Friday, October 2, 2020

The Deep Waters of Imagination


This morning, I sat down to eat my breakfast of orange, banana and cantaloupe, propped my phone up on a spikey conch shell, and clicked on the Washington Post icon. The fruits vary, but the rest of it is my routine, and rarely does the news surprise me. But this morning, it did, when I read that Donald and Melanie were infected with the corona virus.


My first thought was that something doesn’t smell right, and it wasn’t my cantaloupe, which smelled quite delicious. DT is always hiding anything that makes him look bad, so why wouldn’t he hide this? It seemed to me that, if he did catch the virus, he would deny it as long as possible, while everyone scrabbled for the truth.


But I couldn’t figure out how this could be good for him. When my wife, who never eats breakfast, tucked herself into her office, I went to join her, and asked her what she thought. She could think of lots of reasons why this could benefit him, and quoted others from social media.  


For example, after making such a mash-up of the debate, and hearing media figures use words like “embarrassment” and “shitshow”, maybe he doesn’t want to have any more of those.  Or it could be a more complicated plot than that. Maybe he’s going to pretend to die so he doesn’t have to pay his debts, or go to prison? Could happen. Everybody thought the October surprise was going to be a vaccine, and nobody was going to have any faith in that, either.   


So this is what it’s like having a pathological liar in the White House. There’s nothing he can do that seems believable, up to the point of dropping dead. I’d assume he was faking, unless he keeled over while yelling at reporters in front of a helicopter, and even then, only if a few of them from different media outlets took his pulse. The only thing I believe is that he’s a really inventive liar, with a prodigious talent for the art of the bullshit.


Looking at his chart, things do look grim, it’s true. I’ve been saying that since the summer, but I’ve also seen equally stressful aspects at other times – such as during his impeachment – and found him still in power at the other end of them. So I haven’t been sanguine about the election. Not me. I’m biting my nails at the same pace as the rest of you.


October is a strange month, with Mercury in Scorpio skulking around, burying some bodies and digging up others. Scorpio is the sign of death and taxes, so it makes sense to postulate that DT would fake death to avoid being prosecuted for tax fraud. The Messenger of the Gods, instead of darting through the air on winged boots, is peeking through the foliage, rooting through the trash, uncovering secrets, setting loose snakes and spiders.   


Mercury is moving very slowly in October, because it’s going retrograde mid-month. So it’s taking its time, and there’s time for every anxiety to go a little further, to bump against all the monsters that lie in the deep ends of our psychic pools. Knowledge loses its edges, when you go this deep, and the imagination takes over. These monsters are usually invisible, but they can suddenly loom up, all scaly claws and pointed teeth.  


In this country, we are always being prodded in the imagination. That’s what capitalism is, after all:  gathering customers by hooking them on images of wonderfulness. The surrealism of advertising swallows new technology, blurring more and more the barrier between fantasy and reality. We are also hooked by the things we find terrible and fearsome, and so we’re served up everything from roller coasters to horror movies. Our current president, trained by the TV industry, has never given any allegiance at all to what’s real.


This is a country that’s been built on myths, right from the beginning – myths of freedom and equality – so there’s been a kind of double vision. We’ve all been trained to see and not see. We’re trained to hunger, and not to share. We’re trained to chase what’s insubstantial, and to ignore what’s common and necessary. And power comes to those who know how to manipulate myths, direct the glow that dazzles us, and turn us away from what they do not wish us to see.  


In the middle of October, Mercury goes retrograde in a tricky spot, opposing Uranus, planet of revolution. Because Mercury is moving so slowly, it lingers over this aspect. There’s an inherent contradiction here, because Uranus is about swift, unexpected changes. Does this mean that there will be sustained social change this month? There are so many things that could go wrong that I’m not predicting a smooth glide towards justice and accountability. It looks messy, to tell the truth.


And there’s another turbulent influence, as Mars storms through Aries and makes hard aspects to the planets in Capricorn. Because Mars is also slowing down to change direction, all these aspects take longer, and between them, they cover the whole month. They’re fierce and fiery, and they’re all about power. So if the mighty don’t fall this month, it won’t be because the trees haven’t been rattled.


