A Mist or Matter [Part 2, that is, as in, more, continued…]

The period of time in which I so often saw these falling stars, since it seems defined by their frequency, is maybe a thing worth thinking about. If I’ve learned anything in the keeping of these journals, and later on, these postings, it’s that of the majority of my “encounters” – if even such a word is the word applicable here, which it isn’t – the thing seen is important in the context into which it inserts itself; that these intersections of the supranormal (even if it were often only the idea of such) are like little color-flags stuck into the pages of my life’s book at points of interest, moments in which the plot turns, the main character becomes a little more seasoned, a little less bothersome, perhaps a bit more like someone you’d want to talk to.

From 2006 until 2009, or thereabouts, it was a time of redefinition and starting over, and starting over yet again. After a disastrous marriage and failed business venture, I needed to find a new career, or at least something with a living wage attached to it, and had no idea where to go. I’d had a career in design before all of that, but it had run out – just simply run out. Then I thought I’d found my stride afterwards in filmmaking, a childhood dream, but that dead-ended also. I’d left Seattle and lived for a short while on a sailboat in Redondo, CA, trying to think of how to start looking for a new life, where it occurred to me – rocking back and forth on the waves in the marina, waiting to hear back on the slew of resum├ęs and demo reels that I’d driven twelve hundred miles to hand-deliver, now watching some absolutely uninteresting cooking show on a portable tv – that I could go back to school (yet again) and learn to cook professionally. It was a stupid idea. I had no background, demonstrable ability, not even any particular interest in cooking at all, and what’s more, every single punter in America seemed to have come up with exactly the same idea at the same time, although I didn’t understand that yet. But a year and a half later I still had no better idea, in fact no other idea at all, so I did it, and it was in the midst of this whole process of deciding and taking action that the stars, I noticed, started falling out of the sky. I moved to Rhinebeck, New York, where the stars also fell, usually as I drove home at night after classes, and once even a fireball went shooting lazily over the highway. While on my externship in Colorado, I saw a tongue of cartoon flame form and vanish in the air beside me, like Casper the Holy Ghost. This decision, more or less an arbitrary one, but one undertaken with the inanely maniacal, single-minded fervor of a robot, more for the sake of shaking things up and making some kind of desperately-needed change than for the knowledge or skill in itself (which I could almost not care about) seemed to fray the edges of the real, to pull all this fizzy marginalia out of the sky and make me think, and look, and think again, and look, if only to wonder what was going on, or if anything truly was.

Eventually, all that stuff stopped falling. I think it stopped falling. The sky has stopped falling; I’m only here now, and I have to ask, is this what happens when I step to the side, lose the path, turn orthogonally out from the constraints of a concessionary life and run counter to sense, even to my own nature? Could I make it happen for real if I were to go truly mad, and stop only playing at it? Would that help, and I am capable of such a step? Because it seems to me as if I need other magic now; that an act of will, if absurd enough, can rewrite the facts of the person, because it has to, just as it can shake out the more arbitrary facts of the sky, as if the stars were only people once, or were people now, or if they were only people.

A Mist or Matter of Sharply Dropping Stars

I would have written it off as fantasy entirely if it weren’t for two things. The first was that for every time I saw one, it seemed too much like silent but emphatic punctuation, the night sky’s underscoring to whatever thought or event of the moment, with its commentary to the effect of, “Yes, now pay attention,” or “It is so, but not quite as you think,” or some such gnomic assurance, rather like a cosmic Magic 8 Ball – but one that answers always in the affirmative, and only when it wants to. I look up into the darkness just in time to notice as a point of light at that moment drops straight down, and this happens again and again. I’m driving, I’m waiting in line, when I used to smoke I’d be outside smoking… It doesn’t shoot across the sky in a great arc, leaving a trail of vapor, as would any self-respecting meteor, but simply moves in a steady progression from point A to B, and always, from my perspective, directly down. Between the years of 2006 and 2008 or 09, it was happening a lot, or I noticed it a lot. And whenever I saw this, my mind would split and run off in opposing directions.

