Here in New Jersey, the sky has to be very clear in order to see any stars at all. White light blocks them out. Nevertheless, it's possible sometimes to see Venus shining over the shopping mall. And Orion the Hunter to the southwest, with his dogs and Taurus the bull at his side.
Orion has been my favorite constellation since I was a little girl. I must have been in fourth or fifth grade when my class took a field trip to the planetarium. The other kids got bored pretty quick, but I was just fascinated. After that, in high school, I took earth science. For awhile I was able to find any number of constellations in both the summer and winter skies.
My star knowledge has probably succumbed to years of alcohol use. The only constellations I can pick out now are Orion, Taurus, Cassiopia, and of course the Big Dipper.
When I decided to write about Orion, I looked up a few sites about him. He's Greek, of course. A Titan or some such. I was thinking of inviting him for an interview. But then something on one of the sites caught my eye.
It was a "duhhhh!" moment.
The site said that, since Orion is such a visible constellation, many cultures had names and identities for it, from turtles and other animals to gods and goddesses. (The Egyptians, for instance, associated the constellation with Osiris.)
In typical "Gods Are Bored" fashion, I asked myself: "Why should I be calling this constellation Orion? I don't worship the Greek pantheon."
You're of course expecting me to find a vulture hidden in that formation of stars. Trust me, it was my first attempt. But there's nothing about a buzzard that lends itself to three-in-a-row, like the studs on Orion's belt.
I've also thought about, and rejected, Celestial Slot Machine. I don't gamble. Something in me also bristles at the idea of a constellation named Barbie. She wears belts -- and she turned 50 last week -- but she doesn't deserve stars.
I'll have to meditate on this, because I'm so conditioned to see Orion as a male. It will be difficult to overcome the superstition that if I re-gender a constellation I'll reap a meteor shower of bad luck.
There are far worse ways to spend the evening than out in a yard, staring up at a constellation. If I stand gazing into the sky and talking to the stars, why, that will just make me like so many other crazy people in New Jersey!
What would you re-name Orion? Your brain is probably more fertile than mine. Frankly, my brain is in dire need of some Miracle-Gro. And a Sham-wow to soak up the stupidity.
And now, to gaze upon the stars! Adieu!