Once Again, The Sun Brings Us Back To Earth

Two rare amazing celestial events occuring a month apart, sparked magical human results which can give us all hope. Could it be a sign? Only if we truly understand what happened to all of us.

On May 10th Deb and I went out to view the Aurora Borealis, aka the Northern Lights. Rarely do Lakewoodites get a glimpse of the dancing light show normally viewed in the upper latitudes. Without having to go to Alaska or Iceland, we might have the opportunity to experience a Level 5 extreme geomagnetic storm taking place. This historic show unleashed by some of the strongest solar flares ever witnessed was supposed to be at its best, 10pm - 2am May 10/11. Claims that the Aurora Borealis would be seen all over the Northern Hemisphere, if skies were clear, made it pretty exciting.

Similar to the Total Solar Eclipse on April 8th, the question of where we should go to see the view was paramount. One of the dark sky parks? East or West of the City? Wanting dark skies to the North, we left fashionably late a little after 10 pm. Deb and I packed the car and headed down to Lakewood Park, one of the local viewing areas on the lake. Unfortunately, the police had already closed the parking lot, and people were walking in from blocks around, parking spaces nearby were not available, a lot like the 4th of July.

We decided to head west, even though a long drive east would potentially net a darker sky. As we went through Rocky River, every access point to the lake was packed, with more coming. Bay Village was nuts, packed with illegal double parking everywhere near the parks. It was tempting, but not wanting to get blocked in, we continued on. We weren't seeing anything in the sky as we drove. Avon Lake, packed. Sheffield, packed! It was closing in on 11pm, and we had not found the solitude we so desperately were looking for. However from the car, there was no sign it was happening. Was this just another wild goose chase that the local meteorologists had us on? Meteor showers come to mind.

Pulling into a local convenience store to think this through, we looked up, and even in this parking lot it was obvious, it was going on all around us. Not bright...but you could make out dark burgundy stripes across the dark sky. We went back to the last park we passed in Lorain, pulled in and found a parking spot as someone was leaving. I got out my camera, and realized immediately the battery was dead! DAMN. Seriously, and without a spare. Wouldn't be the first time. So, we resolved to just enjoy the show and not get caught up in photography.

We walked down to the lake. Hundreds of people were lining the fences, the docks, the piers, all staring out at the northern sky. Looking out, I have to admit, it was not what I was hoping for. You could make out some green blurs and purples, it wasn't like photos I've seen of the Northern Lights, but, hey it's Ohio, good enough, right? Still, I saw the rectangle lights all over the park, indicating that phone/cameras were up, and taking photos. So Deb and I picked up our phones and pointed them to the sky, and my mouth fell open.

What were light fuzzy patches with hints of reds, and greens to the naked eye became more vibrant through the phone camera. Instantly the Aurora Borealis was on full tilt boogie. Well, at least for the latitude that we're at. Soaking it in, we started to walk around.

Then it hit me, just as it hit me a month ago during the eclipse. Everyone was talking, laughing, and sharing the experience. Groups of people taking each other’s phones to take photos of the other people or groups, in an act of love, respect and camaraderie. Sadly, something that nowadays only seems to happen during major jaw dropping celestial events.

This is what made it even more special. That everyone, or nearly everyone had a chance to see it, enjoy it and take a photo or two. As people would walk in and look up, you could see a small level of disappointment on their faces, just like us earlier that evening. Deb couldn't help but overhear an 80-year-old woman that had come down. She was unable to witness anything with her diminished eyesight and her frustration was felt. Deb knelt next to her as she sat on a bench and let her look through her phone camera, her eyes lit up, and she lost 70 years as the awe and beauty overcame her. Her grandson came over and made sure his Nana was going to have photos and memories of the night.

Walking back to the car after midnight, we experienced the complete chaos of the parking lot. For every car leaving it seemed two more were arriving. People parking everywhere. But at the same time, there was a calmness about all of it. A calm chaos? Yes. No horns, no yelling, no rage. Every vehicle and person, being mindful of the other, watching out for each other and their children. A beautiful display of humanity. For the first time in a long time life felt normal, and very much like a community. It was odd for this day and age.

On the way home, we reflected on the Lights of Love, and how cool and overwhelming it all was. Another cosmic event, brought on by our favorite star, the sun, had made us all feel small and close to one another once again. We were grateful for the experience. It was during the solar eclipse that I first noticed this calmness with large shared experiences. Our front yard filled with people, some I had never met, to view the total eclipse. Neighbors, dog walkers, police, firemen, and total strangers stopped, looked up, and took it all in. So many conversations about what we had just seen and shared. It gave me hope. It gave Deb hope. Hope that mutual love and understanding is possible and can and does happen between humans on our little blue planet. 

Jim O'Bryan

Publisher, Lakewood Observer, Inc.

Volume 20, Issue 11, Posted 5:36 PM, 05.22.2024