About the Northern Lights

  • By ANN ‘GRANNIE ANNIE’ BERG
  • Tuesday, March 28, 2017 3:55pm
  • LifeFood

North Nikiski

March 27

The recent display of the Northern Lights right over the top of our little house in North Nikiski, reminds me of how great our universe really is!

It also pays to get up early in the morning — my usual time is anywhere from 2 to 4:30 in the morning — every morning — regardless if I go to sleep at 9 or 11 p.m. I at one time was concerned about sleeping about 4 hours a night when my kids were small. I discussed this with my family doctor, Dr. James Hoffman in Fort Collins. He looked at me and asked, “Are you tired when you wake up?”

No, not really I said.

“Well, get up and do something then.” He walked out of the room. End of the conversation.

So now when I see all the advertisements about sleep help products, I think of dear Doctor Hoffman. I just get up, put the news station on TV, drink a cup of coffee and either read cookbooks or cook! My usual is make cookies or plan the meal for the evening. And yes I have tried different sleep products. I am so sensitive to most medications that a half a sleeping pill will put me to sleep for three days! No kidding!

I had a lingering cough after a severe bout with a flu-cold bug many years ago. I worked at the M&M and one of my friends just handed me a bottle of Nyquil and told me it really helped depress the cough so I could get some rest and sleep. A half cap full put me sound asleep for about 14 hours and the rest of 2 days I could not stay awake. I slept off and on and had to call in to work to say I was still sick. Not true — I could not stay awake! Bob finally got real concerned and insisted I go for walks and drink lots of coffee. It helped but I sure did sleep a lot. So now I just “get up and do something!” And never touch sleep-help products.

This Monday, I read on Facebook that my friend LaLa Powell was up at 4 and the Northern Lights were in all their glory dancing across the sky. I wrapped a blanket around me, padded out in my slippers to the sunroom to see what I was missing. Sure enough over the Inlet to the west was a display of Northern Lights that were indeed dancing, prancing and scattering across the sky right above our house. I stepped out onto our snow covered deck and admired the circle of Aurora Borealis completely surrounding me.

Now you all know that I am old, and looking up sometimes makes me fall over and I know that, so I leaned against the house and enjoyed the creation of God telling me, “Hello, glad you got up!” I was mesmerized until I realized I was cold from my toes up.

Going back in the house, Bob wanted to know why I was outdoors. I am sure I was a very “pretty sight.” I told him about the Northern Lights over our house and how awesome they were. He peeked out the kitchen window and went back to bed.

Not me! I put on my hooded shirt, ear muffs, two pair of socks and my shoes, then wrapped the blanket around me again and went back outdoors to see the wonderful wonder of the world. I spent most of 2 1/2 hours going in to house to warm up and have another sip of coffee and going back out so I would not miss anything. At 7 they were still prancing faintly because it was getting a little light but our yard light was still on, I could not see them well.

I thanked God for my awesome morning and thought of Dr. Hoffman and what I would tell him what I did when I get up early! I think he would be impressed!

Now a little research, because I do not know anything about the nature of the beautiful night wonder, I came up with the fact that the Aurora was named after a Roman goddess of dawn, Aurora.

For a long time it was thought that the Aurora was produced by sunlight reflecting from polar snow and ice, or refracting light much like rainbows.

Much more research seems to indicate that the Aurora is caused by radiation emitted as light from the atoms in the upper atmosphere as they are hit by fast moving electrons and protons. In other words, energy particles from the sun collide with the Earth’s magnetic field. The kind of atoms determine the color.

They also believe that it appears that the sun has an influence as the Auroras become brighter and more distinctive and are spread over a larger area of two day intense solar activity. Two days is the time it takes the “solar wind” to arrive. A research professor, Dirk Lummerzheim at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, describes most of what I do not understand.

The best times to watch the Northern Lights is from December to March, however we watched them off and on all late summer and fall, last year and into December. Now it’s March going into April and I have never gotten tired of the indescribable display of showmanship.

Perhaps it was explained in an article this way: “Undulating ribbons of light shimmering in the sky for hours, like glowing, dancing curtains of green, yellow , orange and dark red and at times a magnificent veil of the full spectrum of colors and with the altitude of its lower edge of 60 to 70 miles above the earth!”

The twisting and turning in patterns are called “rayed bands” then whirling into a giant green corona of which rays appear to flare in all directions from a central point and finally in time, fading away.

I like this technical jargon but hard to understand, version. But I like also, this Eskimo tale better! They say that the Northern Lights are spirits playing ball in the sky with a walrus skull. Another legend, calls them the flaming torches carried by the dear departed souls guiding travelers to their afterlife. I like this story!

Some of the intense Aurora displays cause problems on the ground, such as intense electric currents along power lines, causing blackouts and the oil pipelines, they think, causes enhanced corrosion.

There are many northern lights tours and many ways to watch them. You have to be willing to get up and stay up all night until early morning when the sky is clear and the air is very chilly. You have to not mind gettng cold. Best time is fall and spring.

Hardy Alaskans put on their parkas and lie on their backs in the snow to watch. The best viewing is away from any artificial lights.

Susan and her family lived in Fairbanks for 14 years and she said she witnessed several beautiful Auroras. But she said the first most memorable view was when we lived up in Eagle River Valley. Yes, they seem to dance all around us up there.

I witnessed Northern Lights early in my childhood in Northern Colorado going to the outhouse with Mom or Dad before bedtime on a cold dark night. Dad would turn off his flash light and explain how awesome this world was and how he never got tired of watching the marvel. I on the other hand, in my jammies and coat took a few glances and wanted to go back inside to get warm.

The first magnificent Alaskan display of the goddess Aurora for me was in Jan. of 1969 living on Daniels Lake. The display of purples, yellows and greens lit up the frozen lake and splashed right into the living room through the big glass windows. We watched them for hours sitting on the couch in the comfort and warmth of the fuel oil heater.

The most memorable of all was Bob and I coming home late at night, possible from the laundry mat, in the olden days of no running water at our newly unfinished house. We came to the “45 mile curve” at Twin Lakes after following the path of the Aurora steadily going north with us to our house. We stopped at “the curve” (popular name in these parts,) turned off the car and lights, got out into the chilly night and watched as the dancing display of lights swirled over head, right above us in wide circles. This is when we heard the “noise” – a whipping-whirling-swirling low pitched quiet sound. We have talked about it through the years and have encountered a few people who agree that there is some noise at times. It was an awesome sight and sound- it has been ingrained in our minds to this day. The Northern Lights are unforgettable and those who have not seen it get a little squinty eyed when we tell them that, along with there beauty, they do talk to you.

That’s OK because Bob heard them and so did ! We have witnesses.

The Pioneer Potluck series is written by 50-year resident of Alaska, Ann Berg of Nikiski. Ann shares her collections of recipes from family and friends. She has gathered recipes for more that 50 years. Some are her own creation. Her love of recipes and food came from her mother, a self -taught wonderful cook. She hopes you enjoy the recipes and that the stories will bring a smile to your day. Grannie Annie can be reached at anninalaska@gci.net.

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