It was a cool clear winter’s night, the snow was falling, a full moon was out and there she was, slumped in her seat. Headphones in and gazing dreamily out of the frosty tour bus window; she was on her way to catch a glimpse of the illustrious Northern Lights. They’d been ploughing along the winding grit-laced roads for about an hour before the bus finally ground to a halt, they’d reached their destination: the outskirts of Reykjavik. She carefully pulled on her rucksack and wound her woollen scarf high up to her chin as the automatic doors parted and the crowd of tourists dispersed outside.
Not a city light in sight, they were consumed by darkness. Watching her boots slowly sink into the velvety snow, one step at a time, she soon found herself standing in the midst of what appeared to be a woodland area; the cold black sea and ice-topped mountains dominating the view ahead of her. But the scenic backdrop of her surroundings did not actually capture her full attention until a little while later. To begin with all she could think about was that she’d never in her life seen so many stars all at once! Clusters of them, beaming white and scattered across the night sky. Jutting her chin upwards she slowly rotated her head in a 360 degree angle, taking them all in, one by one, breathing in the crisp Icelandic air.
Wrapped up and almost certainly resembling a snowman in stature, with her puffy black parka, earmuffs, beanie hat and clunky snow boots (plus three much-needed layers of thermals!) she knew one thing was for sure, she was going to make the most of this moment. She wanted to savour it and make sure that it was imprinted on her memory forever. It was one of those special, once in a lifetime experiences, she could feel it in her bones and she knew that she’d never be in such a situation again. And so she carefully contemplated her surroundings as the chirpy tour guide relayed stories of elves and fairies and their abilities to control the lights, a twinkle in the pint-sized lady’s eye as she mesmerized the crowd with her tales; magic was in the air.
Zoning out and gazing into the sky now, the focus of her attention momentarily switched, she could no longer hear the chirpy tour guide’s melodic voice. A flashback of watching The Lion King came to the forefront of her mind instead and she was transported back to her childhood. It was as if the Disney film was playing on a screen right in front of her eyes, she could see Mufasa before her, clear as day, explaining his interpretation of the constellations to a young Simba as they looked up at the stars on a night not dissimilar to this; the sharp feeling of nostalgia (plus the realization of her own ridiculousness) brought a quick smile to her lips. One of the stars was particularly bright and beaming, it caught her eye and broke her daydream. Definitely not a plane, what could it be she wondered. She considered Mufasa’s theory, maybe it was one of her deceased ancestors. Her grandparents smiling faces suddenly popped into her mind, likely or not, she thought that it was a nice theory to ponder.
Concentrating harder now, she noticed that every so often one of the burning balls of gas would break from its position, dropping haphazardly through the clouds: a shooting star. She couldn’t recall ever having seen one before, but tonight they were zooming all over the place. Each time she instinctively squeezed her eyes shut and made a silent wish, after all that’s what they always seemed to do in the movies, no harm in giving it a try! As she lowered her gaze and looked around, pulling her scarf up over her mouth in an effort to combat the cold, she suddenly became aware of the serene atmosphere of the setting. There was an inexplicable calmness about the place. The crowd was silent with anticipation, all wearing the same bemused expression, all wondering if they’d be lucky enough to see the lights tonight.
And then as if on cue, there was an abrupt gasp from within the crowd, she turned her head, following the direction of a gloved finger suspended high in the air and pointing up at the sky, she saw that they had arrived! Short and faint at first, fleeting streaks of light were appearing between the clouds and making the crowd squeal with excitement. As the minutes passed they grew stronger and stronger, beams of bright light taking over the sky. This was what they’d all come for. This was why they were all here. And soon they began to shine, like green and red torches reaching out far and wide from behind the mountain tops.
The peaceful silence was quickly replaced with a wave of exclamatory oohs and aahs; smiles and laughter all around accompanied by a sea of tripods and cameras. Beautiful and incomparable: Aurora Borealis. And she’d been lucky enough to witness them first-hand, what an experience.