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Northern Lights

Northern Lights

It was a cool November night as he remembered it now. Grandpa had said that he wanted to walk out to the field after supper and would he like to come too? He loved his Grandpa and was anxious as always to go with him where ever he went. Excited by the invitation, he couldn't eat much supper now! What was the reason he wondered? Why tonight? Grandpa's favorite radio shows were on. He wouldn't normally miss the Green Hornet or Inner Sanctum? It must be important for him to miss them. Hurrying with the dishes hadn't helped either. His Grandpa was sitting in his easy chair and reading the paper. He wondered if the walk was forgotten?

He climbed into Grandpa's lap as he often had and let his Grandpa read him the funny papers. They were great friends. It was nearly 9 PM when Grandpa nudged him and said he should get his coat and we'd take our walk. He knew that this was his bedtime and he glanced at his mother. But she just smiled and told him to hurry and bundle up because it was getting chilly. So, a bit surprised, he went and found his jacket and hurried to join Grandpa on the back porch.

It was a stucco covered, cape cod style, farm house built in 1904. It's front porch faced east for a panoramic view of the hills about a mile and a half to the east. Fall colors were beautiful through the living room windows that faced east through the porch. The back porch was unfinished and faced north. You could see the garage and the drive way from that porch. There was a clothes pole on the back porch and that is where Grandpa always hung up his Mackinaw jacket and took off his work shoes before entering Granny's country kitchen. She was very particular about what we tracked into her "special place." When we forgot, we got an instant reminder that she wasn't happy to clean up after us. He knew he would find Grandpa putting on his boots on the back porch.

As they walked down the back steps together he noticed that Grandpa had a far away look in his eyes. The night sky was clear and it was chilly his mother had been right. He was glad he had grabbed his warm coat, because the night air was crisp. They walked toward the barn which stood about seventy five yards to the northwest of the house. Only the chickens could be heard clucking softly as they nested in the barn.

It was a big old barn, concrete block for the first story and wood siding for the second. It had a classic barn roof and wooden shingles. As they walked along the south side of the barn Grandpa looked at the roof and asked him how he was doing with his baseball practice. He said that throwing the ball up on the roof and then running to catch it as it rolled back down was making it easier to catch fly balls at practice. Even the coach had noticed the improvement. It had been Grandpa that suggested it to him. And when Grandpa smiled he knew that everything was all right. He was smiling.

As they rounded the end of the barn they turned right and headed in a more northerly direction. Down an old Horse cart path that led to the L shaped field. It was another seventy yards or so through a patch of woods that wrapped around the north and west sides of the farm house and yard. Walking hand in hand now his Grandpa's six foot three frame towering above him, he felt safe and secure. They walked without talking all the way to the field's edge. Grandpa opened the gate in the fence and they stepped out into the field. When the gate was safely closed so the cow could not get out, they stepped to the edge of the field and sat down under the big oak tree just to the right of the gate as they entered the field.

Across the field to the north the woods line defined the edge of the field completely in the clear night sky light. The neighbor's field to the left had a fence line to divide the two properties and further to the west the tree line defined the edge of that field as well. The night sky was full of stars and they sat there picking out the constellations together for many, many minutes. Then he turned to his Grandpa and looked at him with a questioning stare. "What are we doing Grandpa?" He asked.

"You'll see" was all he could get grandpa to say.

It must have been twenty minutes or so before there was an indication that this was not to be an ordinary night of looking at stars. He had been facing his Grandpa, away from the field. There had been no deer to watch. They had arrived too late for the dusk feeding time. He noticed his Grandpa's face first. There was a sparkle in his eyes now and he turned just in time to catch a glimpse of a flash in the northern sky. Just a little flash, it appeared something like seeing the flash of fireworks in the sky from far away. He paused a moment then sat down between his Grandpa's legs and immediately felt those strong hands and arms pull him up onto the familiar lap with an arm around his waist. His little legs touched the ground as he sat quietly now wondering what those lights were?

It was another five minutes or so before there was anything else to see. Then all of a sudden there were flashes of light in the sky above the trees. It looked to his young eyes as if the lights were reflecting off misty clouds but there were no clouds in the sky. They flickered and died like far-away fireworks. Then there was nothing. He glanced at Grandpa and noticed that grandpa was watching intently so he returned his attention to northern sky.

Suddenly the sky was a blaze with these misty, flashing lights! They literally danced in the sky above the trees across the field. Flashing and swirling, swirling and flashing, a big flurry then smaller ones then bigger ones again. This time they lasted about a minute. "Where are they shooting off the fireworks Grandpa?" He asked.

"Just watch. I'll explain later" was all his Grandpa had said.

Just as he turned back the dancing lights appeared again. This time they started way to the west over the neighbor's woods and danced their way across the northern woods line to the east and out of site. Pulsating, undulating, and dancing lightly across the night sky. Over and over for what seemed to him an hour the lights the beautiful lights danced and danced across the sky. He would jump up and then sit down again. He even jumped up and fell down as the light show continued to pulsate back and forth in the night sky. The lights would ebb and flow as if carried in clouds or as is sometimes seen when lightning flashes occur within a cloud. But this was not lightning and there were no clouds. Yet the lights were like misty clouds? Over and over again they danced in the sky. Over and over again he jumped with glee. How beautiful, marvelously beautiful! Mostly white light with just a dim hints of colors that were nearly imperceptible, yet hinting of their presence, dancing ever dancing across the northern sky.

Then almost as quickly as they had started, they flickered and vanished. They just sat there, the two of them, the boy and his Grandfather, saying nothing yet saying everything in their silence. He felt his grandpa stir and he looked up and….

"That was the Northern Lights Bob" his grandpa stated.

"It's about the most beautiful thing I've ever seen" Bob replied.

They walked very quietly back to the house. The path seemed somehow different now and it would never be the same again. For now it was his pathway to a world of wonderment, beauty and glorious experiences. It would never again be just the path to the field.

©Copyright 1996 Robert Lehmann