Monsoon Days and Quiet Nights

I love when Environment Canada makes precipitation amount predictions. You can just about always add a 0. So the 3mm we should have seen easily felt more like 30mm. I’m not sure it stopped raining at all during the day in fact, and judging by some of the rivers and lakes we drove through on the highway chasing clear skies, for sure it didn’t.
So active auroras or not (this was definitely a not night), the thrill of the clear sky chase lingers strong. And there’s nothing wrong with sitting on some rocks at the end of the highway while water rushes past and loons, and owls, call in the distance.

Sean NormanAugust
The Critical Decision and How It All Falls Into Place

Tonight I knew I wanted to leave earlier. Like, the sky was still way too bright at that time to have any hope of even seeing stars. But clouds were coming, and our only hope was going to be outrunning them as far as we could, but our distance of course was not unlimited.

By the time we had reached 80+ kilometres from Yellowknife, driving under 80+ kilometres of overcast cloud, stars were glowing in a pocket of clear sky, right where I had hoped from the morning that clear sky would still be. And not two minutes after we pulled off the highway, the sky erupted in green curtains with pink edges, and purples on camera.

Five hours earlier I was sipping tea, binge-watching Queer Eye on Netflix pondering our departure time from town. 10:40 I decided. I had started writing emails to guests offering their pick-up times, and before I hit send, I changed them to ten minutes earlier. We’d leave town at 10:30. And as it turns out, that ten minutes was critical. Sometimes intuition is fascinating, and tonight it felt very, very lucky.

Sean NormanAugust
August Gonna August

I’m loving on these August nights hard. Twilight drives out of the city, through rain and cloud banks, into clear skies. These are the exhilarating and rewarding nights I crave.

Sean NormanAugust
The Most Delightful of Surprises

There I was, just on the edge of town passing the airport really settling in for 100+ kilometre drive to the land of potential clear breaks way up north. And not five kilometres later there are stars out the side of the windscreen. Stars and clear sky. So naturally we pulled over as soon as we could and there were arcs of aurora quickly developing in the clear sky that seemed to be expanding over us. I was at a loss for words, and more amazingly we were standing outside watching and trying to photograph the aurora as raindrops still fell. It was almost as much a deer in the headlights kind of feeling as in November 2016 when the United Sta… Oh god, never mind.

So we ran around a little through the night just to move through smaller cloud banks, but as far as extreme changes in the weather and differences in recent satellite images to real life, few times have I been more surprised in four years of this than I was last night. It’s why this doesn’t get old or less thrilling with time.

Sean NormanAugust
Pre-departure Candour, Walking the Line, and Yes, More Rain Showers

My night began under a cloudy sky outside a B&B to the question “Do you think we can see the aurora tonight?”

“Ahhhh. I haven’t really decided yet” I replied, not fully confident in what was showing on my phone vs. out toward the west as I looked between downtown buildings.

And then as we drove further and further from town it became perfectly clear we were straddling the edge a cloud bank running parallel to the highway. To the southwest, the sky was virtually perfect. To the northeast, it was horrific. Sporadic rain showers pelted the windscreen once again, but just like last night, we eventually emerged into clear skies that would last the night. An owl consistently called from probably kilometres down the highway, fog patches rolled in making the drive back far less than boring, and the aurora - sometimes faint, sometimes vibrant and dynamic - kept us company the entire time.

Sean NormanAugust
A Step Above Hopelessness, and Not Rushing Beauty

The rain we hit on the drive out of Yellowknife tonight was spectacular, if you love storms. If you’ve travelled to Yellowknife specifically for the aurora, which means needing at least some clear skies, it was probably less so. I kept my excitement over the rain inside.

But coming out on the other side gave a sight for sore eyes - clear sky further to the horizon. As always though, clear skies are only half the battle. We waited as long as we could before the clouds ate up every last star, and then the clear sky chase was back on. So we again arrived to another break of clear sky, and this time luckily enough for us, they, and we, stayed long enough for a beautiful show.

Sean NormanAugust
An Uncomfortable Nap and the Ultimate Dream

Storm obsessed could probably be defined by beginning to take an afternoon nap on a cosy rug over a bamboo floor in the living room just so I could watch storm clouds and torrential rain move over us. I did crawl up to the world’s most comfortable sofa eventually, but only after thunder cracking overhead and lightning I could see through closed eyelids.

And then by late evening, clear breaks could be seen out to the horizons, and a short drive at the beginning of tour took us right out to under dead clear skies with the most beautiful full moon, meteors everywhere we looked, and the aurora eventually filling the sky with greens and pinks.

Sean NormanAugust
EC Skepticism, Post Dinner Anxiety, and The View of Doom

The view from just the edge of our sofa out our slider, over our patio, over rooftops to the southwest is either the view of joy, or the view of impending doom. The view where last night after a late dinner, dark clouds were continually increasing in size and proximity. That is the view of anxiety. 

Naturally, through a beautiful, virtually cloudless day of blue sky, I continually refreshed Environment Canada’s weather pages just to make sure I really was seeing their belief in ‘Clear’ overnight. And then we got to ‘A few clouds’ overnight by the afternoon. And then that cloud bank appeared after dinner. The other shoe was dropping.

But in the end we escaped into having the most gorgeous night of the season (I know, it’s just my third night in, but you can’t argue with the truth). It was perfect.

Sean NormanAugust
No More Predictions, and the New August Norm

August. A month filled with nostalgia of the 2015, 2016 years when clear sky was almost always a given. Now we are just running around all night trying to keep with changing cloud fronts, but do you love on this more or less than the absolute hit or absolute miss of the winter deep freeze weather. Not that your, or my, preference changes anything.

So tonight, settling into partly cloudy skies, by complete and utter luck, after a slow start, I very trepidatiously made a prediction that we may soon see the aurora become a little stronger. Not two minutes later she began to dance above our heads. If you’re reading this as a past guest, then you know how often I’m wrong about these things too, which is why after last night there will be no more predictions of auroral activity.

(10 S’well bottles unceremoniously hand washed so far this year)

Sean NormanAugust
Tree Planting Resumes, an Arch Nemesis strikes again, and Exceeding Personal Expectations

Hej! (caaaan you tell I’ve been building endless IKEA furniture lately?)

I can’t tell you how good it feels to update that little 24, 130 number in that brown bar at the top of this page again. Does our planet ever need it and I’d love to be able to do more, but for the immediate, I’m relieved to be giving back, even just this little bit.

Summer was short. Like way too short. If that wasn’t the fastest three months I have ever lived than I just don’t know. But the anxiety of going back to work was minimal, mostly because I didn’t even notice it was happening so there wasn’t time to feel it.
But saying that, it felt perfect (minus the 4,282,173 mosquitos that joined us) last night to get back out and chase the aurora again. I genuinely loved it. But this whole hand washing multiple S’well bottles at 2:45am in the kitchen sink again? Uggghhhh. Just 8 or 9 more months of that. Or 240ish more days of it. Or approximately 1, 440 more bottles, until next summer.

Welcome back!

Sean NormanAugust