The Green Tornado


Forgive me for another post about the Northern Lights – but while the aurora sky-lizard shoots green glitter, papa’s gonna make his cosmic cordial. Although this morning’s caffeine has clearly kicked in, I type these words slowly. My knuckles are chapped and tender. I still haven’t bought gloves. Alexandra, from the residency, kindly leant me her spare set. I imagine they were knitted in a thatched cottage, by a be-shawled Icelandic granny. Standing in an icy, minus 7 degrees, awaiting a predicted solar extravaganza, I realised I had left said-mittens on my bed. Having learned nothing from the ‘skimpy shorts’ debacle, it was another day – another hapless misadventure with clothing. 

The Northern Lights are measured on a scale of 1-9 and are forecasted for intensity and the likelihood of visibility. To date, I had only witnessed a ‘3.5’ and my Aurora app was predicting a ‘4.7’. I chatted with Dagni, the lady who owns the farm, while buying groceries. She confirmed my theory that locals mostly consider the aurora with the same enchantment as we do a rainbow. Seeing my purchases, she also took the opportunity to offer her farm-fresh eggs. I’ve been riddled with guilt at consuming the non free range variety. 


Later that evening, I set out, sans gloves, in the direction of the little wooden bridge. That end of town leaves you further from artificial light; in the realm of the elves, trolls and magical, spooky vibes. The lights began promptly, as a single undulating streak, stretching from the mountain to the horizon. My intention this time, was to capture the movement of the storm. Producing a 10 second time-lapse, requires a 16 minute recording. That time is a sacrifice of my only camera. It can be astoundingly difficult to watch the cosmos do the ‘Hokey Coky’ without also shooting still images. The lights can shift erratically, snaking and shimmering over wide areas. Having set up your lengthy shoot, the action can easily drift from your lens’ field of view. Within a few attempts, I caught the aurora swirl like a verdant tornado over the horizon, its reflection stretching all the way back to the shoreline. 

As my hands reached peak-frozen, I discovered the lump I’d been passively questioning in my jacket, was in fact a pair of socks. Since turning 40, I’ve taken to hiding random things in odd places. I pulled them onto my freezing digits, savouring the thaw. Frozen beads started to form in my beard. My understanding is, it’s a mixture of crystallised air, breath and snot. The drool it produces, in the melt stage, can be particularly off-putting. Still, in spite of the cold and questionable precipitation, I was suitably enthralled. 

Northern Lights

My time alone, frozen in the dark, gave my mind time to wander. After briefly fantasising over guilt-free omelettes, I considered my progression on the residency. I see why writers are an intense bunch. Words lay bare your thoughts, memories, fears and weaknesses. It is a delicate balance of revealing enough of yourself, without ‘over-sharing’. Learning to master this balance is terrifying and sublime. My blog could easily morph into a saucy, self-help, tell-all, Nordic fisherman love story – if only they’d show up. I’ll continue to wear my aran jumper and live in hope. 

I’ve often thought, with so many words in the English language, what are the odds that I could possibly assemble the right combination into a coherent and meaningful order. Perhaps it’s the same odds as standing in North West Iceland, with socks on my hands, witnessing the sky rip open to reveal its glittery green innards. Pennies that drop so loudly, help me type on – albeit, today, a little more slowly. 

The Green Tornado

The Green Tornado helped me decide the following:

  • I will visit Dagni’s farm to get free range eggs. 

  • I will learn to dress myself appropriately 

  • I will be mindful of drooling

  • I will consider sourcing a second camera

  • Buy the gloves, Paul, or the puppy gets it.