Tuesday, September 4, 2018

This Piece of Earth




I’m living in the US now, the country of my birth.  But I’ve been an ex-pat for a big chunk of my life, living in Germany, Vietnam, Thailand, Venezuela and Ecuador.  These different countries have held me and shaped me.  They’ve gifted me with their air, with the fruit from their trees, with their different customs and assumptions.  I am who I am because of all this.

And I didn’t flee the US because of war, or famine, or gangs threatening to kill me or my loved ones.  I’ve never been homeless or stateless.  I’ve never waded across a river in the hope of deliverance.   

Still, like many of us, my choices haven’t been completely free.  All of us are turned in certain directions, in this world we live in.  Some doors are shut and locked for us, and sometimes we see those same doors standing wide open for other people.  We don’t stand there scratching at what won’t yield;  we go another way. 

My wife and I left the US in the 80s, and returned to a different place in 2012.  Only a few months after we arrived, a statewide referendum in Maryland gave gay people the right to marry.  So we did that, and at last, I was able to sponsor my wife for a green card.  I saw myself symbolically putting out a welcome mat for her.  And of course, it made me feel welcome too, in a way I’d never felt in this country before. 

A few years later, the Supreme Court established the right to marry in every state.  Instead of taking wedding trips up north, my Southern friends could now get married where they lived. 

I’m an old lady now, and when I look back on my life, I see a wandering lesbian, one who chose love above a homeland.  And I would still make that choice, because I’m still madly in love with the same woman.  But why was exile the best choice?  It gave me the world, but it’s also meant that I’ve never felt completely, permanently at home in any one city. 

And now I look around and see people being uprooted, everywhere around me.  I see people afraid to use health clinics because they’ll be picked up and deported.  I see Hispanic people who are treated as aliens because they live close to the border with Mexico.  I see young dreamers who can’t make plans because their futures are so uncertain.  I see green card holders afraid to take the next step and apply for passports.  I see the doorway into this country becoming a constricted space -  not a place where people can breathe free, but rather a place where they lose their dignity, their hope, and sometimes their children.

And I see myself cut loose again, taking to the world once more.  I can see the two of us going off to more hospitable places.  And then, like a split screen, I see myself angry, enraged, standing firm.  This is my country.  If I can, I want to stay here and fight for the rights of my friends and family, gay people and immigrants.

I probably wouldn’t be sitting here – I’d be sitting somewhere quite far away -  if it wasn’t for the women that Barack Obama nominated to the Supreme Court, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan.  And so I take the Supreme Court very personally.  I still see red when I remember the Merrick Garland seat being stolen. It festers.  Thinking of Mitch McConnell’s beady little thieving eyes, I understand why there are Kentucky feuds that go on for years and for generations. 

As I write this, the Kavanaugh hearings are happening, and I’m mostly resigned on this front.  Pluto is currently trining Brett Kavanaugh’s Jupiter, and there couldn’t be a better aspect for an enormous rise in status.  Sorry about that. 

What does his chart look like?  He has the sun in Aquarius, which tends to give pretty definite opinions and principles, and this is certainly what he projects.  But his sun is the middle planet in a T-square involving Jupiter and Neptune, so it seems to me that his ego and ambition will always come first, and his actual philosophy will always be a little shaky and untethered.  He doesn’t quite know what he believes, but he knows what will give him an advantage.

So this is discouraging.  But not everything in September looks like a slide into the Middle Ages. 

Saturn is stationing in September.  This means that it appears to pause in the sky, and very slowly, move forward through the elliptic, instead of reversing.  Saturn is in conservative, traditional sign Capricorn, but it will spend all month making a trine to progressive, future-looking Uranus. 

Because this trine happens in earth signs, it’s about practical solutions rather than yelling and screaming.  It’s about solid foundations which lead to well-established structures.  Like an aide whisking some dangerous paper off the president’s desk before he sees it, it’s about vigilance and care.  And it can be about using the best of old traditions – how did people survive back then?  how does the earth renew itself? – and creating new traditions which put the world in a more stable place. 

Another helpful September aspect is a long sextile between Jupiter and Pluto.  Jupiter is in Scorpio, which tends to root up secrets, so I’m sure we’ll see more of the dank underbelly of this administration.  Pluto signals deep, intrinsic, long-lasting changes.  Again, these are not the kind of aspects that indicate thunder, lightning, and revolution in the streets.  But they can signal a slow turning towards truth and progress.

