DAY 19

Shelley has an app that predicts when the Northern Lights will appear. She comes at 11:30 to pick us up and drive us to the good viewing spots. We drive far, far away from the lights of the community, taking the single shoveled road out to the middle of nowhere.
“Best spot is out near the cemetery,” she says, and we all laugh over the prospect of spending our Saturday night there in the pitch black.

We get to the spot and hop out of the car. There is almost nothing visible on the horizon, just an endless flat stretch of snow. I stand out in the expanse, staring in wonder at the black sky that blankets us, the stars twinkling in the darkness. The perfect half moon glows so brightly, I keep mistaking it for a headlight out of the corner of my eye.

“Look, they’re starting over there!” Claire points over my head. I see a faint strip of light dancing across the dark sky. We keep waiting for them to glow more brightly, hop in and out of the car to stay warm. We try a few different spots, but they seem to dim more than light up. Tonight is a bust, we decide.

I’m sure I’ll have another chance to see them sometime. But the feeling of standing under that endless sky with the stars – that feeling itself has already been magical.


We’re off work the next morning and the sun is peeking brightly through my blinds. Claire and I decide it’s the perfect time for a good hike. We make our first stop at the dog house on the street behind where we live. There’s a shaggy mom, tied to the fence by a long rope. She’s excited, as always, to see us. Claire found a bag of dog food in her apartment and has been trying to feed her, but she’s still famished and beyond skinny. She’s breastfeeding her five pups who sit huddled together in the corner of their doghouse, shivering from the cold. They come out to greet us, and I try to cuddle them and warm them, but they still whimper in the frigid temperatures. Claire notices a wound on the back of mama’s leg, maybe from the chafing of the rope when she gets too excited and ties herself up in it. We worry that they won’t survive this winter.
We continue our trek, climbing over the hill behind the community. The sun paints gorgeous hues of blue and orange across the sky and snow. Claire, much taller than I, and smart enough to own snowpants, takes smaller strides so that I can step in her footprints. I still sink calf-deep into the snow.
We follow the skidoo tracks to look for people ice-fishing. My breath is condensing on my eyelashes, and they keep sticking together as we walk far out onto the frozen lake. I pull out my camera again. Just one more photo, I beg it. But I turn it on and it immediately retracts the lens. It’s too cold for my electronics to work out here. Claire manages to snap two photos before her phone dies too. As we approach the ice-fishers, their dog gallops over, almost falling over in excitement to see us. She won’t stop jumping on us.
I watch them fish, fascinated. A man hangs his fishing line in the hole and jigs it a few times. Then, with a flick of his arm, a fish comes flying out on the end of his line. He smacks it on the head, then adds it to his impressive pile of fish, all very frozen, all very dead. We decide to head home after a little while, needing to keep moving before we freeze and fall over. But the dog keeps following us, wrapping her front paws around my leg and trying to chew my mitt off. Her owner whistles at her as they head out, and she finally turns and chases after the skidoo.

I have always hated being cold. But somehow, standing out here in the sub-zero temperatures, barely able to feel my face, I still can’t help but marvel at how breathtaking it all is, what a beautiful Lord’s day it has been.


  1. "...what a beautiful Lord’s day it has been." Love that line.

    Those precious pups <3 Fingers crossed with the SPCA.


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