I didn't know there was a good chance of seeing the Aurora Borealis.
Somehow those notifications had passed me by until after the main event. Nicola and I are keen to be present with what's going on in our landscape and always try to witness the moon cycles, be aware of the tidal changes and of course mark the turning of the seasons. So it was with some surprise that I learned we had missed the best cosmic lightshow that northern England has seen perhaps in my lifetime.
The vast array of photos on social media was the first I knew about it, but this was the morning after. As the sky flared with greens, purples and reds Nicola and I were in our front room watching another show - chilling out together after a busy day.
In some quarters the light display is seen as a physical manifestation of the presence of the Air elementals who have links with both sky and earth and the Fae. We do know of course the scientific reasons for the Auroras but it's always wise to give weight to the beliefs of our ancestors too, especially where otherworldy beings are concerned.
A nocturnal visit to Jack Scout
My phone pinged with a notification from my brand new Aurora app, telling me it could just maybe happen again... and soon! One of my favourite night time haunts is the local headland of Jack Scout and I reckoned this spot would give me a northerly view, essential for seeing the Aurora. I drove off into the darkness having seen the clouds begin to part, and walked for ten minutes to a particular outcrop of rocks that jutted out into the bay.
I set up my camera on a sturdy tripod, perched myself precariously on the limestone rocks and took a few long exposure photos to get my eye in so to speak. Although the Aurora had been quite visible to the naked eye during this event this was not usually the case. We normally see it as a light grey smudge in our part of the world.
The camera however can see the full colour version even when we can't. This is because at night our eyes switch to a monochrome mode as our colour receptors are less effective in twilight conditions. Cameras have no such limitations and the necessary long exposure will intensify the colours.
As the mudflats rippled below me and clouds scudded by I took more pictures. The growing moon lit my landscape, casting an eerie glow on the Blackthorns that tangled around me, giving life to the candle flame Gorse flowers.
Tawny Owl hoots hung in the silence, nocturnal exclamation marks. Who, who? they asked. I introduced myself. I'm still new here, they don't yet know me.
After an hour, an auroraless hour, I watched as the clouds closed in. The bright quarter moon shone through a thin veil, a halo of ice particles framing her.
It was not to be. The Aurora had evaded me. I drove home and downloaded the photos of the bay overlooked by the orange glow of Ulverston's street lights. Pretty in it's own way, too beautiful to be called mere 'light pollution'.
It was now nearing midnight and as I set to the job of editing the photos I pondered on my night. The dash through the darkness to stand on the lonely headland, waiting for a long hour. Woowooed by Owl, bloodied by Blackthorn, lit by a cold moon and soothed by the hiss and sway of the Bay. There was no where I would rather have been.
A night of connections, Venus and Jupiter (can you see them in the picture here?), and a reminder to be out there catching the stories. What's not to love.