Jilly D.

Northern Lights

In Pictures and memories, Signs from beyond, Uncategorized on June 15, 2011 at 1:35 am

            “Don’t fall asleep,” Shireen whispered as we crawled into her bed. “Watch the sky in my mirror,” she said. At the foot of the bed was a built-in set of drawers and bureau top adorned with her glasses horses lined up before the desk mirror. “When you can see light in the mirror, it’s time for the show,” Shireen murmured.

            There was a closet with sliding doors on her side and the wall on my side of the bed. The bedroom was half the width of the trailer and at the end of the hall. Not much room for more than the bed. Above our head was a window as wide as the bed.  I saw its reflection begin to glow.

            I sat up in bed and turned around and knelt before this theater of rural spectacle. My nose pressed against the window screen. I pushed my nose further until the hatch marks disappeared from my vision and left a big nose print in the screen. I knelt on the pillows and focused on the midnight darkness. My elbows rested on the window sill.

            Staring at the horizon of pine trees and scrub along the hedgerows, colors began to dance. Streaks of green, blues, purples jumped the horizon. Flashes of reds and oranges, lime and lemon appeared in the sky’s landscape.

            Uncle Al and Aunt Audrey were still talking low in the living room with mom and dad.  Audrey’s laughter echoed mom’s and I could hear Al ask dad, “Heh, want another Hamm’s?”

            Shireen knelt elbow to elbow with me staring out the window above the headboard. She looked out into the field to find her mare, Beebe, a red quarter horse, grazing on green pasture.

            My wide eyes witnessed something that provided proof of earth’s undulating energy, its pulse, the charged ions floating in space. Inside that double-wide trailer stuck on a swatch of flat farmland along the last highway before the border, the forces of nature – both gentle and fierce – played out above my head.

            The ephemeral Aurora Borealis filled by body on that July night just outside Warroad, Minnesota, on Lake of the Woods.  The flood of mystical memories flash before on certain night’s skies.  My flesh still responds viscerally to the retelling, like the goosebumps that came on that hot July night.

            At dawn, my head popped up to the window. I rubbed the sleep sand from my eyes. There sat Uncle Al in the garden on his haunches like an Indian. I stared at him. Up well before the sun, he seemed so relaxed in a physical position I found difficult to do in gym class. He relaxed balancing on his bare feet among the plants. Six foot tall and lanky, Al didn’t bend over; he squatted so far down deep it made me stare harder. Still and centered, he worked there pulling weeds from the beans.

            I watched while he worked silently down the row. He had a pan he pulled along with him. From this pan his fingertips slipped something into the ground where he pulled the weeds out. I kept looking. Harder. I took a deep morning breath. Smelled like, hmmm, raw fish.

            Fish. The sun was up. Al had been out on the boat already. Caught Walleye pike. He’d just fileted them in the garage and buried the waste to fertilize. Then he was off to the post office for a 9 to 5 government job. He’d be back most days for the noon hour. Didn’t usually take a lunch, but might get the lawn half mowed.

            That day he called me out to the garden with a pan in his hand and two kittens at his heels.

            “Do you know how to pick peas, Jill?” My uncle took me aside alone; he wasn’t trying to embarrass me as my father’s kid from the Twin Cities. Al didn’t look me in the eye. He just showed me with his hands. I watched him work the vines. He pushed before he pulled.

            Like a wedding veil, I tenderly grasped the vines back to reveal the fat pods. I pushed the pod toward where it attached to the vine and then gently tugged. It popped off into my hand. I started picking. I did it again. I looked at Uncle Al’s hands. I watched how he touched them; sometimes he held on and then let go of a pod.

            Shireen washed all the lunch dishes and then came out to the garden and helped me pick. We worked all eight rows in the garden and had a big bucket of peas in their pods by mid-afternoon.

            Mom was so thrilled to see what we girls had accomplished, she told us to put up our feet. She ushered us to chairs at the dining room table. She knew where Audrey kept things in the cupboard and quickly found two big bowls which she placed between us. Shireen knew what was coming; I didn’t. What did I know at 11 years old?

            While Aunt Audrey, dad and mom got to look at photo albums and catch up over a cup of coffee and pie, Shireen and I shelled peas the rest of the afternoon. Dad slipped away to the Trading Post in town for souvenirs and postcards and then to the bar where he’d meet Al after work for a beer with his buddies. Only one Hamm’s on tap; fresh fish for dinner.

            After a delicious dinner of pan-fried lightly breaded fresh Walleye and sweet steamed peas, we girls did the dishes and got into our pajamas. The show was about to begin again. Aurora Borealis. I’m a girl witness to God’s handiwork.


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