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The Itchy Backside


SWEDEN | Wednesday, 27 May 2015 | Views [205] | Scholarship Entry

All it takes is a break in the tree line, and a momentary lapse in concentration as I tear my eyes off the trail to take in the breathtaking view. The snowmobile hits a rock and veers off course, ploughing into the side of the trail before getting stuck in the powdery snow.

A curse slips out as I gingerly step off the vehicle. Ahead of me, the lights of my fellow snowmobilers disappear behind a bend in the forest. Taking up the tail end of the little snowmobile conga line was a bad idea.

It occurs to me, perhaps a few moments too late, that I am stranded on a remote forest trail in the middle of the night at -10°C, halfway up a mountain with nothing but a snowsuit and a snowmobile too heavy for me to pull out of the snow. This was not what I had in mind when I made the pilgrimage into the Arctic Circle in search of the elusive Northern Lights.

I wait, but the panic does not come. Instead, a preternatural calm washes over me as I take in my surroundings. I briefly wonder how long it would take for someone to find me.

Resigned to my fate, I turn toward the view that led to my current predicament. The lights of Kiruna twinkle in the distance, cheery against the snowy peaks looming behind it. Overhead, the skies are clear and blanketed with more stars than I could have ever hoped to see. The forest stays silent.

It happens when I least expect it, as beautiful things are wont to do.

I stare into the heavens, lost in my thoughts, when all at once, the sky erupts into vibrant hues of purple and green.

The Norðurljós quickly splits into thick bands of phosphorescence that snake across the sky, ebbing and flowing to music I cannot hear. I watch, slack-jawed, as the aurora shimmers in the heavens, its intensity changing abruptly, like a sforzando in a Tchaikovsky overture.

It has been mentioned, in certain Norse texts, that the celestial light that flashes over the northern skies is shed by the armour of the Valkyrja as they rode out to receive fallen warriors into Valhalla. These warrior maidens were also thought to be protectors of the Vikings, appearing in times of danger and guiding them to safety.

Dwarfed by such otherworldly incandescence, it is easy to see why the Vikings attributed the aurora to the workings of a higher power. I whisper a prayer toward the vibrant skies, wishing for protection and aid.

Up ahead, I hear the hum of an approaching snowmobile.

Tags: 2015 Writing Scholarship

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