On our first night at our new Workaway near Grande Prairie, we were woken by our host, outside our door, saying tentatively “There is some aurora borealis tonight if you want to go and look, it’s not the best but you might want to go and see.” Our eyes inevitably jumped open and we stumbled out of bed mumbling “Yes! We want to see it!” although obviously in hushed sleepy tones. With our host’s words of “Wear a very warm jacket and you might have to hang around for a bit. The pig field is the best place to see ’em” ringing in our ears, we hurried on coats on top of our pyjamas and slid on our boots and ran up the drive towards the pig field. The pig field is the best place because it’s a wide open field whereas the house and most of the farm is surrounded in forest which narrows your view of the sky.
We looked up at the huge black star filled sky and suddenly realised that we didn’t know what we were looking for! Of course we have seen photos of aurora borealis lighting up the sky in pinks, reds and greens but that image certainly wasn’t up in the sky above us and we weren’t sure how it would start. Then I noticed a slither of paler sky …and another….by the time we had got out to the pig field, the slithers of white light had started swaying in the wind similar to how a curtain next to an open window with a light breeze. Over the next ten minutes, lights came and went drifting in and out of the darkness some white and others a radioactive colour green. Suddenly a dome of light fell across the sky, like somebody had put a cake cover umbrella over Alberta and right at the top, we saw strips of red and purple among the white and green tinges. Then the coyotes started howling and the yard dogs barking as if competing with one another. Utterly surreal for us fenlanders who would be mildly surprised to hear foxes barking…what a contrast!
Reading this back, it sounds like a bit of a lame description of northern lights but it is really hard to put into words how magical it was. Himself took lots of photos but didn’t get much except for a some flickers of green light. Last night the aurora borealis forecast for the Edmonton area was on high alert but by the time we went outside at 1.30am, it had clouded over so there was no light display for us. Still plenty of coyotes though!
Feature image source: northern lights at Fort McMurray (400 miles from Grande Prairie). By Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo (Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo) via Wikimedia Commons. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3AFort_mcmurray_northern_lights.jpg