The planets are in alignment. Literally.

28 Feb

I did not take this photo. Some awesome photographer from Reuters did. I'm borrowing it to illustrate my story. Is that technically copyright infringement? I sure hope not.

Leaving yoga last night, I happened to look up and see the moon. Well, the moon (a sliver) and two very bright stars underneath it. My memory jogged to a Facebook post I’d read the night before, in which a friend had urged everyone to head outside and check out Venus and Jupiter, just under the moon.

I looked around and realized that what I was seeing was MUCH brighter than anything else in the sky, and I knew I was looking at planets. With my naked eyes. I became inexplicably excited and couldn’t take my eyes off them, except when passing other pedestrians. And I realized: apparently I’m the only person who finds planets to be a kinda big deal, because everyone else was shuffling along, talking on cell phones, not looking up.

I wanted to stop strangers and say, “Look up! Check it out! Those are PLANETS.” And I considered doing it – I assessed every person I walked past, trying to find someone I could share this marvel with. But that’s when I figured something out: when you’re walking alone, after dark, and you approach strangers, they’re going to think you’re either a) A criminal, or B) Crazy.

I couldn’t decide if the yoga mat over my shoulder helped or hurt my cause. On one hand, it showed that I wasn’t homeless (unless it was actually a bed roll), but on the other, it could mean that I was some kind of crazy Earth Mother who liked stars AND astrology.

This mild self-awareness prompted me to exercise some restraint and NOT approach strangers. However, if they’d studied me closely, they would’ve seen my eyes dancing from their faces up to the moon and back, much like a dog trying to hint that he’s ready for you to fill up his bowl. No one looked up. Their loss.

Unable to contain my enthusiasm, I called Alan and my sister and encouraged them to head outside, and sent my friend Betsy a text. I needed to share this with someone. I mean, it’s not every day that the planets are aligned so you can see them on a casual walk.

You know what else doesn’t happen everyday? Spotting the person who hit you with her vehicle. That’s right.

Walking down T Street, I was just about to cross the opening to an alley, when a Prius turned to enter. I hesitated for a moment before crossing its path (it was a Prius after all – and the same color as the one that hit me, at that!) and in that moment, I looked up at the driver. It was Tina. The woman whose face I had seen vividly through that same windshield once before.

Not sure how I recognized it.

I suppose it shouldn’t surprise me to bump into her (no pun intended) since she lives two blocks from me. But I did just celebrate my one year crashiversary (Feb 13!)  by observing that I hadn’t seen her since that night in the ER. Guess I celebrated too soon.

Ironically, for the first time since I’d set eyes on the moon, with the one person who stood a chance of recognizing me, I didn’t feel compelled to stop her and ask her to look up. Instead I just tucked my chin down and hustled past, glad for the anonymity.

Nestled back in my home, I googled “Venus, Jupiter, Moon” to make sure that what I’d seen were actually planets. (Yep!) But then I found this article that informed me I’d missed the real bonanza last May, when Mercury, Venus, Jupiter and Mars were visible to the naked eye, with Uranus and Neptune visible with binoculars.

WHAT?! I missed the chance to see SIX planets at once with nothing more than opera glasses? Where was I when this happened, and why didn’t anyone drag me outside? Also? Maybe this explains why no one mirrored my amazement last night. They probably all had seen six planets last year and would’ve been like, “Yawn. Big deal…” if I’d stopped to point out Venus and Jupiter.

It would’ve been kind of like that time in France when a couple stopped me and asked for directions and – because I couldn’t actually understand their question, I thought they were gesturing at a building that had caught fire the week before, so I’d excitedly responded to their simple inquiry with: “See that? It burn! It BURN! Burn big! Go bye!” Their eyes had grown large and they started backing away from me as if I were about to light them on fire.

So anyway. I guess there are three morals to this story: First, trying to engage strangers on the street is a recipe for looking crazy. Second, when the planets are in alignment, expect the unexpected. Third, if ever you don’t understand what someone has asked you, err on the side of giving them directions to a supermarket. At least you will have communicated something non-threatening and potentially helpful.

The good news? The planets will be visible for a few more weeks, so you haven’t missed your chance to see them. I just ask that if you DO see them and want to share the joy with a stranger, you point to the moon and tell someone how to get to FoodLion.

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11 Responses to “The planets are in alignment. Literally.”

  1. Kelly Thompson February 28, 2012 at 8:22 am #

    Great post! I can relate to the urge to tell others to look up. I frequently walk my dogs late at night or very early in the morning and have witnessed some amazing sights skyward. I can only imagine what people think when they look out their windows or drive by and see the three of us in the middle of the dark street, faces turned to the heavens…

    • pithypants February 28, 2012 at 11:07 pm #

      I think you should start doing it. ESPECIALLY when nothing is going on. Just look up and say, “See that? That’s the SUN, beyotch.” And keep walking. Bring a little magic back into the ordinary.

      • Kelly Thompson February 29, 2012 at 12:22 am #

        I have a great pic I took at a house party years ago of a group of about 10 bikers standing in my front yard, holding their beers and looking up at the sky. To this day, nobody can remember what the hell they were looking at. If it stops snowing by tomorrow, I’ll do some “Sun, beyotch” walking and let you know how it goes.

  2. Alicia February 28, 2012 at 9:18 am #

    a. I didn’t get your message until this morning (I was reading bedtime stories and the spouse forgot to mention that you’d called….yes, he was laying on the couch and heard your message on the machine as it came in).

    b) I think this is a very relevant lesson from all this that you missed: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JWVshkVF0SY.

  3. John February 28, 2012 at 10:30 am #

    So that’s what’s been going on! Each of the past several nights I looked up and said to myself, “Tomorrow I need to research what’s happening up there,” but it always slips my mind. Now you’ve done it for me!

    • pithypants February 28, 2012 at 10:36 am #

      The beauty of the internets! Now I’m sad I didn’t claim it was a spaceship coming to attack us from a billion light years away.

  4. bonnie February 28, 2012 at 12:49 pm #

    For several years, a couple of planets used to align right at the end of our street, perfectly framed by some houses and trees, every spring. The first year, I mentioned it to a friend because I was excited. Her response was “What, you didn’t know planets aligned in the spring?” I haven’t shared my excitement with anyone since, but the planets, the Casseopeia constellation, Orion’s belt, and the North Star always make me stop, marvel and be happy. I wish our ambient light didn’t block out so many others.

    • pithypants February 28, 2012 at 11:08 pm #

      You’re generous to call her a friend. Anyone who steals my enthusiasm gets relegated to the pages of the “Future Flip-Off” journal I started in seventh grade. Apparently you’re more mature than I am.

  5. squirrel circus February 28, 2012 at 2:20 pm #

    Ummmm, now I feel foolish for telling my 9-year-old, “No, no, honey, those are just planes.” Thanks for doing the research FOR me, so I can now tell him what he saw….

    • pithypants February 28, 2012 at 11:10 pm #

      No way! You just had a teachable moment! I think the next one is when he comes home and tells you the world is round and you laugh and say, “OK, Mr. Smartypants. Just try to send me a postcard once you sail off the edge!” Enjoy these years… lots of fun ahead of you.

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