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Searching For The Northern Lights

Episode #36
English Level: intermediate
Accent: Canada (Quebec)

About Brigitte Lessard's story

Today’s episode of Into The Story is about two powerful encounters with the Northern Lights. While you listen to Brigitte explaining how she discovered the mystical power of the Aurora Borealis, pay attention to understand the meaning of expressions like ‘stay put’, ‘uproot’, and ‘First Nations’. You will probably notice Brigitte is a great storyteller; this is because she is the founder of Women Talk, and she currently helps people tell their stories at The Story Warrior. Listen until the end to discover the key to telling a good story!

On this page, you’ll discover incredibly valuable learning materials and other goodies, to make the most of the podcast episode. 

Quote of the episode

"But what the lights did do was make me see the beauty of where I was, and it became home'".

Transcript

[00:00:00] Bree: Hi there listeners. Today, Brigitte is going to tell us a story about searching for the Northern Lights, also known as the Aurora Borealis in English. We all feel a bit lost and alone sometimes. And when Brigitte was 17 years old, her family lost everything. So, her father decided to move the entire family from Quebec, which is a French-speaking province in eastern Canada, to a city in northern Alberta, which is a very gold, very English-speaking part of western Canada.

[00:01:19] Brigitte: We were so close to the North Pole that the sun would be up in the skies for maybe four or five hours a day. That was a real nightmare for an outgoing teenager like me.

[00:01:33] Bree: Now, nearly 40 years later, she again finds herself in a similar place, feeling lonely and lost. Let’s find out how both times the Northern Lights helped Brigitte feel more connected and helped her find her way.

[00:01:48] Brigitte has a business that helps brands and individuals create and share their stories. At the end of today’s episode, she’ll give us tips on how to tell better stories, so, make sure to stick around until the end. 

Please make sure to click the follow button on your podcast app so that you never miss a new episode of the show. And as always, it’s free.

[00:02:12] Bree: Okay. It’s time to look at five words and expressions that, Brigitte, uses in today’s story. 

Firstly, we have the verb to uproot. To uproot literally means to pull up an entire plant, the roots included. It can also be used to talk about a person being uprooted, which means they move away from their culture or their country. Brigitte talks about her father uprooting the entire family and moving to a new city. To uproot next.

[00:02:55.030] First Nations. First Nations is a term used to refer to certain groups of people who are Indigenous to North America. First Nations are Peoples who lived on these lands thousands of years before Canada even became a nation. Today, Brigitte talks about First Nations belief, about the Northern lights.

 

[00:03:19.950] Bree: And then we have pitch-black or pitch-dark. So both of these terms mean completely dark. It’s used to describe a place with no light at all. Some people can only sleep in pitch-black or pitch-dark, so they close the curtains. Pitch-black.

 

[00:03:41.430] And now we have a phrasal verb to stay put. To stay put means to not move position. So when I’m in a parking lot with my son and I have to put things in the car, I tell him to stay put, which means do not move. To stay put.

 

[00:04:03.030] And finally, the word dim. So if a light is dim, it means it’s low. It doesn’t give or have much light. So in a fancy restaurant, the lights are dim. Brigitte talks about the Northern lights being dimmer when she tries to find them as an adult. Dim.

 

[00:04:24.330] In addition to these words and expressions, you have an extended vocabulary list, the transcript, and a quiz on our website, acingles.com. You’ll see a link in the show notes. Okay, let’s get into the story.

 

[00:04:40.590] Brigitte: Sometimes we need a little magic. And twice in my life, I witnessed the mystical powers of the Northern lights. In 1982, my parents lost everything: their home, their business, all of their investments. So my dad decided to uproot our family and move from Quebec to Fort McMurray, Alberta, Canada. Now, these two provinces are part of the same country, but their cultures could not be any more different. Quebec is a French-speaking province and has European roots, and it’s even sometimes referred to as Parisians of the north. While Alberta is English speaking and with many resemblances to the American cultures and values that revolve around oil and gas.

