"Out there," pointed the seasoned old mystic. "Where the air is thin."
That was the second place I had visited where the air was thin, where lights sometimes danced across the lake.
"They don't come like they used to, not since the government began draining the waters. But sometimes you can still see them."
Back in my home state of Texas, people called them the Marfa lights. I had heard that in various states, countries, and continents each region had a different name for them. Musicians had written songs about them; famous authors had written them into their stories. But this old man seemed like he knew something the stories didn't tell, like maybe...
"What I have to tell you, no atheist on Earth would believe," the old mystic continued. "Out there, I have travelled among the spirits, out there: I knew God."
As a missionary man, as a man of faith, I found it difficult to believe. Here was this old Native American, this elderly mystic of the swamps, who had seen more in his lifetime that I had read in mine, telling me about knowing God on a personal level that I had not attained. But I have to admit something to you now that I could not have admitted then: I was inclined to believe him.
"How do you know it was God? I mean the stories say the lights are there to tempt us off our path. Some say they are lost spirits in limbo between heaven and hell."
"We are the ones in limbo," the mystic answered. "We are the ones who can be in hell or heaven by our choices right here on Earth. Out there though...," he stopped talking and just stared, his soul seemed removed from his body for a few seconds.
When he came to, we stepped into a hand-made canoe that had been carved from a tree, the old way. I pushed us off and paddled out into the lake, careful not to make too much noise, just as the old mystic instructed me.
"Here," he whispered.
I had to admit the air did seem different here. I don't know if statically charged was the right description, but the stars didn't look the same and the water didn't quite move the same.
The old mystic began chanting something that I didn't understand, so I sat in silence, simply listening. I don't know what I expected: maybe the skies to open up or the boat to fall into a void. I pulled out my notebook and began writing down the experience.
We sat there for hours. I grew weary of writing, something that never happens to me. In waves he would chant and then become silent. He motioned his hand to be quiet when I became impatient and started to speak or to yawn. It reminded me a bit of hunting with my father when I was young when he tried to call game within reach. But we weren't hunting; we were seeking. I just wasn't sure for what.
It was about an hour before dawn, perhaps an hour and a half, when the lights began to appear -- dancing at a distance, darting this way, then that.
The old man looked back and said, "We must go to the shore."
"But why?" Were my hopes to be dashed!
"Now," he demanded, and I paddled as quickly as I could. Behind the lights moved toward us.
"Hurry," he said in a stern voice.
When we reached the shore, I looked back and saw the lights had moved to where we had been.
"Fantastic!" I exclaimed.
"Not so good," said the old mystic.
"Why? I mean why did we have to return?"
"If you don't know that...," he replied. But he never finished his words. The old mystic had had a heart attack and died right there on the banks of the partially drained lake. Try as I did, I could not revive him.
I've never come as close to the afterlife as I thought I did on that night. I've done mission work throughout the world and, when the opportunity found me, visited every location where the lights were said to have existed. I've seen various colors and never knew ultimately what to attribute their meaning to.
The old man knew something, of that I was and still am sure. He had knowledge of something I only have faith in, and I use the word "only" carefully.
I've studied those lights and the many explanations, but I don't think anyone, other than the old mystic, knows what they are for sure. Perhaps there are places where worlds cross into each other. Places, where the air is thin. Maybe they are better off being left to the experienced old mystics.