1980, I enjoyed my first season-long summer in the country, having
moved the previous winter from New York City to the upstate area of
the Catskills. I had always been very fond of visiting the countryside
but I was a city man at heart, being a Londoner by birth and a New
Yorker of nine years by choice. Still, I was getting used to rustic
living to some extent and very much enjoyed the freedom to roam that
came with the acres of land adjoining the rented country home.
and sunny afternoon, I was inspecting the tomato vines behind the house
in what landscapers call high shade, meaning indirect sunlight. Into
this picturesque, idyllic tableau came gliding a phenomenon that was
about to literally terrify me.
describe this event as I perceived it then: As I stood some ten feet
or so from the vegetable garden laden with thick green pea pods and
heavy “beefsteak” style tomato vines straining against
the weight of their own fruit, I caught a blurry, flitting movement
in mid-air, out in the dazzling light of the sun. The bright light
flashed on the moving object that was seemingly making a line directly
toward me. Its movement was exacting and controlled. Eerily, it appeared
to be flying without the aid of wings and also perpendicular to
into the high shade and hovered about the tomato vines, moving from
one deep crimson fruit to another with a blurring speed and in a fashion
that was so unnatural as to be supernatural. I could not recognize
or understand what I was looking at and my heart rate shot up as I
cautiously walked toward the unidentified flying object, squinting
against the bright-light background.
six feet of it, I could physically feel, not sense but feel,
my electromagnetic-chemical brain systems scrambling in overload, attempting
to recognize and deal with this enigma that was way too big
to be an insect and, in the absence of wings, could not be a bird.
a classic example of fear of the unknown and I was living it right
there and right then. My supposedly sophisticated brain was reduced
in seconds to the adrenaline-shot animalism from mankind’s most
savage days of prehistory. And worse even than this, I think, is that
in the absence of a spiked club or some other stone-age weapon with
which to attack this unaccountable invader after my food, my brain
was reeling with reckless assumptions in its effort to comprehend it.