 

[00:05:38.550] So I was 17 years old. I had just graduated from high school. I had to leave behind my boyfriend, my friends, my large extended family. And I did not know anyone in Fort McMurray, and did not speak a word of English. And no one, and I mean no one, spoke French except for my family. That was a real nightmare for an outgoing teenager like me.

 

[00:06:09.090] And then things got even worse. When winter arrived. It was unbelievable. Often the temperature would dip below -40 degrees Celsius. Some days, the air was so cold that a thick fog would freeze, making it difficult to see anything or even cross the street. It was so cold that the tires on my parents’ car would freeze to the ground. And then when we would start driving, it was as if you had square tires. Clunk, clunk, clunk. We were so close to the North Pole that the sun would be up in the sky for maybe four or five hours a day. It felt like it was dark all the time. I missed my beautiful hometown so much. This place was frigid. It was dark, and I was lonely and depressed.

 

[00:07:12.570] Bree: Brigitte finds herself in this very small city with subarctic climate, surrounded by boreal forest. Even for a Canadian, I can tell you that Fort McMurray is a very cold, very isolated part of the country. She’s feeling disconnected and misses her hometown a lot.

 

[00:07:33.750] Brigitte: One night in December, I bundled up and went outside for a walk. The air was so cold, it froze the hair in my nose, and my eyelashes formed icicles. But then I saw the most spectacular lights in the sky. I had never, ever seen the Northern lights before. The magnificent colors waving and dancing in the skies were absolutely stunning. I stood on the sidewalk, freezing and mesmerized by the lights in the skies. They were bright blue, pink, green, all dancing and blending together and illuminating the skies. They were so bright now. I had studied Aurora Borealis in school, but I had no idea they were this beautiful and colorful. It touched my soul, and I started changing about how I felt about this place. I later found out the Northern Lights actually have spiritual meaning. First nations believe that the Northern Lights are created by our ancestors trying to communicate with us through the Northern Lights. They believe that we can feel their presence and know that they’re still here with us. I was only 17 years old, so I never had lost anyone close to me. And although the legend touched me, I did not fully understand the deep meaning of it.

 

[00:09:19.290] But what the lights did do was make me see the beauty of where I was, and it became home. Now, as a kid and a teenager, I loved public speaking and storytelling. I was even a DJ in my high school, but it took me years to master English, but I eventually built enough confidence to become a speaker and a storyteller again. In 2012, I created a company called Women Talk, where just ordinary women would come and share their stories. By 2019, I had 13 locations across Canada hosting monthly events.

 

[00:10:02.850] Bree: The beauty of the Northern Lights had helped Brigitte find a feeling of home. It then took years of mastering English, but in 2019, she had reached a lot of success in her business. Brigitte felt happy with where she was in life.

 

[00:10:20.190] Brigitte: And then BAM COVID-19 hit. I lost it all. History was repeating itself. By the fall of 2020, I once again found myself lonely and depressed. COVID-19 had closed my business and isolated me once again. I went from seeing hundreds of people every week to seeing no one but my immediate family.

 

[00:10:51.450] So in October, I heard that the Northern Lights would actually be visible from my new city, Calgary. So the following day, I got up at 04:00 a.m. Searching for the Aurora Borealis. I got out of bed and snuck out of my house. I jumped in my vehicle and drove outside the city and onto a gravel road where no lights would interfere. There were no other cars on the road, and it was pitch-black outside. I veered off the road and parked in a farmer’s field. I turned off all the lights and got out of the vehicle. The air was cold and there wasn’t a soul in sight. I was all alone. I could feel my anxiety bubbling up. The only noise I could hear was the crunching sound of the frozen grass under my feet as I walked onto the field. I started scanning the sky for the Northern Lights.

 

[00:11:59.610] Bree:

Brigitte is in the dark, looking up at the sky. She’s feeling anxious and alone, just like she had at 17 years old. And then she realizes that she’s not all alone.