And this is what we need.  The next new moon (on September 9) has an opposition between Neptune, planet of confusion, and the sun and moon.  Someone is going to pull out all the stops as they try to trick us.  There’s going to be a lot of misdirection, and maybe some really sneaky maneuvers pulled in the dead of night.  But it’s not going to work.  It’s all going to come to light. 

So here I am.  It’s been a few years now, and my wife and I have grown some roots. Roots take a long time to grow, but then they cling.  They take a little piece of earth and make it their own.     

       

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

World on Fire




Fires in California, in Greece, in Sweden.  Licks of flame heading towards the Arctic Circle.  Heat waves in Japan, in Canada, in Western Europe.   

For me, July was about flooding, but it was just a week or so of inconvenience.  My home hasn’t been swept away by water, and I’m not a refugee.  Still, it’s not hard to see an earth out of balance, a habitat that’s no longer as congenial to the life forms that occupy it.  Which of its life forms will adapt, and which won’t?  How about us? 

I’m writing this on August 1, when the sun, moon and Mercury are all in fire signs.  Fire signs are active, playful, kinetic.  Fire is the sign of the Hero, the valiant individual who rides in and saves the day. 

I’ve seen dozens of disaster movies, and in all of them, there’s somebody – usually a chiseled male actor – who figures out the real danger before everyone else, and tries to warn people about it.  Nobody listens, but the people who scoff most will definitely be killed by the flood/earthquake/volcano before the film is over.  In the end, the hero has to perform death-defying feats, rescuing a lot of people and usually one cute little dog as well.  The final panorama shows him standing soberly over the smoking city, arm in arm with formerly estranged family members.   

Of course, the thing about disaster movies is that the disaster always happens, at least partially.   Sometimes it stops just short of the extinction of the human race.  But it’s not drama unless there are a few crowd shots of screaming, fleeing people. 

So is that what we’re waiting for?  Maybe there was enough of that in July?  Is it time for the hero to show up?  Is it time for skepticism to fall away, and for the skeptics to be bludgeoned by falling rocks?

Our stories always hold a moral at their cores -  for example, our belief that the evil should suffer and the good prevail.  But in truth, those who scoff at climate change are the most protected, the least likely to be swept away in lava tides.  The innocent have already suffered the most, and will suffer more.  When food doesn’t grow in your fields, when fire takes your roof, when the sea covers the atoll where you were born, where do you go?  You become a refugee. 

And we’re already seeing the gates closed against refugees, everywhere we look.  In spite of the fact that all religions preach kindness towards wandering strangers, too many people look at them and say, “We don’t have to save those people; they are not like us.” Until they are us.  

Chiron, the asteroid which represents old wounds, is also in a fire sign now, and this hints that this movie has been played out before.  Perhaps it was the reason for the demise of a civilization we know nothing about.  Maybe people were complacent, and let the scoffers stay in power long past the point of no return.  Maybe it all flashed out in the blink of an eye, while the hero was still brushing his teeth.  And now there’s nothing left at all, except a few anomalies that show up on TV shows about ancient aliens.

But the north node of the moon, another karmic indicator, is also in a fire sign right now.  This points out the path towards balance.  The south node is in the air sign Aquarius, a sign of objectivity and science, and we clearly have a lot of excellent technical solutions.  We have alternate energy sources, innovative ways to grow food and clean the air at the same time, more effective and cleaner ways to move people around, healthier and more efficient ways to distribute resources. 

But we also have stagnation.  And so we do need heroes.  Not just one chiseled movie star to parachute through the air and scoop up a bunch of pre-schoolers hanging onto a cliff.  No, we need a bunch of heroes with the chutzpah to challenge those who are powerful and comfortable, and who are pretty sure that nothing bad will happen to them or their grandchildren, even if the world goes up in flames. 

And we do have heroes like this.  We have many people who have an essential, passionate relationship with the earth under their feet, sometimes because their grandparents lived on that same land.  And these people have voices.  We have craftspeople and elders who know how to live more gently on the land.  We have tribal people who have learned to organize, and journalists who have learned to listen to them.  We have protectors who dedicate themselves to one particular life-form – a bird, a butterfly, or a reef – and others who monitor vast, world-circling winds and currents.   

