Solar wind

Greens and purple auroras give way to approaching dawn.

Lisa called me to look at the Northern Lights at around midnight. They were spiking and visible from within town. Having been asleep for a couple hours I didn’t feel much like going out to take photos.

About 3 am I had a change of heart and Willow and I packed up the camera and headed for the dark part of Lake Windermere.

The Milky Way arches across the sky. The light of Invermere, BC can be seen to the left of the frame.

The auroras had died down yet were still visible in the northeast as a stream of solar wind hit Earth’s magnetic field.

Geese, ducks, coyotes and hooting owls provided a fitting soundtrack to the clear moonless morning. It felt good to be out looking up. Very fine start to the day.

palliser pass

Above the falls.

Lisa has encouraged me to look back at some of the photos taken in the past. I rarely do this, content with looking at what was taken most recently. She said sometimes I might miss a good one. These two were taken on a wonderful trip along Palliser Pass last summer.

Sun-up. Mt. King George, 3,413 m. Height of the Rockies.

Brrrrrr!

This photo composition is made of sixteen photos sewn together in Photoshop to achieve the extra wide angle needed to show the night sky from north to south. The original is a massive file and reveals many stars and constellations. Even in this small sample a discerning eye may be able to pick out Perseus and Cassiopeia to the left and the tail of Scorpius with red supergiant Antares over the lights of Fairmont Hot Springs in the south. Scorpius only rises once Orion is down and promises the coming of summer.

A few welcome days off in a row. Willow and I figured we would sample the chilly temperatures. We headed out at 3 in the morning to see if we could catch the return of The Milky Way.

The Milky Way rising over Nutmuq¢in (Chisel Peak).

So far we have had a mild winter and perhaps we have grown soft because -28°c felt colder than expected. Granted fumbling barehanded with a metal camera doesn’t help. Willow looked at me like I was crazy and was happy to make it back to the truck and a blasting heater.

The Milky Way was rising but the centre stays below the mountains before dawn washed the stars away. Still a wonderful viewing morning with the young moon long down refusing to interfere with the brilliance of stars.

The afternoon sun warming Jake and Dave.

That afternoon we met with good buddies Dave, Jake and Chewy for a bout of ice fishing. By then it had warmed to a much more comfortable -16°c. We picked a spot near the shallow south end of Lake Windermere, chosen for it’s distance from the ruck of the crowd. Unfortunately the fish didn’t feel the same, choosing instead to occupy the deeper portions nearer the outlet.

Willow looking for fish.

Still, it was refreshing enjoying the lake. Jake drilled his own hole in the almost 2 feet of thick ice. The dogs ran this way and that. Very fine day.

Willow criticizing my lack of fishing skill.

some lights

All we had was cloud on the peak of the Geminids. Lisa and I tried to push through the cloud seeking a higher elevation. This can be tough; first, the roads are the shits, second, we’re committed to our first choice.

Sometimes it goes, sometimes it doesn’t.

On the way back into town we spotted this nicely decorated cabin. It was early, they’d either left the lights on all night or were delighting the folks off to work ahead of schedule.

round one

Pleiades, Taurus, Gemini, Orion and the hunter’s fierce dog Siris shining through the clouds. The mountain and landscape is illuminated from the valley’s man-made light bouncing off the clouds.

We headed out last night before the peak of the Geminid Meteor Shower to get the jump on the shooting stars. It was overcast so we pointed the camera towards any opening. Lisa saw several meteors. I saw one spectacular one, unfortunately our cameras were pointed elsewhere. That’s the way it goes.

We are planning to go back out tonight. The weather looks about the same. It’s only about -15°c but feels colder, not because of wind chill but because I’m getting old. I don’t think it phases Lisa though. I just try to keep up.

With luck we will spot some. Even if we don’t I’m damn lucky.

science and soul

The fog gives way to stars where the creek turns steep.

Pretty good days. The lake has frozen hard and clear. Without snow it is a skater’s dream. We headed out after work on Friday, tossing the puck around, stopping once and awhile to admire the fine day. We stayed until the stars started to appear.

Young Jake legs it, the puck in front of him as he dips west heading north on a pure breakaway.