 

[00:12:13.530] Brigitte: And that’s when I heard…yep, coyotes howling. And now anxiety was accompanied by fear! But I stayed put, standing alone in the middle of a farmer’s field in the darkness, searching for inspiration. And I was scanning the sky back and forth and back and forth, and I saw a wave of pale gray and bluish tint in the sky. At first, I wasn’t sure if they were the Northern lights or not, because they were significantly dimmer than what I had seen in the past. So I stared and stared and waited and waited for the lights to get brighter. But they didn’t. I felt so disappointed. I wanted to see and feel that same brilliant dancing light that had inspired me almost 40 years ago. But the lights stayed barely visible. After 30 minutes of waiting and watching, I suddenly remembered hearing that with age, your eyes cannot see the colors of the Northern lights as well as they used to. But if you take a picture with your camera, it will capture the vibrant colors. So I grabbed my cell phone, lifted it up and snapped a few pictures. And with my hands shaking from the cold, because by then I was frozen.

 

[00:14:00.150] I looked at the photo and there they were. Blue, green, pink. The pictures were awesome. I once again lifted my head and looked at the skies. And although my eyes could not see the vibrant colors, I could see all the beautiful souls that have now left my world. My dad, my grandparents, cousins, friends…they were all there in the skies, dancing and trying to communicate with me to let me know I was not alone. Now, my 17-year-old eyes had sharp sight, but they did not possess the depth of my 56-year-old eyes that could see the mystical powers of the Northern lights.

 

[00:15:04.190] Bree: Even though Brigitte’s business and her entire life really have been totally changed by COVID, she is optimistic. After all this time of having to keep ourselves closed up and alone, Brigitte thinks that we’re going to now experience an era when people want to live intensely and experience the beauty in this world. She’s currently working on a new business, mixing her love of travel and storytelling. And as promised, here are her tips on how you can tell better stories.

 

[00:15:38.570] Brigitte: So the first thing is always the obvious. In a story, there’s a beginning, a middle, and an end. So for it to be a story, something has to change. If you don’t change or something doesn’t change in your story, then you’re just talking. And then I write the story and I kind of like just daydream about it and look up meanings of words and research like the Northern lights, what do they mean? And all of a sudden it will pop out at you like it just jumps at you the direction that you have to take. And then record yourself and listen to it and then all of a sudden it will take a much bigger meaning than what you had first intended.

[00:16:41] Bree: If you want more information about Brigitte, her company, and podcast, I will leave you a link in the show notes.

[00:16:48] Okay, folks, if you would like to join our community and hear me go further into the psychology side of each episode. And also speak more personally about the lessons I learned from our storytellers. Then you can join our newsletter. Just visit into the story podcast.com. And click subscribe. It’s totally free.

[00:17:09] Okay. That’s all for today. And until the next episode, I hope that you have a good time or at least a good story to tell.

[00:00:00] Bree: Hi there listeners. Today, Brigitte is going to tell us a story about searching for the Northern Lights, also known as the Aurora Borealis in English. We all feel a bit lost and alone sometimes. And when Brigitte was 17 years old, her family lost everything. So, her father decided to move the entire family from Quebec, which is a French-speaking province in eastern Canada, to a city in northern Alberta, which is a very gold, very English-speaking part of western Canada.

[00:01:19] Brigitte: We were so close to the North Pole that the sun would be up in the skies for maybe four or five hours a day. That was a real nightmare for an outgoing teenager like me.

[00:01:33] Bree: Now, nearly 40 years later, she again finds herself in a similar place, feeling lonely and lost. Let’s find out how both times the Northern Lights helped Brigitte feel more connected and helped her find her way.

[00:01:48] Brigitte has a business that helps brands and individuals create and share their stories. At the end of today’s episode, she’ll give us tips on how to tell better stories, so, make sure to stick around until the end. 

Please make sure to click the follow button on your podcast app so that you never miss a new episode of the show. And as always, it’s free.

[00:02:12] Bree: Okay. It’s time to look at five words and expressions that, Brigitte, uses in today’s story. 

Firstly, we have the verb to uproot. To uproot literally means to pull up an entire plant, the roots included. It can also be used to talk about a person being uprooted, which means they move away from their culture or their country. Brigitte talks about her father uprooting the entire family and moving to a new city. To uproot next.