Many of these are earthy people, who are patient and determined, and who get their strength from the earth’s beauty and fecundity.  And some of them are fiery people, whose role is to inspire, encourage, excite, and energize those who are flagging.  They amplify the voices of the earthy people and of the earth herself.  They embody the dynamic energy of change, pushing for a new paradigm.  

Mercury will be retrograde through the first half of August, and moving slowly for a week or so afterwards.  And a Mercury retrograde is a perfect time to admit mistakes, and to go back and fix things.  And while I’m not holding my breath waiting for the Trumpster to attain humility, there could be a softening in other long-held positions.  Some people will start to listen, and will hear things they haven’t heard before.     

And during August, there’s an earthy great trine happening all month.  Saturn and Uranus – the planet of the past and the planet of the future – will be making a harmonious aspect.  Saturn in Capricorn is about a realistic appraisal of what we’ve done, what we’ve left behind, and where we are now.  Uranus in Taurus is about dealing with the fundamentals in a different way.   

This is auspicious for progress, but it’s slow.  It’s not flashy, it’s not dramatic.  It’s about correcting the damage from the past, while at the same time, locating a more stable stance from which to greet the future.  It doesn’t promise that we will learn a healthy way of living in time to save ourselves.  But if we even give ourselves one extra day to enjoy this green earth, it’s worth it.    



Friday, June 29, 2018

Going I Know Not Where


This afternoon, in my kitchen, there was a guy taking the screws out of the panel at the back of the freezer.  He’s one of those people who can fix anything. 

“Ah,” he says, “There’s your problem.  Ice built up in here.” He fixes it, I pay him, he leaves.  Great, I can eat lunch.  Ten minutes later, halfway through my cheese sandwich,  I go back into the kitchen, and there’s a growing puddle on the floor. 

I call the guy.  “It’s still not fixed.”

He says, “Whaat?  Okay, I’ll be right back.”

He comes back, he shines a light on the back of the fridge, finds a disconnected line, cleans out a pool of accumulated water under the vegetable drawer.  “Okay, now it’s fixed.”

I’m almost afraid to go back down there.  Then there’s my computer.  Acting weird on Tuesday, becoming unresponsive every five minutes.  Less weird yesterday, when I was talking to my brother-in-law, the Computer Whisperer.  Today I turn it on, no problem.  Except after I finish lunch, I come back up to the Black Screen of Death.  I force the computer to turn off, wait ten minutes, turn it on, and now it seems fine.  But is it really?  Or is it just waiting until I relax? 

Mars is retrograde.  Nothing is quite sure if it’s coming or going.  Even my brain seems to be doing a sort of circle dance, clicking on and off, going off on tangents until I can reel it back towards the matter at hand.   It’s exhausting.  And my stomach doesn’t seem happy with the cheese sandwich.

What am I complaining about?  I shouldn’t complain when everything is going to hell all around me.  Trump World is even worse than we thought it would be, in all our moments of heightened dread.  But still, we start where we are – in our bodies, our families, our kitchens, our own worlds.  This is where we feel the dissonance of retrograde Mars, the sense that we’re on a road that’s doubling back on itself and maybe going nowhere after all. 

Panic mode seems to be setting in for many, with Justice Kennedy announcing his retirement.   On my phone, stories show up detailing what it’s like in countries where abortion has remained illegal.  Doctors are pressured to break confidentiality and report any woman whose miscarriage seems suspicious.  Women, especially those who are poor, avoid seeking medical help when their pregnancies become complicated, since a trip to the doctor could mean years in prison.

Some friends are withdrawing, taking sabbaticals from the news.  “I just can’t take any more.  I’m going to reread The Little Prince, and stay away from the phone and the TV for at least a week.  Maybe two.  Maybe forever.”  It’s an understandable urge. 

The sun is gentle, sensitive, empathic, when it’s in Cancer, the sign ruled by the moon.  We’re all feeling a little more tender than usual.  Meanwhile, on the other side of the wheel are Saturn and Pluto in Capricorn, representing the craggy face of pragmatic reality.  So this is a month in which the softness of moon and the hardness of Saturn are in conflict. 

