Venus has been illuminating my mornings this past month. I’m not crazy about being up in the wee-est of wee hours, but insomnia is certainly made more pleasant by watching the arc that planet traces. From my pillow, I spy the first gleam at the horizon seemingly due east, and watch her rise and shift, upward and to the southeast, reaching high in the night sky before being obscured by dawn’s broader light.
Morning stars are no doubt an ordinary miracle to folks who pay better attention to the sky than I. But when it comes to careful late-night looking, I’m a newbie. My sense of the sky has been shaped almost entirely by scout camp and Greek mythology, rather than by astronomical knowledge.
Which may be why watching Venus has me so undone. Night after night, from the safety of my bed, I feel myself hurtling east, racing toward the next day. Venus shines like a brilliant nun or can, bright against the dark sea of sky, helping me gauge how far I’ve travelled. Charting her progress, I know what I nearly always forget: that I’m the one who is dashing, scrambling, hurtling through space, rotating 500 miles/hr most days, and spinning 3,000 mph more. In the time it takes for Venus to disappear from view, I’ve traversed 5,000 miles or more.
And in that dizzying dash, I find I’ve also left behind one of the most hallowed myths of America. No more “go west, young man,” for me. Nope. I understand now that the future’s not there. It’s to the east, a faint orange glow pierced by Venus’s unequivocal promise: tomorrow is nigh.