There is a light somewhere in the dark woods of Northern Michigan that amazes me.
When I lived there, in the summers during my high school years, they would talk about the light. An old lady stuck in a tree, a lantern leading the way somewhere, a big mystery.
That can't be possible, I always said. Even the Northern Lights have an explanation. The older boys (they were the interesting ones) assured me they had seen it and unlike their water skiing tricks there was no explanation.
My last summer there before I moved to California to be an adult, they took me to see the mystery light. It was a long drive, almost an hour, but so was everything in the North. Town was 30 minutes away, a movie theatre was even farther. We got a camp vehicle, piled in and told stories until we got there and had to hike it.
There were several other cars in the makeshift parking lot. We hiked in through weeds and grasses and fallen logs. There was an old road we walked along deep into a forest of Northern pines. And there was the light.
It looked like a train light coming straight towards me but never getting closer. It bobbed back and forth like a buoy out from pier. The closer we walked the more constant the light was. Me, the boys, and 15 strangers trying to solve the mystery light.
It was really far away from where we were, there was no way we were going to reach it tonight. Besides, we had to get back to camp to close the next day. I had to know, though, how it was really a mystery.
"You just pass it," an old man said. This was his four hundredth trip to the mystery light. "You'll be hiking, keeping your eye steady on the lantern and then poof, it'll be gone."
It always stayed the same, he said. Even when you were right in front of it.
I think about that light every once in a while. Sometimes, I think that man was lying. That he put it there, that he somehow remote control operated it from afar. But how would remote controls work in a land where cell phone reception isn't in the vocabulary and two way radios only work when you can actually see the other radio?
And what had the man to gain?
Awarded a Best of Holidailies 2005.