What is worse than sitting in stalled 3mph traffic on a Friday at 4pm after your last day on a job that you quit because of the traffic? What is worse? What is worse is seeing a dead kitten between the lanes as you crawl by. And as soon as you glimpse it you look away because your mind wants to rationalize it as just a poor animal that got hit while crossing the road. But this is not a road. This is a 6-lane freeway with 8 foot walls on either side. And you fight your mind because you don’t want to face the truth that your mind forces on you. The truth which bubbles up with no tact, like a loudmouth at a party. The truth that somebody dumped their kitten on the freeway. It’s the worst traffic you’ve ever seen on your drive home and it’s on your last day like a sick joke to punctuate what you already knew and why you had to leave your job with the nice people. And you think about your 16-year-old cat who you had to put to sleep exactly a week ago last Friday and you’re overwhelmed again with grief. And now you are in traffic with nothing to do but cry and think about a dead kitten whose dumping, whose death, doesn’t make any sense. The traffic makes no sense. You are now above the earth, looking down at the slow snake of traffic and it has no meaning, no substance. It’s a small tidepool in time. The kitten has meaning, yet is gone forever. But the traffic never ends and you are now flying above it all, looking for a place to land.
When I arrived, people were being taken out on stretchers. Some were already dead. Women were fainting and children were crying. Grown men were falling to their knees. What is going on?? I thought. What the hell is happening? I walked around and at first could find no evidence of the source. Ambulances darted left and right, picking up people as fast as they could but they were still too late. Some people cried out. Others just moaned. One red-faced woman was madly fanning her husband, whose arched back was slung achingly over a curb. It hurt to look at him. He was unconscious. A group of small children were just staring, their eyes wide as moons. I turned to follow their gaze and that’s when I finally saw it. Nothing on earth could match my astonishment. It hurt to even look at it, yet you could not avert your eyes. So this is it! Finally, it was revealed to me what could be causing such a stir, such a flap, such an epidemic of unprecedented proportions. I twisted my neck further and further back to get a better glimpse of it. Then I regretted looking at it. Because what I was beholding was a creature who was absolutely, deathly, irresponsibly cute and it was a cat. The reason for all the mayhem, for all the death and fainting, was his utter CUTENESS. No being, no creature, no entity on earth before him had reached these levels of cuteness. I heard a bang behind me. But I could not take my eyes off him to look at the accident. He was just too cute. I was held hypnotized in the grip of his adorable-ness.
I heard more people screaming and being shuttled away by ambulance. I shuddered at the thought of them—it was hard to tell who was dead, who was alive. For who could survive this level of cuteness? It boggled the mind. It was more than any human could comprehend. It was like 40 mushroom trips at once. Who could withstand the extremely adorable face of this cat? He was the cutest cat on earth and his cuteness was taking its toll. This was serious shit. Every human was powerless before him. Hell, he had become a god in his cuteness. He had a power over the populace that no other animal had ever had before him, just by virtue of his cuteness. He was, literally, the cutest cat in the universe.
I miss you. I’m sorry I haven’t been around. I apologize for (seemingly) rejecting you these last few weeks. I’m sorry I haven’t made our usual appointments. The problem is, I’m forced to be inside a hermetically-sealed box 40 hours a week in exchange for money. I know that it’s a sour deal for you – and believe me, it’s a sour deal for me, too – but rest assured, I will make it up to you. I worship you and no stupid job is going to keep us apart. I see you have shown up every day for me. I have made an effort to meet with you for 20 minutes a day during my lunch walks (I only get 30 minutes and need 10 minutes to eat), and you are always highest on my priority list. I look forward to seeing you every day when I burst through the doors of that antiquated, sad place. Your power is infinite and I have the highest respect for you. I know we used to see each other every day and often for several hours a day. I’m working as hard as I can to make the current situation temporary so we can get back on track for our usual rendezvous’s. In fact, it is my life goal to become a self-employed, freelance designer so that you and I can be reunited once again. In the end, I do it all for you. Because in the end, you are the beginning and the end, you are the infinite source of all that is sacred and to reject you is profane. I will see you soon.
“Everything is the way it is because it got that way.”
– D’Arcy Thompson, biologist and mathematician, b. 1860
The paradox of studying anomalous phenomena is the more you study, the more you need to study. New information doesn’t reveal much, it only invites more questions.
