Friday, February 27, 2009

What Does Venus Do?

It's a glorious evening, three days past the new moon. When it gets darker, the moon stands in the west like a small smile with a dimple to its left, Venus.

As I stand there taking photos, a fresh-faced, bearded young man with scraggly hair and a backpack comes up to me and asks with excitement, "What's happening? Do you know what that is up there?"

"It's Venus," I say. "Venus and the moon next to each other. Beautiful, isn't it!"

"Yeah," he says, gazing up. "Yeah. What does Venus do?"

"I don't know. I have no idea," I say.

In my class on women and religion, I require my students to know the various Greek goddesses and their interests: Artemis, Aphrodite (aka Venus), Hera, Demeter.

But I think he means something else, like the astrological properties of this planet. I'm stumped.

"Yeah, I just thought you might know," he says, gesturing toward my big camera, on loan from John because he's in New York with my mini one.

"Well, actually, Venus is the second planet from the sun, closer than we are, and it's up there circling the sun, like that," I say, drawing a big circle with my arm around the vanished sun.

"And the moon is circling us, and they happen to look like they're next to each other tonight."

"Cool," he says.

"The moon was down there, below Venus last night, and tomorrow it will be further up in the sky, about that far from Venus," I continue.

"Okay, thanks," he says, walking away, leaving me still asking myself his question:

What does Venus do?

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