Home' Nova National : June 2010 Contents 23
SUN & MOON FEATURE
Sit in the foyer of the Gold Rush
Inn and overheat. Welcome to clothing-
induced hot flushes -- with full knowledge
that going out in the cold will mean the
sweat freezing on my body, if there's a
careless gap in my layering.
How anyone could discern I was
female was beyond me, but somehow, the
smallness of my boots must have given
it away. The men had bigger boots. The
ratio of men to women in the Yukon is still
disproportionate. Weirdy beardies of all
ages and sorts eyed me up.
"I killed a bear once, you know," said
one, by way of introduction.
"Good for you," I said.
"Want to see the skin?"
The Yukon equivalent of etchings, I
"Perhaps later," I said. "I'm going out
to see the aurora."
Another man, fresh from the bar,
leaned over me minutes later. "I can
remember my grandfather telling me
about electric corsets."
Not a lot else one can say to that. At
least they were more original than "Do
you come here often?"
And meanwhile, it had been dark since
4pm, I'd had to endure another meal in
a pub not catering to vegetarians, I was
overheating in my puffer clothes, it was
snowing, it was open mic night in the
bar and someone had asked me to perform
a duet (another pick up line of the X
Files -- sort), and I wanted to be seeing
spectacular, strange light displays in the sky.
The last thing I wanted was sun-
deprived men asking me on dates. All
other approaches were greeted with me
sort of grunting at them. I was becoming
as peculiar as them.
Finally, the great big 4WD pulled up,
and Stephan and his dog Loki loaded
two New Zealanders, a Canadian and
me in, and took us 45 minutes outside
of Whitehorse. There was a wooden and
canvas hut, with welcome pot-bellied
stove, a selection of teas, and party
nibblies. A familiar sight. Every night for a
week, we'd gathered in this hut to await
clear skies and northern lights, from 9pm
Inside, we could take off parkas and
hats, sit on wooden benches and wait. This
was our last night on the tour. Previous
nights had been too cloudy. This night, the
sky was clearing. Stephan assured us that
there was some chance tonight, even if
we were in a notoriously low sun spot and
flare activity period, due to peak again in
A curse upon the sun. How could it
have been so bright and constant in
Honolulu, and so lazy up here in the
sub-arctic? I was a witch. How dare the
elements betray me, after all I'd done for
them. Ahem. My inner two year old was
throwing a tantrum, while my outer 46
year old knew that sensible witches did
not seek to control the weather, and could
not command the Sun, the Moon and the
Stephan and Loki took us out to do
some star gazing. Orion, the Big Dipper,
Cassiopeia, the Pleiades, Taurus, Gemini,
Aries already set, a futile hunt for Cancer,
and we thought we could see Leo. Stephan
had an electronic constellation detector
that was telling him that Orion was not in
the sky at all, but the Southern Cross was
visible at this time.
Each of us kept stealing glances at the
northern horizon. Could we see a faint
green glow, or were we kidding ourselves?
We returned to camp and sat around a
campfire. 30 degrees below zero, Celsius.
All of us wrapped up to the eyeteeth, and
opting to sit outside, under the open sky,
and stare at a fire. We listened to Loki
running about in the dark, and crunching
on her evening meal of frozen fish.
Even in the dark night, the snow still
glowed white around us and the few
clouds in the sky were a hazy grey.
This is how our ancestors spent their
evenings, seeing shapes in the fire, and
looking up at the stars, hunching their
backs against the dark and the cold and
leaning forward into light and warmth.
By 2am, there was still nothing but
an almost imaginary greenish tinge on
the horizon so we called it quits. That's
the way it goes. Sometimes it's there, and
other times not. I stood in the open field,
white as far as I could see, and thanked
Earth in the form of snow, the freezing
Air, Water in the form of snow again, and
the cold Fire of the stars for their dance of
life. I thanked the God and Goddess for
this opportunity -- an Aussie girl from the
land of Sun headed north into the great
cold.And then back into the van and back
to town, with the sound of Loki snoring
in the back seat. I may not have seen the
northern lights, but I got something greater
-- a sense of the Earth's diversity. That in
itself is worth preserving.
© NOVA JUNE 2010
'Each of us kept stealing glances at the northern horizon. Could we
see a faint green glow, or were we kidding ourselves?
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