Mars also opposes the sun in Aries/Libra, highlighting the archetypal conflict between Self and Other. It’s not easy to find balance, when you’re seesawing between your own drive to survive, and your basic human need to relate.  This is the central motif of the corona virus, which has us all at arm’s length from each other, looking for that sweet spot where you’re safe but still connected.


At the end of October, Mercury leaves Scorpio for justice-oriented Libra. It goes direct on Election Day, while making a long square to Saturn. This looks like a delay, and I’m sure we’ll all have to wait for the election results.  I know this is something that brings up some very basic fears for many of us. There’s the specter of the vote being snatched away through barely-lawful means, and of democracy itself completely failing, and then it’s a few steps to Nazi Germany. As a lesbian married to an immigrant, this is when I see myself stealing away in the dark of night.


It would be nice to go the other way, to see our democracy seal over its current cracks and omissions, rather than failing completely. And as Mercury and then Mars go direct in November, and as Mercury goes over the opposition to Uranus one more time, there are more opportunities for truth to emerge. The new moon and full moon charts in October are turbulent, but the one in mid-November looks more harmonious. Inauguration Day doesn’t look that peaceful, however.


There are definite changes coming, I can see that. In December, Jupiter and Saturn, tightly conjunct, enter Aquarius, like a pair of unlikely lovers leaping into a freer world.  In Aquarius, there’s more room to breathe, to invent, and to create community. But all through the coming year, they make squares to Uranus in Taurus, so it doesn’t look like this freer world is going to be a walk in the park. There are a lot of people who are willing to uproot trees and burn bridges rather than to accept a new balance of power.   


Meanwhile, I think the most important thing is to go down into the deep waters of your own psyche, and try to make friends with some of the monsters swimming around down there. Nobody can lead you around by your imagination, if you’re clear about what’s real and what’s just a repeating film clip of your fears. Remember that the future is not real yet. It’s something we are all still imagining.     


Wednesday, September 2, 2020

School Time


Some of my friends have small children, some have kids in college, and others are teachers. And so people are going back to school, in a changed and confusing world.  Are they going to learn anything?  Well, we all learn something every day, right?


But to me, this month doesn’t have that bright, shiny look, the look of new backpacks and pencil cases. It’s a month of hesitations and backwards steps. It’s a remedial month, one of those in which we have to relearn things we’ve forgotten, or lessons we never mastered in the first place.


Mars, the planet of action, is moving really slowly this month. As a contrast, last September it moved 18°, and this month, it will move only 3°.  And so a lot of people, sitting religiously in front of their computers, are going to feel stuck. We’re like a robot army marching in place. The legs are going up and down, but the scenery is not changing.   


The frustration is compounded because Mars is in the fire sign Aries, a sign that likes to move fast and win through all the obstacles. So there’s a slow-burning fire going all month, echoed in the actual fires in California. There’s a sense of great, underlying energy which can’t easily be accessed. It’s so many things. It’s the pandemic. It’s a dysfunctional government. It’s the weariness that comes from saying the same things over and over.


In the beginning of the month, Mars pushes slowly, teeth gritted, trying to forge a new path, inch by inch. But on September 9, there’s a sense of surrender, and, as Mars goes retrograde, it will be as though the last few months are cycling slowly before our eyes, in reverse order. Everything that went wrong earlier in the summer will go wrong again in September.


And so we really have to question whether we are indeed learning something new every day. Or are we learning the same thing, over and over and over?  What happens to the energy of all these young people, as they look for the tools that will build a better world?


I have to take a step back here from all this gloom and doom. Because, actually, I think today’s young people will adapt pretty well.  They’re the ones with Pluto in Capricorn.  They’ll grow up as a conservative, pragmatic lot, who won’t waste time on anything that isn’t immediate and efficient. They’re survivors, with an instinctive understanding of structure, rules, agreements and energy use.


It’s the generation before that I worry about, the Pluto in Sagittarius people, the ones born between 1995 and 2008. People like Malala Yousafzai, David Hogg, Emma Gonzalez, Greta Thunberg, and Irsa Hirsi. They’re the activists, the idealists. They’re like passengers on the Titanic who happen to notice the iceberg ahead. They find themselves yelling into the wind, surrounded by people who are impressed by their passion and courage, but too immersed in cruise ship fantasies to actually do anything.  


