I only had one night in Dawson City and I was hoping for a clear, cold night. I’d been dreaming for years of what it must feel like to bask in the glow of a sky filled with northern lights. This was my chance.

I’d been in Whitehorse for a couple days and the cold nights brought flickers of green dancing over the river, but they teased and disappeared, like mischievous faeries.

I was giving a talk at the Klondike Institute of Art and Culture, which meant leaving most of my things in Whitehorse and flying up in a turboprop overnight.

It was a gorgeous day. Clear, bright, and suddenly cold. When I arrived in Dawson City, I found patches of clover encased in the first frost of the year. They were perfect and bright, like cut-glass costume jewelry.

The light was beautiful. Sun cut sideways, the wooden boxes of the historic downtown cast crisp shadows that stretched long down empty streets. I’d come north seeking the Aurora Borealis, but light shone with clarity in the bright of day. I was so swept up in its magic that the dirt on my shoes felt special. The romance of the north is a powerful thing.

When I finished my talk, it was just getting dark. I was lingering, enjoying talking, when a woman I’d met on the plane came running in. “The lights!” She was breathless with the joy of sharing.

I ran outside and caught a whisper of lights that licked the horizon and danced away. Night was still falling. Everyone was excited for me. They sent me back to my hotel to put all of my clothes on. Since I’d only brought two outfits from Whitehorse, I layered them, borrowed my blanket from my hotel room, and headed down to the banks of the river.

By the time I got to the river bank, the horizon was full.

I sat there, wrapped in blankets, nestled in the curve of a rock, mouth agape, for hours. The lights pooled green along the water. White light spilled, low, but just out of reach. Colours shot through in luminous streaks. I was inside a rainbow. The lights swirled above and all their shine was brighter reflected off the river.

This was the best of all possible moments. I wanted to share it, but I was so grateful to be allowed to be still with my awe. What a gift. I had one night in Dawson City and I was living a waking dream of Yukon magic.

I texted my husband that I was planning to sleep in because I over-indulged on the Aurora Borealis. He thought I might like to hear that my book had been short-listed for a Governor’s General Literary Award, so he called to wake me up anyhow. Can I tell you? That news, all wrapped up in such a special night, will always be a little bit of Yukon magic for me.