There are a lot of things about 2020 I’d be happy to never see again in my lifetime, but this is one of the few things I saw that I can say I wouldn’t mind seeing again sometime soon.
Except that won’t be happening, because, according to NASA, Comet NEOWISE will not be seen again for 6,800 years. So this was not just a once-in-a-lifetime photo opportunity, it was a once-in-86-lifetimes opportunity. Wow.
Fun fact: the comet was named for NASA’s Near-Earth Object Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (NEOWISE) mission, on which it was first sighted.
“O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is Your name in all the earth, who have displayed Your splendor above the heavens!” (Psalm 8:1)
Photographed 11:02 PM July 16th, 2020; Chippewa National Forest, Minnesota, USA.
Farewell to shadows of bluebells on white chicken coop walls…Farewell to pleasant afternoons hanging laundry on the line in the company of friendly toads…Farewell to grasshoppers, and white trumpet vines, and all other such elegant pairings…Farewell to barefoot days at the edge of the lake……Farewell to the haunting serenade of loons… Farewell to daisy bouquets made by small hands, and smoky sunsets, gifts from forests burning far away…Farewell to cumulonimbus, those splendid, tall ships sailing by in the sea of the sky…Farewell to restless, flitting warblers in green, green meadows…Farewell to lush gardens decked in the thousand diamonds of sudden morning showers…Farewell to the brief, warm nights, sparkling with celestial beauty and fireflies, humming with mosquitoes…Farewell to all the sun-ripened berries hiding under the leaves…Farewell to picturesque encounters on whimsical summer evening drives…Farewell to all the babies, now raised and grown…Farewell to dancing swallowtails in ballrooms of flowers…Farewell, sweet summer; welcome, glorious autumn!
The night was bright with a million stars, each one pulsating distinct and three-dimensional against deep black velvet of the sky. The aurora was dancing low but visible on the horizon. Across the lake, a monkey owl laughed, and in the distant forest echoed the drum roll of a grouse. Just above the treetops, a slender waxing crescent of reflected sunlight rimmed the lower curve of dark round moon. It dangled, then dropped out of sight. One meteorite fell, and then another. It was a good night to go walking without a flashlight, and so we did.
Then, we heard an odd sound that we couldn’t identify. It was like the sound of tinkling, shattering glass, with a sort of grunting and squeaking. There was also splashing, which narrowed down the location to the lake. But what sort of creature was busy on the lake at this time of the night—and what were they doing?
It remained a mystery, until morning, when daylight revealed the guilty culprits.The otters had been playing not on but in the ice while the northern lights rippled softly green, enjoying the effects of the steadily aging and honeycombing lake ice. I didn’t realize how rotten the ice was until I stood on the shore and watched their game for a good hour. They were literally running all over the lake breaking holes in all the thin places and diving in and out of them, which explained the mysterious tinkling and shattering sounds of the previous night.
And so the mysteries of the darkness were made evident by the light and things that were unknown became known—just as it always must be, even in the case of much deeper things.
“There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that not will be made known.“ (Luke 12:2)
“Therefore judge nothing before the proper time; wait until the Lord comes. He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of men’s hearts. At that time each will receive his praise from God.” (1 Cor. 4:5)
On the evening of the 22nd, moving into the wee hours of the 23rd, we stood outside, oblivious to the mosquitoes (and believe me, it takes some pretty incredible distraction to make that possible right now), and watched one of the most spectacular displays of northern lights we’ve ever seen. They were everywhere, around and above us, even into the south, dancing and pulsating and rippling across the diamond-studded velvet of the night sky in glowing whites and greens. We were in awe.
As you may have guessed from the title of this post, there’s really only one passage in Scripture in my mind that comes close to describing the thoughts and emotions running through my head on a night like this—and in honor of the wonder that left me speechless, I will say no more and let classic opening lines of this ancient Psalm of David speak for me.“O LORD our Lord, how excellent is thy name in all the earth! who hast set thy glory above the heavens…When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which thou hast ordained…What is man, that thou art mindful of him? and the son of man, that thou visitest him?” (Psalm 8:1, 3-4)And to that all I can say is wow—and amen!