About 15 years ago, as I was going to bed about midnight, I glanced out my window and was horrified to see the glow of what appeared to be a terrible fire behind Mount Hays across the valley.
The entire sky was lighted up with a bright crimson glow that shimmered and flared alarmingly.
I stared out the window and tried to determine the degree of danger. Was it the village of Port Edward, British Columbia, or was it indeed a forest fire that might well spread over the mountain and threaten our homes?
Then, off to the northeast, I saw a sudden flash of pale, mint green that dropped in iridescent corrugated sheets.
Suddenly, I realized what I was seeing - the northern lights.
The manifestation suddenly increased in intensity, and I realized I'd never seen such an active or brilliant display.
Even though I knew my neighbors would probably not take kindly to being awakened, it also seemed somehow selfish to experience such overwhelming and rare natural beauty without sharing it.
First I telephoned my Korean neighbors, the Yohms, because I thought they'd perhaps never seen the aurora borealis. Mrs. Yohm was sleepy but delighted.
I hesitated before I called the Renieros. A forceful and lively person, Mrs. Reniero intimidated me a bit because she minced no words.
I really didn't want to get on her "bad side," but I took my courage in hand and called anyway. She was miffed at being disturbed, but when I explained the reason for the call, her tone changed.
The Scherres were asleep, too, and, at first, were no more enthusiastic than the others. But in short order all the neighbors were gathered outdoors in front of my house.
It was cold and getting colder. Standing there in bathrobes, jackets, or coats, we were all uncomfortably chilly. But we felt warmed by the lights, as they played in increasingly brilliant and varying colors.
Then suddenly, directly above our heads, bands of bright white light and luminescent grayish-blue arcs - that appeared to touch the ground - streamed at regular intervals, as if we were all standing inside a gigantic star sapphire.
Outside the great dome that surrounded us, magnificently dazzling blues, greens, and yellows danced and quivered. Beyond that, the flaming scarlet that had first taken my notice glowed and flared - a shifting, surreal canvas of mercurial ice and deep-red velvet.
Mrs. Yohm thanked me in her gentle Korean accent, and I asked if she thought the colorful display was worth being awakened for. "Oh, yes!" she quickly answered. "It so very beautiful!"
Mrs. Reniero was standing next to us and added: "I thought you were just crazy calling us like that, but I've never seen something like this."
There we were in our little cul-de-sac, a group of shivering neighbors stunned by the grandeur of the universe.
And in us, I saw something even more glorious and remarkable than the brilliant sky. It was the wonder of living where people of such differing backgrounds - Korean, American, Italian, Croatian, German, and Mexican - shared the spectacle together, as neighbors, living in peace.