Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Oneness, Manyness

“What is up with that bird?” I’m wondering, as I listen to a long, drawn-out chittering.  This isn’t birdsong.  It doesn’t sound like a celebration of spring, or an advertisement for love.  It sounds more like an urgent telegraph.  Maybe it’s calling its mate to hurry home because there’s a squirrel inching closer to the nest. 

It’s a cool day, with a light wind blowing, and it’s reached that blessed spot – not too cold any more, not too hot yet - where I can actually keep my office window open.  So all through the day, I hear half-understood messages from all kinds of passersby.  I can guess at interpretations, but I can never really know.   

In a couple of weeks, I’ll be traveling.  I’ll be one of those voices on the wind, flitting from one place to another, as I head south, visiting friends along the way, until I reach Womonwrites.  I’ll spend a week at the lesbian writers’ conference -  visiting friends, picking up inspiration, giving a workshop, doing readings for people, and of course, playing a little Scrabble! 

There’s a lot to do before then, I know it, but I’m having a hard time getting my act together these days. Yes, it’s partly because Mercury has been retrograde the last three weeks, and is just about to turn direct again tomorrow  (on May 3, 12:33 pm EDST).  When Mercury changes direction, it’s always very slow for a week or so.  This gives us time to think about what’s next, hopefully, before the pace quickens.   

But it’s more than that.  It’s the inconjunct between Jupiter and Neptune, which will be with us all through May.  All Neptune aspects invite contemplation.  They take you away from business as usual.  Nothing routine seems all that compelling.  They invite you to back up, to take the long view, to see everything with a cosmic perspective.  Neptune dissolves the barriers.

If I want a Neptunian view from my window, I blur my focus, and all I see is a mash-up of bright green.  It’s lovely.  When I hear a bird sounding an alarm, it blends into the overall music -  the songs of other birds, the buzz of insects, the whistle of a faraway train.  It’s all one.  That’s Neptune’s message, especially as it moves through its home sign, Pisces.   

Neptune is the planet of spirituality in its purest form.  This is not about laws, not about dogma, not even about ethics.  It’s impossible to treat anyone wrong if you understand that you are that person, and that person is you.  We all come from this state of beautiful oneness, and there’s a part of us that always yearns for it. 

In my old coven, we used to sing this song:

We all come from the Goddess, and to her we shall return,
Like a drop of rain flowing to the ocean. 
Hoof and horn, hoof and horn, all that dies shall be reborn. 
Corn and grain, all that falls shall rise again. 

And yet, and yet.  When this lovely oneness broke into parts, when this world of variations happened, it happened for a reason, no?  We incarnated with stories, phobias, wisdom, and attractions already in place, ready to stitch together our own little piece of the quilt.  If it was whole to start with, what are we making?

For me, this is the central paradox of any spiritual viewpoint.  I do believe we are making it as we go.  I believe we are creating with every dream and thought and movement, calling into being something that never existed before.  And so my sense is that this wholeness is not a static thing, even though I understand the contradiction.  It’s whole, yet it becomes. 

So don’t be surprised this month if you find yourself standing for a long time at a tree, gazing up, and seeing nothing but green light.  Don’t be surprised if you’re in the middle of washing dishes, and you stop what you’re doing because you’re amazed by water.  Don’t be surprised if time changes shape, even more than usual, and long afternoons last a hundred years, while short nights are over in a blink. 

And what is Jupiter doing in this Neptune/Jupiter inconjunct?  Jupiter is the planet of expansion, and whenever it’s in aspect with any planet, it eggs the other one on.  So the diffuse and holistic awareness of Neptune is exaggerated, publicized, trumpeted by Jupiter.  Sometimes this is a good thing, as in the Climate March this week.  Jupiter is good at writing placards, making speeches.  And it’s now going through Libra, so it also inclines to legal strategies. 

But although Neptune is the planet of saintliness, of enlightenment, of all-encompassing spiritual awareness, it’s also the planet of illusion and delusion.   And so Jupiter can exaggerate this confusion too, while this Jupiter/Neptune inconjunct is going on.  Conspiracy theorists, for example, have a bigger and more holistic world view.  They see all the ways that the little threads come together.  But are they contributing to spiritual principles like peace and universal love?  What’s left out of this bigger world view?  What remains unseen? 

