Among the Northern Lights

My flight to Amsterdam had a quick stop in Iceland. From departing California last night, to arrival in Iceland, is about 7.5 hours on a plane. After a little over an hour in Iceland, it was off to Amsterdam.

I was worried that my body might not react so well to such a disrupted sleep & light schedule. I tend to be very sensitive to light; days when it’s bright, I often have more energy – and overcast, dreary days tend to leave me very fatigued. And because a regular sleep schedule is so important to managing my disorder, there was the small worry nagging at the back of my mind that the time change was going to be a struggle for me.

I thought the best thing to do would be to try staying awake the trip – that way when I arrived in Amsterdam in the evening, I’d hopefully be able to fall right asleep and kick-start a decent sleeping schedule.

Of course, I knew that may be too optimistic, and after several hours of flying in the dark, fatigue hit me like a ton of bricks. I curled up with my favorite big, soft blanket. WOW air let me bring it as a free, extra “carry-on” after my mentioning of chronic pain (thank you WOW air for allowing me this small, but tremendously wonderful comfort!)

I got as comfortable as I could, however, airplanes are just not the easiest place to sleep. No matter how I sat or curled up, there was stabbing pain in my lower back would not ease. I closed my eyes, relaxed as much as I could, and faded in and out of consciousness for a while.

After a while I realized that sleeping was not going to be possible, and I opened my eyes. I looked out the window of the plane and took a second to try to make sense of what I was seeing.

The first thing I noticed was that it was no longer pitch-black outside. Close, but not quite. There were stars now; and there was just a small hint of light, barely enough to make out that we were flying over some large mass of ice and water. And then I noticed the clouds, and was a bit confused. They didn’t look like normal clouds.

And after my sleepy, pained, and confused brain finally had a moment to take everything in, I realized what I was looking at, and I think my jaw must have dropped.
It wasn’t just clouds. My plane was flying past the northern lights.

I was in disbelief, until I noticed the girl sitting in the seat in front of me was sharing in my quiet excitement. I saw her staring out her window, and, so as to not wake everyone else, I quietly whispered, “are those the Northern Lights?!”

She whispered back, “I think so!”

“Oh my god!!”

“I know! Oh my god!!”

And we both put our heads to our windows and watched in silence.

I was in awe. I realized that I wasn’t just looking at the northern lights – I was up in the sky with them.

They gently waved and sparkled behind the wing of the plane, against a backdrop of stars. I wish a better photo would have been possible, but this is the very best my camera could do while hand-held. Anyways, I preferred watching this with my own eyes and not through a lens. It was like a wonderful dream – and I might have been tempted to believe it was, if I didn’t have this photo.

I don’t know how long the lights were visible – I just know that I couldn’t take my eyes off of them. I was glued to that window until the sparkling green waves began fading out, masked by the light of the rising sun.

It wasn’t until after the sun had risen enough to completely hide the northern lights that I realized my pain was gone. And I certainly was no longer fatigued! We were flying into the sunrise and the Earth was quickly getting lighter. It wouldn’t be long until Iceland was under my feet.

I guess I should be grateful for the pain that prevented sleep on that flight. It was uncomfortable, to say the least…but without it, I probably would have missed flying among the Northern Lights.


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