The myth- or mothmind, the one that has wings, would say that something somewhere has just given me a message, to clue in to what I was thinking or doing at the time; that it means something, that it’s telling me that something is right or significant. It’s a sign. The other mind, the one that’s made of ice and rocks, would tell me that I’ve just watched some ice or rocks fall through the atmosphere and get themselves changed by friction into gas, and really there’s nothing more to it than that. And then what’s more, it turns back onto the mothmind and in that admonishing tone makes a point of it: There is nothing more to it than that. As if speaking to a child.

I have internalized the entire debate.

The other reason I’ve not entirely acceded to the bullying tendencies of the rock-headed side is because the other possibility, the mothmind, has by happenstance or synchronicity found a kind of validation in an unlikely context. I’d been reading again, probably for the first time in well over a decade, Whitley Strieber’s Communion, which is full of the wonder and horror and uncertainty of some really rough treatment at the hands of some really strange people. What makes Communion an unlikely context is that, amidst all of this extreme circumstance, Whitley describes the smallest and most timorous thing: exactly the same phenomenon of looking up at the sky, and finding, as if by answer to his burning question, a single point of light drop straight down. The thing that he’d been asking for at that moment was some confirmation from his visitors that their interventions, which he’d only just become aware of, were real. Needless to say, he is sharply disappointed by this display as any sort of answer. He does not say – not in the text of the book – that he might have only seen a meteor; he tacitly accepts it for what its image suggests, which is an entirely unsatisfactory response, a lame answer to a difficult and important question. What happens in this moment for me as I read this, is that my story, my own myth, is now woven retroactively into the image-substance of Strieber’s in a way that it hadn’t been already. The mothmind takes wing, circles about the fire. It has been supplied with literary metaphor deeper than its own imagining, touching now upon an idea shared. This does not make it a literal fact or facet of visitor encounter, but it does make it something.

For Strieber, this sign was soon thereafter followed by a contact experience, in full consciousness, that was quite profound. No such thing has happened to me. Not even close. Instead, I was dogged by dropping stars for nearly three years, until, after some long time, I realized that I wasn’t seeing them any more. These came often over Whidbey Island, and just as frequently over Rhinebeck, NY – at opposite ends of the country, where I lived during the time.

One happened as I waited in the ferry line, having just come from Seattle and the first public screening of my film All My Love, late in 2006, in a small theater to about twenty people, two of whom walked out an hour into its 90 minutes (which I’m still convinced was because they’d wandered into the wrong theater – easy enough to do at this venue, and as frequently happens – and were too polite to leave any sooner). The audience, I believe – though I have never met them or known their identities, nor had the producer given me any warning that this would be the case – seemed to be made up in part by benefactors of the film, the controllers of family foundations and private donors, and judging from overheard comments, they may not have been convinced their support (or perhaps only the reasons offered, though not by me, for which their support had been solicited) was well-represented. Reactions among the small audience were mixed: my friends and colleagues liked it, while others left somewhat baffled. I went home with some profoundly ambivalent feelings, but I knew at least that I had done something. I’d put a lot of work into the film, and it was the best that I could make it at the time. Waiting in the ferry queue for the next boat, I looked up toward my destination across the water, and when I saw just then a pinprick spot of light descend from directly overhead, it seemed as if it were a silent acknowledgement, telling me that yes, something worthwhile had been accomplished, something toward the fulfillment of my purpose on earth; the work itself, yes, but moreover that it had been seen.

Aerial Light: The Lost American Highway Soul

I’ve done my share of driving. It used to be along a North/South axis between my home state of Washington and points in California, Nevada and Arizona. Finally in 2007 I broke through to the East/West axis in a significant way when I moved for a time to New York. I’d first started this driving thing a decade earlier, after living for most of a year in the west of England, where my colleague and friend Karolyn told me – my being an American – about her plan to someday come to America, to rent a car and drive it across the country. This was  how I finally came to understand something about the vast spaces that the US represents to someone in the relatively compact UK, the opportunities for emptiness and landscape unavailable in a country that can be traversed in a single day. Of course I’d read On The Road and Blue Highways. The concept of a long drive was not foreign to me; I’d even taken a few road trips myself. But it was clear that I’d never quite thought of it in the right way before, much less appreciated what was freely available to me in my own home country – a place which I’d up until then thought of as more of an international embarrassment than anything else. In America, there was space, an entire continent’s width of it, a baffling sense of scale which, if you let it, could reduce the single human ego to more or less exactly what it was: one tiny point of reference, a moving dot, a thing so easily lost sight of once the perspective is opened and the scenery, even if only partially, immersed into. The prospect of this can be absolutely terrifying, and not out of weakness or undo ego-attachment, but simply from being a vulnerable human animal. One becomes so entirely lost in it. One’s life and safety depend on the functioning of the machinery, on having enough gas in the tank.

