Astronomy and Astrology

Science was never my subject. I considered myself artsy and science not creative.  In University we had to have a set number of science credits in order to graduate. I was really excited to sign up for Astronomy. My family and friends were a bit surprised by my enthusiasm and downright shocked when I told them that astronomy had been a long standing interest of mine.

In the weeks before classes began I even did some independent research on the subject and was early on the first day so I could get a seat right in the first row. I fully anticipated that it would be my favorite course of the year. I was considering the option of changing my major.

What I haven’t admitted until now is that I didn’t understand that astronomy, and astrology, were two very different things. I sort of imaged a group of us learning more about our signs, the Age of Aquarius, moons rising, Jean Dixon’s latest predictions, that kind of thing. Imagine my disappointment.
 I can still close my eyes and vividly remember the final exam. The first question went something like “If you are standing at the equator at 6am, facing due North, and the sun’s angle is 90 degrees what day of the year is it?”  I read the question at least four times and felt this cold icy sinking feeling in my stomach.  I risked a glance around the room and could see people all busily working the problem out on their papers. Some were making these elaborate diagrams with rulers and protractors then tallying it up on their calculators. I realized that they actually knew how to work the problem out. Oh they might get it wrong, miss a decimal point here or there, use metric instead of English measurements, after all it can happen to anyone, but the point is they at least had some glimmer of how to begin.

I was stuck on trying to figure out what kind of situation I would find myself in where I would wake up at the equator without any clue of what day of the year it was but would know the exact time. I considered writing down that if I found myself in that situation, then clearly it was the kind of day where I needed to give up drinking and recreational drugs, but I was pretty sure that wasn’t the answer.

I played with the calculator for awhile, typing in random numbers and figured out that if you typed in the number 433713, held the calculator upside and sort of squinted, it looked like my name. This was clearly not going to suffice. I wrote it down, including a diagram of how to hold the calculator in case it might be worth extra credit points.
I realized in that moment that I had spent my entire academic career learning things that would be of no earthy good to me. I couldn’t program a computer, fix a car or calculate a spreadsheet. How many companies were going to be seeking someone who could quote Shakespeare, had read Canterbury Tales in old English, knew a bit about art history and had gotten a perfect grade in the History of Theatre course? How would I survive in the real world? Dear God, how was I going to survive at the equator?

I had no choice- I would have to marry one of these creatures, one of these science people. It would be like interracial dating, only more daring. I wasn’t sure if my arty friends would approve. I wasn’t sure if the science types would be interested in the likes of me, or if they would make jokes I didn’t understand about the binary system. I would discover my husband in the months that followed. Our relationship was an experiment. He spoke in engineering and logic, not a language I knew, he opened up a whole different universe to me. Through his eyes I discovered  that not all art and poetry is on the page, but some can be found in the sky.

For the record- I’m a Pisces and no I still don’t know the answer to the exam question.

4 Replies to “Astronomy and Astrology”

  1. Grrr, I was wrong! Not Taurus, Pices. Are they supposed to be stubborn too? I love this post, Eileen, and love that you and your husband are so clearly so perfectly suited. All hail, Bob!

  2. I love that you wrote UNPREDICTABLE and remember my promise – we’ll do a give-away reading at your release, too!

    I am lucky to live in Hawaii – the stars at night are simply amazing. Absolutely amazing. We have several observatories atop Mauna Kea so astronomers tend to run rampant in our town. I love it.

  3. It is either the vernal (spring) or autumnal (fall) equinox. On both days, the sun rises due east, at exactly 90 degrees, from true north – both rising and setting exactly along the equator – 6:00 a.m. and 6 p.m. respectively. (Not bad for a fellow English major who wisely chose to marry into the engineering field, huh?)

    But I think your name/calculator diagram should have gotten you at least a few points. Plus it sounds like a trick question since there are 2 correct answers and the question implies that there’s only one. At least your degree would have prepared you to write a well-crafted letter of complaint to the school paper denouncing such trickery.

  4. Isn’t this amazing? Jamie has answered Eileen’s elusive exam question and once again the truth comes out! Also, Pisces is depicted by two fish, each one swimming in opposite direction to the other — could that be arts and science? 😉

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