Additive, Responsive Shape

In the summer of 1988, I’d come back home to Bellevue following my junior year in college and met up with my high school friend Eric and his girlfriend Leigh. We were going to the movies. The film was “Who Framed Roger Rabbit?” and was playing at the Crossroads Cinema. With Eric driving and Leigh in the front passenger seat, I sat alone in the back. Along the way, we’d parked the car in a field about a mile from the theater to smoke some grass before driving the rest of the way in, so we were kind of high as we approached the cinema. As we drove through the suburban traffic, my eyes stayed fixed on an orange shape low in the sky, almost directly above where we were going. I don’t remember that anything seemed all that strange to me about it – it was simply an orange circle in the sky, more or less moon-sized – but one of us mentioned it, and another said, “Oh, what, that? The moon?” “Not the moon… it has a flashing light under it.” I looked at the shape again and saw the flashing light, which was at the end of a long, silver pole that hung from its underside, and that I could swear had not been there before. But now that it had been mentioned, I saw it clearly. Eric, I believe, then added, “What, the oval-shaped thing?” Oval-shaped? I’d been looking straight at it and seen it as circular, but now that Eric had said this, the thing was unmistakably an oval. (My memory of these particulars of who said what, and what first, about what qualities, is very blurry – but the salient point being that each of us saw some different feature about it, some feature that the others hadn’t, and as we each described that particular thing, it became not only visible but obvious). As we neared the theater, we also got closer toward it. It hung maybe one hundred feet above and just across the street from where we were going. Now, close up, as Eric parked the car in the lot, I could see a great deal more about this object.

It glowed a luminous, saturated orange-red all throughout its Madeleine-shaped* body, nowhere any dimmer nor any brighter along its structure, but evenly and brilliantly, though not brightly, lit. The shape was, horizontally, teardrop-like, and with a rounded top that tapered down evenly in proportion to its width, while the bottom was, overall, flatter, though with a pronounced domelike bump at the center. Circling around the midpoint of this bottom dome was a red spot, more intense than its lighted surrounds. It’s motion was machinelike and absolutely perfect. This struck me as an eye, and though nothing more than a red dot, it seemed yet to express something very complex about what was inside or behind this thing, an exquisite and bizarre intelligence that was at once a machine, a plasma, and/or something organic. The metal pole with the flashing light projected straight down from this bulge, and the whole craft seemed perhaps 30 feet long. It simply floated there, above what was maybe an apartment complex, and it made no sound. The busy suburban shopping mall and its surrounds, at 7 or 8 o’clock on a summer’s evening, did not seem the least affected by the presence of this object: people went on about their business while traffic moved steadily underneath the it along the crowded thoroughfare.

I couldn’t take my eyes off it. I got out from the car first as Leigh and Eric lingered over something. I couldn’t tell what was holding them up, but it gave me some time to watch the object closely, to observe how it moved in a slow, controlled drift forward. It seemed I had a telepathic connection to the object, and I remember thinking that that was how it should work. Had I read about this somewhere before? But as I thought toward the object, move to the left, or, now turn right, it would do so, and very suddenly, yet still in very slight, little movements. My friends by now had gone to stand in line to buy tickets, and so I went to join them, yet still I kept my eye on the object, which they seemed to have no further interest in at all. Finally, I said out loud, though more to myself than anyone else, “What is that thing?” Somebody in the line ahead overheard me and turned around, took a look up and down at me, and said belligerently, “Don’t you know the Goodyear blimp when you see it!?” It struck me though as particularly odd how angry he was. I didn’t respond – I couldn’t think of how to respond, because obviously this wasn't that, no matter how stoned I was.

We went into the movie, and nothing more was said about it. When some time later, after a year or two had passed, I happened to run into Eric and Leigh again on the street in Seattle. We’d not been in touch for a while, and there was a bit of an awkward chill between us by then, likely from simply growing apart. I asked Eric if he remembered seeing that thing that one night. He either didn’t remember or didn’t think it worth considering, but evaded the question. He even seemed to have a hint of contempt toward me for bringing it up at all.**

*The reference to a Madeleine cookie only occurred to me some few years later when, standing at the check out line at a Starbucks at that same mall, I saw on a point-of-purchase display these neat little cellophane packages with single cookies inside, hung from the wire rack, and I thought excitedly, that’s exactly what it looked like! I learned the name of the cookie because it was printed on the package. The only major difference in shape between them was that the cookie had ridges running along the gently-sloping side, whereas the top of the object had been completely smooth.

**At the time that I first wrote this account, which was about a year ago, this latter encounter with my friends in Seattle seemed perfectly clear. Now, as I’m reading through and editing this entry, I don’t remember asking Eric about the object at all. I don’t think I’ve simply made this part of it up (as in, to make a better story of it), yet at the same time I can’t entirely rule that out either. But why would I? The point of writing these journals was not to impress anybody, and I did not at the time intend to publish them. It is as if that specific memory has been altered or removed in the act of recounting it.


