“Let’s go somewhere,” Ted said as I sat at the table on a dreary Thursday, playing a game on my phone as the sun set. He’s not usually spontaneous so I was intrigued, “Where do you want to go?” Rather than driving me (almost) into a tornado (again).. Ted’s picked up geomagnetic storm chasing lately, and this week’s solar flare had him pretty excited for the aurora. I lacked optimism and felt depressed as I checked the forecast and looked at my radar app. Noting that it was cloudy with a definite chance of rain, I wondered what he could see that I couldn’t. I humored him, as I have many times before, and packed up my camera and a jacket. We live in the northeast, so it’s probably cloudy more often than not, and seeing the aurora isn’t something that happens all that often. The few times we’ve seen it in the past, the lights were so faint it was hard to tell if we were seeing anything at all without checking a long exposure. There were countless nights of driving around the middle of nowhere looking for north-facing views only to come home empty-handed because the storm didn’t stay strong enough or the clouds didn’t cooperate. I couldn’t see how tonight would be any different with the thick clouds outside our window, but since this was potentially the biggest solar flare in a decade, Ted insisted we at least try. So I manned the weather-related applications and refreshed the visible satellite one last time for cloud cover before it was too dark, as Ted drove across state lines into Vermont, heading northwest toward the small window of clear sky. In a car with dimming lights, a dying battery, and a host of other issues deeming it less than reliable, we somehow ended up miles down a dirt road, with no cell service and no way to monitor the geomagnetic activity. The tall grass was wet and we kept hearing spooky sounds in the woods, as the recent rain moistened the leaves enough to drip constantly, creating an eerie atmosphere. At one point, we heard a loud noise near the car, and Ted jumped, pressing the lock button on his remote to flash the lights and beep the car, hoping to scare away whatever was over there.
Somehow, though, he had done it. He found the only 20-minute window of clear sky in the region, with the nearly full moon hidden behind a cloud, while the storm was still strong enough to see. The pillars danced across the sky as a green glow sat at the horizon, and I took photo after photo as the light kept changing. After 9 years of crazy adventures like this, Ted (finally) proposed under the northern lights, and I said yes.