Lights in the Sky

This week, I have some bad news. Those pictures you see of the Aurora Borealis, the northern lights? They are lying to you. In my several visits north before moving here, I never saw the fabled northern lights, and assumed, raised on National Geographic and BBC Earth, that they looked like this:


But I got my first live look at them this week, and my honest-to-god initial reaction was “That’s it?”. Katrina was pointing them out as we drove home one night, and I thought I just couldn’t see them for all that city glow on the horizon. I may be from rural California, but I have seen “city glow”; that faint light just after twilight when there’s a town just past the horizon. But that’s what the aurora looked like. Not the coursing ribbons of light I was expecting.

Later, it got a little more interesting, and we actually got a picture.

That’s it. A sort of greenish smudge, like somebody blew up a package of glow-sticks in orbit. That’s not a great picture, I know, but it’s really not far off from how it looked actually standing out there. Don’t get me wrong, the northern lights are still kind of eerie and mysterious and pretty, but they aren’t exactly dazzling. False advertising.

We also got our first real snow of the season, in that this time it actually stuck to the ground for more than 24 hours, and piled up on the road. Of course, I had a work shift that day, but the Alaskans are prepared for this stuff, and the highways and roads were clear. Until, that is, I got to the steep, unpaved road that is the Rix’s driveway. My little 2-wheel-drive Honda started doing disconcerting things, like continuing forward no matter how sharply I turned the wheel and redlining the rev meter while making no forward progress. After several minutes of white-knuckle driving, swearing, and overheating my tires, I gave up and hiked to the house. We decided discretion was the better part of valor in this case, and left the car out of the way at the bottom of the hill for the night. Next morning, we “sanded” the driveway (by throwing dirt at it), and I learned the trick to driving on snow is to stay in the lowest gear and keep up the momentum. We eventually got the car up the road, but this week we are looking into getting it some snow tires.

After my dire predictions last week, the San Francisco Giants pulled it off; they swept the Cincinnati Reds on the road to move on to the National League Championship Series against last year’s world champ St. Louis Cardinals. Unfortunately, they dropped the first game yesterday, but it’s a long series and I have confidence in them now. Unsurprisingly, the Alaskans are not particularly interested in the goings-on of Major League Baseball (after all, football season is in full swing, and the local hockey teams are seeing an influx of displaced NHL players), so my recent obsession is being met with rolled eyes and a certain amount of heckling.

This week, Anna is off to Wisconsin for some job interviews (she went to college in the area, and apparently has kept up some contact there). Today, Buff is working the mail route, and Katrina is, as usual, off early for her work with the electrician’s union. So it’s all up to me, I guess, to feed and water the chickens, rabbits, ducks and turkey (singular) as well as keep the angsty teen dog from picking an ill-conceived fight with the enormous elderly dog, which we’ve all pretty much decided he would lose.


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