posted by Joe Anaya on April 7th, 2014

I recently went to Iceland. My main goal for going was to see the Northern Lights. I’ve been to Alaska; but it was in the summer and the sun never set. So, I never saw a hint of nighttime let alone the Northern Lights. It was actually my sister who suggested Iceland, “That way if you don’t see the Aura, you’ll at least get to be someplace new and interesting.”

Being a bit of a science nerd, I love the idea of seeing natural phenomenon. (I also swam where the North American and European continents connect.) Seeing the Aura Borealis has always been on my list of things to do. But here’s the rub, just because I’m sporting a little grey around the temples everyone keeps asking me, “Was it on your bucket list?”

No, it’s not on my Bucket List; it’s on my “things I want to do” list. At what point did things I want to do become “bucket list” items? Our twenty-something year old son has always wanted to go to Japan. Nobody refers to it as his bucket list. It’s just something he dreams about doing. If he hasn’t been to Japan by the time he’s 40, does it suddenly become a Bucket List item?

In Iceland, one night we saw wispy white moving shapes in the sky. These were the common form of the Northern Lights. Not the spectacular colorful version. Green, red and purple are much more rare. But it’s still pretty cool.

Obviously, somewhere during middle-age people assume you’re going to die any day now, so anything you want to do is something to do “before you kick the bucket.” But isn’t everything something you want to do before you die? I want to brush my teeth before I die, big deal.

I went to Iceland to see the Northern Lights. It’s not because I sense my mortality or I’d have a half-lived life without them. It’s just something I’ve wanted to see since I learned about the effect of the sun on our atmosphere. It seems really cool.

With my camera viewfinder showing only darkness, I aim my camera toward the dimly dancing lights, using the camera lens as a pointer. I click the button setting off a 30 second exposure; my viewfinder showing the blackness of the closed shutter. After 30 seconds, my digital camera displays a message “processing image” in the viewfinder. After several seconds of that, it goes back to showing the blackness that is the night sky. So, far not very thrilling.

I push the review button to see the last image I took and viola. The sky in the pictures is awash with the now green waves of magnetism. It’s spectacular. I’m thrilled. I got to see the Northern Lights. Now I can die a happy man.

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