The Aurora BorealisThe recent spike in solar activity created the perfect conditions for The Aurora Borealis. The huge amount of radiation that erupted from the sun and sped towards the earth took two days to finally reach us. Upon reaching the Earth, the radiation meets with the Van Allen belt and in extreme northern and southern latitudes and creates a beautiful display of the universe at work.Throughout human history the beautiful and awe inspiring displays have inspired wonder and dread...that is until last night.
Last night in Portland Or, I had the rare opportunity, due to the aforementioned solar storm, to view the Aurora Borealis. This is a rare occurrence in Portland as it is too far south and often beset by clouds. I have missed many meteor showers and other wonders in the sky. Last night I was intent on not missing this show. The clouds that had been forecast cleared. I managed to find the time in order get out into the Columbia Gorge to what I thought would be a peaceful and respectful gathering of amateur astronomers, aging hippies, and other curious sky watchers. I suppose it was my own fault for harboring expectations of a beautiful night of quiet contemplation, perhaps a decent conversation, and wonder while being lost in the wonders of the universe.
The line started about a mile away from the viewpoint. The atmosphere of a rock concert seemed to permeate the grounds. People wandered in the way of cars. Cigarette smoke filled the air. Loud music being played from cars filled the night. Close by an electric drill was busily at work bolting lawn chairs to the roof of a truck. The clink and clatter of beer bottles being discarded and broken resounded in the night sky. Cars rolled onto side walks. People nosily conversed amongst themselves while not paying much attention to the heavens. Led lanterns added to the light pollution I had driven to escape.
I found the most advantageous place to sit and fixed my eyes upon the north. I tried my best to drown out the chorus of unrelated conversation, loud music, and general annoyances to very little avail. I finally gave up and immersed myself in the conversations I was able to overhear while trying to focus on the wonders above.
So I finally saw the northern lights. While it was not the intensity of what one would see in more northern latitudes, it was still quite a show. I post this story here in order to lament the current state of humanity. It seems many of us have lost the ability to be awestruck. It seems many of us are no longer capable of losing ourselves to the beauty that surrounds us. I am lamenting the fact that while the heavens danced the people surrounding me who had gathered to see them paid no attention. I was dumbstruck as people around me took group photos in order to remember that they were at least there.
We have become a society of tourists. We do not truly see what we travel to see. We seek out these experiences and then we do not pay attention to them. Instead we pay attention to our level of comfort or our simple and ba