When I was younger, the thought of the northern lights used to frighten me: a warning from above, something supernatural in the night sky. On cold nights, we would wait for them. Our layers kept us warm under the moon as we gazed skyward, there being no light pollution to corrupt the planetary display on the semi-isolated Scottish isle in which I was raised. Here, we were used to the silence.
Today, I see the dark sky turn green, blue, yellow—and I am no longer scared. It almost feels like afterlife, an ethereal suspension into something deeper. I can do nothing but watch; as if I could draw my eyes away. I am bound to this moment in perpetuity, thinking back to this place, this time, where the sky was telling us something, or maybe just saying hello.
My mother tells me that she saw them on one clear night, walking hand in hand with my father down the village brae. It was their first date, and the aurora seemed to recognise their love for each other, a sign solidified. Later, they ran to Oban to get married, not telling a soul, with only the registrar as witness. I still think this is one of the most romantic stories I have ever heard; but I am probably biased.
I understand why they chose Oban. I can feel it there too; a sense of something more in the land. Nostalgia feels present, and all conversations seem to take place in the past.
Like my parents, I went there this summer with the idea of getting far away from it all, to pause for a while, to breathe. My best friend Anna and I left our Glasgow flat behind for a couple of nights and packed my tiny car full of nothingness, only a tent and a duvet for company.
Anna moved to Italy not long after we went to Oban. I picture her here, eating sandwiches by the sea. We spent almost two years seeing each other every day, and to go from that to nothing at all, I thought I would struggle, but I kept going on. I went to visit her in her Italian home, and I felt something more in the air there, too. We drank espressos in the piazzas, and I tried my best at the Italian tongue, but she could only laugh and I understood. I knew I would fall in love with this place before I went, because Anna had.
On the plane home from Italy, I thought about a past journey in the sky. The previous time I has been on a plane, I cried the whole journey home because my heart was broken. The fleeting scenery passing me by made me realise I can never escape it all, I am only ever leaving to go somewhere else.
I thought about my friend Marianne. I cannot reach her, not by bus or train, as she moved to the other side of this planet, in search of sun and city. I think about her daily, and I miss her a lot. It is a strange feeling, to feel a sense of mourning for a loved one who is still in the land of the living. I think about her, probably on a beach somewhere, smiling in the sun.
As we flew over the Alps, I shed a few tears here too. I was in the halfway place between consciousness and dreamland, watching the world pass underneath me. I returned to my starry mind, dreaming of fictional possibilities of success, of wonder. We drifted down with the clouds in time for the evening news.
At home, I draw the curtains and look at the moon. I think about what face of it Marianne sees. I wonder if she can see the Milky Way where she is, or the Andromeda galaxy. I make a note, it reads in my sleepy hand: “ask Marianne about stars”. I sleep through the night, thinking that I haven’t thought about death for days.
Kirsty is an English Literature student with a fond liking of pints, reading and sea animals.