At first I made a point of taking the small, forking roads, keeping as free from the interstate as possible. This was usually far more interesting, more varied and lively. But as these personal transits became over time more functional, and as gas prices crept higher, the journey came to be about less about the journey than the straightest line as shortest distance between points A and B. I’d come to appreciate the efficiency of the toll highways of the Midwest, with their arrangements of full-service rest stops at regular intervals designed to prevent unnecessary deviations or subjections to contingencies of velocity. A singular focus upon steady movement was, under these conditions, gained, and this was something that my soul had its hunger for, though no doubt much also had been traded out along the way.

It was along one of these toll highways, running, I believe, through Indiana – it seems to be in the nature of the thing that specifics of which state or which year or even which direction are lost – and I was either returning to Washington from New York, or I was going to New York from Colorado a year earlier. This would have put it in either July of 2009, or October of 2008, respectively. It was sometime after nightfall, though it wouldn’t have been terribly late – I tend not to drive late when  traveling over a course of several days like that. What I saw was just the briefest glimpse, but it was clear enough: there was a light – I couldn’t say how big or small, just a white ball of light – and it was less than a hundred feet off the ground, above the road, a short distance ahead. I only noticed it at all, as opposed to thinking it a streetlamp, because of the sudden movement as the thing shot off, running in parallel to the freeway, heading in the same direction as me – that is, away from me – and going very fast. There wasn’t any sound from it apart from the noise of the road, which I couldn’t hear for the stereo. A helicopter that close would’ve made a lot of noise, I’m sure. It didn’t accelerate, but was just in an instant going about as fast as a jet airplane might, and vanished in the distance as quickly as it had appeared.

Like so much else of this sort that I’ve seen, or think that I have seen, there was only the briefest, tiny glimpse, as if to tantalize – a desire frustrated – the suggestion of something that anyone could explain away without much effort. This convinces no one, not even me, but I have the sense that it isn’t supposed to; in fact, that it’s supposed exactly not to. Suggestion, impression, the reading into of an active and conscious projection is the level of engagement that seems to be asked of me, and certainty or conclusion are what I will (perhaps thankfully) never be given.

But because I’m a writer and I tell stories, and more specifically because as a writer who is shaping these fragments of my life into stories, and thereby changing the very structure of my life as I’m living it, the need for an ending requires, if not the certainty of conclusions, then at least a point at which to wrap things up, a bell to ring that signifies the end, which is this: that was my soul; I lost my soul, it got away from me; look: I lost my soul while driving; I lost my soul while driving so far up and down the interstates of America, and in such a hurry, and because I was so small, and now I have to get it back; I have to chase it down; I have to chase my soul down; I have to chase my soul back down in my imagination, because where else am I going to find it? And I have to find it there because there is where it is. Okay?

The Boy Has Maybe Got His Boundary Issues?

One year ago to the day as I write this is when the following took place. In and of itself – the original journal entry – it is a dry thing, expressed in a dry language, but what it points to is rich, verdant, confusing, a jungle in liminal twilight. What makes it into something worth telling is the context; otherwise it truly is just a nuts + bolts description, which is of little interest. Part of the wider context is an emotional recurrence of my state of one year ago. I don’t understand the significance of this yearly cycle – I mean, yes, of course, anniversaries are not an alien concept, but it seems important that I find myself returning emotionally to the conditions of that time, almost exactly and to the date, though circumstances now are different – exactly, or maybe just slightly different – still, they don’t seem to add up so that I can say this caused that and so I feel such-and-such about it. The emotive conditions are fundamental, and apparently cyclic, and the circumstances constellating around them appear almost as accidents. Or maybe I make them happen. Or maybe they don’t relate at all.

