Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Transiting Venus

A cold, exhilarating wind was blowing, yesterday, as I went out to experience the transit of Venus across the Sun. Since this event won’t happen again until 2117, this seemed like a good time to catch it. I made my way next door, into my friend and neighbor’s pallet palace, where he had set up a camera obscura. Using two lengths of metal water pipe duct taped together and aimed into a cardboard box, John focused the sun through a bit of tin foil with a carefully reamed pin hole. Over the box where the image would be projected he had erected a sun shade/viewing booth of cardboard. Periodically, he would enter the booth and shim the whole contraption up, to keep up with the movement of the Sun. In his own words, he was “pushing the limits of this technology.”

So I entered the booth, ducking under the towel tied to the pipe to block the triangle of sun entering somewhere. To get a clear view of the viewing box, I had to balance the entire cardboard structure on my head. I peered into the box . . . and there she was--Venus, a tiny pea of shadow, against the monster disk of the Sun! Who can say why this was so entirely thrilling?

Our little planet is only fractionally larger than Venus, meaning that we are in roughly the same relation, size-wise, to the Sun. In distance, Venus is 71.8% of the distance that we are from the sun--about 67 million miles vs. 93 million miles. It’s easy to live our little lives, going about buying paper towels and tickets to the theater, and to forget the vastness of which we are inhabitants. We say “awesome,” when something pleases or excites us, vitiating one of the few words in the language that can express the profound sense of wonder of which the human mind and heart are capable. (An aside: I am amused every time I spot the new rash of MY GOD IS AN AWESOME GOD bumper stickers around town. Does God need advertising to promote His awesomeness, these days? Or is this a suggestion that someone else’s version of God is less than awesome? To state that God is awesome seems to me to be a statement in redundancy. But I digress . . .)

In between viewing Venus with a cardboard box balanced on my head, I chatted with John about the cosmos and took photos of the remarkable light that accompanied the Venus transit. Again, as with the solar eclipse (see blog of 05.21.12, “Spangled in Crescents”),  the light darkened and colors became more intense. A mystery moved through the woods. This is not poetic license but is based in decades of observation of this mountain, its weather, lights, flora, fauna and passing mysteries. The sky again took on a rich, textured lavender blue, shot with silvery-gold photons.

I will not call my experience yesterday awesome. But I will say that something awesome was moving through our world and across our celestial ceiling. Something of which we were largely unaware but which was composed of total awareness. In the marrow of my bones I felt a shift, as if transiting Venus were the finger of God/ess, flipping a switch or turning a dial a few notches or wiping away an old dispensation. If that sounds too airy-fairy, well, I guess I’m trying to say that mysteries abound—and my God/ess is an awesome God/ess, too!

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