The problems of immigrant families became a flashpoint, as Venus moved into Cancer on May 19, Mercury on June 12, and the sun on June 21.  The moon’s heightened empathy brought the issue to the forefront of public consciousness.  Cries of abandoned children were recorded, and some heart-wrenching photos of frightened toddlers taken.  Trump was actually forced to back down, although he did it in his usual half-assed way, forcing immigration officials and courts to basically wing it. 

The word used most often to describe this policy was “cruel”.  And Saturn and Pluto in Capricorn (the sign ruled by Saturn) do seem to point to cruelty.  In mythology, Saturn is associated with the Devil, and most often this is about putting one’s one greed, ambition and appetites above compassion for others.  Maybe this is the basic flaw in humankind, but it’s definitely the central problem in our time. 

Essentially, Saturn is about building structures to anchor us here on this planet, structures that keep us safe, and that ward away hunger and cold and fear.  However, when you build a structure, you have to maintain it, and that also goes for the fixed patterns of law, traditions, beliefs, and privileges.  Anything that threatens the structure needs to be mercilessly suppressed.  Right now, the tears of children are the most potent threat against Saturn’s rigid structures. Water is always a match for rock, as long as it rises high enough.      

The moon is the planet of populism, while Saturn is the planet of authoritarianism.  The moon can be very tribal, because you respond mostly to the people who are right around you.  But in this immigration crisis, these children were right there, on the TV and on our phones.  Many people, especially women, feel the immediate instinct to protect a child whenever they see one in trouble.  It’s not surprising that every living first lady spoke out against the practice of separating children from their parents. 

Jeff Sessions is very Saturnine:  he has the sun and Mars in Capricorn. His moon is also in Capricorn and further hardened by inconjunct aspects to Saturn and Pluto.  For him, having a heart is not as important as holding authority and maintaining tradition. 

But what about Trump?  He has three planets in Cancer.  Why is he not more sympathetic?  I think for him, the tribalism of Cancer prevails, and he only sees his own children and grandchildren as cute.  He’s definitely a sentimental guy with a strong attachment to family, and you may remember that Tony in the Sopranos was like that too.   It didn’t stop him from whacking people. 

There are a couple of other factors in Trump’s chart that overshadow his sympathies, as well, and that strengthen his ego and sense of entitlement.  But he would probably respond to a hurt baby by making goo-goo noises and maybe even picking it up (although probably for a photo op).  Meanwhile, Sessions is more likely to grimace and call for ankle shackles.  The guy is cold. 

So what about Mitch McConnell?  Is he happy now?  Actually, it looks like establishing the McConnell Precedent, blocking Merrick Garland, was a very easy thing for him to do.  But it won’t be so easy to keep it from being used against him.

McConnell has seven planets in fixed signs, so he doesn’t like to budge unless he absolutely has to.  He can hold on to a position practically forever, until the grass grows over the cows.  What he’s not really good at is getting things moving.  He has no cardinal signs at all, which makes me wonder whether the guy has ever initiated anything?  A google search shows me that he has been torpid most of his life, except for running for office.  All his Taurus planets keep him in touch with moneyed interests, and that’s all he needs in order to win. 

So I’m more hopeful than I was when I got the news about Kennedy’s retirement.  I think it may be possible to turn McConnell’s static energy against him, and block this Supreme Court nomination until after the midterms.  And I have to be hopeful about the midterms, I don’t have a choice.  Mars goes direct in August -  and so by September, our plans should come together.  No longer will we be roaming around in ever-widening circles.  Maybe, just maybe, we can pull this train back onto its tracks.  Maybe the tide will do it for us.  


Thursday, May 3, 2018

Uranus Enters Taurus


Taurus rules the throat, and as soon as the sun entered Taurus, I came down with bronchitis.  This is never a robust time of year for me, since I was born with the sun in the opposite sign.

But how can this be?, I ask myself.  Who would prefer dank and shadowy November?  This time of year (at least, here in the northern hemisphere)  is so lush, so brilliantly green.  The azaleas are finally blooming.  Everything is redolent of life.  I don’t see lambs cavorting on our lawn, but that’s only because there’s no room for them, what with all the bunnies frolicking. 

Of course, I’ll feel better when my throat isn’t so scratchy.

