Last night, my husband gave me Jupiter for dessert.
It had been a lovely Memorial Day and we were finishing dinner on the deck under what had become a dark and starry night. I looked up and there was The Big Dipper directly overhead, clear and bright. William started pointing out other constellations, his knowledge vast and exact, and I tried to follow his finger to see where he was looking.
William has a telescope that has lived unused in the bedroom upstairs for the nearly 12 years I’ve been here, and this seemed like the perfect opportunity to dust it off. I brought it downstairs to the deck and William got to work, looking like a teenager in the dark as he popped off lens caps and adjusted knobs.
In the meantime, William had pulled up the app Night Sky that allows you to point your phone at the sky and identify which constellation you’re seeing. As he was setting up his telescope, I played around with the app, which is accompanied by soothing music befitting star gazing (and any movie that might involve space travel). Ursa Major popped up, showing all the lines of the great bear, then, as I panned around, Ursa Minor, Lynx, Hydra, Virgo, Libra.
I recognized the names of the constellations from a deep well untapped since trips to the planetarium as a kid. It was always so exciting to go as part of a school field trip, not only for the show, but also for the cool, round, dim room that immediately made you feel calm and primed for discovery. The Manitoba Museum’s planetarium’s shows involved a live narrator, who would point around the “sky” with a jittery arrow. The star of the show though was Marvin, the name they’d given the projector.
The act of naming a machine, especially with a moniker as chummy and homespun as Marvin, made me feel real, deep affection for “him.” Part of me even thought he might have missed me in the year since I’d last seen him. Dear, ole Marv would show us such fascinating myths and creatures, connecting us to a past that seemed, at once, familiar and magical. Imagine what it must have been like to weave together the myths that accompany the heavens. Imagine what it must be like to see those stories whenever you look up.
William continued to work at adjusting his telescope, his chatty play-by-play punctuating the celestial-themed music. By now, my neck had become sore from looking up and I amused myself by gazing at the fire flies flitting around, creating their own constellations in the dark. I thought about how nice our weekend had been: a barbecue with friends, lounging by the pool, the summer real now, the weather warm, reassuring and here to stay.
I looked over at William, who was tireless now, intent on capturing Jupiter with the telescope. It was easier said than done since the machine requires a near infinite amount of patience and precision: If you can locate the planet in the lens, it only stays there a few seconds before you have to readjust the knobs Etch A Sketch style.
I am constantly amazed by how smart my husband is. He’s steadfast and good to his family, yes. He’s generous and disciplined and has a work ethic that can move mountains, sure. But it’s his intelligence, especially. Here was just another realm he had conquered. All this time, more than a decade living together, he had all of this knowledge stored up and was just now bringing it out.
It was nearly 11 and I had just thought about taking a shower to wash off the bug spray from the evening and chlorine from the pool when William called me over.
“OK, now!” he said.
I unfortunately hit the lens with my glasses (having not been gifted with the intelligence my husband possesses) and it took him a while to readjust, but he didn’t complain.
I bent down expecting to see black, which has been my only experience ever looking through a telescope. But then there it was: This chalky white, pock-marked planet that looked like a sweet gum seed pod. It was one of those moments where you feel very small but very OK with it at the same time. A time when all of life’s trivialities dissipate and you just feel awakened and refocused.
So we looked through the telescope at the planet William had caught for me. And it was the sweetest dessert I ever had.