Aurora Borealis
(Bill Fries, Chip Davis)

One night, many, many summers ago we were camped at twelve thousand feet up where the air is still clear, high in Rockies at Lost Lake, Colorado. And as the fire down burned low and only a few glowing coals remained, we laid on our backs all warm in our sleeping bags and looked up at the stars.

And as I felt myself falling out into the vastness of the Universe, I thought about things. I thought about the time my grandma told me what to say when you saw the evening star. You all remember:

Star light, star bright, first star I’ve seen tonight. I wish I may, I wish I might, have the wish I wish tonight.

The air is crystal-clean up there; that’s why you can see a million stars, spread out across the sky, almost like a giantic cloud of stars.

I remember another night, in the black canyon of the Gunnison River. And we had our rubber boats pulled up on the bank an’ turned over so we could sleep on ’em. And we were layin’ there lookin’ up at the stars that night, too, and one of the guys from New York said, he said, "Hey! Look at all that smog in the sky! Smog clear out here in the sticks!" And somebody said, "Hey, Joe, that’s not smog; that’s the Milky Way. It’s a hundred billion stars. It’s our galaxy."

And we saw the Northern Lights up there once, on the summit of Uncompahgre, fourteen thousand three hundred and nine feet above sea level. They were like flames from some prehistoric campfire, leaping and dancing in the sky and changing colors. Red, gold, blue, violet... Aurora Borealis. The Northern Lights. It was the equinox, the changing seasons. Summer to fall, young to old, then to now.

And then everyone was asleep, except me. And as I saw the morning star come up over the mountain, I realized at last that life is simply a collection of memories. But memories are like starlight: they live on forever.

I’ve always thought of the mind as the ultimate recorder, collecting and storing all of the sights and sounds of our lives, saving them for some future playback. If this concept of memory is correct, the last line in Aurora Borealis will give you what the glorious night sky in the High Rockies gave to me...a new answer to an old question. — Bill (from the liner notes)

The original recording of "Aurora Borealis" was released on the album Wilderness. That version can be found on the albums C.W. McCall’s Greatest Hits and The Best of C.W. McCall.