So those folks will no doubt be particularly steamed at the backwards pace this September. Fiery people in general will be impatient to go on to the next thing – freedom, honesty, social progress, real change. But in every area, there’s a wall. There’s an Old Guard guarding the wall. There’s rock-hard resistance to change, in every institution.


So in September, there will be a lot of barely-contained (or sometimes uncontained) anger. Because Mars can’t just retrograde in peace.  It can’t go backwards, ambling along in the same old rut, appreciating the familiarity of it all.  No. It keeps running into squares from the Capricorn trio – Jupiter, Saturn, and Pluto. They’re still close together, forming a triumvirate of established interests, shot through with threads of fear and prejudice.


In September, Saturn is the one that particularly blocks Mars’ way. And yes, Saturn represents the establishment, the prison walls, the coldness of the economic hierarchy. But Saturn can also be like that fussy, stern old schoolteacher who has you doing the same problem again and again.  She isn’t content with your getting it right once. You have to get it right every time. You have to understand why it works. Of course, there’s a danger that you may never get to that point, and may just jump out of the window first.


So yeah, it’s easy to understand why we’re all so mad this month.  We’re being schooled, and it isn’t fun. There aren’t enough outlets for us all to get out of our chairs, stretch, and run. If there are distant horizons calling, inspiring us, it’s hard to see them.


But they are there, believe me.  In October, Mars will still be retrograde, but it will move back beyond Saturn’s reach. It will still be contending with Pluto and Jupiter, so it’s not exactly smooth sailing, but the obstacles will be less obdurate. Then in November, just after the election, Mars goes direct again, and things start moving.


What direction will they move in?  Things change as 2020 comes to an end, but how do they change?  Will we be seeing the end to what was always a somewhat half-assed experiment in democracy?  Or will we actually start to realize some of our dreams of a better and more responsive community?  Will the world see a new and frightful dictatorship as the US lurches further to the right? Or will we all celebrate the election of the first Black female vice-president?       


We see a crossroads dead ahead, just a few steps away, and one reason we all feel so frustrated is that we can’t reach it. There’s no help for it. We’re drawn back into the past, into old patterns, old struggles and tired old arguments. But maybe the most valuable thing we can learn is how we got to this crossroads in the first place. And maybe, retracing our steps, we can do that.  



Tuesday, August 4, 2020

Fighting in August

I’m writing this on a rainy Tuesday, when we’re feeling the edge of Hurricane Isaias.  It rained all night, and so our house is a lakefront property at the moment. But it will all drain away soon enough, and we’ll be left with grass, weeds, and mud. No need to get the kayaks out.


July was a tough month for many people, so there’s a general sense that we’re all treading water.  We’ve had the highest death toll yet from the corona virus, and being careful still means avoiding as many of our fellow humans as possible.  So many people have lost their jobs, and are patching together whatever resources they can manage. John Lewis died, and was stirringly eulogized, but he left a stark sense of diminishment. 


Black Lives Matter has been painted in large block letters on the streets, in Washington DC, Tulsa, New York, Chicago, even Tallahassee. But actual police reorganization still lags behind, although some places, like Minneapolis and Baltimore, have started working on it.  Meanwhile, the federal government under Trump has been squarely on the other side, and violent, unequal skirmishes between armed federal agents and protesters have shaken Portland and other cities.


In July, Mercury was in the water sign Cancer, retrograde during the first half of the month, and then moving slowly during the second half. We saw everything through an emotional lens: sorrow, regret, fear. With all these vulnerable feelings circulating, I’m struck by the bravery of the demonstrators. 


In August, Mercury will move a little faster, joining the sun in fiery Leo, and then late in the month, both will enter Virgo. Mercury in Leo will make it easier to find bold words, to challenge authority, to speak truth to power.  We can expect a lot more fiery speeches, and more calls to action, and then when Mercury enters Virgo on August 19, more meticulous and specific plans.


