My husband, two little boys and I had driven 7 hours north through snow and ice from Connecticut to Maine to see his favorite cousin, Susan. She and her family were house-sitting in a large, lovely 18th Century sea-captain’s home whose sloping lawn stretched down to an inlet of the sea.
The whole world was electric blue in the twilight when we piled out of the VW and waded the last few feet of their driveway. We stomped our feet to get rid of snow in the unheated mud room. The kitchen was wood fire piecemeal hot, and Susan was belatedly beginning to work on a sink full of dishes. The family lived for the winter in a few downstairs rooms, and kept the pipes warm for the owners, who were off sailing in the tropics, very upscale and almost unimaginable to us. Sue’s husband was a potter, and while he made beautiful things, from dinner services to exotic display pieces, they were not exactly flush with cash. Beans or spaghetti and homemade bread were probably supper that night; I don’t remember. It was Susan’s birthday, so she’d made a delicious, heavy, scratch chocolate cake, and I’d brought up Grandma Carol’s family famous “Cowboy Cookies.”
Night grew deeper. Finally, the kid cousins were extinguished, the adults all talked out. We retired to couches and sleeping bags. It was cold as the hinges of the 9th Circle of Hell in any room not heated by a woodstove, an utterly clear, dark sky, starry night—at least, until the full moon got up over the tall black pines. Then it was like day out-of-doors, the moon balefully glittering down on those crisp, fresh pillows of snow. Susan and I had agreed to wake up later, because we’d consulted the almanac and learned that there was to be a lunar eclipse around 1 a.m. It was the night between our birthdays—mine would be tomorrow. We were a kindred pair of magical-mystery-tour women, both Pisces in the cusp, and not about to miss such a grand celestial side-show.
Exhausted from carbohydrates and driving , I’d fallen into a deep sleep, but in what seemed to be only a few minutes, I heard Susan urgently whispering.
“Juliet! Get up! Get Up!”
I sat up groggily. I could see her quite well with the moonlight pouring in the windows; it was amazingly bright.
“Get your boots and get downstairs—quick—quick--hurry!”
I did as she asked, for she sounded almost desperate, as if something was terribly wrong. Not only that, but she enforced the idea by rushing out of the room as soon as she finished speaking. I heard her feet going down the stairs rapidly. I got my boots on and followed, fast as I could. When I reached the kitchen, there she was, my coat in hand.
“Is it the eclipse? What’s up?”
“Come on—quick! You have to hear this! It’s crazy!”
I threw the coat on and followed her out the door. The first breath, as we stood on the back steps, froze my nose and made me choke. It must have been zero—or lower—outside. She gestured upward toward the moon, sailing high now over the forbidding, snow robed pines.
As we stood there, trembling, it acquired a halo of dull red as the eclipse began. The weighted branches of the pines randomly cracked. I had an odd feeling inside my head; I seemed to be looking up through water. Next came a kind of hum, a low tone that reverberated through the scene, and then I heard sweet round tones, like a flute or an electronic instrument, ring across the sleeping, snow shrouded land and across the icy ocean at the bottom of the hill.
The veiled moon grew redder; the sweet little song repeated. Susan grabbed me by the shoulder.
“Do you hear it? Do you?”
“Yes! Yes! What on earth…?” I kept looking up and down and side to side to see if anything was different, but nothing else in this reality appeared unusual.
“Thank God!” Susan giggled. It was a beautiful melodic –and normal--sound. “I thought I’d completely lost it.”
Well, when the “singing” stopped, we went back inside and attempted to wake our respective spouses, but that was hopeless. Neither of them wanted to leave the warmth of their beds—besides, they knew that the two Pisces women were engaged in some weird, annoying folie à deux.
Now if you are thinking about Close Encounters of the Third Kind, go right ahead. Our brush with the other happened in 1973, four years before Spielberg’s blockbuster. In fact, when I heard "the tones" in the movie, all the hair on the back of my neck stood straight up, as I remembered the night the moon sang to Susan and me.
~~ Juliet Waldron