Friday, January 11, 2013

"The roll, the rise, the carol, the creation"

Yesterday morning I stepped out onto the terrace at 6 AM with high hopes.

For several days I had been watching the waning Moon creep ever closer to Venus in the re-dawn sky. The morning promised a near conjunction, low in the east, just before sunrise. A sweetly slender Moon, a day from being new, only a few degrees from the blazing planet.

Would the clouds cooperate. Yes! Just enough cloud to add drama. The Moon and Venus, hanging in a crystalline gap, bracketed by palms. It was one of those rare sights that meant waking up my wife. "Come out on the terrace, you gotta see this," I urged. She rolled over and groaned. "It better be good," she said.

It was.

The clouds performed as if choreographed. The palms swayed. The crescent Moon was eyelash thin, the rest of its orb faintly lit by Earthshine. We stood together, agog.

One advantage of having been married for 54 years is I have a pretty good idea what's worth waking her up for. In the early days, I sometimes missed. A planetary conjunction half-hidden by haze. A sniff of comet you had to squint to see. "You got me up for THIS?" she'd say.

Which brings us back to that middle ground, between "classicism" and "romanticism." Or to give it another twist: Between knowledge and love.

Knowledge is half, said the naturalist John Burroughs; love is the other half. Each is a glass half empty. Of which I will have more to say on Monday.