August’s challenges mostly come from Mars, moving through the impetuous fire sign Aries. Mars in Aries has a lot of revolutionary energy: it’s focused, competitive, and courageous.  But in August, Mars is slowing down to go retrograde, and so every aspect takes longer. Every fight will be longer, bloodier, more consequential, more damaging.


In August, Mars is fighting the status quo. It’s fighting against the establishment. It’s fighting against a cruel system of extreme income imbalance. It’s fighting political corruption. And yes, it’s fighting the virus. All these things are represented by the Jupiter/Saturn/Pluto conjunction in Capricorn. These pitched battles could happen in the streets, in the courts, in hospitals, and on social media.


Mars in Aries is very heroic, very individualistic. Sometimes it goes too far in that direction, forgetting the benefits of a well-established back-up team. Some amazing people can assume leadership positions during August, but will it be enough? Are enough people really ready for major organizational changes, especially when it comes to the state use of violence? We can laud our heroes, make movies about them, and still ignore the lessons behind their sacrifices.


All the outer planets will be retrograde in August, and so we’re caught in many of the same patterns, the same assumptions, the same reluctance to make dramatic underlying changes. I don’t see a whole lot of solutions being offered until September, and then, it will take another three months before the energy shifts. 2020 is a year that will inspire bad memes for a long time. (What comes next? Giant hornets? The zombie apocalypse?)  


Of course, Trump could choose to leave us, one way or another, this month, and that could be the highlight of 2020. His aspects continue to be really unfortunate, so he could have a health crisis, or take off in the middle of the night for some extradition-proof location.  Unfortunately, often DJT’s bad aspects seem to spell more problems for the rest of us, as he does even more crazy things than usual when he’s stressed out.  Joe Biden’s aspects look just fine in August, so he’ll continue to embody the non-crazy choice for millions of people.


I’m feeling a little more sanguine than I did when I started writing, because it’s stopped raining, and the sun has come out. I guess, here in Maryland, we just got a small slice of Isaias. I hope everybody is safe, and that the trees are still stuck in the earth and the roofs still attached, everywhere.


So my message for August is to stay safe, and choose your battles wisely, knowing they will last longer than usual. Sometimes you have to fight the good fight. And sometimes you have to stop to rest and recharge, so that you can live to fight another day.    



Thursday, July 2, 2020

A Critical Mass

I just watched one of those “Karen” videos from a suburban neighborhood in NJ. This white lady came out to harass the Black family across the street, who were adding a small stone patio to their house. She walked onto their property several times, accused them of building without a permit, and then called the cops.

So – typical, right?  She gets to use her white privilege to give them a hard time, and even to jeopardize their lives. What made this different was that a bunch of other neighbors came out of their houses to object. They had clearly been reading the newspapers, and now they were seeing an example of something they’d read about.  They weren’t happy that she wasn’t wearing a mask, either, and one person had to dodge away from her when she approached.

Later on, a few dozen neighbors, mostly white and all masked, marched in front of her house, chanting, “Hey hey, ho ho, your racist self has got to go!”

I think in the past, the neighbors would’ve ignored her antics, even if they disapproved. They would have seen her as the interfering neighborhood crackpot, basically harmless. But now they’re aware that she’s part of a pattern, and they also see that calling the police on Black people is not a neutral act. It’s active hostility, just like waving a loaded gun around.

So I do think that there’s been a change in awareness for the white people in this country, and it’s happened because of massive protesting, and because some people have been brave enough to shoot video. Police didn’t do themselves any favors when they attacked bystanders and journalists as well as protestors, when they beat up people who weren’t resisting in any way.

Of course, not everything is fixed.  In fact, nothing is fixed, not yet. The role of the police needs to be changed, to start with, and the Defund the Police movement is clarifying how this could happen. But the first step in any social justice movement is when the general public looks at something, and sees how horrible it is. Something has to happen to remove white people from their ignorance and inertia.

In the last century, this was the role occupied by writers like Harriet Jacobs, who described her torturous escape from slavery, and speakers like Sojourner Truth.  It was the role of the TV news people who filmed the war in Vietnam, and the vets who came home to protest. Now it’s those who whip out their camera phones at tense moments, and those who vividly describe the realities of their lives in essays that are passed from one computer to the next.   