The more I study it, the more it appears that disparate phenomena are just different sides to one multi-faceted die. Alternate realities encountered on psychedelics bear striking similarities to reported alien encounters. Bigfoot is reported as a flesh-and-blood crypto-animal but has been reported numerous times in a paranormal context. UFOs appear as hard metallic physical objects in the sky but disappear suddenly as if into another dimension. Do we enter this dimension when we die? Many near-death experiencers’ stories seem to point to that possibility. Is this the realm where ghosts reside?
Are there objective non-physical places or is it a subjective reality parallel to ours but of inconsistent solidity? Is this where so-called shape-shifters reside, as in the Native American tradition, or is it all part of a high-tech alien agenda which employs mind-control to shape the reality we perceive with our eyes? Where does science fit in to all of this? Is all of it a natural artifact of the Universe, just random threads in the warp and weft of the fabric of spacetime?
How can this be? Is it a subjective or objective experience? There doesn’t seem to be any objective “reality” behind the phenomenon. It can be “nuts and bolts,” leaving physical residue. Then it disappears with no trace. It’s observed by multiple witnesses, except for a few who saw nothing. It comes in a dream, shared by only one person. It’s a string of strange experiences and bizarre encounters experienced by a person who cannot document it and hesitates to share it.
Why do we search or care? I believe it’s the desire to return to a home we can’t remember but we know is there. It’s unclear if the answers we seek will be bestowed upon us in death. I like to think so. Until then, we explore. It begins with a sense that something is “off” in this world. Not all people sense this. Some people will go their entire life scarcely thinking about these mysteries even once and be just fine. And that’s OK. It’s not for everyone.
But for those who examine, we know that something is going on. The further you dig, the weirder it becomes. You almost have to be an inborn surrealist to accept what is being reported in the paranormal and ufological realms. But there it is. And the stories keep coming. It seems that all the disparate phenomena could be seen metaphorically as six sides to the same cube. On one side of the cube you have reports of UFOs and strange craft in the sky. Turn the cube over and you have a Bigfoot, Sasquatch, Yeti, Yowie. Turn it again and you have out-of-body and near-death experiences, psychic dreams and conscious trips to other worlds through psychedelics and shamanic journies. Turn it again and there is a conspiratorial world of secret cabals, breakaway civilizations, government cover-ups and clandestine worlds of a more earthly type who claim to liaise with the hidden realms – occult cults with a history of esoterica. Flip the cube over to find ghosts, paranormal occurrences, and poltergeists, etc. The more we study these different phenomena, it becomes increasingly clear that they are inter-related. They are all different sides to the same cube. But what is the cube?
In their 2016 book The Super Natural, Whitley Streiber and Jeffrey Kripal search for the intersection point of all these varying strains of high strangeness – if there is one. John Keel and Jacques Vallée come from this angle as well, with their holistic approach to sorting out the phenomenon. Linda Moulton Howe’s research covers all sides of the cube and their overlap such as bizarre witness reports of Bigfoots sighted alongside landed UFOs. The events at Skinwalker ranch cover the entire spectrum of phenomena in one small patch of land. And then you have the disappearances studied by David Paulides, most sobering of all because they are deadly and happening right now. Where does this all leave us? It’s a hot mess.
Does the phenomenon intentionally design it this way? Or is there no such conspiracy, just a chaotic stream of tulpas, awkward hybrids, flying humanoids, short and tall aliens, tubular sky portals, impossibly-sized owls flying alongside your vehicle, silent triangular hovering craft and intelligently-controlled basketball-sized spheres – as cluttered as life itself? And would the phenomena exist in the absence of humans? Or perhaps it is the semi-physical, congealed thoughtforms arising from the energy of seven billion human brains, all having conscious experiences at once. Maybe the “getting that way” in D’arcy Thompson’s quote at the beginning is simply the end product of combined human thought, as natural to the material world as evolution. They manifest temporarily, swirl away and pop up again somewhere else, as random and transitory as the daydreams that overtake you on any day.
It might be convenient to simply chalk it up to “other dimensions.” A vague but sufficient concept, we wrap it up cleanly, stash it in an untouchable box, wipe our hands and we’re done. In Daimonic Reality: A Field Guide to the Otherworld, author Patrick Harpur frames the whole of the phenomenon as the world of daemons: timeless trickster semi-gods who take the form of aliens, fairies, ephemeral animals, apparitions, archetypes, spirits – essentially all natural components of the Anima Mundi. They are the inhabitants of the intermediate region between the material and divine realms, neither here nor there, fleeting yet real. These daemons “populate the Soul of the World and provide the connection between gods and men.” On the other hand, these entities – daemons – could be wholly independent of the human predicament. After all, it’s ancient and it’s modern. But what do we do with it in our age of rational science? The hand-wringing continues.
