Today Venus will waltz slowly across the sun. Its slow dance is actually called a “transit of Venus.”
And it won’t happen again for another 105 years.
We won’t be able to see it firsthand without a special telescope. You could make one of those homemade pinhole observatories, but it won’t be quite the same as seeing it with your very own eyes. NASA’s website will broadcast the seven-hour celestial event online.
This morning before Venus began its solar crossing, I walked through my neighborhood, camera in hand. I thought about the rarity of today’s Venus transit.
Then I spotted the same organ pipe cactus that I had photographed and written about yesterday. There were a few new blooms open today, but the bloom I saw yesterday now looked like a closed fist, its one day of blooming past.
This cactus flower won’t open again. Not tomorrow, not next summer, not even in another century. Not ever.
There are so many things we miss because they seem too ordinary. Because we’re too busy to slow down and notice.
Even an extraordinary event like the lunar eclipse a few weeks ago. I was working on an editing deadline and almost missed seeing that rare event, even if it was just projected onto a piece of paper.
But I didn’t miss the cactus blooming yesterday in its showy “all summer in a day” splendor. And I was outside again today, a witness to its closing, its transit to the next phase of life.
Thinking of the cactus flower’s “all summer in a day” lifespan, I looked up the details of Ray Bradbury’s short story. The irony is that the 1954 science fiction story is about people living on Venus!
Bradbury imagines Venus to be a place where the sun shines for only two hours every seven years. One little girl, Margo, remembers the sun from when she lived in Ohio five years ago. When she describes its warmth and brightness, her classmates don’t believe her. They were only two the last time they saw the sun. The only life they know is a constant rainstorm, “thousands upon thousands of days compounded and filled with one end to the other with rain.”
When Margo writes a poem about the sun, her classmates say she couldn’t have possibly written it. When the teacher leaves the room, the children lock her inside a closet. You can read “All Summer in a Day” and find out what happens when the sun comes out.
Margo’s poem reminds me of the cactus blossom: “I think the sun is like a flower / that blooms for just an hour.”
What blooms in your life for an hour or a day? And how long have you been locked inside your own closet, blinded by distractions and busyness? What have you been missing?
When the children go outside to play in the sunshine, Bradbury writes, “They looked at everything and savored everything.”
Isn’t that what writers do? We look at everything with fresh eyes, savoring what we see.
So go outside and savor something. Whether it’s Venus’ transit seen through a pinhole or a flower blooming spectacularly in your own backyard. Everything is out there, waiting to be seen and savored.
As the poet Robert Burns wrote, “Now’s the day and now’s the hour.”