Did you see it? Did you look at the sky on the darkest day?

So kind of the universe, giving us a reason to embrace the night on the darkest day of the year. I’m talking about The Great Conjunction, when Jupiter and Saturn approached one another for a kiss. 

It happened just after sundown on the solstice and there’s a good chance you heard about it. It was all over the news, apparently. Maybe no one had anything else to do.

I was feeling a little down on the day of the solstice but I went out anyway. I worried I was too late. It was supposed to happen right after sundown; I left an hour later. My weathertweeters tweeted that it would be a cloudy night, the conjunction might be a bust. But a walk was a walk, and that night, I would walk upon bridges with a view. I walked in front of a fire station as the engine was pulling out. It nearly hit me. It pulled out of the driveway and set its sirens to scream. I came upon the first bridge, past a gaggle of tourists looking expectantly southwest. But the clouds had not parted. There were no stars or planets to be seen, only a dim half-moon through moving clouds. 

I went to the next bridge because the clouds could be different over there. Here, people were stretched out all across the bridge, sticking their noses and binoculars through fence posts, readying their cameras but not snapping pictures just yet, the clouds were still too low. Here I paused to wait. The moon was a half-round of babybel cheese. The road curved down below. The police had created a barricade down there, only in one direction. The cars were piling up, confused, honking, probably trying to get home for dinner. I pulled out my phone and my stargazing app so it could tell me where the planets were supposed to be. I took off my gloves. The cold made my skin raw and rigid. 

Then the clouds parted. And there it was. 

The Great Conjunction. A dot of light, and, if you really really squinted, another tiny dot right next to it. (See shitty iPhone photo above).

I looked up and saw through the thinning clouds Mars shining brightly overhead. Mars was all alone, hoping someone would see it. Yet everyone was looking forward over the police barricades. Over what might have been a river long ago. I turned my attention back to the Conjunction. Into the horizon made of dark buildings that look like trees and radio towers and satellites and all the blinking brightness flying and floating by. A satellite passed the Great Conjunction as if it didn’t notice it at all. Two became three, then two again. 

I don’t know why but I kinda teared up. Just the feeling that these dots are their own worlds. These twin touching planets, which in reality sit four hundred and fifty million miles apart, have each other. I imagined someone on Saturn looking out and seeing Earth and Jupiter kiss. Three Earths can fit in Jupiter’s red stormy eye. We are so small. And so are they. Two tiny dots. One even smaller than the other from here, with rings that could fit one billion Earths, rings made of shattered moons. 

Just then I heard someone nearby say, “Are you sure those are the planets? I heard a star duo had a similar plan tonight.”

I was sure. I had this strange feeling that I was looking at the right thing. And, of course, I had my app. 

-Denise

— 

Do you like year-end roundups around NYE? I’m cool with them. It’s kinda nice. Yeah we all went through shit too, but it’s nice to highlight the positives. Here are some of my writing accomplishments from this year: 

“Old Charles”: A flash story published in Flash Fiction Magazine. I later read this story on stage at the Pie Shop with The Inner Loop, which was an incredible experience. I nearly cried on stage and I still don’t know why.

“The Florida Regiment”: My first paid fiction publication, for Mystery Weekly. This was me saying “what if I write a noir story lol.” It was fun. 

“Mount P”: Reprint publication in Vastarien

“One Day Closer”: Acceptance from The Forge (forthcoming May 2021 but I already have an author page!

“Standing Around the Kitchen Table”: Acceptance from Neutral Spaces Magazine (forthcoming in January or so) 

That’s about it for publications. But most of my accomplishments have been a bit more private. I finished a novel, and three agents have requested a full manuscript of it. I nearly finished a short story collection exploring climate change solutions. I started a second novel and am feeling really good about it. I quit my job to commit to the craft. I started freelancing/contracting and got my first client so eventually I can just do freelance work while I write all the dang time. 

I’m incredibly lucky to have the time, resources, and mental stamina to focus on this. Coronavirus has been hell for so many reasons but I am lucky to have a passion that thrives in solitude, and the weird motivation to write through my pain.

What were your top moments this year? I’d love to hear from you.

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