the constellations still shimmer beyond the blue sky. Sitting around the campfire late at night holds less allure at the height of summer. To sit around the fire leaning back in our chairs watching the stars and satellites and meteors will have to wait now until near summer’s end. The telescope will grow dusty as it sits and waits for dark skies. The lack of darkness is doubly sad because the warmth of a summer night sure beats standing out with my gear in -20C! Don’t get me wrong, the long beautiful summer nights still have their place, but not when I read the space weather and know the Lady will be dancing, invisible to my eye!
It’s truly all in the perspective. Recently I was saying to my husband “yay! next week it will be the longest day and then the nights will start getting longer!” (it still surprises me when I hear myself say that). A few days later came the longest day – June 20th. Sitting by the fire, marvelling at how light it still was and knowing there would be no star-gazing this night. And then it happened…looking up just after 11pm and seeing what I think are very-faint-in-the-still-light-sky Noctilucent Clouds. The sky needed to darken more to be sure, but just after midnight I could confirm that indeed, I was looking at a beautiful display of NLC’s. This night was crystal clear – not a real cloud in the sky. Off I went on a short jaunt down the road with my camera in tow to find a horizon. They were so lovely – almost as mystical and magical as the Lady Aurora herself. At this time of year, and lasting only a few short weeks, the sun is at just the right trajectory below the horizon to light up the ice crystals formed by meteor vapour 85kms up in the earth’s mesosphere. They are not true clouds and often give the illusion of watery waves in the sky. A thin line of orange sunset still showed on the horizon as the sun skimmed just below, ready to reappear only a few hours hence. Maybe there is something to be said for those long summer nights after all – revealing treasures that would normally go unseen by the human eye. Nature does like balance after all.
Perspective is an interesting thing. Our point of view can change in an instant and our attitudes altered…just by seeing something from a different angle. It is perfectly okay to adjust my preferences or my views when new information comes to light. I can change my mind as often as I need to as my vantage points are adjusted through increased knowledge or through my own inclinations. So while I am not excited about winter’s unavoidable arrival, I do look forward to a dark skies and dancing lights. Sometimes you just have to embrace the dark to see the light.