[00:02:55.030] First Nations. First Nations is a term used to refer to certain groups of people who are Indigenous to North America. First Nations are Peoples who lived on these lands thousands of years before Canada even became a nation. Today, Brigitte talks about First Nations belief, about the Northern lights.

 

[00:03:19.950] Bree: And then we have pitch-black or pitch-dark. So both of these terms mean completely dark. It’s used to describe a place with no light at all. Some people can only sleep in pitch-black or pitch-dark, so they close the curtains. Pitch-black.

 

[00:03:41.430] And now we have a phrasal verb to stay put. To stay put means to not move position. So when I’m in a parking lot with my son and I have to put things in the car, I tell him to stay put, which means do not move. To stay put.

 

[00:04:03.030] And finally, the word dim. So if a light is dim, it means it’s low. It doesn’t give or have much light. So in a fancy restaurant, the lights are dim. Brigitte talks about the Northern lights being dimmer when she tries to find them as an adult. Dim.

 

[00:04:24.330] In addition to these words and expressions, you have an extended vocabulary list, the transcript, and a quiz on our website, acingles.com. You’ll see a link in the show notes. Okay, let’s get into the story.

 

[00:04:40.590] Brigitte: Sometimes we need a little magic. And twice in my life, I witnessed the mystical powers of the Northern lights. In 1982, my parents lost everything: their home, their business, all of their investments. So my dad decided to uproot our family and move from Quebec to Fort McMurray, Alberta, Canada. Now, these two provinces are part of the same country, but their cultures could not be any more different. Quebec is a French-speaking province and has European roots, and it’s even sometimes referred to as Parisians of the north. While Alberta is English speaking and with many resemblances to the American cultures and values that revolve around oil and gas.

 

[00:05:38.550] So I was 17 years old. I had just graduated from high school. I had to leave behind my boyfriend, my friends, my large extended family. And I did not know anyone in Fort McMurray, and did not speak a word of English. And no one, and I mean no one, spoke French except for my family. That was a real nightmare for an outgoing teenager like me.

 

[00:06:09.090] And then things got even worse. When winter arrived. It was unbelievable. Often the temperature would dip below -40 degrees Celsius. Some days, the air was so cold that a thick fog would freeze, making it difficult to see anything or even cross the street. It was so cold that the tires on my parents’ car would freeze to the ground. And then when we would start driving, it was as if you had square tires. Clunk, clunk, clunk. We were so close to the North Pole that the sun would be up in the sky for maybe four or five hours a day. It felt like it was dark all the time. I missed my beautiful hometown so much. This place was frigid. It was dark, and I was lonely and depressed.

 

[00:07:12.570] Bree: Brigitte finds herself in this very small city with subarctic climate, surrounded by boreal forest. Even for a Canadian, I can tell you that Fort McMurray is a very cold, very isolated part of the country. She’s feeling disconnected and misses her hometown a lot.

 

[00:07:33.750] Brigitte: One night in December, I bundled up and went outside for a walk. The air was so cold, it froze the hair in my nose, and my eyelashes formed icicles. But then I saw the most spectacular lights in the sky. I had never, ever seen the Northern lights before. The magnificent colors waving and dancing in the skies were absolutely stunning. I stood on the sidewalk, freezing and mesmerized by the lights in the skies. They were bright blue, pink, green, all dancing and blending together and illuminating the skies. They were so bright now. I had studied Aurora Borealis in school, but I had no idea they were this beautiful and colorful. It touched my soul, and I started changing about how I felt about this place. I later found out the Northern Lights actually have spiritual meaning. First nations believe that the Northern Lights are created by our ancestors trying to communicate with us through the Northern Lights. They believe that we can feel their presence and know that they’re still here with us. I was only 17 years old, so I never had lost anyone close to me. And although the legend touched me, I did not fully understand the deep meaning of it.