Astrologically, June was a key month, with the Jupiter/Pluto conjunction exact once more. And so the wheel is turning, and power dynamics are shifting.

As a new consciousness moves through the land, people tear down the statues of long-dead slaveholders and traitors, and sometimes local governments follow suit. Just yesterday, a big crane came and hauled away Richmond’s statue of Stonewall Jackson, on Monument Avenue. A couple of days ago, Mississippi finally removed the Confederate symbol from their state flag, after a century of resisting pressure to do this.  

Meanwhile, the president looks weak and unsure. He rails against the vandalism of statues, and ignores the thousands of dead from Covid-19. Rumors are circulating that he will resign, and I could see this happening. The Jupiter/Pluto conjunction opposes his Saturn, while Neptune stations at the square of his sun and moon, so he is definitely beleaguered, hunkering down in the bunker of his own mind. He might prefer to make some kind of secret deal in which he gets immunity and a boatload of cash, rather than lose face on Election Day.

The Covid-19 pandemic emphasizes the pressures and stresses of this moment in history, as the number of cases peaks again. With Jupiter, Pluto and Saturn all so close to each other in stern, realistic Capricorn, lessons must be learned, or they will be re-taught – again and again, if necessary. People who didn’t take the virus seriously are now being schooled, but unfortunately, there are many others who had no choice but to risk their health. And there are more still who deal with food shortages or eviction, as the economy keeps slipping and sliding.

Through all of this, the fissures in our society get clearer and clearer. Autocratic leaders like the Chinese can point to our system as one that’s messy to the point of cruelty. While they err by trying to keep everyone organized and controlled, we err by providing no leadership at all, or even a cohesive program, and letting a lethal virus run wild. If a death toll is a report card, we are at the bottom of the grade, globally speaking.    

All through July, four outer planets are retrograde, and until July 12, Mercury is retrograde too. This gives us all a chance to examine ourselves: what we swore by, what we avoided, what terrified us, what empowered us, what we knew, what we ignored.  This takes a certain amount of humility, especially for flag-wavers, but we can only heal our fractured society if we face what we’ve been, and who we are now.  

Meanwhile, Mars, the planet of war, is moving through its own sign, Aries, and so everyone is a little angrier, impulsive and hot-headed than usual. This points to the danger of more international skirmishes, maybe as a distraction technique on the Trump level. Mars gets even more aggressive after mid-August, as it starts making hard aspects to the Jupiter/Saturn/Pluto grouping in Capricorn.

In July, there is a little light though, as Jupiter slowly retrogrades away from Pluto and makes the sextile to Neptune. Neptune is the planet of illusion, imagination, dreams, fantasies, and cosmic revelations. So people may take a little break, and get lost in their favorite escapist pastimes, whether that means soap operas, comic books or jigsaw puzzles.

But for some people, dreaming of a better world is their favorite escape from reality.  And often, those are the people who give the future its shape.   

Friday, May 29, 2020

The State of the Nation: George Floyd

This is a sorrowful time for the country, in so many ways. 100,000 people have died from the corona virus, a mass exodus of souls from our planet. But it’s a single death, the murder of George Floyd by a police officer, that has triggered a particular outcry. 

A virus doesn’t have a face, but Derek Chauvin does, and so everyone has seen his cool, bland expression, as he cut off George Floyd’s breath with a knee on his neck. Most of us have never seen a person committing murder, except on TV shows. And now it’s clear that they aren’t necessarily grimacing with rage. Probably more often than not, murderers just don’t care, as long as their hair is combed.   

I didn’t know George Floyd, but, looking at his natal chart – even a rough version, without the time of birth – I can get a sense of who he was.  He was born on December 21, 1960, a little over a month before my wife.  In his chart, there were Sagittarius, Capricorn and Aquarius elements, so I would describe him as a free spirit with a keen interest in other people, but also someone with a strong sense of responsibility. He had a Cancer/Capricorn opposition, showing tension between his sense of duty and his emotional needs. 

