The Great Conjunction

In a year that had so little to look forward to, it promised to be a once-in-a-millennium celestial spectacle. Jupiter and Saturn, the two largest worlds in our solar system, would appear almost as one in the night sky. And not just any night sky: the event would take place on the Winter Solstice. The combined planets would form a star so bright that many believed it was the one the wise men had followed to the city of Bethlehem two thousand years ago.  The name itself — the Great Conjunction — promised a kind of togetherness that has been sorely lacking on our woebegone earth for almost a year now.

I cut a path on the afternoon of the Solstice through a foot of freshly fallen snow to the top of our upper field. Later, about an hour after sunset, I set out into the frigid dusk. A half moon followed me through the trees and cast an otherworldly sheen over the fields as I climbed. When I reached the top of the hill I stopped, adjusting my binoculars, and faced southwest above the tree line where I was told to look.  I found clouds instead.  Not even storm clouds.  Just a blanket of everyday condensed water vapor thick enough to obscure the horizon.

Directly above me, though, stars gleamed.  And through the trees I could see the distant lights of my neighbors’ windows.  Somewhere, as might have been the case in Bethlehem, the planets were aligning. In the darkest night of this darkest of  years a kind of miracle was unfolding. Just one that not everybody was destined to see.

Here’s a poem on the subject with a final stanza that I particularly recommend.

Toward the Winter Solstice

by Timothy Steele

Although the roof is just a story high,
It dizzies me a little to look down.
I lariat-twirl the cord of Christmas lights
And cast it to the weeping birch’s crown;
A dowel into which I’ve screwed a hook
Enables me to reach, lift, drape, and twine
The cord among the boughs so that the bulbs
Will accent the tree’s elegant design.

Friends, passing home from work or shopping, pause
And call up commendations or critiques.
I make adjustments. Though a potpourri
Of Muslims, Christians, Buddhists, Jews, and Sikhs,
We all are conscious of the time of year;
We all enjoy its colorful displays
And keep some festival that mitigates
The dwindling warmth and compass of the days.

Some say that L.A. doesn’t suit the Yule,
But UPS vans now like magi make
Their present-laden rounds, while fallen leaves
Are gaily resurrected in their wake;                          
The desert lifts a full moon from the east
And issues a dry Santa Ana breeze,
And valets at chic restaurants will soon
Be tending flocks of cars and SUVs.

And as the neighborhoods sink into dusk
The fan palms scattered all across town stand
More calmly prominent, and this place seems
A vast oasis in the Holy Land.
This house might be a caravansary,
The tree a kind of cordial fountainhead
Of welcome, looped and decked with necklaces
And ceintures of green, yellow, blue, and red.

Some wonder if the star of Bethlehem
Occurred when Jupiter and Saturn crossed;
It’s comforting to look up from this roof
And feel that, while all changes, nothing’s lost,
To recollect that in antiquity
The winter solstice fell in Capricorn
And that, in the Orion Nebula,
From swirling gas, new stars are being born.

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21 Responses to The Great Conjunction

  1. Annette Shear says:

    Dear Liza
    You have been a lovely glow every month throughout this year of needing all the glows we can get…thank you.
    Please continue to shed some more light as we step “gingerly” into the new year.
    Please be healthy and safe with your family & friends.

  2. Cheryl Sullivan says:

    Although it was disappointing not to view what you went looking for, it seems you found another beautiful perspective. Thank you for sharing it.

    • Liza says:

      You’re right — I did find something I wasn’t actually looking for: the peaceful solitude of a winter night. All my best to you in the new year, Cheryl.

  3. Cheryl Sullivan says:

    What an astonishing poem! Wonderful.

  4. Jenn says:

    I love this poem! Thanks for sharing your experience and the poem. We are hoping that the new year brings hopeful changes for all. Lots of love to you, Liza!

  5. Sally Thomas says:

    A babe was being birthed as this conjunction came to its closest point. Bella separated from her mother, a bit early, as the planets began to move apart. A day later, I held her and remarked what a strong little premie she is! As a doula, I received my little charge, and also found that she self soothes already, can express when she wants to be picked up for a cuddle and smiles already… and often. Hardly a whimper out of her. Her daddy swaddled her the best that I have ever seen and smiles at him when asked, with a tap to the nose. She is blessed, I am blessed, we are ALL…blessed!

  6. Jency says:

    What a lovely poem Liza.
    Wishing you a most wonderful New Year.

  7. Susan Fisher says:

    Liza, what a lovely note and poem–such a wonderful way to start the new year. I, like you, couldn’t see the conjunction, but did see the planets a few days earlier quite close, quite bright, and very visible with the naked eye. And I have to add that Sally’s reply above mine rivals yours for beauty of sentiment.

  8. Joelle says:

    Thank you for sharing this beautiful poem. Wishing you and Bill a great new year!

  9. Emily Gyllenhaal says:

    You are the best of story tellers. True life too. Never a disappointment. I felt like I was there with you. I know the hill well and the crunch of the snow under feet. Here’s to looking for more miracles in the New Year.

  10. Phyllis says:

    Great post and poem! Thanks Liza. =p.

  11. Kirsten Schoenberger says:

    Thank you Liza. I look forward to your posts: little treats of happiness!

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