by cheri block
The bright spot in this week’s news, brighter the prospects of a nuclear agreement with an untrustworthy country, and more luminescent than the prospects of a third ginormous loan for Greece, is the picture of Pluto and one of his little moons that the NASA spacecraft New Horizons beamed back to us this week.
To call Pluto a bright spot is dead wrong. I know because in the 5th grade, I wrote an exhilarating report on my favorite planet and learned that Pluto was so far away that the sun’s rays had little effect—that visiting Pluto would be like stumbling around blind in my closet at night.Those were the days when having a favorite anything was a must in all conversations, assigned reports, and for Monday-morning sharing.
My favorite color was blue, my favorite Beatle was George, my favorite horse at Shady Lawn Farm was Herb, my favorite food was spaghetti, my favorite animal was the horse, my favorite South American country was Chile, my favorite European country was Ireland, and of course, my favorite planet was Pluto.
When Pluto was downsized several years ago to a
dwarf planet and all maps of the Solar System became archaic and collectors’ items, I was as mad as hell. I knew that Charon, Pluto’s mysterious moon, named after the ferryman who boated the dead across the River Styx, would agree.
In 1961, I suppose Pluto attracted me because it was so small and I, too, was a shrimp. Out there, circling the sun with all of the attention foisted on Saturn and her gaseous rings, on Uranus because of, well, because of all of the anatomical jokes of Your Anus, and on Venus because of Frankie Avalon’s song, I naturally gravitated toward the planet with no gravity. Pluto needed a patron and my report was superior. That might have been because my mom made Pluto cookies, I gave everyone in the class a yo-yo, and because the cover of my report my father had helped design: it was black with an aluminum foil spot glued on the edge.
Today, my eyes feast on the first images of Pluto, that
dwarf planet so far away from earth. Sometimes, I too, feel as far away from the earth I used to know as can be. So far away from the obvious notions of engaging the enemy in a nuclear agreement or giving a country another loan when it has proven that it doesn’t understand a balance sheet. Or from electing a president who is a socialist in what used to be a capitalistic country.
Let’s see. If asked today, my favorite color is green, my favorite Beatle is John, my favorite horse at Shady Lawn Farm is still Herb, my favorite food is pasta, my favorite animal is a yellow Labrador Retriever (go lay down, Dinah, dammit), my favorite South American county is, well, I have no idea but definitely not Argentina, my favorite European country is England, and my favorite planet is still Pluto.