Capricorn is the most disciplined and responsible sign in the zodiac, and its archetypal images are the Old Man, the Crone, and the Mountain.  We are living in a crusty time, and that’s largely because of the current confluence of planets in Capricorn. This crust is made up of self-sufficiency, of toughness, of endurance. It’s designed to protect, but what is it protecting?

Capricorn’s opposite sign, Cancer, is vulnerable and emotional, and its archetypal image is the innocent child.  This innocent child exists in all of us, and we see it in each other. Unless this child is protected and nurtured, then that toughness is just a hard shell, a calcified status quo that sacrifices everything to the rules. 

The US chart also has a Capricorn/Cancer opposition.  On the one hand, there’s the basic conservatism, the emphasis on hierarchies, the flourishing businesses, the hard work. That’s the Capricorn side.  On the other, there’s all the overflowing sentiment and tender feelings of Cancer. Cancer gives strong sympathies, but when these interfere with business as usual, there is always some repression.   

In the wake of George Floyd’s death, emotions come flooding out.  People are mourning not just this death, but many other Black deaths, some of them children, going back years.  And that mourning comes on top of centuries spent dealing with various levels of social abuse, going back to the original trauma of kidnapping and slavery.  It’s all encapsulated too well in that image of Derek Chauvin with his knee on George Floyd’s neck. (The knees, by the way, are ruled by Capricorn.)  

We’ve built a constrictive society here in the US, starting with the genocide of the indigenous people.  We’ve cut off the airways of too many people on this land, so that others could move more freely through corridors of power. 

At the moment, we’re all feeling the limitations of this pandemic.  Nature makes its own demands on us, and it bears down harder on non-white people, and all those who are othered by society. It would seem that we white people – and all those with privilege - could use this to understand how it feels to be hemmed in, limited, unfree.  But for that to happen, we have to tear down some of those barriers and recognize the pain of other people. 

And when it comes to the pandemic, rising numbers are likely throughout June. Late in the month, Jupiter and Pluto come together for the second time in Capricorn, and that could signal an important milestone.  

And although we’re all weary of counting the abuses of power coming from this administration, we may also see more of this. Media and communication outlets are particular targets, since Jupiter/Pluto is opposing Mercury in Cancer in the US chart.  We’re already seeing this in Twitter’s decision to flag some of Trump's false or inflammatory posts, and his threatening response to this.

But whatever he does, communication will become sharper, more acerbic, more truthful. More and more people are using well-pointed words to take on powerful interests. Of course, there are a lot of ways to communicate, and images of a police station in flames send a definite message too.  

At the same time, people are learning from history.  Mercury in Cancer slows down this month, and then goes retrograde about halfway through June, and that focuses people’s attention on the past. Many folks will be spending extra time with their ghosts, each one a whole vanished world, and these ghosts may have their own messages to convey.

For us all to get through this, we will need to nurture ourselves and each other. Some people will need to escape, and all of you should do whatever you need to do. But be careful, since Mercury in Cancer, especially retrograde and without any aspect activity, is a day-drinking kind of influence. If you’re hurting, find a non-judgmental aunt, or an old roommate, and reach out to her instead.   

As a nation, this is a time when the basic intellectual scaffolding is being torn down and redone, but this is a slow process. What we believe, what we see, what we acknowledge – all that is changing. People are telling their stories, and listening to the stories of others.  There is mourning in all these memories, but we are also blessed by the love we share. Rest in peace, George Floyd. 

Thursday, April 30, 2020

Faces on Zoom

It’s raining outside, which means no Sunshine Break this afternoon.  Since my wife is also working from home, we’ve been meeting on the front lawn with folding canvas chairs and cans of fizzy water, usually in the late afternoon.   

But it’s been a while now, because it’s been raining every day. The ground outside is squishy. The grass is getting long and wild. We’ve been sheltering in the house for a month, and in that time, the bare bones of trees have all sprouted new leaves, growing lusher every day. So the window is a picture which tells me nothing, a sheen of shiny dots on a solid green background.

This pandemic has been all about windows, for me.  I don’t know anybody who’s died from it, and I’m knocking on wood here. So, even though it’s all too real for thousands of people, it seems abstract to me.  From my window, the world is blurry, out of reach, slightly unreal.  

