I woke from a doze in the middle of North Dakota. The sky was overcast, to the point of being unable to see any stars. I was bummed. All across Minnesota and North Dakota, I’d been watching through the train’s giant windows for a sight of the Aurora Borealis, desperate for a glimpse of the eerie, floating colours I’ve never seen.
Two days earlier, huge sunstorms erupted with the promise of a major light show further south than the beautiful apparition normally appears. Knowing we’d be in North Dakota at the ETA of the sun’s effects, I became tremendously excited. Seeing the northern lights ranks high on my “I hope to see before I die” list.
Yet nothing happened. I kept myself awake on the train, through the city lights in Minnesota and Fargo, trying to keep my eyes open long enough to get out into the countryside where I’d have a shot to see something. I dozed on and off, I looked out the window at cloudy skies, and I despaired.
The train must have jolted, causing me to wake up. Looking out the window, I could see a couple stars. But then a crack appeared in the sky, as if someone took a knife and made a slice in the heavens. Light seeped out of the crack, spreading up in streaks, then flowing a little over the crack toward the ground. The smear of bright cloud in the sky didn’t blow away like a cloud would. It danced: growing, shrinking, jagged, smooth.
I held my breath, waiting for it to act like a normal cloud. It wasn’t green or blue or purple. The grey-white, maybe-if-I-squint-I-can-pretend-it’s-green lightness was not what I was expecting, either from clouds or from the Aurora Borealis. When the streak of light in the sky didn’t blow away, I let myself believe I was in the middle of a dream being fulfilled. The cloud-light danced for another minute, then faded back into the black sky.
I watched a spell longer, still unable to believe it was what I waited for so long; hardly able to grasp my good fortune, waking up at just the right moment, I paused to take a breath. Happy, content, enjoying a nudge from the divine.
Then I sat back in my train seat and fell asleep until the sun rose over the prairie.