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.

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