Taurus is the most fixed of the earth signs.  Of course, no season is fixed, and this bright moment is already priming its replacement.  But this is the time of year when people build – homes, barns, gardens, farms.  Humans see a lot of good stuff happening around them, and have an insatiable desire to make it permanent.  If there’s wood, there needs to be a shelter, or a shed, or a gazebo, or something.  If there’s clay near the river, let’s make bricks and build something even longer-lasting.

And so Taurus is the sign most intimately connected with value.  We work, and there is value in our working.  We make things, they are solid and material, and we own them.  The cow has a calf, and this should be a signal to start dancing around celebrating the miracle of life, right?  Okay, maybe, but the next thing is to add one more stick figure  to our cattle count.   The richness of the earth makes us rich. 

Nobody who lives on this earth can dispute the value of the material world.  We live by our connection to the fruits of the earth, and the better we are at building and growing, the more luxurious our lifestyles.  Who doesn’t want to lie down at night on a feather mattress, rather than a bed of sticks?  Even the most cerebral, spacy or disconnected among us feel that sigh running through their bodies, when we give ourselves pleasure and comfort. 

Sometimes I think there is one danger and one danger only, and that’s narrowness of vision.  Of course, that is a pretty narrow way of looking at it. 

Still, toxic materialism is born from the belief that only the material matters, that there is nothing else important besides the accumulation of wealth.  This gives us this strange lopsided world, in which life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness are treated as scanty commodities, and sold off to the highest bidder.  People are well because they can pay for health care, and they’re free when they can buy their way out of prisons.    

So now Uranus is about to enter the sign Taurus.  It’s been 84 years since this happened, folks, so this is momentous.  I’m shocked myself by how fast it’s coming up – it will be here on May 15.

Uranus’ specialty is to break things up, to liberate, to shock, to revolutionize.  And now it’s going to enter the sign of capital, Taurus.  Does that mean it’s end days for capitalism?  Unfortunately, I think it will take more than a few 84-year cycles to accomplish this.  But as we look back on Uranus’ last sojourns in Taurus, we can see that the economic pictures has been radically changed every time. During the seven years that Uranus stays in this sign, established patterns are broken (or sometimes just beaten down) and new ones are established.   

In 1517, Uranus was in Taurus when Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses on the church door, making the first rift in the Catholic Church’s absolute economic power.  Uranus was also in Taurus in 1606, when Guy Fawkes tried to take down the British parliament, an event that was converted into a rowdy holiday, celebrated ever since.  (I always wonder why they celebrate this?)

You might even say that Uranus was in Taurus when the Almighty Dollar was born, since it was there in 1690 when the first paper money was issued by Massachusetts.  They were still a colony, so this was a radical act.  And Uranus was back in Taurus in 1773, when all that tea went into the harbor, and when the colonists got all antsy on the question of taxation. 

The cruel Southern plantation system didn’t come apart when Uranus was in Taurus between 1851 and 1858, but it was losing ground at a fast clip.  Harriet Tubman was doing everything she could to break it apart, as she dipped in and out of the shadows and rescued people.   And “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” was published by Harriet Beecher Stowe during this period, helping to raise the consciousness of white people.  Meanwhile, in London, Marx was writing about the dictatorship of the proletariat.

The last time that Uranus was in Taurus (1935 to 1941) things were pretty bleak economically, as the Dust Bowl grew ever dustier.  (And now I’m recalling that when I first started researching this, I noticed a drought in Tsarist Russia that killed two million people, between 1601 and 1603. Does the earth get angry and rebel when the planet of change is in this earthiest of signs?) 

And of course, there was Hitler, the last time Uranus was in Taurus -  taking advantage of a general economic malaise, flouting the Treaty of Versailles, and consolidating his power. A law-breaking leader with authoritarian tendencies – does that ring a bell, anybody? 

Looking at the lessons that history gives us, I’m struck by the two different ways that big systems can come apart.  Sometimes an old, decadent system dies because a newer one has come along, but the new one is equally oppressive.  The wealth and power change hands, but nobody is better off.

At the same time, there are always possibilities at these times of transition.  When a big, powerful system is developing its fissures, things are wide open for just a moment.  Maybe not wide open, but more open.  The difficulty is that everybody is scrabbling for a foothold, and it’s easy to fall back on panicked and selfish survival patterns. 