1981, Olympic Mountain Range

In the summer of 1981, when I was fourteen years old, I saw something that was more than my imagination or any willingness to misinterpret events and delude myself. I remember it vividly, though perhaps with many distortions by now… but it remains the event that marked me at a time when I was ripe for it, needed it, and it has shaped me indelibly and suggested a deep sense of purpose, though that purpose has always been at best rather vague. At worst, I’ve felt its seeming lack. I’ve still to this day never heard anyone else quite describe the thing or things that I saw that summer night, despite the immensity of it, and partly for this reason I’m left to feel that it was meant for me, as something intensely personal. I’ve since seen how these events can seem to communicate very specific if symbolic messages to different people at the same time, with tremendous economy – which suggests a vast intelligence, among other things – but this seems to have been for myself.

We would’ve had the vacation house on Whidbey for only a short time then, a year or so, and I don’t think I’d had yet the alienation from my childhood friends that would make me want to avoid them. Yet on that visit, I didn’t bring any of them along; I went with my parents and their friend Stu. My sister, then nineteen, would have distanced herself from the family, so she was not present either. I remember little of the daytime: I could have spent it rowing our small, plastic dingy over the nearby body of water we called the “lagoon” or walked alone along the beach, or spent the day reading quietly in a corner of the house. We had (and still have) a telescope on a tripod kept near the front picture windows that look out over the Puget Sound, across to the small city of Port Townsend and beyond that, the Olympic Mountain range.

At some point not especially late in the evening we all went to bed. I was sleeping in the loft above the master bedroom and its adjoining bathroom, which was the only bathroom in the house. When I woke up in the middle of the night and needed to urinate, it meant that I had to climb down the set of steep steps to ground level and skirt along the edge of the main living area, with its picture windows. This night, something caught my eye outside. I went to the window and saw across the water, far in the distance, yet so immense that it stretched seemingly as long as the entire length of the far-off mountains, a dully luminous orange-red “cloud” hanging in the sky. It would have been miles across. It didn’t have any sort of mechanical structure, but it wasn’t exactly all that cloud-like either. Rather, it had the appearance of a wide, flat paintbrush stroke slapped against the dark sky as though it were a two-dimensional canvas, and had a variety of tones within it of deep orange to red, perhaps amber. It was a wide, bent line, down at its edges, and the edges had a sort of stylized feathering to them, while the top and bottom lines of this shape was clean and distinct. These colors glowed, but not brightly. It almost seemed wet. They were the only light visible in the sky.

I stood at the window for a time and watched this thing, not especially astonished but curious. Mildly curious. I remembered the purpose that had gotten me out of bed, and so went into the bathroom, then came out afterwards into the kitchen area for a glass of water. I should add that this, getting a glass of water in the middle of the night, was something unusual for me at the time; it is something I almost never did, and so to do this on this particular evening is significant. It was as if something were directing me to do this, and for a reason that became apparent later. When I went back to the window to look again at this strange thing outside, it had changed, just in the time while I’d been the bathroom. The large cloud/paint-splatter shape had been replaced or changed into a discreet, much smaller shape, one that was geometrically regular and clearly of intelligent design. This was an L- or boomerang-shape made of the same dull orange-red light, consisting of two circles at one end, an angle of the same width as the circles and rounded at the ends and outer corner, as though drawn from the curve of these same circles but extended, and then terminated by two more circles, also the same size. With my glass of water in hand, I though to look at this shape more closely through the telescope, and so trained it toward the light with my eye to the eyepiece. I saw through its lens the same shape, enlarged, and noticed that it was moving, drifting very slowly to the right, more or less the north, its lowest edge just beginning to disappear behind the foothills of the mountains. Clearly, though much smaller than its earlier incarnation, this thing was huge, conceivably a quarter-mile or more to each of its “arms”, as the foothills behind which it was descending were perhaps fifty miles away. Like the first shape, this one also appeared completely flat – and not only because it was so distant. To it, the sky seemed like a page of drafting paper, facing me, showing me its perfect geometry without the distortion of perspective.

What is both unusual and distinctly common of experiences like this, so I’ve read, is the mildness of my response to it at the time. Though I was curious about this thing that I was seeing, knowing it to be unusual, my response was tepid, lacking any of the astonishment or fear or disbelief that might seem called for. After watching this new shape for a minute or two, I set my half-finished glass back on the kitchen counter and went back up to bed, where I fell immediately asleep.

In the morning I found the glass where I’d left it and knew that I’d been awake in the night. I’d not been dreaming. I’d seen this object through a lens, and the lens had magnified the image. What I’d seen had therefore had the properties of light, and behaved consistently as light would. It was as if these small tests of the reality of the thing had been determined beforehand and fed into me, so that I would perform them and know that this had actually happened, and that I had seen something that was actually there. But I’d not thought of this at the time; I had only done what it occurred to me to do, though these actions at the time had an odd significance, as though I were responding to suggestions of deep meaning. It was only then that I began to think of how strange this whole thing had been. I remember telling my parents and their friend over breakfast that I’d seen something very odd, and described it to them. I don’t think my parents had any reaction to this whatever, though I remember Stu looking at me, her mouth hanging open, eyes wide and alarmed, though but for only a moment. The subject was immediately dropped and I knew better than to make any further mention of it.


