As a kid, my parents had this 1980's hardback coffee table book about NASA. I was pretty obsessed with it. I didn't have ambitions to be an astronaut or a physicist or an engineer (though I wish I had known at 12 that there was such a thing as an engineer, and that I could very well be one. No one ever bothered to tell me that.) but I did utterly love the pictures of the shuttles, the moon, the faraway nebulas.
When my sister Aimee was going to the Uvinersity of Uhat, and I was only 9 or 10, she would take me to the planetarium and we'd goof around on the scale that told you how much you'd weigh on all the planets and on the sun. We'd stare at the magnified moon rocks, and watch the footage of all Apollo moon landings. She probably has no idea how much all that stuck with me.
My Great Aunt Ellen was a contracted employee of NASA, and one of the only female engineers in her time. She helped design the oxygen tanks that the astronauts wore during EVAs (Extra Vehicular Activity) and I utterly adored her. I wish bitterly that I'd asked more questions when I had the chance.
Growing up in a rural mountain bowl, though, that really sets you up to feel like you are everso connected to the stars. Without light pollution, you could look up every night and see the belt of the Milky Way wrapped around you like a pilly afghan sweater. It was, and still is, luminous in ways that escape me. Better yet were the nights when dad would pull out the telescope and show us Jupiter, Mars, Venus, and Saturn. To this day, seeing Saturn's rings through a lens and realizing that your 4th grade teacher didn't just totally make that up freaks me out.
I had to be there with her, and have this moment that was quite literally, once in a lifetime. I don't believe in many things being once in a lifetime. I feel like you have a right to choose your timing, and if you want something back, you go after it. But this was cosmic, universal, and would go on with our without me. I had to let her know I was there.
I chased the clouds down and drove towards patches of light, only to lose them. I waited it out, hoping she would come back. At around 7:45, I was coming to grips with my stormy destiny. I told myself that I hadn't missed it- that just because I couldn't see it didn't mean I hadn't been aligned in that beautiful trajectory of aligned planets. Here I was lucky enough to be on a self sustaining planet of air and clouds and rain and trees and food, and I was complaining that my atmosphere had stolen my fun. And I told myself I was okay with it.
And then the sun came out.
And by God, that Sun, and her Venus, they were beautiful.
The last one is the only one that I took, and while you can't see Venus, I still rather like this. Because the sun is awesome.