Sunday, February 24, 2008


Mars (despite her name) and I are not New Agers, and we tend to be pretty skeptical of the alleged spiritual nature of a lot of the "unexplained mysteries" in the world. We have however seen the Marfa Lights, tried to place ourselves amidst the vortexes of Sedona, and listened for, but never actually heard, the Taos Hum.

According to the Skeptics Dictionary
"The Marfa lights are lights which are visible from a viewing area about 10 miles east of the town of Marfa, Texas. They are the main tourist attraction in the area. The lights are said to appear to bounce around in the sky, vanish and re-appear, and thus are considered a mystery by some. To others, the lights are not a mystery. They are ghosts or swamp gas or radioactive bursts or ball lightning or navigational lights for space aliens or headlights and taillights of cars in the Chinati Mountains on U.S. highway 67."

Marfa is a three drive from El Paso - "just take the I-10 east and turn right at Van Horn." On our first visit we saw all of twenty-one vehicles in the ninety minutes after we left the interstate. The vast majority were pickup trucks, and every driver gave us the Texas "drive-by wave" - a two-fingered salute that is executed without the driver removing their hand from the steering wheel.

Marfa, like many other places in the world, was a simpler place when we visited it in 1998 and 2000. On both occasions we went to spend time at the Chinati Foundation - "a contemporary art museum....based upon the ideas of its founder, Donald Judd". Judd was a minimalist architect and sculptor who established the institution in an abandoned cavalry base in Marfa. Both the artist and the museum are apparently quite a big deal in Europe, and on our first visit we met a father and daughter from Germany who came to the U.S.A. exclusively to see New York City, San Francisco, Atlanta - and Marfa.

At that time the other major town attractions were Mike's Restaurant ("flautas the size of your big finger, not like those skinny big city ones"), Carmen's Restaurant (homemade donuts if you got there before nine a.m.), and the Dairy Queen - as well as the highest golf course in Texas. The only traffic light was a flashing one on the state road through town. Otherwise you were pretty much on your own.

We had heard about the Marfa Lights from Monica and Bram (daughter-in-law and son) who had been there the year prior. One night after dark we armed ourselves with DQ Blizzards and went out to see the lights.

The viewing area was an unlit pull-off with neither posted information nor facilities. And it was impenetrably dark - an open scrub-brush field with no internal or external points of reference, and no man-made illumination for miles. Fortunately there were other more experienced spectators who got us oriented in the right direction, and explained to us what it was that we were looking for.

After quite a while we saw some dots of light gently bobbing up and down on what we took to be the horizon. Since we had finished our ice cream, were not totally sure what were looking for, and had some concerns about the nocturnal habits of the poisonous snakes that hung around in that locality, we declared that we had in fact witnessed the Mystery Lights of Marfa and went back to our room.

On our second visit there we got to be the experts. Other than that it was pretty much the same - including the Blizzards. We don't know if what we saw actually qualifies as "the lights". They looked, at least to me, an awful lot like vehicle headlights - probably more than we saw on our first drive to Marfa - but what the heck.....!

In 1999, the year between our two Marfa visits, we once again found ourselves searching for the supernatural - this time in Sedona Arizona.

"In Sedona vortexes are created, not by wind or water, but from spiraling spiritual energy. The vortexes of Sedona are named because they are believed to be spiritual locations where the energy is right to facilitate prayer, mediation and healing. Vortex sites are believed to be locations having energy flow that exists on multiple dimensions. The energy of the vortexes interacts with a person's inner self. It is not easily explained. Obviously it must be experienced."

We bought a hiking book that directed us to the mystical maelstroms and hiked out to several of them - but nothing vortex-ual happened. However in one of these high energy locations we did meet a woman who told us that the day before she had been here with her cat, and the normally calm kitty totally freaked out as soon as it came to the periphery of the area. Still I didn't feel any electricity in the air, maybe because my mind was distracted pondering the possibilities of trekking tabbies and rock-climbing Russian Blues.

Several tries but no spiritually swirling successes. We did however have the best Chicken Fried Steak ever at a place called The Red Planet Diner - a quest that we found much more satisfying.

Then the other morning the Today television program had a segment on the "Taos Hum" - "a persistent low-frequency sound, often described as being comparable to that of a distant diesel engine idling, or to some similar low-pitched sound for which obvious sources (e.g., household appliances, traffic noise, etc.) have been ruled out."

According to the Today reporter about two percent of the people in the New Mexican town of Taos have heard the hum. Which also means, as he pointed out, that ninety-eight percent had not. He spoke to locals believers, scientists who have tested unsuccessfully for it, and a town educator/historian who said tongue-in-cheek that it was probably just be the collective sigh of awed tourists. The current scientific hypothesis is that the sound might be the result of an auditory condition.

Mars and I have been to Taos many, many times. It is a quiet place, even with all of the wonderstruck visitors schlepping around, stopping suddenly, and cupping their hands to their ears in search of the sound. We ourselves may have even made an explicit effort or two to hear the audible undercurrents - with no success.

Apparently our psyches are not as much in sync with the metaphysical nuances of Sedona and Taos as they are with those in Marfa. Maybe it has something to do with past life regressions or some other supernatural connections to the modest West Texas town. Or maybe our chakras were out of alignment.

More likely it was the brain freeze caused by the Blizzards.

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