“Don’t tell ’em about the lights,” Granny had always warned me. “Too many folks out there will blame ’em on the ol’ devil. And they’ll take ya down to the church house and have ya prayed on and think ya got hellions in ya. So just don’t tell ’em.”
I first mentioned the lights to Granny, back before the thoughts of seeing such things might just mean that I was just another strange bird like her, and she said she’d always seen them, too. Whenever trouble or sickness fell, the lights would come calling. And quite frequently, they’d come on bright and happy days, too, just to let us know they were there. Sometimes they’d hover. Sometimes they’d sail through the air like dandelion seeds on a breeze and disappear into the walls or dance upon the cracked ceiling plaster. I’ve seen them since I was a small child; the dainty orbs of bright light have always been there. I’ve called them angels. Spirits. Stardust. Faeries. But still, I do not know what they are or if they have a name. I reckon the perfect things of this world don’t require names at all.
Now it never occurred to me that not everybody saw the lights. It’s like the mountains that jut up in every direction around us; they’ve always been here, and we take their constancy for granted. We rarely, if ever, just set back and marvel at the wonder of them and how they came to be, with their faithfulness and wisdom as steadfast as time itself. It’s the same with the lights. They’ve always been here. They are as commonplace as the rising ridges.
Granny said the lights would come to her when she or one of her babies were ailing or fevered. They’d come in a rush of swirling white and hang above the bed and dance on the ceilings. And then they’d quietly disappear, leaving not so much as a trace of them having been there, and the sickness would leave with them.
One Christmas Eve while I was gazing at the twinkling lights on the tree, I mentioned the other lights to Mama. Now she didn’t think I was a strange bird or that I was taking up with hellions at all. She told me I was a lot like Granny, which I already suspected a great deal. And she asked me what the lights looked like, for she had never seen them for herself.
They can come one at a time or they can come in swirling myriads. They’ll put you in the mind of those small white bulbs on the Christmas tree, only they do not hang on a string or twinkle to get your attention. They are free and mystic and meek. They make no commotion or sound. They just hang in the air as pretty as you please, as if somebody placed them there just so. Sometimes they will vanish if you look directly at them. Or, most of the time, they will linger for a moment – just long enough to prove their presence – and then gently drift away to wherever it is they came from.
Just to be on the safe side, Mama had my eyes checked by a doctor, even though I’d sworn I could see just fine. 20/20, if not better. I didn’t have astigmatism or sugar or a rogue speck of dust in my wake. Not even the remnants of a bad dream or one of Granny’s ghost stories. No, the lights were really there, I swore to Mama. And maybe if she looked with sensitive eyes, one day she might see them, too.
Now I figure there’s a right plentiful handful of mysteries that can’t be explained away with logic or common sense, or even with the Good Book. It’s not a dictionary, after all. I reckon there are more lights out there flickering in the lengths of shadows and even in the broadest of daylights, too. And there are other strange birds like me and Granny. I know it must be so.
Others who stumble in and out of this earthly veil, who dream of things that have not yet been spoken of or came to pass. It’s the gift, Granny told me. We’re sensitive souls. The Almighty gave us somethin’ extra. That’s why we can see farther.
I asked her why just us?
“It’s not just us,” she said, her words as undaunted as the humming of the jar flies, and she went back to canning her strawberry jam, adding a pinch of sugar and a satisfied nod to the mix.
Oh yes, there are others. More than you can shake a stick at. Some of them have pretty magic rocks and cryptic cards and even crystal balls, and other things that would garner them getting prayed on for certain. But most just have sensitive eyes like Granny and me. She never had use for magic rocks and didn’t need the luck of the draw to tell her what she already knew. This ain’t no carnival, and I ain’t no fortune teller. But I know what I know.
There are others still, others that have the gift and ignore it or disregard it as mere coincidence. They know things without being told. The tiny hairs on their arms and the backs of their necks stand on end even on the sultriest of days. They get foreboding notions about a particular house without having ever stepped over its doorsill. They have mystic recollections of strange places and heirloom rooms they’ve slept in, and dismiss it all as a dream or amnesia or blame it on their spicy supper or the full strawberry moon. They’ll hear a song in their heads and know they’ve heard it before, maybe even sang it once or twice, and their ears will perk up and they’ll cock their head like a whippet, and wonder just how they remembered the lyrics to an old song they’ve never heard. They know your words before you’ve spoken them, and dismiss the oddity away as déjà vu and wonder if they’re just strange birds like me and Granny.
Well, we got used to those lights. They didn’t come ’round every day, but often enough to let us know they were watching. I was beside Granny’s bed the day she up and decided to leave this world, and in the moments before she became memory and legend, those faithful lights came, and the room grew crowded with them. As always, they made no commotion or sound. They whorled upwardly away and out of sight, beyond that earthly veil, and took Granny with them. And that time, Mama said she saw them, too.
I still figure there’s a right plentiful handful of mysteries that can’t be explained away with logic or common sense, or even the Good Book. And I still heed Granny’s advice and don’t tell most folks about the lights. A plentiful righteous handful of them would surely blame them on that ol’ devil, just as they do any curious thing that can’t be named or explained away. But still, I reckon the perfect things of this world don’t require names at all.
And the way my sensitive eyes see it, that ol’ devil gets far too much credit already.