Updated: Jan 19, 2019
Aurora borealis - a name that lilts and swirls and spins off the tongue as its physical embodiment does in the sky. Aurora borealis - the collision of energetic and charged particles, carried by solar winds from the magnetosphere to the thermosphere. It’s a funny thought, that the violence of such a collision could erupt so fantastically, so brilliantly, so beautifully. An oxymoron, in and of itself, perfectly outlined against the dark sky. An oxymoron painted in brilliant reds and electric greens and charged blues, softened with strokes of pink and dabs of yellow. It’s the pinks, I think, that detract from the violence, wrapping a package of destruction in ribbons that undulate and ripple across the sky. Or maybe it’s the softest of blues, a color you can’t quite place, one that you must always see in reality to grasp its entirety. Or perhaps even the yellows, a splash of vivaciousness among the demure, a smile catching the reflection of every light in the room.
The waltz of color in the sky of an equinox night results from an emission of photons from ionized nitrogen atoms regaining electrons. The atoms race each other down Earth’s magnetic field lines, reading from a map indiscernible to the human eye, and collide. They create firework displays, too minuscule to be seen except for when they combine, millions and millions of sulfur-less color cannons erupting to grace the sky with its remains. Aurorae bloom as bruises bloom on skin, looping layers of one color beneath another.
It’s beautifully tragic in a way, a sorrowful love story. The sun extends his arms to the earth, an embrace spanning 92.96 million miles of nothingness, broaching a chasm in the way only celestial love can. But he holds Earth too close, his grip too tight, the heat of his clasp sending particles flying through Earth’s skin, ripping it apart into bleeding colors and terrific oozing sores. But twice a year, for weeks at a time, Earth lets him do it. And she bleeds the blues and reds and yellows of her love for him. She continues to revolve around his vastness, for she cannot live without his breath on her cheek, his murmured promises echoing around her. To be without his warmth is to be without life, but what of the alternative? It’s a cruel fate, Earth’s. She is chained to the sun, an abused wife who stays around for the perpetual child that will never stand without her. She dresses her wounds like a show just for us, turns the ribbons of green and pink blood into a ballet, waltzing across her skin to hide the damage from us. Us, her beloved children, too stupid and naive to notice, or too self-absorbed to care. She endures for us, to give us our biannual lovely lights.
A day may come when Earth stops spinning. When the sores and cuts of her love and his have finally healed, and the cracks in her skin have sutured together for the final time. A day may come when she escapes his firm embrace, accepts the empty ringing of promises long broken, feels the sting of his breath on her cheek no more. When the warmth of his arms around her dissipates, and her body grows dark and cold without his light to warm her. When she retreats, bruised and battered and alone at last.
And I would be selfish for wishing that day never comes.