6.05.2012

Venus in transit

OMSI tower

May in Portland teases residents with a taste of summer sun and heat, offering at least one weekend of high 80's or even 90's in which people dig out their shorts and sandals and little dresses, baring their pale, fast-reddening skin, while June draws shut a curtain of muggy clouds, like a witch grabbing back her candy from sticky-fingered children whose eyes fill with tears. And so June is Portland's second-worst month, the month along with October when I howl inside and fantasize about leaving, packing up, moving on. I daydream of sunnier climes even farther south than I've lived before, where it's warm most of the year, perhaps southern California this time, despite high prices and a looming water shortage, or maybe Austin, that liberal island in the middle of Texas (a state that should be allowed to secede). I envy Australians with their eucalyptus-shaded patios, Brazilians in their bikinis, Indians and their monsoons, Hawaiians with their flip-flops and tropical fruit, and even Greeks and Spaniards whose economies are crashing hard and fast, if only because they can grow olives, lemons, and tomatoes without even trying. One gets so tired of looking at clouds, of feeling cold and clammy like slugs.


sun in clouds, Portland, OR

Today in the U.S. is the last day to see Venus in transit in any of our lifetimes, the sun with a beauty mark. I'll be watching on the NASA site, lacking solar-viewing protection. My friend Dan, a biologist and hobby-astronomist, will be watching with his telescope from his Bay Area backyard in a house he inhabits quite happily with three extended family members.

Yesterday, I finished reading Going Solo: The Extraordinary Rise and Surprising Appeal of Living Alone, penned by an NYU sociologist who presents global statistics and sample ethnographies explaining why more and more people around the world, once they can afford it, are choosing to live alone for longer or recurring stretches of their lives because, despite obvious negatives—on average, less sex, less daily companionship, and heavily increased risks associated with living solo when poor and/or old—it's easier and often healthier for many humans to live with themselves than others. Another friend of mine has gone into debt to keep a house to himself, no roommate, no family, no lover. And I would live alone again myself if I could afford to. We're social creatures, but most of us don't seem very good at it, what with all our wars and divorces. So I'll watch Venus drift across the sun and reflect on love lost, possible relocation, and how the only thing one can count on in life is transit.

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