Oh the Wheel in the Sky
Trish (and family) has a close encounter
My eyes struggled to adjust to the darkness outside as they focused on the faint flashes of light in the southern sky spread out above my back step. Lightning? I squinted, slowly noting the emerald green tinge to the light. Lightning’s not green, I thought, as the occasional flashes became interspersed with beams of green reflecting off cloud cover. Oh, cool! Northern Lights! But what are they doing in the southern sky?
Either my eyes adjusted or the lights brightened noticeably and the action picked up. “Tyler!” I called to my grandson, unwilling to take my eyes from the sky. “Tyler!” The wretched child didn’t come. Probably fell asleep, I thought. It is after midnight. More and more lights filled the sky and I was torn between missing the show and wanting to share the sight with my grandson. Quickly I ran inside the house. “Tyler, come quick!”
My sleepy-eyed boy followed me back to the door just in time for the sky to go crazy. Beams of light shooting up, down and sideways. Dots of light flashing everywhere. And then the lights, as one, began to spin in circles. What the...?!
“Grab my cell phone!” I said, eyes glued to the sky, but Tyler wasn’t moving as this absolutely amazing, stupifying spectacle unfolded above us. Again, I ran, grabbed the phone and called my daughter in Sandpoint, waking her up. “Outside, look at the lights!” I told her frantically. “My god, I have never in my life seen anything like this! You have got to see it!”
“What is it, Grandma?” Tyler asked, and I could hear the fear in his voice. “I have absolutely no idea,” I told him. “Go get Uncle Joe.”
But Tyler was glued to my side, afraid to leave, afraid to stay. We went together to wake up my brother and bring him outside to witness.
“Wow,” he said. “Wow.” I walked out into my back yard, far enough to see back over the roof of my house into the northern half of the sky, to see if more lights were visible, but the skies over Bee Top were black and blank. I turned again to the south. “It must be the Northern Lights,” I said, my voice reflecting my own doubts. “They’re probably all over the northern sky too but we can’t see ‘em through the clouds.” It was the only explanation that made sense to me.
Shortly thereafter, the lights diminished until only two bright beams of green were left, shooting from ground to sky, and there they stayed for a few minutes, until slowly fading away, a formation I have never seen in the aurora before.
I went in to post on Facebook, hoping others had seen what we had. Joe stayed outside, looking for more lights. Not long after, they were back.
Our excited exclamations soon drew my mother’s attention from next door, and close to 1 am we had her outside in the driveway, sitting in a chair, watching the show.
“You know, Area 51’s over that way,” offered my brother, always open to any explanation and honestly, there was a part of me that would not have been at all surprised to learn we were being visited by aliens as the lights flashed and danced and smeared and twirled themselves throughout the sky. “Well, let’s hope this isn’t like the movie “Independence Day,” I replied. “That scene where the people are dancing and partying, welcoming the aliens, right before they get blown off the face of the earth.”
I have always believed that if I ever saw anything that firmly suggested itself as otherworldly—ghost, UFO, mothman—I would run madly in the other direction. Now I know that’s not the case. Whatever this was, there was no way I was going to miss a second of it. That hour we spent watching the heavens was one of the most magical of my life.
In truth, I have spent a lot of time these past few months watching the sky. I am a fan of thunderstorms and we have had plenty, giving me hours of enjoyment with my neck tipped back, watching clouds spread and lightning flash and feeling the rumble of thunder deep inside my chest.
Fan though I am, I have spent too much time watching these sights. We have had too many thunderstorms.
Our world is changing. We aren’t seeing that as much here as elsewhere, but it is slowly becoming more and more undeniable... the earth we will live on tomorrow is not the same one we grew up on. We have changed its very nature, and the only question left is whether we can live, much less thrive, in our new reality.
Coincidentally, our unnatural world—our societies, economies, civilizations—are changing at the same time and, while coincidences do happen, I suspect the two are tied together, though I’m not really sure which came first. But I believe that at some level, we all recognize that things are different now, that those things we knew to be true may not be true any longer.
Fear of the unknown is a powerful motivator, but it generally doesn’t motivate us toward anything given we don’t know where we’re going. So we lash out in anger and frustration, and a difficult transition is made more difficult in the process. Look at any public discussion (or what passes for discussion these days) and you’ll see this in action.
The most difficult part (at least, for me, and I suspect for others as well), is that as quickly as this change is happening, it’s also happening slowly... it’s the long, slow decline that John Michael Greer has written so eloquently about. As a whole, we humans seem to respond pretty well to a crisis, while slow change leaves us like that proverbial frog in boiling water (which, by the way, is a bit of an urban legend—the frog is smart enough to hop out of the pot, even if we aren’t). I suspect this paralysis in the face of slow change is what fuels so many to believe in the Maya’s 2012 so-called prophecies, Armageddon, or FEMA concentration camps for American citizens; or even an imminent alien arrival. They reflect our desire for something big to happen that will finally indicate where we should go, and motivate a real and sustained response.
As I watched the lights all over the southern sky coalesce into an enormous disc and spin in synchronisation, I thought these thoughts. While I couldn’t quite convince my analytical brain to believe this was alien, I felt the pull of wanting to—the pull of hoping, for a minute or for an hour, for some miraculous, magical thing we could all point to and say, That’s when it all changed. That’s when we knew. That’s when we went to work.
The lights? A little time on the Internet and a few phone calls revealed they originated at Silverwood Theme Park, where technicians were ‘practicing’ for their 25th anniversary laser light show. There was apparently just enough cloud cover in the sky to reflect those lights almost 50 miles down the length of Pend Oreille to shine in the skies over Clark Fork.
As impelled as I was to find the explanation, losing the mystery was a bit sad. But I still have the memory of the mystery... and the memory of the hope that we will, indeed, figure these things out before it’s too late.