The Transit of Venus


I didn’t need to read this New Yorker article on the virtues of daydreaming to know that daydreaming leads to creative thinking.  As a child, I often saw my father, a writer, half-napping on the couch, insisting I leave him alone because he was working.  To anyone with a traditional work ethic, such behavior would have been viewed as absurd and lazy.  But I think I understood what my father meant, and I completely understand now, as I have grown into a person who wakes up from half-sleeps with revelations, endings to stories I’m writing, and solutions to difficult problems.

I also daydream when I’m fully awake. Too much, I would say.  The events of this morning, for example, led me to daydream for hours.  The result was revelatory, but I am now another day behind on my work.

I was awake very early with my sons who wanted to see the transit of Venus, one of the rarest predictable solar events.  In this event, Venus appears as a black dot on the sun   The transits of Venus occur in pairs which are eight years apart.  This happens less than once per century.  The next transit won’t take place until 2117.

transit of Venus 2012 - NASU
Image of transit taken by NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory spacecraft

The transit of Venus was supposed to be visible between sunrise and 7:30 a.m. today in Tel Aviv. My sons bought special glasses that would allow us to look at the sun and see Venus.  The end of a long story is that I didn’t see a black dot.  My kids claimed they did, and I was happy for them.  I, however, was left with a sinking feeling in my stomach and I didn’t know why.  It’s not as if I’ve been waiting years to see Venus in transit. I have never thought about it before and had my sons not brought home glasses, I would not have tried to see it.

The reason for my bad feeling, I decided,  was simply the sense of disappointment over a missed opportunity.  No matter how much I beg the universe, there will not be another transit of Venus in my lifetime.  My mind roamed, then, and I thought about all sorts of missed opportunities, the what-ifs, and future opportunities I will likely miss thanks to my anxieties.  Then I found myself back in time, in kindergarten, in the playground next to a play train that seemed to be made out of metal barrels without tops or bottoms.  I was standing near the back of the train.  I had a pair of glasses just like the ones my sons had today to look for Venus.  My teacher stood to my right.  My mother stood to my left.  She had glasses, too.  We were about to witness a solar eclipse. 

The sky changed from sunny to gray.  It was a hot day, but I remember feeling cold.  Teachers rushed children inside, worried they would look at the sun and damage their eyes.  I was with my mother, so I was allowed to stay outside.  We had our glasses.  We were safe.  But I didn’t feel protected.  The way darkness had overtaken the day frightened me.

My mother was diagnosed with MS that year.  I can’t recall the timeline of events.  Was it before the eclipse or after?  It could have been that very day.  In my memory, which, without the transit of Venus, might have been forgotten forever, my mother is smiling.  She wants to share the eclipse with me.  To her it’s not a fright, but a wonder. 

I have only a handful of memories of my mother in good health.  And perhaps in this lies the explanation for my sinking feeling of missed opportunity, the opportunity to be raised by my mother. 

*On a lighter note: While searching for Venus we sang the Police song, “King of Pain”.  “There’s a little black spot on the sun today…”  Thanks, Mike, for leading us into a burst of song. 


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10 years ago

very nice, bitter-sweet post, jessica.

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