Abisko, Sweden

September 4, 2001

Cotton ball clouds stuck on the mountainsides lead into Abisko from Norway. It's that same mountain that blocks out most of the heavy rain for the small town of Abisko and large national park.

Autumn has just started and set ablaze the birch forests. Yellow and lime leaves cling above a carpet of gold and red fire bush. In most places, the colors are so bright that the evergreens are unnoticed, dark green silhouettes.

It's cloudy the day I spend here, but not the typical Arctic image at this time. The midnight sun finished at least a month ago with the darkness from 10pm-5pm. The ground is covered with delicate grass, red berries, changing colored plants and birch trees. Trails and footsteps take a long time to grow over on the tundra ground.

It's not that cold, although I know that can change quickly. I'd keep comfortable by throwing on another layer, or better yet, hiking faster.

The forecast is drizzle continuing today and at least all through the next. I would stay and love you, Abisko, but the weathers got the best of your mood today. I'll think of you in the winter when the snow blankets your body in the chilling darkness and the Aurora Borealis paints your face in a rainbow's light.

January 11-13, 2002

Over the past summer, I had become fascinated by the northern lights and promised myself I'd make a good effort to see them. I generally hate the cold and the darkness, but figured I could handle a short trip. The more and more exotic it sounded, the more I became hooked.

I invited a few friends to come along, but they all bailed out, except one, and his name was the most appropriate for the trip: Antony Coldman. With a great sale on airfare to Stockholm, another one of his friends was to join us on our trip north of the arctic circle in the darkest and coldest month on the weekend of a new moon for night skies.

His friend he brought along was certainly a character too. She couldn't stand to be silent, nor speak quietly. She'd talk on and on so much that you'd come up with something to say, but have no time to speak, then come up with something hostile to say, but she continued without rest so long enough time would pass for you to realise somethings are better off not said. I found my internal notions strong but clearly different traits from my father and mother working together to get me to seek the boundaries needed for this to work.

The three of us found our paces well. I would somewhat impatiently rush ahead and look back at my small group. Tony would be meditating while walking in the back, and Gerda right in the middle, out of earshot from both of us.

But the group weathered well while freakish weather altered our plans. We were pleased to see the snow increasing while on our night train to the north, but then surprised to wake up with many spots of exposed ground. A heat wave had brought the temperatures from below -30 to above freezing in just a week while it remained cold in the south. The train tracks had become flooded, so we arrived late in the fog. We couldn't see the sky. The remaining snow had become frozen as ice the next day. Our dog sledding cancelled. 43 huskies would only get one meal today. "Only one meal when you're not working," they'd say at the Abisko Dog Camp where we stayed.

But we had a great time none-the-less. We hiked around and became quite mobile on the ice armed with ski poles. At night, we relaxed in the sauna. Swedish style.

Every now and then when I tell about previous Scandinavian stories like sleeping in the same bed with an attractive girl and then being given naked pictures, it is interpreted that I missed the plot. The truth is outsiders are generally confused about this, but in Scandinavia, nudity and sexuality are not connected. You can be an exhibitionist and still be seen as conservative.

The second night was clear. "I will turn the lights on tonight for you," the camp owner told his. And it was something good seeing, but it faded away, then we went for our sauna. There was a new group that came into camp that night from Italy. "I don't want my sister to see me naked," one of the Italians protested. "You must go naked for health reasons. Bacteria will breed in your underpants." He surrendered and they joined us. What a great way to meet the other guests on our floor.

The best lights came then, so out we went onto the frozen deck with warm naked bodies. This was definitely the most intense moment of light, but the cold would soon get under our skin and we scampered back to our warm drying room.

I proposed a walk with our new Italian friends and after a game of Chinese checkers, we decided to head out. They had a car, so we cruised down the road a bit and then started to enthusiastically climb the hill and this time I wasn't the first one jumping up the midnight mountain. It was a comfort to be second. Someone else was just as excited to explore like a crazy person! He still wasn't sure the mountain was as high as I showed him. "You're kidding! That's not the mountain top - it's a cloud - the way the Aurora makes the cloud look."

By chance we stumbled on the woodland road that went to the scenic lift (closed, as most things are, until March). We rushed up beneath the cable cars, higher and higher and then higher again. By now Alby realized this really was a mountain. We turned around and the others caught up to us. We stood still, yet our minds still climbed into the sky: behold the phenomenon where darkness is light.

The green tentacle reached out from mountain to sky then across it. A second sweep appeared without being noticed and then a pool of swirl across the road above the iced over lake and snow covered mountains that start the Norwegian fjords. The patterns always changed like that. You'd gaze for minutes and then realize what you were looking at had completely changed. "When did that happen?" I kept thinking.

The greatest part of the show was the line in another part of the sky that seemed to hang like threads. We were looking right at it. Then the threads independently shimmed and flashed, twinkling and dancing independently! It was better than any Christmas lights or anything I've ever seen before. What a show!

Abisko, I have come back to you and you have welcomed me back. We have spent good time together and you have made me realize again that life is to short for relationships like this. I'll think of you every time I look deep in the sky now. I know you hold more magic still and I know the forces that deny that discovery. I'm hoping the world is small enough that we might meet again. Don't say goodbye. Please don't.

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