Songwriters: Trevor Rabin, Chris Squire
Original Release: Union
Definitive Version: Union Tour, 1991.
When I left Chicago to head back to Torch Lake in November 2004, I didn’t want to go. I’d had such a great time with Laurie—the first really good extended time I’d with a female companion since Debbie three years before—it was like I’d been visiting a dreamworld. I didn’t want it to end.
But as soon as I got in my car, I was fine. I didn’t cry; in fact, I was looking forward to getting back to Torch Lake. I was having a great time up there. On the way out of town, I stopped by the Gino’s East on Wells Street for a frozen sausage pizza to enjoy back in the hinterlands.
Although it never poured on the drive home, the sky was an endless slate that spit intermittent showers all the way to Grand Rapids. It stayed gray as I turned north on U.S. 131, but it didn’t rain any more after that.
I was a little tired still from the lack of sleep I’d had over the weekend, but I still was glad to get up early to send Laurie off to work, because that would give me enough time to get to Bellaire before the vet closed for the day and pick up Maile. The knowledge that I had someone waiting for me lifted my spirits, and as I approached Kalkaska, the sky started to break up.
Instead of turning onto 72 as usual, I took 131 all the way to Mancelona, a first for me. Then I went the back way to Bellaire, which was a straighter shot to the vet’s. I arrived about 5, plenty of time before it closed, and the sky was broken up completely as the sun began to set. It was going to be a clear night.
As I pulled into the parking lot, I was greeted by a series of dog barks coming from the kennel that stuck out to the West from the vet’s building parallel to the gravel parking lot. Every dog, it seemed, was barking at me … with one exception.
In the far kennel, one dog, a black lab, paid me no heed. Instead it just looked out toward the setting sun, and it was as though one could read what it was thinking: Well, nobody loves me. Mom and Dad are gone, and that guy who was with me is gone. I’m forgotten, all alone.
I called out, “Maile Maile,” and she went nuts, immediately jumping up and scurrying about in her pen. When they brought her to me, she was pulling on the leash so hard she stood on her back two legs. When someone’s THAT excited to see you, it feels good, even if it’s just a dog.
I walked Maile for a bit in the yard outside, just as I had when she was treated for eating the rat poison. Then I said to her, almost as I would another person: “Let’s go home.”
The sun hadn’t set completely when we arrived, and I played with Maile outside for a while before going in to fix my dinner. While I ate, I got a call from home. Dad said he got a call from Matt, who’d heard from friends that supposedly the Northern Lights could be seen at the lake. Oh really?
I immediately bolted out of my chair and rushed outside, still on my phone. I looked up, and I couldn’t believe it: curtains of yellowish green were roiling over an otherwise clear sky. Yes, I’m seeing them, I exclaimed to Dad—the first time I’d ever seen the phenomenon.
He let me go, and I quickly got my coat and boots on, leashed up Maile and hiked up to the field across the street to get a particularly good view. (I took Maile just in case deer were out and feeling protective of their territory.) I stood, a solitary figure shrouded in black, watching in awe while the Northern Lights billowed overhead. Maile, who couldn’t have cared less, lay down on the ground.
Well, I had to share this with someone, so I called Laurie. She wanted me to call her when I got home anyway, so this seemed like the perfect time to do it. She was delighted to hear from me and even moreso when I told her what was going on. We were separated by hundreds of miles, but we were together in that moment.
Even though it marked the end of what had been a crazy fun weekend, that Tuesday was one of the best days of my life. My head was full of memories, and my heart was full of happiness and wonder.