When I do have a social event these days, it’s on Zoom, and I’ve had a few of those, starting with services at my Unitarian church.  Then, not long ago, I was invited to a surprise Zoom 70th birthday party, involving old school-chums from Bangkok.  On the call were six women, all of whom I’ve known for around sixty years.  It was heady, seeing their faces in those little rectangles, each in her own little part of the world. 

After this, there was a second Zoom party for another old friend, and then a third event, a reading about women’s herstory, hosted by Sinister Wisdom magazine.  Both of these were full of women I’ve known for years, some of whom I hadn’t seen in decades. It was very emotional:  joy, nostalgia, a sense of reclaiming the past. I was shadowed by old feelings I scarcely remember, and I felt the sharpness of age.

But it’s strange, the Zoom phenomenon.  On the one hand, it shrinks time and space to one small flat surface. All these people, all this history, is right in front of you, living and breathing. All of you are staring fixedly into this portal which connects you. You can see and hear, but you can’t touch or smell, and you can only move within your little square. It feels like you’re all pinned to a page, but you’re so happy to be together than you don’t care.   

Right now, it seems that we’re all a bit abstract, incorporeal, ungrounded.  We humans have become mere representations of ourselves, while the earth is as fecund and exuberant as ever. It’s not natural to us, and I understand why so many people have suddenly started baking bread. The texture and aroma of fresh bread – with the heat of our muscles and of the oven – bring us back to our physical selves, make us real again. 

We are in an earthy season, and currently half the planets are in earth signs.  So the urge to strengthen our connection with Mother Earth is especially strong right now. For a lot of people, that means gardening, too. Suddenly stuck in the house, people are bringing in plants and flowers, cultivating small wildernesses.

People are also looking around, finding a familiar but unexplored reality in their own homes. The house may have been a way-station before, a place to relax for an hour or two before falling into bed.  Now it’s a shelter, a protector, and also a living, breathing creature with smells and textures of its own. It’s made of natural substances, just like we are, and it has its own personality, its lovable eccentricities, like any other family member.    

But what about these strangely abstract social lives?  Here, we have to look at Venus, going through the air sign Gemini this month.  Venus is all about relationships, and all the air signs give distance, perspective, objectivity.  This is a wonderful thing because it allows us to create little kernels of thought, string them together into sentences, and fling them through the air at each other. 

This is the way it works even when we’re in the same space, but there are other little physical connections going on at the same time, an exchange of molecules. This is an important part of being in love, this constant wordless interchange, and for those of us who are quarantined with our partners, it’s comforting.  It’s our ongoing earth connection.    

But we’re still relating to the rest of the world, and when we’re not in the same space, those magical leaping syllables are all we have. Our brains work overtime, making up for the molecular connections that are no longer there, filling in the blanks with our imagination.

Venus usually moves quickly, but this month she is slowed-down, staying the whole month in Gemini. Gemini is generally a sign of nervous energy, and this month, it comes across as a steady field of fast-moving particles. The thoughts and ideas keep circling around at breakneck speed, but they still maintain the pattern.  The patterns of our relationships hold, even though we may always feel slightly buzzed. 

Venus retrogrades about halfway through the month, so we may find ourselves discovering many old friends and lovers, and reconnecting to ideas we once entertained and stories we once told ourselves. And almost all month, Venus makes a square to Neptune, planet of illusion, fantasy, and imagination.  So not only will you make some excursions into your past, but you’ll also find yourself wondering what was real and what wasn’t, all those years ago. You may discover long-lost gold, and also fool’s gold, here and there.  

For myself, this process already began with those Zoom meetings. I can’t go out into the world, but I can delve into my sixty-eight years of memories.  I can see the intersections between my memories and those of others: busy traffic patterns, as well as times when we missed or almost missed each other.

However, our mental travels are not earth-bound, but airy.  Our connections are like the looping circles of a sky-writer: we are riveted by them, though they have no substance.  We look to them for a meaning beyond the physical bounds of our daily lives.  Rooted by what we feel, we look upward for all we can imagine. 

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Stilled by the Virus

I’m awed by this moment we’re living in.  In my six decades, I’ve never seen the whole world sharing one danger, one fear, one set of solutions.  Of course, we’ve had other world-wide problems – the climate crisis, especially – but there have always been large groups of people successfully ignoring them.  Not this time.     