 

[00:09:19.290] But what the lights did do was make me see the beauty of where I was, and it became home. Now, as a kid and a teenager, I loved public speaking and storytelling. I was even a DJ in my high school, but it took me years to master English, but I eventually built enough confidence to become a speaker and a storyteller again. In 2012, I created a company called Women Talk, where just ordinary women would come and share their stories. By 2019, I had 13 locations across Canada hosting monthly events.

 

[00:10:02.850] Bree: The beauty of the Northern Lights had helped Brigitte find a feeling of home. It then took years of mastering English, but in 2019, she had reached a lot of success in her business. Brigitte felt happy with where she was in life.

 

[00:10:20.190] Brigitte: And then BAM COVID-19 hit. I lost it all. History was repeating itself. By the fall of 2020, I once again found myself lonely and depressed. COVID-19 had closed my business and isolated me once again. I went from seeing hundreds of people every week to seeing no one but my immediate family.

 

[00:10:51.450] So in October, I heard that the Northern Lights would actually be visible from my new city, Calgary. So the following day, I got up at 04:00 a.m. Searching for the Aurora Borealis. I got out of bed and snuck out of my house. I jumped in my vehicle and drove outside the city and onto a gravel road where no lights would interfere. There were no other cars on the road, and it was pitch-black outside. I veered off the road and parked in a farmer’s field. I turned off all the lights and got out of the vehicle. The air was cold and there wasn’t a soul in sight. I was all alone. I could feel my anxiety bubbling up. The only noise I could hear was the crunching sound of the frozen grass under my feet as I walked onto the field. I started scanning the sky for the Northern Lights.

 

[00:11:59.610] Bree:

Brigitte is in the dark, looking up at the sky. She’s feeling anxious and alone, just like she had at 17 years old. And then she realizes that she’s not all alone.

 

[00:12:13.530] Brigitte: And that’s when I heard…yep, coyotes howling. And now anxiety was accompanied by fear! But I stayed put, standing alone in the middle of a farmer’s field in the darkness, searching for inspiration. And I was scanning the sky back and forth and back and forth, and I saw a wave of pale gray and bluish tint in the sky. At first, I wasn’t sure if they were the Northern lights or not, because they were significantly dimmer than what I had seen in the past. So I stared and stared and waited and waited for the lights to get brighter. But they didn’t. I felt so disappointed. I wanted to see and feel that same brilliant dancing light that had inspired me almost 40 years ago. But the lights stayed barely visible. After 30 minutes of waiting and watching, I suddenly remembered hearing that with age, your eyes cannot see the colors of the Northern lights as well as they used to. But if you take a picture with your camera, it will capture the vibrant colors. So I grabbed my cell phone, lifted it up and snapped a few pictures. And with my hands shaking from the cold, because by then I was frozen.

 

[00:14:00.150] I looked at the photo and there they were. Blue, green, pink. The pictures were awesome. I once again lifted my head and looked at the skies. And although my eyes could not see the vibrant colors, I could see all the beautiful souls that have now left my world. My dad, my grandparents, cousins, friends…they were all there in the skies, dancing and trying to communicate with me to let me know I was not alone. Now, my 17-year-old eyes had sharp sight, but they did not possess the depth of my 56-year-old eyes that could see the mystical powers of the Northern lights.

 

[00:15:04.190] Bree: Even though Brigitte’s business and her entire life really have been totally changed by COVID, she is optimistic. After all this time of having to keep ourselves closed up and alone, Brigitte thinks that we’re going to now experience an era when people want to live intensely and experience the beauty in this world. She’s currently working on a new business, mixing her love of travel and storytelling. And as promised, here are her tips on how you can tell better stories.

 

[00:15:38.570] Brigitte: So the first thing is always the obvious. In a story, there’s a beginning, a middle, and an end. So for it to be a story, something has to change. If you don’t change or something doesn’t change in your story, then you’re just talking. And then I write the story and I kind of like just daydream about it and look up meanings of words and research like the Northern lights, what do they mean? And all of a sudden it will pop out at you like it just jumps at you the direction that you have to take. And then record yourself and listen to it and then all of a sudden it will take a much bigger meaning than what you had first intended.

