Northern Lights / Courtesy Wikimedia Commons

It’s always seemed amazing that Darwin figured out his theory of natural selection on a boat called the Beagle. It’s impossible to imagine humans as varied as dogs are. There are so many, so vastly different varieties of dog. Breeding the “modern dog” was really taking off in Darwin’s day as rich dudes wanted an advantage in hunting and a hobby to occupy their time.

Any time we care for a plant or animal, its varieties proliferate. The Incas had 500 kinds of potato; we have thousands of strains of weed. But as with natural selection, certain varieties get lost and disappear from an area altogether. Back before it was legal, strains of sketchy lineage would come through and disappear. But there were some big ones. A friend who runs a farm outside of Denver said that many of his grower buddies are obsessed with Skunk #1. It was everywhere, the dominant strain for years, but then, like a song played on the radio too often for too long, everyone was sick of it, eager for novelty.

As legalization rolled in, it was nowhere to be found. Now if it exists, it exists outside of the ecology and economy of the legit weed market. That, and memory, make these horticulturists passionately curious, nostalgic even, about finding the big bud of their youth—like when you rediscover songs that moved you as a child. It’s Proustian, sometimes—a bong hit of a certain strain brings memories of other times and places viscerally flooding in.

That happened to me recently when I smoked some Northern Lights. It’s one of the most famous strains in the world. It’s our generation’s Maui Wowie or Acapulco Gold, the kind of weed that gets referenced on sitcoms and square movies.

The buds of this indica knock-out punch look a bit dingy at first. On closer inspection, they are like a fall landscape, all tawny and dead. They smell like ammonia, pine, and deadhead pheromones. It tastes brilliant, possessing a brightness that’s rare in indicas, like a lemon without the sour, if you can imagine that.

Northern Lights has a highly reflective high, putting me almost on the nod as I think about Darwin and a dog smoking a bowl on a boat looking up as the Northern Lights flash across the sky and I remember my youth without being crushed by the weight of age or hatred of my younger, stupider self. Evolution.

  • Strength: 6
  • Nose: Ammonia, pine, and deadhead pheromones
  • Euphoria: 7
  • Existential dread: 3
  • Freaking out when a crazy person approaches you: 3
  • Drink pairing: The funkiest, most floral IPA you can find
  • Music pairing: Lacy J. Dalton & Willie Nelson’s ‘Slow Movin’ Outlaw’
  • Rating: 7

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