I’m a geek. More than that, I’m a nerd. I love most things science, and meteorology/astronomy are no exceptions.
My whole life, I’d dreamed about seeing the northern lights. There were times, when the news said that there was a particularly violent storm on the sun, and we might just get some auroras when my dad, sister and I would drive out to the desert to escape the artificial lights, and watch for them. All with no luck.
When I received a call to go on a mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, I was ecstatic. I was called to the Canada Winnipeg Mission, which covers Saskatchewan, Manitoba, and the eastern third of Ontario. The mission also goes north to the north pole, but (at the time I was there, anyway,) there aren’t any missionaries in the territories.
My first area was in Saskatoon, which is why I chose that as the location, but really, the first time I saw the northern lights was in Winnipeg. It was the second night I was in Canada.
During the summer, the northern lights usually came out after we had to be home for curfew, and it was hit or miss if the apartment I was living in at the time would have a view of them. During the winter–well, we were more concerned about preventing frostbite than watching the pretty lights in the sky.
One time, in particular, I remember well. I was just assigned a senior Sister as my companion (young missionaries are assigned companions, which can change every six weeks. Senior missionaries–usually retired couples stick with their companion for their whole mission. Men can only serve with their wives, but women can come out by themselves or with a friend.) My new companion, Sister Place, had come with her friend, but Sister Hillman elected to go home about halfway through her mission, because her daughter was having a difficult, life-threatening pregnancy.
For a few days, Sister Place, Sister Hillman, myself, another of Sister Hillman’s daughters, and one of Sister Hillman’s grandson’s shared a small apartment. One of these nights, I couldn’t sleep, and looked out the window to see the northern lights. I could hear the daughter moving around so I alerted her to the fact that they were out. The display wasn’t very spectacular, but it was the first time that the daughter had seen the northern lights.
One of the things you learn quickly when working with the people, especially the natives of Canada is to never whistle at the northern lights. The story I heard says that the northern lights are your deceased ancestors coming back to visit, and whistling at them would be very disrespectful.
Although, come to think of it, I never heard what would happen if you whistled at the northern lights…