Yesterday I was fortunate enough to be among the throng of enthusiasts who had braved traffic and lack of sufficient parking to view the Transit of Venus across the Sun at the Griffith Park Observatory. My husband and I spent the afternoon watching through a telescope fellow author Karen Anderson had brought with her, and helped her entertain the lines of folks who were eager to catch a glimpse of this rare phenomenon from the far reaches of the parking lot, even before they made it to the lawn and the viewing areas at the Observatory proper.
Venus, on its way from being the Evening Star to the Morning Star, usually the brightest object in the sky after the Sun and the Moon, was a tiny black dot against the white disc of the Sun, larger than the freckle-like sunspots which also showed up through the filter, but very tiny, indeed...a marvelous light eclipsing the sun, yet its own light, merely a reflection of the Sun, being eclipsed by it...only a tiny shadow, yet a piece of rock not much smaller than the size of Earth. It was enough to put many things into perspective.
It was an event we would not see again, as it occurs so rarely.
This morning I was awakened to the blare of the clock-radio blasting the news that author Ray Bradbury had died, and that too, put things into perspective.
Ray Bradbury was one of my heroes. My high school and college years were made more precious by the reading of his tales, from the cautionary "Fahrenheit 451" (through which I learned the combustion point of paper and must have saved myself from countless kitchen fires by remembering to set the oven at a point well below that if I were baking cupcakes) to the dark and well-loved "Something Wicked This Way Comes", to the much-touted "Martian Chronicles". I grew up with Bradbury, reaffirmed my own imagination by reading the products of his. It was he, as much as Robert Heinlein, who made me believe I had a story to tell and that writing was what I really wanted to do, writing in that field of speculative fiction which often transverses science fiction and fantasy and yet which leaves the reader with a feeling that there is more to the story than has been told and challenges him or her to seek out that truth.
I was not fortunate enough to have met Robert Heinlein, but Ray Bradbury spoke a few years back at a local library and I would not have missed that for the world. Speaking for a few moments with him at the end of the lecture were magical...the tangible, physical evidence for all the words on all the pages which I had consumed so avidly in my teen years and beyond.
And somehow it feels fitting he should leave us during the transit of Venus, the same way Mark Twain left this world during the return of Halley's Comet...both bright fixtures of the literary world, lights whose like we will not see again in the near future.