Saturday, June 9, 2012

Transit of Venus March

My mother at the intersection of Science and God

On June 5th I got a phone call from my Mom.

“Hi, this is Mom.  I hope you and your kids are watching the Transit of Venus.” 

Me:  “Um, no we’re not.”  At that moment, my husband and two kids were doing work of cosmic importance:  assembling the new grill.  But Mom did not allow me time to tell her this, or anything else.

Mom:  “It won’t happen again until the year 2117, so you really ought to watch it.  They are showing it on television.  Venus looks like a black dot moving across the sun.  But you shouldn’t look directly at the sun.  Okay, goodbye.”

It is nigh impossible to say no to my Mom, because of her Presence.  She has been able to survive and thrive teaching science to Baltimore inner-city middle school students.  There are some people who just have The Presence in the classroom, and she is one of them.  Not only did she teach those difficult-to-reach students, but she expected excellence from them at every turn.  She is a great Mom and a great teacher.

She turned 80 years old last month.  Although she “retired” long ago, she still teaches, at the college level, showing new teachers how to include the teaching of thinking skills in their lesson plans. Her main task in life now, though, is trying to apply her expectation of excellence to the care my Dad receives.  It turns out it is easier to teach urban pre-teens than it is to change the mindset of the medical workers or to shift the way nursing homes operate.  It seems to take longer to get someone to come and shift his body to a more comfortable position than it does for Venus to transit the sun.

So after my mother made her pronouncement and hung up on me, I immediately accessed NASA’s live-stream of the Transit of Venus.  Viewed from Earth, it seemed that Venus was not in any hurry.  I took a break from the live-stream chit-chat to discover that John Philip Sousa wrote marching band music in honor of the transit of Venus in 1882.  I tried to get the kids interested, but the promise of hamburgers on the new grill won out.  I mean, the transit of Venus is an important celestial event, but I found that the first commercial space flight last month filled me with more wonder and awe.

The next day, Mom reported that she told my Dad about the transit of Venus, and watched some TV video of it with him.  She wrote to us,

In our evening prayer, he thanked God for all the wonderful things in the universe that we could see and learn about.  “Things that are so interesting,” he said, “and some that are not interesting.”

Yes, our thoughts exactly.  I was glad to have witnessed the transit of Venus, but also glad that I didn't have to watch every minute of it.  And very glad that my Mom is still teaching me things.

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Audio of Sousa’s Transit of Venus March:  Click here

Info on Sousa's march:  Click here


Cassi Renee said...

I have been feeling very guilty. Here I teach about the planets, but I didn't watch the transit of Venus, even a recorded version. I just didn't see what there was to see really.

I'll just have to fake some enthusiasm if anyone asks me about it.

Angie said...

Your mom is so cool.