All day was spent in driving it seemed. We followed the serpentine curves of the Mount Loop Highway, the steep climb and precipitous crossing over Stevens pass along the wide road curving down, still snowy in places.
My brother Kevin and I lay gently rocking and staring from our perch in the overhead bunk of our creaking and swaying conveyance gaping at the precipitous edges of the highway, the waterfalls at every turn, the soul quaking views of trees and valleys and sharp edged peaks,and finally the burnished gold of the desert way.
Hillsides rolled past us. Plateaus rose in silhouette against the setting sun, turning dark and mysterious before our eyes in a land now bare of vegetation. And it was just as well we no longer had to see this lacking in the east that made our west side of the Cascade so much the more richly adorned.
When finally I could see not more, I let my head drop upon my folded arms, certain we’d never get there. Kevin was already snoring.
The hard lurch to a stop awoke me and voices came, directing us to our site.
A short distance more of lurches and creaking and then we stopped, the engine finally turned off.
I nudged my little brother. “We’re here!”
“Finally!” he retorted and sat up so fast that if he’d been just a little taller he’d have banged his head like I did. Ow.
We hopped down and out the door and then stopped dead, looks exchanged in profound disappointment. We’d come all this way for a whole bunch of NOTHING? DAMN!!!
Our campsite was one of many close-packed on a wide open space of pretty much lifeless dessert. Okay… there were cactus, dry tussock of grass here and there, sage brush, and a thin scattering of long-needled pines but it was a very far cry from the lush wilderness we normally associated with camping trip adventures.
We looked desperately around for something even interesting to explore. In the distance, the wide spread plateaus were mere dark smudges against the dark sky. There was nothing of natural wonder close us that we could see. The best we could come up with was a quiet unnatural looking fenced swimming pool and a recreation center with a pool table and pop machines in it. Big WHOOP.
But our mom and stepfather had friends here to greet them and we were ushered along to settle in camp chairs around a big bonfire burning just beyond the edge of the campsite row.
So there we sat, the odd kids out, watching the flames and the others talking, and for the first star to twinkle into being, distinct from the rising sparks of the fire. We roasted marshmallows while I told Kevin about two interesting books I was reading. One was Chariots of the God. I think the other was The Andreason Affair. In general, we were talking about UFOs, aliens, Ezekiel, and the possibilities of alien influence on early religion.
In The Andreason Affair, it seemed like the aliens were trying to stimulate a religious reaction in their abductee but she wasn’t cooperating despite being a “born again” Christian and possibly susceptible to believing the whole thing a religious experience instead of an abduction. Nice theory, but it didn’t work on Betty Andreason.
We were well lost in our soon animated discussion, Kevin having many of his own ideas about this, when is seemed the desert around us suddenly sighed and the breath of it blew by us.
By that time nearly speaking at once we were both talking so fast, we both stopped dean, looked at each other, and then looked around.
Nothing was obvious at first. The adults sure hadn’t stopped with their talking and laughing. Someone was singing some silly song, the fire crackled and roared, and in the distance came the faint sound of coyotes yapping.
Huh. We looked back at each other in puzzlement… and then out across the desert expanse, suddenly both seeing it at once: some very bright, large, and silver white lying there across the desert like a giant-sized light saber from star wars.
We both stared at it with round eyes and mouth agape while it grew bigger in bigger as it slowly expanded up into the sky. It was HUGE!
“Is that… is that…” Kevin started, stopped, swallowed hard. “Is that a mother ship do you think?”
I couldn’t answer my mouth had gone so dry.
Mom glanced at us both and giggled then. We didn’t know why. I rasped out, “Mom, do you see THAT?” and pointed.
She turned to see what we were looking at and her mouth dropped open too.
It was a great round disk rising into the sky and it felt so close I imagined I could even hear it, a deep rumbling subsonic sound like a huge power generator starting up. I was sure I heard it.
The other adults had finally shut up and were staring at it too; some with beatific smiles, others in pure awe.
It rose higher and higher until it was right above us though it had meanwhile shrunken somewhat in size and I abruptly recognized it and blushed all over myself to have been so mistaken in its identity… or rather to not have recognized it at once. Though I’d certainly never ever seen it like this….
It was the new-risen moon and it was the most beautiful thing I could ever recall seeing. It was like the light at the end of a tunnel to fantastical other world.
The coyotes must have thought so too. Now in the awe-wrapped silence around the camp fire, we could hear their many voices gathering to sing it praises in howls that sounded nothing short of joyful choir in its unearthly beauty.