"Hey, Mom," Shaggy Hair Boy said as he came through the front door, stamping snow off his boots. "Com'ere and look. The sky's gone weird."
It was Thursday night and fairly late. I'd returned from reading poetry to a wonderfully receptive audience in a small local coffeehouse, and I was sitting in the comfy chair by the fireplace, chatting with a friend on my laptop computer, letting the adrenaline from the poetry reading slowly recede through quiet conversation. My husband had gone upstairs gone upstairs to read comic books with With-a-Why before bed, but the voice of Thor had long since died away, and I suspected from the silence that they had both fallen asleep.
Shaggy Hair had been to my daughter's off-campus apartment to watch the weekly installment of a television show that is like Gilligan's Island, except with more drama. (It's tradition for my older kids to watch this show together.) Boy in Black and my daughter had already headed to the kitchen area of the house to rummage through the cupboards for food, in the manner of college students everywhere, but Shaggy Hair walked through the living area to the sliding glass doors and opened them. "It's like these columns of light. Everywhere."
Setting down my laptop computer, I pulled on boots, grabbed a winter coat hanging on the back of a kitchen chair, and stepped out into cold winter air.
We live in a rural area with no streetlights and few houses. Glittering snow stretched in front of me, edged with dark trees, and above the woods, stars hung in crazy, familiar patterns. But something was different, dramatically different. To the east and to the north, bluish-green pillars of light shone out of the trees, reaching far into the sky above our heads. In a science fiction movie, these lights would have been an alien attack, for sure. Or something mysterious.
The northern lights. Or some call it the aurora borealis. We don't get to see them that often, and we are too far south for the kind of spectacular displays that get photographed for museum exhibits. But still, these columns were pretty amazing, reaching straight into sky with enough brilliance to erase stars. When my friend Reiki Woman leads guided meditations, she talks about standing inside a column of light, and these columns looked just like the pillars of brightness that always keep me safe during meditation.
We stared for a few minutes and then returned to the house, where Boy in Black and Wonderful Smart Beautiful Daughter were joking in the kitchen area. I settled back into the comfy chair, feeling safe and warm, surrounded by family and brilliant beams of light.