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  • Writer's pictureTodd Stevens

Northern Lights

When I lived in Boise Idaho in the late 80’s to early 90s, I used to drive up to Dillon and fish the Beaverhead River annually. One year I got out there a day ahead of everyone who was meeting me, so I decided to fish Clark Canyon reservoir for a day all alone. It was very hot, and calm and the surface of the lake was so slick that it made a perfect mirror reflection of the tan and treeless hills all around it. I was exhausted from the long drive, and a double shift I’d worked, so after an hour of catching nothing but moss I pitched my little tent down in the bottom of a soft sandy draw. I built a fire from pieces of white driftwood as evening set in, and heated a can of clam chowder. It was mid week, so I had the lake virtually to myself. I remember watching the sky slowly darken in the East as I ate my dinner, occasionally tossing a piece of balsa light driftwood onto the fire to keep it from dying. Way out on the far eastern horizon I watched a jet pass by silently, it’s blinking light barely visible. I wondered (and still do) where it was heading…probably somewhere way more interesting than the shore of Clark Canyon reservoir. After eating, I crawled into the tent and laid on top of my sleeping bag, and in about 3 seconds I was sound asleep. I’m not sure what roused me, a passing car, maybe parched deer moving past the tent for a drink in the lake…I don’t know, but I woke up in the middle of the night. For a second I was disoriented. Where the hell was I? The temperature had dropped significantly, and I was cold. After a few seconds I remembered what was going on, and where I was. As I sat there, lights started playing dimly on the nylon roof of my tent. At first I thought it was a car, but there was no engine sound. Then I thought that it was perhaps a flashlight, but it was way too dim for that. I sat up and unzipped the tent and poked my head out. The surface of the lake was as slick as a mirror. Green, yellow, and red lights swirled on the surface. For a half second I was confused, and then I looked up. The black night sky was alive with dancing, shimmering colors. Wave after wave of light like electric veils passed directly overhead. I climbed out of the tent with my teeth chattering and stood there on that desolate and silent shore and beheld the most magical moment I have ever experienced. The northern lights danced across the sky. They changed in and out of the most stunning and vibrant colors I have ever seen. Green, yellow, pinkish red…I grabbed my sleeping bag and wrapped it around me and sat on a block of wood smoothed from years in the lake. I lit a cigarette and watched them move like a living thing. At the zenith of their brightness I could hear a sizzling, like faint static from a far away TV. They went on for over an hour, and I sat in awe staring up until my neck hurt. It felt like God had opened up a different dimension for my eyes only and some of the magic that Heaven holds fell down towards earth. A little glimpse of paradise. That night lives just as vividly in my mind 38 years later as it did the night I watched them.

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