The sightings and encounters go on and on, inconclusively; there is no evidence of rational plan, goal, outcome, closure. There is just the endless game, playing like children play, who quit when they get tired. The mistake: we’re trying to be serious about what’s just a goof. It would be as if your dog got neurotic over trying to figure out why you keep tossing a stick away from him every time he retrieves it.”
– Michael Grosso, Zen in the Art of Close Encounters, 1995
After reading essays on the phenomenon from decades past, it seems we are no further along now in unraveling the mystery than we were then. We still have the same questions, the same frustrations, the same confounding amusement of it all. The phenomenon wants us in the dark, it would seem. If you look back at the long career of researcher and reporter Linda Moulton Howe, you’ll find that none of it every really gets anywhere. There is no progress. Maybe that is the point. The point is not to crack it. It’s a surrealist joke. Just observe in astonishment. Don’t even be astonished. You will only be more confused.
After studying all sides to this cube, one thing that takes me by surprise is that the unseen world seems to be just as chaotic as ours. For some reason, I assumed it would be more mathematical and organized due to its seeming advanced intelligence. I thought that from its loftier realms, it would be distilled and refined to universal truth, a geometrical foundation of symmetry and unity. But it’s not. Spirits are restless, entities do weird random things, things seems to happen for no reason, UFOs show up unexpectedly and there is no predicting where and who it will strike next. It’s intelligent, but messy.
So the only way to really engage with the phenomenon, it seems, is to have a personal experience with it. And you can’t just go out and do that. It has to come to you. So most people will go their whole lives without ever thinking about the phenomenon. While for others, it permeates their whole existence. And nobody so far has figured out why there’s this discrepancy. Like most theories of ufology, they can never be proved. And perhaps that’s the best part about it.
It was 1993 or ’94. A few years out of college, I was living with my then-boyfriend in our rented house in Boulder, Colorado. We had just made a road trip to Roswell, New Mexico and visited the UFO Museum. It was the inception of my interest in the subject and I’d amassed a small UFO library from a traveling friend who was living in his car and giving up all possessions, one of the many wayfaring punk kids and band members that came to sleep on our floor while on tour. His name was Sprout.
One night we decided to rent Linda Moulton Howe’s 1980 documentary “A Strange Harvest” from the local video store. I hadn’t heard of her before, but it looked intriguing from the label on the video box. We popped it into the VCR. Such was my initiation into the mystery, the enigma of cattle mutilations and the bigger picture of UFO and anomalous phenomena at large. I was hooked. It’s hard to recall the details of that night, but I think we discussed the documentary afterward. There was no Internet, no reviews, no links to further reading.
The next day, I clocked in at my job as a one-hour photo developer in a small lab in a strip mall on the outskirts of Boulder. I didn’t mind the job as I got to see all sorts of random photos, I could work alone and I didn’t have to interact with the public much. It was a normal day and I chugged along, pulling the long negative strip through the machine, punching buttons and sorting the 3×5 prints as they came out. I had been working in photo labs since I was 16 years old, so I had seen just about everything there was to see. In the days before digital photography, people shot the same subjects they do today, the difference is I got to see it first. One particular roll of film caught my eye. It was about 24 photographs of a dead cow and some strange indentations in the grass next to the cow. I realized I was looking at a photo of a cattle mutilation. I don’t remember the exact details, but portions of the head were sharply excised with the muscle beneath revealed in a clean cut. The jaw was missing and the teeth exposed in a sick grin. It was just like the movie I had seen only the night before, which was of course still fresh in my mind. As I thumbed through the photos, I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. Whoever took the photos knew what they were shooting. Because they noticed a perfectly circular patch of tall grass next to the animal which was tamped down flat, as if something round and heavy had sat there. There were three perfectly small holes in the earth right in the middle of the circle which looked like they’d been bored with poles. It was all consistent with footage shown in the film and all so very strange.
What a coincidence I should develop this roll of film the day after renting the documentary! It was so weird. I reeled at the thought that I was looking at a brand new, freshly killed and mutilated cow. But this was Colorado and we were not far from ranch land and open prairie. As I did with any interesting photos, I made copies for myself and quickly secreted them away to the back room to take home.
