Dear Kid,

If you happen to live in this hemisphere, and if you happen to be awake early enough in the morning that it is still dark, and if you happen to be outside, and if it happens to be reasonably cloudless, take a moment to look up.

Right now, Venus is shining so brightly it hurts. You can tell it’s Venus because it is far too bright to be a star and it’s not moving particularly quickly (you might think it’s an airplane, but it’s Venus).

I love the constellations this time of year. Cassiopeia is one of my favorites. This is probably my favorite time of year for stars. I love seeing Orion and Cassiopeia (she’s the one that looks like a W [unless it’s an M]) in the sky. They are larger than life this time of year and wonderful fall constants.

I’m guessing you don’t know the story of Cassiopeia. So, being the kind of mom I am, I shall tell it to you.

Queen Cassiopeia was the wife of King Cepheus. She was beautiful and vain (you know that when you add Queen plus Mythology plus Vain the story is not going to have a happy ending for the queen).

Cassiopeia boasted that both she (Cassiopeia) and her daughter (Andromeda) were more beautiful than all the Nereids, the nymph daughters of one of the lesser sea gods. Again, if you think you’re more beautiful than a god’s daughters, if you ARE more beautiful than a god’s daughter – perhaps especially if you are – keep your silly mouth shut about it. Look beautiful, be humble, live long.

Not so much for Cassiopeia.

She made her views on her beauty perfectly clear. And Poseidon (head god of the sea) got royally annoyed.

An angry sea god is not a trifling matter, what with him being in charge of floods, earthquakes, and sea monsters all of which can severely damage the infrastructure of a country and the inhabitants therein.

So Cepheus (the king) and Cassiopeia (the queen) decided to consult an oracle to find out What To Do. And once one (or in this case two) has consulted an oracle, one had best do what one is told because otherwise why did you ask?

The oracle said to sacrifice Andromeda. “Oh, the waste of such beauty,” said Cassiopeia, “but at least it’s not me.” So they chained Andromeda to a rock at the edge of the sea where she could look beautiful and await a sea monster.

Fortunately for Andromeda, Perseus happened to be flying by with his borrowed winged shoes (he’d just killed Medusa), and being a Hero kind of guy he rescued her and eventually married her.

To recap, everyone was now happy except Poseidon who thought that Cassiopeia had just weaseled her way out of a red card. So he tied her to a chair and stuck her in the sky in such a way that she is right side up half the time and upside down the rest of the time.

No word on whether Cassiopeia likes rollercoasters or gets sea sick when she’s upside down.

Enjoy the fall stars. And Venus.

Love, Mom