Tag Archives: Nature

Return to the Marfa Lights by Norm Brown

For quite a few years now, my brother and I have made an annual trek on our motorcycles out to west Texas during August. We spend a week camping at Balmorhea State Park, Fort Davis State Park, and sometimes Big Bend National Park. Compared to the rest of the state, the arid mountains are cool and pleasant at that time of year. From Fort Davis State Park it is an easy half hour ride down to Marfa, Texas, site of the famous Marfa Lights. Each year from 2006 through 2009, we rode from our camp in the evening to try to see the mysterious phenomenon. Rain stopped us a few times, but on a moonlit night in 2009 we thought we had succeeded. I published a blog about that particular trip. Below is a link to that article. Check it out. I’ll wait for you here.


Marfa Lights Observation Area

Marfa Lights Observation Area

That year, we saw odd lights the first night, but returned the next night only to be let down. The winking white points of light we had watched drift along near the dark horizon were only headlights of cars maneuvering along a twisting road on a distant mountain. There was a man there that second night with all sorts of camera equipment. Turns out he is probably the most enthusiastic researcher of the Marfa Lights. He has a book and  a website with lots of photos.


He explained we were looking in the wrong direction and told us the “real” Marfa Lights were very rare. We rode away that night feeling a little embarrassed and a lot more skeptical. I didn’t really think we’d ever go to the observation area again.

In 2010, we made the usual trip out to Fort Davis, but stayed in camp at night. Then in 2011, with nothing else to do on a beautiful clear evening, we decided to head down to Marfa again. Whether the lights truly exist or not, we both agree there is something about the Marfa Lights viewing area that just makes it a pleasant place to mill around with dozens of other visitors and gaze out across the rolling land. Call it an unexplained energy or whatever, it’s simply a nice place to be. So, with low expectations we rode down there.

I was glad we had returned. The night sky over the desert looked amazing. Living near a city, I sometimes forget how spectacular the Milky Way can be on a dark clear night. The trip was worth it, just for that. And then–I saw it. A dim spot of red light, straight out from the viewing deck, nowhere near the mountain road with the car traffic. It was fairly close, hovering just behind and above a small pump house. It was visible for only a few seconds, then faded away. I looked around the observation deck. Probably a couple dozen people were walking about and talking . Behind us, cars were coming and going from the small parking lot. There were a lot of taillights and brake lights, but they were all in exactly the opposite direction from the mystery light. For a moment, I thought I was the only one to see it, but the members of the family to our left were whispering excitedly and several still held cameras pointed hopefully at the exact spot. Even if I had brought my camera, I doubt it could have captured the dim, brief glow. All I can say is that it was round and appeared to be maybe a hundred yards out.

I looked over at my brother, Curtis. He was still staring in the direction of the little white pump house. He suddenly turned his head and asked, “Did you see that?” When I replied that I had, he pointed to the group to my left and added, “So did they.” That’s all the evidence we’ll ever have.

So, we saw something. I’m just not sure what. Could it be somehow related to the car taillights behind us? Maybe. Other than being the same color, I couldn’t see any connection. There was nothing beyond the pump house to cause reflection. And this time there was no “expert” there to explain away the sighting. The feeling at that moment was strange. After what had happened last time, I wasn’t really excited or convinced that anything paranormal had occurred. But I was oddly pleased. I think simply because now there would be a reason to return to this fascinating place with its unexplainably pleasant vibes. I’ll be back.

Norm Brown is the author of the suspense novel Carpet Ride, published by Secondwind Publishing, LLC.


Filed under Travel, writing


Writers need to watch out for echoes — a duplication of words, phrases, effects, details that reverberate in readers’ minds and dilute the work. (As an example: I just wrote “details that echo in readers’ minds”, but the second “echo” echoed the first and diluted the effect of both, so I changed the second “echo” to “reverberate”.)

Sometimes, however, an echo can be used to good effect in writing as well as photography. A roof can be an interesting subject for an image, but showing it against an analogous background can strengthen the image rather than dilute it.

There is no shortage of peaks around here — roof peaks, mountain peaks, hill peaks — and I was able to find shots of peaks perfectly echoed against peaks to illustrate my point.




Filed under life, Pat Bertram, writing

Magical moments don’t just happen in books

I had an amazing encounter with a stag yesterday. I was walking my dog, Rudy, at 6:30 in the morning. It was quiet—no other people or dogs out that early since it was a Saturday. Our destination was a meadow near my house. It’s about the size of a soccer field, and is surrounded by a creek and woods on one side and my subdivision on the other three sides.

We saw the stag the second we stepped from the paved sidewalk onto the wet, muddy grass of the meadow. Normally I would have turned around and saved my shoes—I wasn’t expecting mud—but the stag made that small inconvenience worthwhile.

He walked slowly away from us. I expected him to break into a run the closer we got—flight is the behavior I typically see in our neighborhood deer—but he never did. Instead, once he reached the edge of the woods, he turned and faced us.

Until then, I had allowed Rudy to lead me toward the stag. Rudy was not acting like the ten-year-old dog that he is: He was prancing and bounding and straining at the leash, and clearly had an early-morning deer chase in mind.

I’m not good at judging distances, but I believe I allowed Rudy to get me within fifteen feet of the stag (deer is too tame a word for this majestic animal). I got chills when I noticed that his fully-formed antlers literally sparkled in the sunlight. (My logical mind knew them to be wet, but his behavior made me wonder if he was magical.)

He stood his ground, showing us no fear. Head held high, his eyes squarely meeting ours, he might have even stamped a foot on the ground. He engaged in a subtle dance with us: As we passed him he slowly pivoted, so that his antlers were facing us at all times.

I was grateful for the leash, because for the first time in my life I felt afraid about what antlers are capable of. I didn’t allow Rudy to get any closer.

The stag won the face-off. We moved away, finally turning onto the bridge that led us over the creek and out of sight of him. When we returned, five minutes later, he was gone—much to Rudy’s disappointment. Mine, too.

I’ve always wondered why J.K. Rowling picked a stag for Harry Potter’s patronus. Now I understand why.

Lucy Balch

Love Trumps Logic

Coming soon from Second Wind Publishing


Filed under writing

Cicada Time


Bob was sitting on the picnic table the other morning, smiling and pleased with himself. He’d been out dancing in the moonlight all night. I was sitting on the bench, patting him. He seemed entirely happy, kneading air with his paws and showing me his spotted belly, playing at being a Domesticated Animal. 

The first cicadas are starting in our area, the genetic misfits who awaken on the far edge of their particular Bell Curve. They don’t sing much and flame out early. When one fell from a nearby maple, buzzing like a clockwork toy unwinding, Bob leapt from the table with a bound which would have done a cougar credit and made short work of it.  

(It’s humbling, the way he can tune me out. Snap! Gone on cat business!)  

I suppose he ate the poor confused thing, like he does everything else. Cicadas, with heads that are pure fat, are one of Mother Nature’s most sought-after crunchy snacks. Birds adore them. I’ve even seen squirrels eat them, these winged, green-armored Doritos of the insect world.  I would think the wings and feet would make for an over-ridingly icky mouth feel, but not coming from an insect-eating culture, I can’t really judge. 

I love cicadas. When I was small, some imaginative family member told me that their wings–see-through, gossamer, etched in green–were fairy wings. I guess what I really love is their deafening song, which can be as loud as 120 decibels up close. They are one of the few noisy things in which I take pleasure. They are Nature, after all, like waves crashing on the sea shore. The males on my maples start; the neighbor’s cicadas shout out an answer. With the trees arching green overhead, it’s my favorite sort of chorale.

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Filed under life, writing