I’d set up an appointment that afternoon for a session at a later date by phone with Anya Briggs, a psychic whom I’d heard interviewed on Mike Clelland’s Hidden Experience podcast (and have subsequently heard on several others) and felt immediately drawn toward. Circumstances of my life at that time last summer had become again sufficiently confounding that a session of some sort with somebody had come to seem appropriate, and I’d been sitting on the fence for a while regarding her ­– mostly because I felt slightly intimidated about meeting someone I’d come to regard as whip-smart and walking some wild edge of the weird. The same things that drew me to her were what frightened me as well, but I’d wanted, apart from her intuitive consult, very much to understand something of the experiences she’d described of being unwillingly involved in covert operations, particularly the labyrinthine twists and counter-twists of mind control and psychic fragmentation, things which by their nature defy an objective viewpoint and stories so utterly bizarre on the face of them, but that she spoke of with the palpable sincerity of somebody in possession of a suitable compass by which to find her way and maintain her own equilibrium. The subject of military or covert human involvement in the UFO phenomenon was (and is) something that had opened in me some few years previous a wellspring of imaginative associations, dark, dizzying – and without making any particular claims for its veracity as literal fact (though I don’t doubt that it occurs as fact, whatever a ‘fact’ exactly is), it is the subject and incidental setting of the novel I’m currently writing – that is, currently re-writing from the draft I was working on at the time – The Anonymity of the Solid Ocean. I’d hoped to osmose, by association perhaps, some understanding, less of the particulars than of the difficult and complex emotional states involved, which for reasons I’ve never quite been able to put my finger to, I felt that I’d somehow and in some measure shared, in some way already knew.

So having at last found the guts to approach her (I’m such a chickenshit at heart when it comes to interpersonal stuff, however willing I am to stand at the edge of the Abyss when it comes to my safety and sanity), there was kind of a lot roiling around in my own intra-psychic headspace in anticipation of our phone conversation, scheduled for some days later. When, that evening after dark, I stood out on my back deck which overlooks the water and saw some blinking lights approach from the north, from the direction of the naval air base some twenty miles off, it didn’t at first strike me as anything so unusual – just a jet airplane with some running lights, albeit running lights in an unusual configuration, starting at the nose of the craft and flashing in sequence out, symmetrically, along the length of the wings, first center, then tip; nose, center-wing, tip, etc. A little unusual, it caught my eye. Then I realized that it was not nearly so far away, nor as high in the sky as it seemed – I’d judged it higher, assuming it to be larger and further away, when in fact it was perhaps less than three miles off when I’d first noticed it, and now seemed to be coming, from an altitude less than a thousand feet, directly at me. Again, this is not in itself so unusual, as the house where I live is along the flight path of a practice landing strip used by jet fighter pilots in training, and they will typically fly over my house at a few hundred feet – one crucial difference being that these aircraft make so much noise as to entirely pulverize a human nervous system, whereas this thing – as it approached, its boxy, nose-forward cockpit stood out sharply in vivid red, interior light, defying my astigmatic-blurred distance vision with its sharp clarity – this craft was completely silent. It flew low and slowly, and it didn’t make a sound, and as it passed directly overhead, it revealed a dark, triangle shape with no surface detail visible to it at all. The only sound was of a small, single-engine aircraft passing nearby in the transverse direction, not visible, but by its engine noise moving from east to west, while the triangle went north to south, although both sounds converged directly over my head (which struck me as curious, and still does).

I did not at the time think that I’d seen anything all that exotic, or beyond human origin. What this struck me as was something military, only that it was a little in advance of anything I’d ever seen before. It’s overall size and what I could see of its shape suggested a B2 stealth bomber, except that I have seen those up close and in the air, and while relatively quiet, they make real noise. This thing, to characterize it, to give it a sense of intention – and I am perfectly aware that these are connections that I am making, that may exist no further than my own skull-space – seemed to make a point of the fact that it was silent. It also seemed to want to cast doubt in my mind, using the small-aircraft engine sound (coming from another direction) to confuse the issue of its silence. But most of all what I thought, what I imagined, was that this aerial somebody was telling me they had noticed now and their eye on me. This seemed like something straight out of Anya’s story, not mine.