This morning low cloud blanketed the valley. It always seems cold to me when this happens. This evening Willow and I headed for the mountains with hopes to push through the clouds into the stars.

We followed the creek we are used to. It took less climbing than I initially figured before the stars appeared in the treetops. The sky was warm, twisting in my mind, while long lost spirits flowed through me stealing my breath.

Sometimes that’s all it takes.

Scientists just discovered the sun and our solar system are moving 7km faster around the Milky Way’s central black hole than we previously thought. A reminder we are always moving and science is always evolving depending on the latest research. It’s the best we have to go by and should be trusted. Still I will have to recalibrate my instruments and amend my plans considering we are going to be swallowed by the centre of the galaxy sooner than expected.

smoke

The smoke rolled in from the fires in Oregon and Northern California. BC’s largest forest fire is burning about 50km from us. It’s been burning for over a month, yet hasn’t generated much smoke. It is reported that most of the smoke is from the US. It is stifling, casting odd light and turning the sun red.

Reports say the end is nigh, and worse, we have done it to ourselves, but we still have time to repent. It sounds a lot like religious fervour to me. That it was something in our control. If we only voted this way or that, stopped using plastic bags, weened our way off oil and harnessed the power of wind.

All the while we live in the best time of human history, living to an age unheard of 200 years ago, where more than ever humankind has enough to eat and fresh water to drink. Where we get to contemplate our navel instead of worrying about what the predator under the rock will do to us.

We sure could do things better. It is a shame how we treat the Earth and each other. The Earth is turning. It’s had enough of our disrespect of the land and sky. But that’s only part of the story.

Shit is bad. It’s depressing, our leaders, internet and television try to make sense of it for us but they are empty idols. It will be something else, something we haven’t thought of yet, that will get us.

In the mean time lets stop racing around the bush in ATV’s, churning up the waters in motorboats, stop building second homes, tossing cigarettes out the window, letting meat go bad, blaming others, burning what we don’t need, considering we are hard done by, thinking we are bigger than the earth, killing each other over race, rioting even if deserved, a Molotov cocktail and teargas never solved nothing, either right or left can we agree we want our kids to grow up, be happy and live.

It is hard to know what is in store for us in this climate. We’re not calling the shots nor is any deity, voted in or conjured. My money is on sanity, objective thinking, clarity of purpose, ingenuity, and above all else love and humility.

Photos by Lisa and Bob

summer nights

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It feels good to wonder around with Lisa on a summer night. Everything going on in the sky, planets moving, the Milky Way, the Tail of Scorpius just above the mountains, comets and satellites.

The mosquitoes were ferocious. Willow riled up some deer. Elk lined the highway. Lisa and I both looked for eyes in the ditch far ahead. We can’t see the way we used to, so go slow now.

There was a time I used to dive off docks and rocks in the pitch black with faith there would be water below me. In summer nights the water is warmer than air. I can still see you wade in. Lisa made her own bikinis. There was fish down there that swirled around us.

It never really gets dark in summer.

Comet

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Was up early to try to get a photo of Comet NEOWISE. It is in the northeast before dawn. I spotted it a few mornings ago and even got a few photos, however without a tripod they were a little fuzzy. This morning Willow and I prepared with tripod and flashlight to check camera settings.

We headed for the banks above Lake Windermere. It was my hope to get the lake in the foreground. Comet NEOWISE was easy to locate with the naked eye. I needed binoculars a few mornings previous. Like certain stars and constellations once you find them your eye is drawn to them.

It’s a real treat to see comets. NEOWISE will remain visible for a while as it heads back towards the outer solar system. Estimated time to make a return journey 6800 years. Pretty lucky for Willow and I to be standing there when we were.

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love

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The Lyrids are flying. Tomorrow they will peak. Weather permitting Lisa and I will be out fishing for them.

We went out tonight to test the waters. As soon as the coffee was made the clouds rolled in, we went out just the same.

I am easily discouraged these days; clouds, moon interfering. I long for dark skies with starlight so bright it casts shadows, the treetops tangled in a bottomless sky and the rivers running silver.

Souls, like bats, fly so close they take my breath when I duck my head.

Lisa pushes me until I see the beauty.