Today Venus passed between the Earth and the sun, and at the same time, by some accounts, what remained of American democracy died in Wisconsin.
I wasn’t thinking about either of these things as they happened, but did several loads of laundry and then sat on the porch reading Richard Rodriguez: “I believe in medicine, in astrophysics, in washing machines.” My toes got cold when a cloud blocked the sun. I do believe in washing machines, more than i ever expected to. Sometimes i think i’ve forgotten how to think in solitude. Washing things walks a fine line between distraction and necessity.
In 1639, scientists were dispatched to what by then were known not to be far corners of the earth but to various distant points to view the transit of Venus, and use what they saw to estimate the distance between themselves and the sun. One man took so long in returning to wherever he had come from that his family had declared him dead. They arrived at a collective answer remarkably close to 93 million miles.
I saw pictures of it on Facebook later. No one, to my knowledge, is presumed dead as a result of those pictures. The meaning of distance has changed.
As for Wisconsin, it’s so easy to forget how things work. I forget that a person can have dollar amounts that seem so similar to the number of miles from the sun. My activism has devolved into pebble throwing. I charge my cell phone from a solar panel out of spite, and that’s about it. I’ve become, by default, the precinct election chair, and i struggle to imagine any drama that is actually related to the election.
“Be careful leaving the house these days,” i warned a neighbor the other day. “It seems like every time you do you end up on yet another board of something.” It’s true. We run out of people willing to say yes so quickly.