When the customer came to pick up his film, he was an ordinary man in blue jeans and a flannel shirt, he could have been any farmer or rancher. I didn’t ask him about the photos and he left quietly with his envelope. Of course I ran home after work and told my boyfriend all about it. We both agreed it was creepy on many levels – the upsetting phenomenon itself, the creepiness of it happening close to home and just the chilling coincidence of it all. For the first time, I found myself a not-so-innocent bystander, with the phenomenon looking right back at me.
On the morning of May 26, 2017 I woke up at uncharacteristically at 5am with a phrase that popped into my head which I thought worthy of writing down. Not having a pen nearby and being too tired to get up, I typed it into my iPhone. Then tried to go back to sleep. Another phrase – or what I would call a universal truth, an aphorism – popped in. Again, I typed it into the phone and tried to go back to sleep. But they kept coming. One after the other. So I gave up trying to go back to sleep and just typed them all into the phone. Every time I would drift off into a semi-sleep state, more would come. It would have been easier to get up and find a pen, but I didn’t want to break the spell by lifting out of bed. Below is the fruit of this experience, a fragmented, aphoristic poem (later re-arranged and cleaned up). I’m now going to keep pens by the bed.
It’s better to wake up in tears
Than to not wake up at all
Buff out all your blind spots
Press your head against the windshield of stars
Know all the languages at once
Fall in love with everything
But ask for nothing
Every memory you’ve ever had
Is reflected upside down
In a single tear of god
Hold the book up high
But not so that it’s shape obscures the light needed to read it
A vast cosmos encapsulated inside the tiniest seed of truth
Don’t inhabit this truth
BE this truth
Conjure a small truth from the ashes of lies
We do not pardon the child for being a child
Or berate a number for its sum
Nothing is wrong in the universe, all is allowed because all is
A backward mouth eating from the inside to reveal the outside
To best conceal something, hide it in the revealed
In darkness, we are born upside down breathing water
Each minute of your life
Is simply the time is takes for a moon to eclipse a sun
A photon of light experiences no time
Time experiences all light
Come out of the darkness
To taste a cherry, so fragrant and so sweet
And emerge not burnt but illuminated
Travel through hills of sugar
Only to return home home having lost your sweet tooth
To smell all the shades of green
And lick cinnamon from a tree
All the colors of beauty, whispered to the lord
The universe has a way of taking care of things. Abide by this mechanism.
By saying what it is
Is to say what it isn’t
A furlough from Eden
And I remember this friend of mine who always got there first…
– Terence McKenna, Spacetime Continuum, Alien Dreamtime
First of all, let me say I don’t normally like most poetry. Nor do I typically write it. This poem was coalesced from the writings of May 26 and a poem I wrote in winter 2015 after passing by the dead body of a homeless person next to the front door of my apartment building in the Silverlake neighborhood of Los Angeles on Christmas Day. Christmas morning was spent on the roof of my building looking down in horror on his lifeless body laying face up on the sidewalk and then the coroners finally covering him. When I had left my apartment the night before, I saw his unmoving shape sleeping against the wall and thought how awful to be so cold and alone on Christmas Eve. I wanted to give him some help but also didn’t want to rouse him. So I got in my car and drove away. Could my inaction have contributed to his destiny? If I had shaken him, could he have been saved? Or was he already dead at that point? I’ll never know. I later found out the homeless man was my exact age and had been a doctor. That same week, my father’s wife of 30 years passed away from a short and unexpected illness. So death was in the air.
To make anything serious, just add death.
Is death a big deal?
People do it every day.
It’s the biggest day of your life
We are jealous of the dead
For you who got there first
Unwittingly courageous and for that, enviable
You who have left
Us here; discarding your bodies
Like a clown removing its costume
You bravely went before us
With no dispatch between worlds
We are still alive, waiting in line for the high-dive
We nervously shuffle, hands in our pockets
Death defines life
It’s forever on the lips of the living
We know the space between worlds is delicate
Dangerously fragile, in fact
To traverse this space
Just stop breathing
So we could destroy ourselves to join you
It’s up to us
The planes are parallel, never intersecting
Is this place from which no one has ever returned
The container of all secrets and answers?
Every zoetic sunrise is an awakening
A miniature inititaion
So we dance in our lifetime of successive sunrises around the fire of death
Spiralling in at the end
To live is to be in sadness
Separated from our home
But isn’t it better to wake up in tears,
than to not wake up at all?