As I arrived with a second car load of stuff at my new lodgings near Dorking in Surrey, I looked up and caught site of a wonderful thumbnail moon and there, hanging like a full stop on a moonbeam sentence was Venus. Its extraordinary how such a sight can move your scientific reason and poetic soul at one and the same moment. I defy anyone who suggests one has more ‘truth’.
Venus struck me of late as I was heading south on the A3, heading home toward Liphhook. With Bluey my car in the garage , I was passenger to my friend Sarah Jane who was listening- at least I think she was!- as I vented my spleen over the state of the world. As I lifted my gaze to take in the ridge of Hindhead , I was pierced by the dazzling image of Venus in the still-bright sky. Watching her watching me lifted my mood completely.
Thinking about landscapes as I do, about how animals respond to differences in habitat size, shape and continuity, I wondered how the appearance of such a dazzling star in the December sky would affect or mammalian kindred. I have been reading a book by the biologist Alexandra Morton, gifted to me by my new friend Sarah Haney on a recent trip to Ontario, who describes in her book how the captive Orca Corky predicts the moment of sunrise on the side of her tank:
“There was Corky licking the spot and a few minutes later their was the streak of light”
I wonder how else non-human animals are affected by changes in moon and starlight.
I have a poem about Venus in the making but now is not the time to share, so for now in humility I offer the wonderful William Wordsworth’s poem.
To The Planet Venus
What strong allurement draws, what spirit guides,
Thee, Vesper! brightening still, as if the nearer
Thou com’st to man’s abode the spot grew dearer
Night after night? True is it Nature hides
Her treasures less and less. Man now presides
In power, where once he trembled in his weakness;
Science advances with gigantic strides;
But are we aught enriched in love and meekness?
Aught dost thou see, bright Star! of pure and wise
More than in humbler times graced human story;
That makes our hearts more apt to sympathise
With heaven, our souls more fit for future glory,
When earth shall vanish from our closing eyes,
Ere we lie down in our last dormitory?