Somehow, we have to keep a better way in mind.  It’s not complicated, and when intricate graphs and diagrams are presented to us, there’s a good chance someone is trying to obfuscate these basic truths.  All people need the essentials  – food, water, shelter, health care, support for their family members, and safety from violence.  We can share the wealth of this lush earth.  And after this, we can talk about what else we want to build.      




Friday, March 2, 2018

Happy Holi!





The wind’s voice was so loud that it woke me just after dawn this morning. Now it’s an overcast afternoon, and branches fly around outside my window.  I feel lucky that we haven’t lost power yet.  Some of the little trees across the street, by the stream, have cracked open and fallen, but the big trees in our yard are all safe, so far.   

Elsewhere in the world, they’re celebrating the Hindu spring festival of Holi, during which people fling water and colored powders at each other.  People abandon themselves to their feelings, and let everything fly, just like the wind is doing right now. 

Listening to the wind’s voice, I think about the poets, the ones who allow their emotions to color the world around them.  I embrace all of them, from the rappers to the tea-sippers.  And thinking of them, I realize that the wind has many voices, all woven together, and that’s what gives it its power.

This is the month when all kinds of feelings emerge, a potpourri of conflicting and harmonizing emotion, impossible to contain.  As March begins, the sun is with Neptune, the planet of poetry, drugs, rainbows, magic, illusion, rhythm, and hypnosis.  The sun and Neptune are in Pisces, the sign of porous boundaries and sensitive connections. 

And so you might as well just fling up your arms and dance.  Dance like nobody’s watching, because nobody really is.  Like you, everyone else is entranced by their own visions and intuitions.  There is so much beauty pouring over all of us, nobody has an inclination to judge or complain. 

Of course, not every emotion is welcome, and the suffering can feel overwhelming too.  We can feel pierced by the sadness of others, not just by our own fears and regrets, whether we know the person or not.  We have all been there.  And some particle of our being is still there.   

The walls are missing these days, and we can be undone by any random thought-form that drifts in the window.  There are parts of ourselves that normally hold back this tide of awareness, but they are not working as efficiently.  The shape-shifting planets in Pisces are crowding out the planets of form and structure, like Saturn. 

Right now, we do have one fiery planet that provides contrast.  Mars has been in Sagittarius, making hard aspects to the Pisces planets, sparking anger, passion, and commitment.  It challenges Pisces’ nebulous and chaotic tendencies.  The newest iteration of the anti-gun movement, kick-started by young people, is making use of Mars in this energetic fire sign.  Sagittarius is the Archer, targeting a particular goal, and that goal is an undermining of the gun culture that ruins so many lives.  

But the strong Pisces influence is not going to last much longer, either.  In about a week, an exodus of planets from Pisces to Aries will begin, and it will continue all month.  It’s a dramatic transition, the change from the last sign of the zodiac (Pisces) to the first (Aries).  It’s like being just a speck in the universe one minute, grooving on the whole, and then suddenly finding yourself being born:  an egg, an individual, a tight focus of consciousness. 

Aries also gives a strong desire for expression, and so it continues to be a good month for poets and other artists.  For Pisces, it’s the connection to the spheres that makes for song and dance, in a world where everything is possible because it’s all there.  For Aries, nothing is there – yet.  It must be created.  Aries makes the first brushstroke, the first word, the first note. 

So as the Aries influence grows stronger, the energy becomes more purposeful and pointed.  People are bolder, more fired up. This can only help the anti-gun movement, as well as other revolutionary movements that have been gathering strength recently. 

But the Aries planets will also focus the energies of the pro-gun factions.  In some ways, it favors them, because Aries is the sign of the Warrior.  The main challenge during this time will be to avoid aping the tactics of the other side, since methods are always intrinsically linked to results.  Do we have to fight for an end to fighting?  Do we have to shoot the other side down, when they extol the joys of shooting?  Do we need people to stand up, to take on the Lone Hero role, when we’re trying to move beyond that often oppressive masculine archetype?   

How can we do this, without becoming what we hate?  How can we go beyond hate itself?  That is what these Pisces planets teach us.  In art and poetry, dance and color, we learn how emotion flows and winds itself around all of us, leaving no-one out.  As we move onward to make change in the world, this is what we need to remember.   




Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Half the Circle



This looks a bit lop-sided.  Throughout most of February, all the planets are on one side of the sky wheel;  the other side is empty. So for example, when the sun is setting, all the other planets are in the western half of the sky as well.  And when it’s rising, all the other planets are in the east.  Like a bunch of true believers, a bunch of sycophants.  Like Congress these days.   

After February 22, the moon breaks away and ventures into the empty half of the sky.  But until then, it hangs out with the others, forming what’s called a “bowl” pattern.

In an astrological chart, a bowl pattern gives a great deal of certainty. All planets occupy the same reality, and reinforce each other, and there is no access at all to “the other side”, the empty side.  There can be a sense that there’s something missing, but since it’s not clear what that is, a person with a bowl chart tends to double down on what she/he knows to be true. 

This is not to say that there’s anything intrinsically bad about this pattern.  Because a person with a bowl chart isn’t distracted by many contradictions, she can be particularly confident, creative and focused.  She knows what she knows, and acts on it.  Certainty is very partial to manifestation.

At the same time, that certainty is based on a fallacy.  Even if the person doesn’t see or understand it, there is a whole unexplored half-world out there.  There is a field of experience equal to her own, one that might challenge her convictions.  And if she doesn’t know it exists, she can’t go there. 

Successful politicians often have bowl charts, an advantage because they don’t have to waste energy pretending to consider inimical viewpoints.  Donald Trump has this pattern in his chart, as do some of his nearest and dearest: Ben Carson, Betsy DeVos, Jared Kushner, Steve Bannon, and Kim Jong-Un.  The Duvaliers (Baby Doc and Papa Doc) had it, as did Slobodan Milosevic and Hugo Chávez. 

But before you get the wrong idea about this not-so-common planetary pattern, note also that it’s a signature in the charts of Abraham Lincoln, Elizabeth Cady Stanton,  Helen Keller, Eleanor Roosevelt, Eugene McCarthy, Bill Clinton, Al Sharpton, Bernie Sanders, Aung San Suu Kyi, and Assata Shakur. A singular vision can magnify flaws, but it can also give courage, idealism, and commitment.    

So, during the next month, people are more likely to center themselves in a particular viewpoint, and not budge from it.  The planetary configuration makes it easy for all of us to see what’s all around us, supporting our position, and renders the opposite stance invisible. 

We will all find reasons to be right.  Those with fiery charts will be on the moral high ground, while those with earthy charts will claim that there’s only one practical possibility.  Airy folks will have lots of reasonable arguments, while watery people will base it all on gut feelings.  All of this begs the question:  what if the other side is making equally valid points?    

Lately, I’ve been dealing with many expressions of passionate certainty in a lesbian writers’ group.  The issue of transgender acceptance has come up, and this has been a divisive issue for the lesbian community for many years.  Michfest, our long-time women’s festival, beloved by many lesbians, floundered largely on this point. 

I’ve followed this discussion with great interest.  I have good friends – people I respect -  with diametrically opposite stances.  And so I have been trying to see both sides of this struggle.  That’s my intent, and sometimes I manage it, and sometimes not so much.      

On the one side, trans women are people, and exclusion is hurtful.  They’ve dedicated years and money and energy to becoming women.  There’s no going back.  Why can’t they just be accepted? 

On the other side, women have struggled for years to divorce womankind from all gender expectations, and when men start to identify as women, often they dive into these female trappings with great alacrity.  At the same time, they may be unconscious of such male tendencies as centering their own comfort in every situation.  This is by no means intrinsic to maleness;  it’s part of being in a privileged position.  It’s learned behavior over many years, and it isn’t unlearned immediately.

I think the only solution is to recognize that gender roles are flimsy at best.  There are plenty of specific gendered situations, like menstruating and giving birth, but these events don’t usually constitute the whole of a person’s life.  So why should gender play such a big role?   Why is it such a core part of our identities? 

And I’m speaking as a feminist, as someone who has worked hard to affirm and strengthen women.  But that’s only because we’re a less-privileged class, not because of some shining star within our souls.  Like all less-privileged groups, we need to connect with our own power on a very basic level. 

And eventually, I’m thinking that all these variations in dressing and make-up will become nothing but stylistic preferences, equally available to everyone.  Meanwhile, I believe we should be kind to each other, whenever possible.  And I also believe we should tell the truth about what we feel - although sometimes those two things are not compatible with each other. 

