Thursday, November 06, 2008

Off to Montana

After a long and tiring few months of campaigning, Polly and I are heading to Montana for a little R&;R. Our dear friends of many years, the Wolleys" have invited us to stay with them at their lovely house near Big Fork, on Flathead Lake. We may decide to stay for Thanksgiving. But I'll be blogging while I'm there. 
I plan to spend some very lazy days watching the Bald Eagles and Ospreys swoop over the water and snatch fish that are foolish enough to swim too near the surface. I hope to see bears hunting for their last fish or last berry before heading up to  their winter caves in the hills behind the house. I want to watch the sun set over the lake and hopefully we will see Northern Lights again. 
I have often thought of John Muir's beautifully written account of his experience in Alaska, when he saws the Northern Lights in 1879.  In the chapter 19, "Auroras" in his book, Travels in Alaska, he describes the sights so well that I have included it here for the pleasure of reading it again.
Travels in Alaska By John Muir,
"On the third night I reached my cabin and food Professor Reid and his party came in to talk over the results of our excursions and just as the last one of the visitors opened the door after bidding good night he shouted Muir come look here Here's something fine I ran out in auroral excitement and sure enough here was another aurora as novel and wonderful as the marching rainbow colored columns a glowing silver bow spanning the Muir Inlet in a magnificent arch right under the zenith or a little to the south of it the ends resting on the top of the mountain walls And though colorless and steadfast its intense solid white splendor noble proportions and fineness of finish excited boundless admiration In form and proportion it was like a rainbow a bridge of one span five miles wide and so brilliant so fine and solid and homogeneous in every part I fancy that if all the stars were raked together into one windrow fused and welded and run through some celestial rolling mill all would be required to make this one glowing white colossal bridge After my last visitor went to bed I lay down on the moraine in front of the cabin and gazed and watched Hour after hour the wonderful arch stood perfectly motionless sharply defined and substantial looking as if it were a permanent addition to the furniture of the sky At length while it yet spanned the inlet in serene unchanging splendor a band of fluffy pale gray quivering ringlets came suddenly all in a row over the eastern mountain top glided in nervous haste up and down the under side of the bow and over the western mountain wall They were about one and a half times the apparent diameter of the bow in length maintained a vertical posture all the way across and slipped swiftly along as if they were suspended like a curtain on rings Had these lively auroral fairies marched across the fiord on the top of the bow instead bright and solid and steadfast as before they arrived But later half an hour or so it began to fade Fissures or cracks crossed it diagonally through which a few stars were seen and gradually it became thin and nebulous until it looked like the Milky Way and at last vanished leaving no visible monument of any sort to mark its place I now returned to my cabin replenished the fire warmed myself and prepared to go to bed though too aurorally rich and happy to go to sleep But just as I was about to retire I thought I had better take another look at the sky to make sure that the glorious show was over and contrary to all reasonable expectations I found that the pale foundation for another bow was being laid right overhead like the first Then losing all thought of sleep I ran back to my cabin carried out blankets and lay down on the moraine to keep watch until daybreak that none of the sky wonders of the glorious night within reach of my eyes might be lost I had seen the first bow when it stood complete in full splendor and its gradual fading decay Now I was to see the building of a new one froside of the bridge and down over the western mountain like the merry band that had gone the same way before them all keeping quivery step and time to music too fine for mortal ears While the gay throng was gliding swiftly along I watched the bridge for any change they might make upon it but not the slightest could I detect They left no visible track and after all had passed the glowing arc stood firm and apparently immutable but at last faded slowly away like its glorious predecessor Excepting only the vast purple aurora mentioned above said to have been visible over nearly all the continent these two silver bows in supreme serene supernal beauty surpassed everything auroral I ever beheld"

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