By Bernie Bell
The Merry Dancers – you’ll either see them – or you won’t.
One day in October, Mike and I went for a walk at Evie sands, and met a couple from Dornoch who were here on holiday in Orkney. They mentioned that they were very keen to see the Aurora Borealis – The Merry Dancers. I said I hoped they would, but that, whatever folk say about coming at a certain time of year, or before /after certain weather or at a certain time of night, it’s my belief that – it you’re going to see them, you do – if you’re not, you don’t. So, I said to just enjoy their holiday, keep an eye out, and….they’ll see them, or they won’t.
This put me in mind of the two significant times we’ve seen the Aurora.
The first was in 2008. On the 30th November, my eldest sister had died, in Ireland. This was a release for her, after a lot of suffering, and a battle fought with bravery and humour! It was, definitely, the best thing for her, at the time. Mike and I went over to Ireland for the funeral, which meant a two day journey there, much emotional turmoil in the family, then a two day journey back. We got home, had something to eat, and a cup of tea ( the British, and their cups of tea!). It was about 10 o’clock on the night of the 4th December, I went to put my cup in the scullery, the window of which, faces North, and, there they were, great curtains of green light, shimmering and flickering across the sky over the hill behind the house, from over Rousay, right across the sky. I called Mike to see them, and we stood and watched them dance, for about 15 minutes, then, we just had to go to bed, as we were worn out, physically and emotionally. What a time to see the Northern Lights, though! We saw it as a sign, of light in darkness, not just light, but lightness, lightness as a way of being. We saw it as a fitting ‘Farewell’ to my sister. It was just wonderful. That was the first time we’d seen them, and I thought that, if it turned out to be the only time I ever saw them, that would do for me!
Not long after that, I had a discussion with someone, about how much she wants to see the Northern Lights, and my response to her was, that I believe that we see them if, and when, we’re meant to. If she’s going to see them, she will, if not, she won’t. My advice was, as always, to just go with the flow, and see what happens, take it as it comes.
We saw what you might call ‘bits and pieces’ of the Aurora, over the next few years – just glimpses and shimmers – nothing spectacular – ‘nothing to write home about’.
Then, just before Christmas before last, Mike’s Dad passed from this life. He was 97 years old, and died peacefully in his sleep.
He was well ready to go. He wasn’t being miserable about it, he just felt that enough was enough. He’d had a long and interesting and fruitful life, and, since Mike’s Mum passed, he’d not liked being alone. He accepted the need to be in a home, but it wasn’t a good environment for a man such as him, who was very independent, and also very out-doors.
Mike had gone into work in the morning, and received a phone call from his sister Elizabeth, to let him know.
The night before, just before we went to bed, we had looked out the back window, and saw the Northern Lights, green and shimmering, in an otherwise clear sky, with stars, including some bright shooting stars, too. In the morning, Mike got the news about his Dad.
We have seen the Aurora a few times since, not so colourful, sometimes making quite strange shapes, but these are the two times which stick in our minds – and, to us, it means that The Merry Dancers are very much associated with a message of light – especially light in darkness at ‘dark’ times.
Meeting the couple at Evie sands, and talking of The Merry Dancers, prompted me to write this, and, having written it, I realise how appropriate it is, for the time of year. We’re heading towards the shortest day – then the light starts to return, and life continues.