Alien eyes

On the fence

As if to contradict my previous insistence that alien eyes are best seen in early morning or late afternoon, when the sun is low on the horizon and thereby creates odd, often-X-shaped reflections off windows, here is the scene that greeted me when I made my way toward campus around 1:30 this afternoon: an X-marks-the-spot alien eye on the fence next to the house where aliens are born. Do you think they’re following me?

The (holy) mother of all alien eyes?

At first glance, it looks like I found the (Holy) Mother of All Alien Eyes: a window reflection on the side of St. Bernard’s Catholic church that looks like the Virgin Mary with bowed head and hands folded before her in prayer. But before you get religion and come flocking to Keene, NH to see the latest sign that God is among us, take a look at the bigger picture.

The (holy) mother of all alien eyes?

Yes, the alien eye in the center of the picture still looks a bit like Mary…but the blobbish reflection on the left looks roughly like all the other aliens I’ve blogged, their bizarre geometries caused by the particular properties of whatever pane of glass is reflecting the slanting sun. I took a moment after snapping this photo to see if there was a stained glass window on the nearby parish rectory that might have been bouncing Mary-beams onto the wall of the church, but I’ve learned from experience that you often can’t find the immediate source of alien eyes, light being both stealthy and insistent in the way it reflects and refracts. Having traveled across the Universe to land on any given wall, a beam of morning light is already miraculous enough, regardless of any member of the Holy Family it might roughly resemble.

So during the same week that Natalie saw in her underwear the face of a sorrowful nun, I too have spotted my own instance of pareidolia, chance beams on one morning’s dog-walk haphazardly aligning themselves into a sign of grace.

Alien eyes

It was brutally cold and windy when I walked Reggie this morning, with a temperature in the low-20s and a wind-chill of 10 degrees. Only last week, temperatures were in the almost tropical 50s, so my body feels dazed and disoriented, having lost an entire season over the course of a weekend. What happened to autumn?

Alien eyes

It was brutally cold and windy when I walked Reggie this morning, and the glowing window reflections I call alien eyes were out in full force: a coincidence? Might an overnight invasion of extraterrestrials explain a sudden shift of weather, ET and his buddies tampering with the time/space continuum so we went, meteorologically speaking, from mid-November to early January in the blink of an (alien) eye?

There’s definitely something odd afoot in Keene, where temperatures have plummeted and the alien eyes, no longer content to hang out on walls, are starting to take to the streets. Take me to your heater!

Alien eyes

Alien eyes

It’s the most unusual set of alien eyes I’ve ever seen, spotted yesterday morning on the side of the post office in Waban, MA. It makes sense that I’d see such an usual example of glowing window reflections now, though, given that end of October is when the oddest aliens appear.

Interior demolition

Yesterday morning’s dog-walk was sunny, with the kind of low-angled light that makes for good shadows. When you walk the same streets nearly every day, you become a connoisseur of local light, someone who notices when the light is shining this way rather than that. Yesterday’s dog-walk was sunny, and Reggie and I walked early, so the rising sun was glinting through the east-facing window of storefront in downtown Keene that’s in the process of being gutted. In low-angled morning light, the dirty window that had shrouded this process the afternoon before suddenly became transparent, and I could see the previous day’s demolition illuminated as if on stage.

Alien eye

I don’t go looking for local light shows; they just happen to happen when I’m out and about. If you walk the same old streets enough times in enough weathers, you’ll grow accustomed to the same old sights, and that makes it easy to see something Different and Unusual when that sort of thing decides to happen. I’m sure that there have been alien eyes my entire life and then some, but I started to notice them only upon moving to Keene with an antsy dog. Several weeks ago while walking with friends in a new-to-me-neighborhood, I found myself interrupting the usual conversation to point out an afternoon specimen.  “See? There. The same old light reflected and refracted in an unusual way. Now that you’ve seen it, you’ll start seeing it everywhere.”

But truth be told, I’m not sure my friends or anyone will start seeing alien eyes everywhere: my predilection for noticing light and shadow seems to be an acquired thing, an obsession that few others share. Yes, there are the likes of Shadow Steve walking the streets of New York, but elsewhere and among other folks, you have to point to something a bit more exciting than reflected light on a wall to make headlines. What’s the big deal behind another bit of reflected light?

Tree with shadow

And so you may or may not be surprised to hear that my own viewing of last night’s total lunar eclipse was only partial. Around 9:00, I checked the skies from inside my warm apartment to see whether it was clear, and yes, I could see the celestial bangles of Orion’s belt. At 9:30, I pulled boots and coat over my pajamas–yes, by that time of night, my own moon is surely settling toward the horizon called sleep–and went outside to see a half-slivered, half-silvered sphere hovering above my backyard. By 10:00 pm and beyond, I was nestled inside, imagining the half-slivered moon as completely shade-stained as I remembered past eclipses and the way something as simple as a shadow turns the usual flat white disk into a smoky orange popping from the sky with three-dimensional intensity.  In other words, my desire to see last night’s total eclipse was itself eclipsed by other desires, the warmth of my own apartment and its awaiting bed exerting a gravitational pull I couldn’t resist. Nestled in for the night, I knew someone like Dave would take and share pictures better than any I could. A lunar eclipse, after all, is something everyone stops to take note of, giving someone like me the night off from noticing.

