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This was prompted by the current resurgence in interest in UFOs — now redubbed UAPs — that has been making regular appearances in the news.  It was specifically a response to someone’s published description — I don’t remember whose — of their experience seeing a (never explained) UFO.

This is one example about one person’s experience.  It proves nothing one way or another — but it is among the reasons I remain skeptical about various extraordinary claims concerning what UFOs may be and represent.

Note:  As noted above, the old term, “Unidentified Flying Objects” (UFO) has been superseded in formal NASA-speak by the new term, “Unidentified Aerial Phenomena” (UAP).  That is, no doubt, more precise: the fact that they are unidentified does, indeed, mean we don’t know for sure whether or not they are “objects” and whether or not they are “flying”; all we know is that that they are “phenomena” (that is, they are something that someone observed) and that they are “aerial” (that is, those observations appear to place them in the sky).  But, gee, that seems to have taken much of the romance and all of the fun out of it…

I, too, once saw a flying object I could not explain.

I was visiting somewhere in the American West (interesting trick of memory: I can remember exactly what I saw but can’t, for the life of me, remember exactly where I was or why I was there.  Based on my travel history, it was probably somewhere in Arizona or New Mexico or Utah), in a broad flat valley with mountains in the distance and suburban housing developments interspersed among desiccated open spaces spread out across the valley floor.  Late evening, long enough after sunset to be fully dark but not yet the dead of night.  A big sky full of stars but no moon.  Desert air, dry and clear.

Gazing out across one of those dark open spaces, off in the distance, beyond a cluster of warmly lit neighborhoods and hovering above the horizon of the mountains, I saw a shape.  Somewhat oval – close to but not quite cigar-shaped – with colored lights flickering across its surface, moving erratically back and forth, sometimes nearly still, sometimes making sharp and seemingly impossibly quick changes in direction, sometimes seeming to come nearer, sometimes seeming to move farther away.

A nearly perfectly stereotypical UFO.

I watched it for about 20 minutes with a mixture of skepticism and awe, aware that the evidence of my senses was confounding the solid confidence of my reason and wondering which would win out.

And then, suddenly, it changed direction so that it was coming quickly and consistently toward me.

And, just like that, with a change in perspective and a new visual clarity brought by a decrease in distance, the mysterious object became a small airplane with one of those lighted programmable signs stretching across the bottom side of its wings scrolling a moving advertisement for a local car dealership.  All those sudden changes in direction and speed?  Optical illusions, the interplay of distance and orientation and rapid changes in the displayed message and the mind trying to impose its own narrow view of continuity on something that didn’t fit its model of reality.

So, my experience was different from yours.  I, also, could not explain it — until I could.  Now, it is not a lingering mystery but merely a cautionary experience.

But, had I had somewhere else I needed to be?  Or, had I merely lost patience?  Had I driven away before that epiphany?

Or had that plane turned the other way and disappeared from sight over the mountains rather than presenting itself for closer inspection?

I would still be wondering what it was I had seen that night.

© Copyright 2024, Augustus P. Lowell

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