The Acorn and the Bumble Bee

Out of what is mostly otherwise a haze of forgetting, a couple of moments in my early childhood I retain with clarity. I don’t know what if any importance to attach to these memories, other than they are among the few that remain. They stand out more or less on their own and with little context, and seem more like dreams than anything else. But I don’t remember them as dreams. I remember them as moments of waking reality where the rules were bent, as if in early childhood this sort of liminality were normally possible to a larger extent than anytime later.

In the first image, I was very young – maybe five at the most – and it was a warm summer day. I stood outside the front door of my house, where I’d just come running out, perhaps following after other friends in the neighborhood. (Note: this is a bit of a disconnect here, because I don’t remember at that time having any neighborhood friends; that would come some years later.) As soon as I’d run through the door, however, I stopped very suddenly at the very top of the porch steps. For some reason, I was compelled to do this, just as I was similarly compelled next to raise my right hand, my index finger pointing straight up at the sky. After standing for a moment like this, something quickly dropped from above and attached itself to the tip of my finger. This looked like an acorn, but it acted and felt more like an insect. The rounded bottom part of the “acorn” was a mouth that opened and firmly fastened onto the finger that I’d unwittingly, yet seemingly so deliberately offered it. Something inside of the “acorn” pierced the tip of my finger like a needle. That is as much as I remember. Before this had happened, I’d never paid any particular notice to acorns, but afterwards, whenever I saw any on the ground, or still attached to the tree, they seemed very odd to me. They seemed reduced, somehow wrong because they weren’t animated. They didn’t have a mouth with a sharp tooth inside, or behave at all like the one that I’d first encountered.

The next image is from some time later, though I am still quite young and quite small. There was a corner of the sill of our large front window, where, closest to the front door and the entryway, there lay a dead bumble bee. I remember being impressed by the size and the strange fuzziness of this kind of bee, which was unlike all other bees. Over the course of several days, I would often return to look closely at this corpse, which lay otherwise unnoticed by anyone else in the house and undisturbed. One day, however, when I went to check in on the body, it had been replaced. In its place was a simulacrum, a stuffed-animal version of itself that was much larger, but similarly hairy as its actual counterpart. But this replacement was obviously a stylized fake – even a little kid like me could see that. Made from cloth, it had a crown-like collar around the narrower throat separating its head from its abdomen. This collar was cut along the outside with triangles in a radiant star pattern of many points, and had concentric rings of contrasting hue. Its face had sewn- or glued-on eyes made of discs of similar thick material. I remember feeling shock: someone older, my parents or perhaps my older sister, was aware of my interest in this dead insect and had played a trick on me. My world felt suddenly insecure in a fundamental way, as if I could no longer trust it.


Intrusions of the Numinous: A Statement of Intent

I join a chorus of voices, of people who tell their stories in a public format of encounters with the paranormal. I hope I am not, by my actions, derivative. Though I have certainly been inspired by these others, I speak only of my own experiences. I fear I may have the appearance of jumping onto a certain kind of bandwagon. If it seems that I’m doing so, or if maybe I am doing so, then perhaps my motives are not so different from anyone else’s: the availability of the format, a timeliness to the subject, a desire to add my voice to the conversation… and moreover, a species of compulsion, in my case quiet but insistent.

The basis for these postings is the content of a journal that I kept, as of now, about one year ago, in the spring and summer of 2011. I tried then to put my memories down, as clearly as I could, of a few major and several minor events – basically all that I could remember – of a certain character or quality. Some of these are things that have haunted me for most of my life, and I believe that they have shaped me in some important way. I can’t draw many conclusions yet about how they’ve shaped me, whether helpful or not so, or what the true measure of that may be; just that these intrusions have come to reside at the center of who I consider myself to be, and how I relate to the world. In that sense, they are important, though I don’t know that they are always real.

I’ve been hesitant to make these encounters public for any number of reasons. Hardly the least of which is that, compared to many stories, they just don’t stack up for dramatic content. I’ve never, to my direct knowledge, been abducted by anything or anyone unworldly (though someone quite human did try to abduct me as a child – which is a different story). Rather, the phenomenon remains at a certain distance, showing through, revealing itself by teasing, beguiling turns, through rents or clefts in the fabric of the normal (hence, I guess, the para-) and is, by this ontology, very highly erotic – not only in its actions, but in my reactions. I hunger for these experiences, though I doubt them. I’ve not had nearly enough. I want more, and I don’t trust myself in the face of my desire. Yet none of this seems to influence how or when it chooses to show itself.

Yet as distant as these appearances are, they are also deep inside of me, in the stuff of who I am, most especially in the voice of imagination. Nothing could get closer than that. Being basically a creative person, this is the source of what I am usually trying to express, the aspect that moves in oblique angles to those elements of a given fact or situation presenting itself as the real. I wouldn’t dare to deny what is true, nor would I ever be satisfied with what is merely so. This tendency may have no source beyond myself, but then I have never known exactly what that is either.