On the evening of March 13th, 1997, people all across Arizona reported seeing unusual lights in the sky, an event that would come to be known as the Phoenix Lights. Many witnesses described seeing five lights attached to a giant, V-shaped mass, silently moving over the state. At the time of the Lights, I was an awkward, paranormal-obsessed eleven-year-old girl living in Tucson and trying to come to terms with a quickly maturing body. I was raised in a strict, Catholic household, and my father was obsessive and volatile. It was a period of family trauma, shame, puberty, and UFO mass-hysteria.
My recently completed manuscript, Arizona Lights, tries to put together the pieces of this bizarre and turbulent time by combining poetry, prose, witness testimony, images, and other found and fabricated materials. It is a a sort of conspiracy dossier, its details made even more incomprehensible due to the passage of time. It is about women’s bodies and alien bodies, abduction and dissection, and the things that make us feel otherworldly.
Carl Jung wrote extensively about UFOs, but he was most concerned with the flying saucer. The disc shape, he suggested, is important, in that its mandala-like shape contributes to its connection with religious experience, and the roundness and wholeness of it is symbolic of unity. My manuscript asks what, then, are we to make of the “V”? What is the significance of this severe and angular shape? How does it fit in with my Catholic coming-of-age narrative? Where do women and girls fit into religion and UFO mythology? Where do women and girls fit into our understanding of history and the mysteries of the universe?
Arizona Lights never arrives at any definitive understanding of what happened in 1997–indeed, it questions the existence of an objective reality altogether–but it gestures toward ways of understanding. These explorations in fact and fiction, logic and conspiracy, science and myth, evidence and faith, and the connection of these things to misunderstanding and otherness, feel even more important given our nation’s current political climate and the growing phenomenon of alternative facts. What conditions existed in 1997 that got us to where we are today? Can the Lights help us to understand? What do the Lights, and the controversy they ignited, reveal about us?
My manuscript is currently looking for a home, and I will post an update here should it find one. In the meantime, you can hear me talk more about the project in this radio interview from last year, when the project was still in its early stages.