From where I sit to write this blog in this particular season (when it’s too cold to sit in an unheated attic) I watch Venus rise in the eastern sky. While it is still dark, I notice a bright yellow glow appearing over the top of a business located on the eastern side of the block. It hovers there a moment before disappearing briefly behind various rooftop accoutrements of the building across the street, appearing again minutes later on the other side. The planet rises rapidly before sunrise, and with the unnatural markers of human structures, it’s fairly simple to keep track of her progress with occasional glances out the window. Venus is, as I’ve mentioned before, both the morning and evening “star” of antiquity. We now know her identity as a planet rather than a goddess, but we’re becoming more attuned to planets’ roles as mothers, or at least we should be.
Some ancient peoples considered our own earth as a mother. It is the womb in which we gestate as living beings. Without the warmth she gives we could not survive, and even our forays into nearby space are possible only with the replication of her body heat through artificial means. It may be metaphor, yes, but metaphors may be truer than bald statements of chemical compositions and mathematical formulas. Scientist, politician, or theologian, none of us survive without our planetary nurture. This thought is sobering in the light of government policies over the past two years, which have denied that human pillaging of nature is problematic. The Republican Party, which collectively lacks respect for our earthly home, has followed thoughtlessly in the tracks of a man proud of his refusal to read. And so I look to Venus.
Venus is beautiful. We know, however, that her surface is hot enough to melt lead. Soviet-era probes landed there and melted. Planets, it seems, can unleash fury that mere humans can’t hope to withstand. One of the forgotten graces of nature, it seems, is the warning sign. Even as the rattlesnake warns before striking, our mother has been sending messages that we’ve been going too far. Hurricanes are growing stronger and threaten to scour us off the very face of the land we disrespect and exploit. Venus, it turns out, is too hot to handle. Mars, whom the ancients feared for his propensity to irrational war, is too cold. It’s difficult to imagine where politicians think we might go when our own mother turns us out. I would invite them over to watch Venus perform her morning dance outside my window, but to see it you must first believe in goddesses.