I’m a minor space geek.
Minor because I’ve never fully engaged in studying the skies above me; rather remained content to swim in the magical mystery of it all:
Glow-in-the dark constellations arranged haphazardly on my bedroom ceiling
“Star light star bright first star I see tonight”
Scanning the skies for falling streaks of light
Romantic summer nights
sprawled out on a blanket
Space is humbling. It’s a reminder of how much we have yet to discover.
And it’s awe-inspiring. When I allow myself to be swallowed up in space, I’ve suddenly accessed the wonder of a child.
Everything else slips away. Work. Mortgages. Car payments. Doctor’s appointments. The drama of the day-to-day.
= = =
Since moving out to the countryside, far away from the city glare, I am no longer able to simply walk anywhere at night. I can only stroll, with my neck craning back, my eyes on countless stars, seeking understanding, succumbing to not.
I so easily get lost up there.
And so, for weeks I’ve been anticipating the transit of Venus. Transits of Venus “occur in pairs with more than a century separating each pair.” As if the mysteries of our solar system and what lies beyond isn’t enough of a draw, the idea of witnessing something that won’t again appear in my lifetime — or sharing this experience with my children — is simply irresistible. (We’ve created an “eclipse” scope to view the event together at sunrise on June 6 in Israel.)
Venus last passed in between Earth and the sun on June 8, 2004. I missed it. I was too busy parenting a toddler in his terrible twos, building a career in freelance writing, making mommy friends, navigating the precarious curves and junctions of “married with a kid.”
So much has happened in my life in the eight years between when Venus last transited and today. But my milestones can easily be squashed when you consider what’s become of humanity since Venus’ slow march across the glare of the sun in 1882 — back in the days of Billy the Kid and the OK Corral. Before the Brooklyn Bridge was built. Before George Eastmen created the modern camera. Before the moon landing. Before we glimpsed the Earth from above.
Before me. Before you.
And the mind can get lost in curiosity or despair when she imagines what might transpire between now and when Venus is scheduled for another transit 105 years from now.
After me. After you. After my children, too.
As I said, I’m a minor space geek — more a magician’s apprentice than student. Content mostly to revel in the experience of being puzzled without having to actually solve anything. Content to point out a planet to my son. Content to scan the skies for a shooting star with my daughter. Content to share a bottle of wine with my husband on a blanket in the middle of a field under the romance-inducing canopy that is the vast night sky.
And content to stand in my backyard as the sun rises on June 6 staring into a cardboard box, eyes wide open — a child among my children. Dazzled and bewildered by space. Content to swim in the magical mystery of it all.
Jen Maidenberg is a writer, editor, activist and former assistant editor at the Arizona Jewish Post. Visit her website at http://jenmaidenberg.com/. She first posted this on her blog on 1.5.13.