Below is a story that is true, but since I don’t recall every detail with perfect clarity, I’m taking some artistic license with re-telling it. So this is ‘mostly’ how it happened, but probably not quite…
The local public radio station was droning on as I drove myself home from work. The weather forecast was calling for more of the same, a Spring with a slight chill in the air. The news was filled with the usual sadness of our age, a drumbeat that we are so accustomed to, as to not even notice it at all. Eventually, the business of the day gave way to a color piece about the northern lights, and the opportunity to view them in all their glory tonight. The guest described the beauty of the spectacle with awe and wonder in his voice, despite being a veteran astronomer. He said that if any of us want to also view these amazing natural creations, that we probably need to head north of the cities a bit. We don’t need to get too far, maybe just up I-35 towards Hinckley.
Suddenly my mind exploded with memories. The mere mention of driving up I-35 to see northern lights brought me back to twenty years ago. It was a cold night, when we both heard that the northern lights were visible. I don’t recall who called who first, but it was a phone call, on an old landline phone, that started us off. You rushed over, only a few blocks, to my house to see if we could see anything from my backyard. The lights were too bright around us, so we decided that if we really wanted to see them we needed to get out of town. My wife was more than happy to leave us to our adventure, and chose to stay warm in the house.
We jumped into your vehicle and started to plan where to drive. The most logical direction was north, since they are the ‘northern’ lights after all. So we entered I-35 and began driving. We talked about the topics of the day, technology, religion, and music, passing the time and enjoying hanging out. The miles drifted by until we decided to pull off onto some country roads and see what we could see. We had made it about as far as Forest Lake, and found ourselves off the freeway a mile or two. We got out and looked to the north and saw what we had wanted to see. It wasn’t as bright and explosive as we had hoped, but they were there, shimmering in the night sky.
We stood in the cold for a few moments. Took in the beauty of the evening and then retreated into the warmth of the car and the trip home. We delayed that journey just a bit though, since an adventure like this shouldn’t end too quickly. As we passed through Forest Lake we hit the local Perkins and ordered some pie and coffee. The pie was average, and the coffee was dreadful, but this wasn’t a surprise to us. The point was to savor the adventure, and make it last just a few moments longer.
You dropped me at my house, and headed home yourself. I crawled into bed and got in a few hours of sleep before the alarm woke me far too early. I didn’t have a smartphone camera to take pictures of the lights. I didn’t have Facebook to blast my status to the world. I just kept the memory and moved on with life as usual, until the radio reminded me. A reminder of long-lasting friendship, of silly spur-of-the-moment decisions, cold nights, and an adventure that exists only in our minds now. Those are the awesome memories to have.