The car door shut behind me as I clambered into the family suburban and took my place behind the passenger seat. The Texas landscape awaited us–dust, dirt, rocks, a few low-lying mountains and canyons, and the heat. It would be a very long drive to West Texas from Houston. I’ve heard it said it takes 24 hours to drive across the state, and I believe it, though at 14 I’ve never tried.
We reached the small town of Marfa the following day, and piled out of the suburban in a cranky heap. Too long we had been pushed together too close. All I’d had was my book and I’d nearly finished with it–fortunately, it was about the small town in which we alighted.
I’d never been one for these driving tours of Texas, but this time I was more interested because I’d done my research first. I was here because I wanted desperately to see the Marfa lights. The supernatural flicker out across the flats fascinated me. The observation area was not crowded, but there were mostly out-of-town gawkers present, like my family and me. There was the requisite hippe-spiritualist, who was actually dangling a large crystal at the end of a chain, standing near us. Her tough-looking, obviously bored husband stood by, watching a mom speak with her two children who had apparently been roughhousing but were being put aright.
The sun had already set, but still sent its everlong fingers of pink, gold, orange, and somehow blue into the sky, drawing the cover of night after it, but still far behind us so that the lights would be hidden until the coverlet had made its way overhead. The air was noticibly cooler out here, away from the heat of the large cities, and somehow smelled fresher. My eyes were fixed upon a grove of trees which I knew to be the backdrop of my longed-for Marfa lights.
Near me, a grandfather began to speak to his grandchildren about what they were going to see. “The Marfa lights are said to be the wandering souls of those lost out on the flatlands, or those who were trapped in the swamp over there. A long time ago, people rode out on horseback to find the lights, to see who was there, whether they were Indians or something else, and they never returned.”
A pleasant shiver ran up my spine. I was going to see these lights at long last! The last warm breeze of the evening rushed to join the sun as the star’s light continued to fade. The time for the phenomenon drew close. Above us, a lone star appeared, Lady Venus, I thought. Finally the coverlet of night fell over the grove and the observers grew still, every eye straining to see something magical.
“Come forth, spirits!” the hippe-spiritualist murmured. I shot her an annoyed look, and the mom edged her kids away from her on the pretense of getting a better look.
As if summoned, though, a green orb appeared. Then another, and another. In a matter of moments, there were 10 glowing balls of light far out over the flatlands. I breathed out a phrase I’d picked up at school long before this trip. “Holy Marfa!”