January 5th, 2005.

Flying through the northern lights.
An unfinished 'Meanwhile.'

The following article was left unfinished and unedited and should be read as such. Notes can be found below the article.

As my flight to Amsterdam took off from SeaTac international airport in Seattle, Washington, I knew I was in for a spectacular flight. The air was clear and the sky was blue and at this time of year, the snow-covered mountains on both sides of the Canadian border were sure to look breathtaking.

I sat in my seat transfixed on the ruggedly beautiful swath of mountains and hills that stretched far off into the distance. The captain announced the view of the glaciers and the Canadian rocky mountains as I continued to gaze out of the window snapping picture after picture that will do little to capture the true magnificence of the vista so many thousand feet below me.

Eventually, the mountains fade away and the landscape turns to an almost featureless white blanket like a white satin sheet. There is little sign of life of any kind aside a few roads that connect towns with names most of us will never know. I can't see any vehicles traveling these long roads that somehow cut their path through the miles and miles of snow in absolutely straight lines that look as lonely as they do daunting.

After some time my neck begins to ache and I settle back in my chair determined to sleep on this long flight that will put me on the ground at eight in the morning, local Amsterdam time, having lost a few hours along the way.

I recline the seat way back here near the rear of the airplane where the creature comforts of business and first-class are quite a stroll away. Behind me, the cabin crew clatter around preparing a the meals which I'm quite sure will consist of a choice of chicken or beef.

As the daylight begins to rapidly fade, the shadows of objects below begin to grow slowly stretch as far as they can from their owners. They look like shackled prisoners slyly contemplating their chances of escape. But it won't be tonight as we leave the sun behind us and make our way across a darkening sky.

Despite the arrival of night, sleep is still a long way off. I close my eyes but it's no use, I'm still awake behind these eyelids.

The little old lady in the seat next to me decides to go for a walk.

"I don't want deep vein thrombosis" she tells me as she pulls herself out of the seat unaware of the discomfort she is causing to the man in the seat in front.

Neither do I, I think to myself, as I too stand up to stretch and go for a what will be a very limited walk.

The cabin lights are slowly dimmed and the inflight movie begins. Some people watch the far off-screen, others sleep in positions they will surely regret when they wake. I finish writing some long overdue replies to emails that are embarrassingly old, somewhat of a traditional pastime for me on these long haul flights.

Then as the cabin rests and the plane is as quite as planes get, I take a look out of the window beside me. I'm momentarily confused as the clouds outside are lit far brighter than I would expect on such a dark night. Then it occurs to me that these aren't clouds, what I am seeing are the northern lights!

I hurriedly make a curtain from the blanket provided, pushing it between the cold window and the plastic shutter. Then with the blanket over my head so as to block any reflections from the cabin on the window, I can see everything clearly as if I were somehow flying on my own.

At first, I wasn't sure if what I was seeing really could be the Northern lights. But then I considered where we must be on this flight, somewhere in Canada's most North-Eastern stretches I would think, perhaps even as far East as the North Atlantic Ocean near the snowcaps of Greenland? Nonetheless, there they are, the Northern Lights.

At first, they just look like strangely lit clouds, but as my eyes become accustomed to the night sky I begin to see them far clearer. I have no idea how they move so quickly, or even if they are moving at all, but somehow they appear to dance beside this airplane, like great ghosts of the Northern sky.

Wisps of soft night white clouds with a hint of spearmint green somehow shimmer in this darkest of skies. They change shape and shade like clouds of plankton illuminated by the last beams of sunlight that make it to the depths of the sea. Great cathedral like spires reach to the heavens then slowly fade away, disappearing like histories great forgotten stories.

I sit in my seat awash with awe and wonder at this, one of nature's most spellbinding and glorious acts. Beams of light shoot over the plane again and again in great waves. Words simply cannot do this most incredible of moments the justice it deserves.

I watch for what seems like hours, fearing that if I look away even for a moment, this marvel might somehow come to an end, and this might be one of the only times in my life that I get to see the Northern Lights.

I watch the ghostly clouds of light dance their hour upon this secret stage under the sky of a billion stars. Swirling in the atmosphere, they look like the distant whispers of an untold number of prayers collecting in one place before quickly finding their way to heaven. Wave after wave after wave, the prayers of the world make their way to a waiting God.

--- Article Notes ---

Time of death : Not specified
This really was one of the most amazing and unforgettable moments of my life. After the flight I spoke with the pilots about the northern lights and the captain told me that he had never before seen them so vibrant. He said he wanted to announce it but policy dictates that after the meal service on a night flight there are only specific reasons to make announcements, and that wasn't one of them. However, he did say he called cabin crew members to the cockpit to see the spectacle which I was happy to learn. I'm not sure why I never finished this 'Meanwhile.'