This morning, though, was something else entirely. Walking Reggie before sunrise, we both were greeted by the same old non-eclipsing moon shining its flatly white, entirely ordinary face over the the center of the street as we set out in the frigid chill. Did this morning’s moon look a bit sheepish as it shone with the usual monthly fullness, embarrassed at the unaccustomed attention it garnered last night? Shadows are an everyday occurrence, but eclipses are rare: this isn’t the fault of the moon but of our imperfect and obstructed view, purely a matter of perspective. This morning, the only other folks out were drivers headed toward the morning shift at the local factory, and I doubt they’d stop for something as simple as shadows on the moon.

Birth of an alien

This is where alien eyes are conceived: on the shining surface of otherwise normal windows. This morning when I let Reggie out for his morning pee, I saw the orange glint of sunrise reflecting in a psychedelic swirl on one of my across-the-street neighbor’s windows. One window had a neon glow; the other did not. Thus is illumination random, happening for one eye but not another.

In a matter of moments, after Reggie had peed and sniffed his way around my backyard, the reflected light on my neighbor’s window was gone. The Mother of Lights had returned to the mothership: alien absconditus.

Washington Cemetery

These days, my schedule doesn’t give me much time for dog-walks here in Keene. On Fridays through Mondays, Reggie and I walk in Newton, and on Tuesdays and Thursdays, I teach all day at Keene State. So Wednesday has become my default Walking Day, my one weekly chance to take a leisurely look at Keene on foot.

Sox-lovin' scarecrow

Inspired by Leslee’s Halloween post, today I set out to snap something appropriately seasonal. The homes in Newton have been decked with skeletons, mock tombstones, and witches for weeks, but for some reason I haven’t taken any pictures; it must be my lingering reticence to take pictures of other people’s lives.

This morning here in Keene, I didn’t find much that struck me as photo-worthy. Yes, there’s a funny Red-Sox-loving scarecrow on Water Street, and yes, downtown merchants have the usual pumpkins and black-hatted mannequins in their windows. But Halloween in Keene has always felt anticlimactic compared to the annual Pumpkin Festival that happens a week earlier; how can an occasional pumpkin or black cat compare with more than 20,000 lit jack-o’-lanterns? This year, for the first time since 2003, I missed the Pumpkin Festival by going to a Bruins game, so I’ve been feeling photographically deprived, my usually brimming October photo-archive feeling thin instead.

This morning as Reggie and I took our Wednesday walkabout, nothing jumped up and grabbed me; nothing screamed “photograph me, I’m worthy!” And then I saw the first of the morning’s alien eyes.

Alien Eyes alley

I suppose it’s appropriate I’d see on Halloween several examples of the gleaming, X-shaped window reflections I call “alien eyes.” If aliens have indeed descended to shine their intelligent eyes on earthlings, what better day to start one’s extraterrestrial investigation than a day devoted to the odd and unusual?

X marks the spot

Whereas in the past, I’ve seen alien eyes only on the sides of commercial buildings, this morning I saw examples on a handful of residential homes on Marlboro Street: a pretty plain Jane destination to travel across the universe for.

Residential alien eyes

Of course, the whole message of alien eyes–if said aliens came to this galaxy to impart a lesson–is that the supernatural nests in the natural just as the extraordinary imbues the ordinary. After seeing the first of this morning’s alien eyes downtown, I was on the lookout for them closer to home; after seeing the first one on a plain-sided house, I quickly spotted another across the street, then another next door.

Alien eyes in the shadows

This afternoon on the way from the laundromat to the post office and then gas station–this afternoon, in other words, on my way from one chore to another–I saw two witches, a wizard, a bride, and a couple of cats-in-the-hat strolling downtown streets. Wednesday is my one day for walking Keene streets, and Halloween is our one day for walking with the weird. The lesson of alien eyes, like that of Halloween, is that there is magic among us if only we have eyes to see.

Alien eyes

The “alien eyes” I’ve blogged twice before–weirdly shaped, glowing patterns reflected from sunlit windows upon nearby brick walls–re-appeared in Keene this weekend, this time on an otherwise obscure building tucked behind Main Street. This particular alien eye looks like a glowing target: X marks the spot. It’s helpful, I think, to be occasionally reminded of the luminosity that indwells even lifeless brick and mortar, the Shekhinah shining even in back alleys and forgotten corners.

Remember the odd “alien eyes” I blogged on a Sunday morning a little over a year ago? At the time, I couldn’t understand why reflected light from un-grilled windows across a parking lot showed up as gridded on this brick facade, but the mystery only added to the odd lights’ appeal. Several weeks later, I discovered that a building diagonal from the one with reflecting windows had window grills, so apparently the low-slanting morning light shone through one grill-windowed building, bounced off the non-gridded windows of a second, and landed in an exotic and intricate design on a third. Having figured the odd and angled trajectory of this alien eye-shine, I’m just as awed as ever.

Why do mention all this? Only because the aliens are back, this time in Central Square, Cambridge.

These Massachusetts alien eyes bear a much closer resemblance to praying mantises than our New Hampshire ones: perhaps they’re from different areas of the same exotic planet?

Early this morning, feeling uninspired in the blog department, I took a autumn-brisk walk through downtown Keene–no dog, just me and my camera–to see what I could see. Feel free to add your own caption to this ragtag assortment of odd images.

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