Aurora, Bob & Alice

9 February 2011 5.00PM Temperature 25 F Snowing.

I have so many things to be thankful for in life, it is indeed a very long list and I don’t propose to go through it in fine detail, but just to mention a couple of them.
I’m from Aberdeen and I follow Aberdeen Football Club (which is both a blessing and a curse) and one of our many supporter club songs is the old folk classic, “The Northern Lights of Old Aberdeen” but please don’t ask for a rendition as I can only sing when surrounded by ten thousand other slightly inebriated people, all bellowing with great gusto but a certain lack of quality. Now to my almost certain recollection, we’ve never actually had proper “northern lights” in Aberdeen, heck even here in Willow, AK we don’t get them that often. But this past week they have been on display and quite an amazing sight they are.
I did try and take some photographs but I’m going to guess that no-one really wants to see a black square masquerading as a picture of the Aurora Borealis.
So, I’ve done the next best thing – admit my failure and borrow a photograph from friends just down the road, who actually know how to take a good picture.

Northern lights and a dog sled
Northern Lights in Willow, Alaska

However, no matter how wonderful the picture, the effect is but a fraction of the impact that actually standing out there seeing it all happen in front of your eyes brings to your heart and soul. It is no wonder that in earlier times, they were attributed to the spirit world. Knowing the science behind them in no way diminishes their appeal and capacity to make you forget to breathe on occasion.


We’ve had some new neighbours become friends. In Alaska, the word neighbour seems to encompass anyone who lives within about 10 miles of your house, so as they’re only a couple of miles away, that must count as almost being next door. We’re also enjoying trying out new recipes on them and so far, they seem to have survived the experimentation. They fill the house with fun and laughter and it’s great knowing you have genuinely good people you feel you can rely on, close by.
TJ, who gave us Hop and Rimi, was also in the State recently for a couple of days, on a flying visit. It was great to see him again and spend some time just chatting about Seppalas, sled dogs and training.

We had all hoped to go out with multiple teams, but as anyone who has been paying attention will know, I’ve not been out with the dogs for 4 weeks because I’ve been cruelly struck down with that most debilitating illness – a bad back. It has been slowly getting a bit better – I’ve started doing my share of the dog yard chores again. Actually, I think that was my wife’s idea of a fitness test – every time I mentioned taking a team out, she’d mention something about feed buckets or poop buckets……… I can take a hint.
But having proved myself capable – well at least of feeding the dogs and clearing up without wincing (too much), I was allowed to finally get back out on the trail. Of course, it’s been a while and the dogs are a little nuts about going, so ever sensible, I selected a small 6 dog team and took trustworthy leaders and no complete lunatics.
In the time that we’ve not been running, it has snowed. This is winter in Alaska after all, I guess it might have been assumed it had snowed and therefore probably more worthy of mention if it hadn’t snowed. But it had. Quite a lot. And I hadn’t been digging out our yard gates. So that needed done and it means we now have a 3 feet wide trench that is needed for the gate to swing open.
I think that could be the fastest I have left the yard, despite standing with both feet on the dragmat. And of course I know I have this dip (let’s call it a dip, it sounds less imposing than ditch) to get over, without any kind of jarring impact, preferably. Deciding that speed might help – after all speed is always the answer in every tricky situation, no ?, we pass over the gate threshold off the brakes and the sled is temporarily airborne just for long enough to smack into the lip on the far side. Flex knees, tense quads, tighten core stomach muscles ( stop laughing) and grit teeth. Well there, that wasn’t so bad, I’m out onto the soft deep snow, still on the sled and can relax and enjoy the run.
Which I did, immensely.

Our dog team running through Birches Loop
My "comeback" team. Avery and Harry leading.

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