[00:16:41] Bree: If you want more information about Brigitte, her company, and podcast, I will leave you a link in the show notes.

[00:16:48] Okay, folks, if you would like to join our community and hear me go further into the psychology side of each episode. And also speak more personally about the lessons I learned from our storytellers. Then you can join our newsletter. Just visit into the story podcast.com. And click subscribe. It’s totally free.

[00:17:09] Okay. That’s all for today. And until the next episode, I hope that you have a good time or at least a good story to tell.

Episode's vocabulary List

*vocabulary featured in podcast

*UPROOT: Pull something—especially a tree or plant—out of the ground.
Examples: “The strong winds uprooted the old tree.” or “They had to uproot the weeds from the garden.”

Metaphorically: to move (someone) from their home or a familiar location.
Examples: “His family was uprooted when they moved to a new city.” or “The war uprooted many families from their homes.”

*OUTGOING: Friendly and socially confident.
Examples: “She is very outgoing and makes friends easily.” or “His outgoing personality makes him popular at parties.”

BUNDLE UP: To dress warmly.
Examples: “It’s cold outside, so make sure to bundle up.” or “They bundled up in coats and scarves before going out into the snow.”

*FIRST NATIONS: Indigenous peoples that are the original inhabitants of the land that is now Canada. Examples: “First Nations have a rich cultural heritage and history.” or “The government works with First Nations to preserve their traditions.”

*PITCH-BLACK: Completely dark.
Examples: “The night was pitch-black without any stars.” or “The power outage left the house in pitch-black darkness.”

*STAY PUT: To not move or go anywhere.
Examples: “She told the dog to stay put while she answered the door.” or “During the storm, we decided to stay put at home.”

*DIM: Not shining brightly or clearly.
Examples: “The room was lit by a dim lamp.” or “The dim light made it hard to read.”

DAYDREAM: A series of pleasant thoughts that distract one’s attention from the present.
Examples: “She often daydreams during class, thinking about her next vacation.” or “Lost in a daydream, he didn’t hear his name being called.”

*vocabulary featured in podcast

*UPROOT: Pull something—especially a tree or plant—out of the ground.
Examples: “The strong winds uprooted the old tree.” or “They had to uproot the weeds from the garden.”

Metaphorically: to move (someone) from their home or a familiar location.
Examples: “His family was uprooted when they moved to a new city.” or “The war uprooted many families from their homes.”

*OUTGOING: Friendly and socially confident.
Examples: “She is very outgoing and makes friends easily.” or “His outgoing personality makes him popular at parties.”

BUNDLE UP: To dress warmly.
Examples: “It’s cold outside, so make sure to bundle up.” or “They bundled up in coats and scarves before going out into the snow.”

*FIRST NATIONS: Indigenous peoples that are the original inhabitants of the land that is now Canada. Examples: “First Nations have a rich cultural heritage and history.” or “The government works with First Nations to preserve their traditions.”

*PITCH-BLACK: Completely dark.
Examples: “The night was pitch-black without any stars.” or “The power outage left the house in pitch-black darkness.”

*STAY PUT: To not move or go anywhere.
Examples: “She told the dog to stay put while she answered the door.” or “During the storm, we decided to stay put at home.”

*DIM: Not shining brightly or clearly.
Examples: “The room was lit by a dim lamp.” or “The dim light made it hard to read.”

DAYDREAM: A series of pleasant thoughts that distract one’s attention from the present.
Examples: “She often daydreams during class, thinking about her next vacation.” or “Lost in a daydream, he didn’t hear his name being called.”

Listening Comprehension Test

Take the quiz to find out how much of this story you have understood.

More about Brigitte Lessard

Into the Story Podcast. Ep.36 - Brigitte behind a wall of ice brick

Brigitte Lessard behind a perfect ice brick wall

Into the Story podcast episode 36. The Northen lights photo

The Northern Lights

Brigitte Lessard is the founder of Women Talk, an organization dedicated to empowering women to share their stories. She now runs The Story Warrior, where she helps people in sharing their personal stories.

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