It’s not because of the darkness. The cold and the dark…. It is almost like a physical pain, sometimes, when I dash from my mother’s car to the school, to the house, anywhere. So frigid…. Only a true Alaskan could bear it, and even I struggle. The knife- like chill, sliding gleefully between your coat and neck, down your chest, stealing into your throat, branching through veins, until you are as cold and lifeless as the ice, not so far away. And the darkness…. The suffocating need for light, a thirst that cannot be quenched. And in the darkness comes the memories - those whispers in the gloom, of times before everything seemed so meaningless…. Of times when the sun burnished your skin like a golden balm, and you laughed and were free and happy and had a grandmother at your side, always there… The long night forces life into harsh, horrible focus, until you there is no choice but to huddle under your blankets and weep, but you can’t because your tears might turn to ice before they can even run down your cheeks.
But I love it because with the winter comes the lights.
Fairbanks, Alaska, is an ideal place to see the Northern Lights - Aurora Borealis. This strange phenomena occurs only far, far north, and it is stunning. Green and purple flares twist and writhe to drumbeats in the sky, strands of pink fire shimmering against the shadowed backdrop. Canyons of blue, teardrops of gold, twisters and clouds and mirages, all tilting away, as if beckoning you on… and on… and on….
So, for just a second, I sneak outside on those frigid, lightless evenings. Not long enough to risk frostbite, not enough to feel my breath rattle inside of me…. Just long enough to shiver as I gaze at the poetry spelled across the sky. Somewhere, amid the dancing pigments, are the answers to every question we seek. Somewhere, flickering just within our reach, are the souls of those we can no longer see. As I gaze up at the miracles that dance across the ebony canvas every night, for one long season, I think I can hear a low voice, humming a lullaby, soothing me to sleep - and I know, against all reason, that the soul of my grandmother is dancing in the heavens.