And meanwhile, my group – after a lot of emotional discussion – has agreed to a more inclusive approach.  This is not just an opening for trans women. It turns out that many of us feel “othered” for many reasons, judged as “not a real lesbian”, or even “not a real woman”. And many others are foraging around for non-traditional words and pronouns to describe ourselves.  Making room for misfits acknowledges that none of us really fits.


But who knows?   Perhaps I too am only seeing my half of the grapefruit, and thinking that that’s the way the fruit dropped from the tree.  



Thursday, January 4, 2018

A Cold Beginning


It’s a new year, and my fingers are rusty on this keyboard after the holidays.  It’s very cold outside.  I went outside to brush away the snow, so that it won’t freeze on the walkways, and then more snow fell, so then I had to do it again.   I’ve got a snowblind variety of déjà vu.

Why does our Gregorian calendar begin in winter?  Wouldn’t it be more reasonable to begin new years with the spring equinox?  Maybe then we would feel more optimistic about new beginnings.  It’s hard to be cheerful when icicles are dripping off your nose. 

In our calendar, the new year always appears as a cold dunking into reality, since the year begins with the sun in Capricorn.  And 2018 is an extra-Capricornian year, with Saturn and Pluto lingering in this sign.  By the time we get to the new moon at mid-January, there will be six planets in Capricorn. 

Capricorn is ruled by Saturn, and so this is a very Saturnine year.  Saturn is all about scarcity and deprivation, about contraction and resistance, and so these will be the motifs of the coming year.  The Resistance that we saw in 2017 was still fairly robust, but as resources get tighter, as the economic flow slows, we’ll see a different kind of Resistance in 2018.  It will be leaner and meaner, more entrenched, more efficient.   

As we stand poised at the edge of this Saturnine year, let’s look more closely at Saturn.  Of all the planets used in astrology, Saturn is most often interpreted as bad luck or bad news.  I’ve been studying my own transiting aspects for forty years, and I’ve had my share of bad Saturn trips.  Pain, anger, paralysis, depression, disillusionment, and despair -  these are all associated with hard Saturn aspects. 

So Saturn is connected to suffering.  And suffering is something that all humans endure, an intrinsic part of our path as physical beings.  We are tied to this wheel from the moment of our births.  We’re constrained by time and space, by the needs of our bodies, by the webs of responsibility we inherit.  Once we are here, there’s no second-guessing – and Mother Nature plays her part here, giving us the same instinct to live as every other creature.

Saturn is about form.  Having achieved form as living beings, what do we do now?  What forms are essential, and will maintain this life?  What forms make us safer, and ward away danger?  Saturn builds and maintains structures – fences, walls, turrets, towers.  These reflect our need to be placed somewhere;  they symbolize our physical existence here, in our bodies and on our planet. 

And if we were snails, we would be happy with our strong Saturnine structures, and never feel constrained by them.  But we are not often content to live enclosed, secure lives.  And so Saturn is perceived as painful – restricting, binding, freezing, calcifying.  If we look in our pasts, we can see ourselves building these structures.  When did they become our jails? 

To protect the forms we build, we enshrine them, one way or another.  They become further walled by truisms, rules, traditions, religion, or law.  And those of us who are most invested in them will guard them most zealously.  This makes perfect sense, remembering that every form symbolizes our bodies.  If this seems too abstract, think of how often in human history the laws have fallen, and the streets filled with blood.

But there is no mercy in these walls.  There is no poetry.  And there is so much fear built into each stone. 

In this Saturnine year, more stripped-down forms will predominate.  What is it that promotes survival?  It’s clear that there’s no security in gilded palaces full of foppish kings and bitter gossiping couriers.  A great deal of trickery will not survive Saturn’s scythe.  This year is like a winter storm, reducing everything to its basic principles. 

We will be looking back, far back - way beyond the years that are celebrated by racists and red-hatters.  We need to remember how the crones did it, in the dawn of time. How did they practice right livelihood?  How did they bring the sacred into their daily lives?  What did they do with their fear?


There’s a humbling in this, and it will come to all of us.  Saturn is the Teacher, and so we all need to learn how to learn.  This means opening our minds.  And perhaps we can echo that in our structures, giving them more light and air, more choices and possibilities.