A month ago, I wrote about the virus in my column, but without any sense of immediacy.  At that time, the prevailing wisdom was that we should all wash our hands for twenty seconds, and not touch our faces. 

My wife and I went to Toronto after that.  She went to meetings, and I rode the subway, wandered through the Royal Ontario Museum, met a friend, and went to a market.  I took a little bottle of disinfectant with me, and remembered to apply it every once in a while. I saw three people wearing masks on the subway, but mainly, life was normal.  But as the days went by, the news became more and more dramatic.  Things started to be cancelled. Doors started shutting.  Broadway went dark.  Norway closed its borders. 

So we cancelled our plans for a family dinner, and decided to head for home three days early.  The highways were emptier than usual, and we crossed the border without incident.  Popping into our neighborhood diner for a late dinner, we made it home just before midnight.

That was two weeks ago, and it’s the last time we left the house.  I imagined that, if we had to withdraw from social contact, we’d do it gradually.  But no, it was abrupt.   First, it was just advisable, and we were just being good citizens.  I’m in the vulnerable age group – over 65 – and have had a few bouts of bronchitis in the last year, so my wife is pretty protective of me. The fridge was empty, and I wanted to go off to the store, but she convinced me to just have groceries delivered. 

Then, a few days ago, it went from advisable to compulsory.  Now, here in Maryland, if you go wandering off into the street, you can be fined.  All over the world, people are dealing with similar restrictions.  I look at photos.  Here’s an empty Times Square, the bright lights signaling to nobody at all. Here’s a coyote, hunting in the quiet streets of San Francisco.  Here’s my local DC Beltway, usually jammed at this hour, now a wide-open pathway. 

So what’s it about, astrologically?  It must be the Jupiter/Saturn/Pluto conjunction - something I’ve never seen before, just like this pandemic.  Jupiter makes a conjunction to Pluto every twelve years, and Saturn makes one every 28 years, but I’ve never seen these two cycles coincide before. 

Pluto is about deep transformation, and there is a lot of this happening.  People are rediscovering their partners and children, developing new routines which include them.  My wife and I have started taking late afternoon sunshine breaks, something we never would’ve done if we weren’t both working here at home.  We sit out in the front yard and talk over the progress of the day, and remark on how the leaves are starting to come out on all the trees. 

The earth itself is being transformed, as the pollution clears.  People are redesigning lives without commuting, without travel, without zipping off to do errands at any time.  Families are walking around their neighborhoods.  I recently learned that a woman from church lives just three doors down from me, and I had no idea she lived so close until I saw her walking her dog.  If this went on, I might actually get to know all my neighbors. 

Jupiter expands and enlarges, while Saturn contracts and limits our lives at the same time.  It’s a heady mix, at once closing off plans and projects, and simultaneously opening up new vistas.  And Pluto intensifies it, and takes all of us further than we can comfortably go.           

Although there are hopeful things, there are also enormous waves of fear, grief and loss moving around the globe.  As the old structures fall, many people have no idea how they will survive.  Some idealistic folks are hoping that an economic collapse could mean rebuilding it in a different way, with a stronger safety net for everyone, while others are looking for the money-making opportunities that are part of every disaster.  But much of the political discourse has quieted down now.  It seems less relevant in the face of this worldwide existential threat. 

How long do I think it will last?  Jupiter and Pluto are exactly conjunct in April, again in June, and for the last time in November.  Jupiter and Saturn are conjunct in December, before they both begin the new year in a new sign, Aquarius.  It looks to me like that’s the real shift.  I think there will be movements towards normalcy in the summer and fall, but this could be followed by another wave of illnesses, especially if we start everything up too soon.

But for many years to come, we may feel a certain trepidation when we hug each other, a little anxiety about what viruses are lurking.  I don’t expect that to go away for a long time. We won’t go back to the normal we knew before.  Our economy won’t fit back into the same groove, either.

And as for 2021, it does look like a year of revolution.  During a fire, there’s great destruction, but afterwards, fireweed grows.  And the phoenix rises.