Olympia, 1987: Wrong-sized Star

(Note: though these events are all in front of me, in written form, culled from my journals of last summer, any attempt to put them into the order of their occurrence seems to get undermined, again and again. Perhaps this is in the nature of memory itself, which seems to have its own needs for narrative structure, over and beyond any mere chronology of fact. Perhaps it is more a matter of the language that I’ve formed them from, or into, which dictates what is included or excluded. The journal is in fact kind of a mess, sprawling and unruly, and as I wrote these entries initially, their recollection wouldn’t keep to any convenient timeline, no matter how hard I tried to follow one for my own mnemonic purposes. Events would not keep in order, but came as they would. Hence the following was among the last that I actually remembered, though it comes in time before the previous entry.)

In my sophomore year at college, I lived in the small city of Olympia, WA. This was in 1987 and for most of that year, I was living in a very odd, shared apartment complex near the county jail. This rather barren neighborhood was situated atop the mostly undeveloped plateau, from where I could take a long, stepped pathway down the side of the hill, through a wooded slope to a wide road and an area which opened out onto a lake. The road led into or out of downtown, the lights of which shone in the darkness directly across the water, about a mile away. Rail tracks also ran though this flat area, and a land-bridge crossed the water for the railway, leading to a switchyard and into the city. I walked this route often, following the tracks into town to read or write at the local coffee shop. Twice I jumped onto slow-moving freight trains to to town. The first time I got away with it. The second time, I didn’t, and I never tried that trick again. This would have been in the wintertime, and not long after Whitley Strieber’s Communion had been released.

I’d just bought a copy in hardback from a shopping mall bookstore. I’d felt compelled at seeing that famous face on the cover, which I remember seemed so very familiar at the time. This response is by now a familiar trope among contactees, I’m well aware, though I didn’t at the time feel as if I knew that woman, or believed I had any experience with grays. Rather it seemed – or it seems now, after long reflection – as if I’d already been saturated with that image in media. Yet I don’t think that was yet the case. The ubiquity of that almond-eyed face came later, as a result of the book and its cover, among other things, but that hadn’t happened yet. At the time of this experience I was then reading Communion, and it was having a profound effect on me. I was fascinated and utterly terrified (which I believe is a very precise definition of the numinous).

On this particular night, I walked back from the coffeehouse along my usual route to my apartment on the hill, along the rails and over the land bridge. It was cold and damp, but not for the moment raining. I smoked a lot of dope at the time, and so I was probably at least a little bit stoned. I remember as I approached the train yard at the outskirts of downtown, I looked up into the clear night sky and saw, among the usual array of stars, one especially large, flat, shimmering disc of light. It was white, having liquid-like edges that, though generally hard and circular, wobbled and shifted. It acted much the same, optically, as any star seen through the atmosphere would, only enlarged to some ridiculous proportion. Size-wise, the disc was much larger than any other star in the sky, yet it was smaller than the moon would normally seem. There was no moon visible in the sky that night. I remember thinking at the time that it must be Jupiter. I certainly did not think it was a UFO, or anything all that unusual… except that it was so big, and oddly shimmering, with that uncertain edge. I had the chance to watch it for quite a long time. It hung directly ahead and above me for much of the walk back home – through the rail yard, over the land bridge and back to the road – and it never once changed its position or behaved in any other way strangely. It was just like any normal star, only much, much bigger, as if optically enlarged. And though I was likely reading Communion on that particular night, I did not at the time see this thing in terms of any such phenomena. That association only came later, on reflection, perhaps by several years. It seems such a minor thing in itself, but the memory of it has stayed with me vividly for these past twenty five years as some sort of marker, to indicate this particular point in my life.