And none of us can see it all.  We are humans, possessed of a very useful focused vision which helps us find edible berries and avoid mastodons.  We aren’t supposed to ignore the physical messages around us, and just spend our time just contemplating eternity.  We’ll be back there before we know it;  it won’t be long. 

This Jupiter/Neptune inconjunct is seductive, encouraging us to take the little we know and run with it.  And sometimes you have to do it, you have to have faith in the visions that entice you, the ones that make your heart sing.  But I see it as a slow process, and a process that all beings have to do at approximately the same time.  It takes time to grow, to see more than just the fields and woods that surround us, and yet to still see them clearly.     

Friday, March 31, 2017

One Step Forward, Two Steps Back

It’s a grey day, and the house is quiet since my California family (with my ten-year-old granddaughter) went back home.  Last night I got to talk to her on FaceTime, and after the usual questions about school and friends, she amused herself and me by making up an alternative history of the world. 

She described the dinosaurs, ancient Egypt, Greece, Rome, the Dark Ages, the Renaissance, and Christopher Columbus as if they’d all happened in the 20th century and their recurring source of despair was that they all had to use old-fashioned flip phones.  I got into it too;  it was silly and fun.  For some reason, she thinks flip phones are an automatically funny concept. 

Last week, when she was here, she had me stretching more than my imagination.  I stretched my legs, walking to the park with her and her father.   I haven’t walked much since my knee injury, and it was slow progress, but it was good for me.  With her gone, I feel restless, and have a hard time keeping my mind on my work.  The gathering clouds outside reinforce a sense of gloom. 

Could be that the sun in Aries, the springtime sign, is making me restless?  April often gives this desire to rush at life, and limits can make you chafe.  But why do I feel so limited? -  I ask myself.   

Ah, yes, it’s not just me.  Venus is entering a time of sadness.  She is moving very slowly all this month, as she changes directions.  The thing is that the planet of love has chosen a tricky spot to do this, right at the square to Saturn, the planet of time, structure, discipline and restriction. 

A hard Venus/Saturn aspect generally comes around every three months, and lasts three or four days.  During those days, we may feel a little lackluster, and have a harder time getting whatever we want.  Some pleasurable plans may not work out, and we might find ourselves spending the evening scrubbing the kitchen floor instead.  But a few days later, we’re back having more fun.   

This Venus/Saturn square, however, is long and drawn-out, and will cover most of April.  It will be in orb between April 3 and 27.  During this time, Venus and Saturn challenge each other, with Venus trying to lighten things up at the same time that Saturn keeps reminding you how heavy they are. 

The aspect brings up recurring questions about desire and frustration, joy and fear, love and obligation.  What do we want?  Are we really entitled to it?  Are we being selfish?  Are other people being selfish?  (And if they are, can we sue?  Remember Jupiter is in Libra, the sign of law.)  Is it safe to fall in love? Can other people know us, as we truly are?  Can we know them?  Why don’t we get what we want when we want it?  Why do we have to wait? 

Venus is all about the search for happiness, but Saturn hobbles that search, often from an excess of worry about what the future might hold.  Saturn represents the weight of past experience, especially old trauma, and so it tends to hold us back from risk.  Most of us have felt pain, and retreated from it, and we don’t want to feel it again.  Not only are we not going to touch that hot stove again, we’re going to stay completely out of the kitchen, even if it means we don’t get any cookies.   

Saturn also represents old structures, traditions, walls and barriers, which do not yield easily to change, especially frivolous change.  And isn’t happiness always frivolous, a passing giggle in this serious slog called life?  Or  - is it something essential, the heart that keeps beating and gives us energy to navigate the walls and fences around us? 

This Venus/Saturn square isn’t the only stagnating influence in April.  Mercury in Taurus is also moving slowly as the month begins, and it retrogrades on April 9.   At this point, the deliberate, cautious energy of Taurus becomes even more deliberate.  Will anything get done this month?  Some old stuff could be fixed, organized, sorted out, put away.  With Mercury retrograde in earthy Taurus, you can get back to some old projects that you put aside, like building those window boxes, or cleaning out your garage.

Then things are bogged down further between April 15 and 20, since there’s an inconjunct between Mars (planet of action) and Saturn.  Mars, like Mercury, is in slow, thorough Taurus, and normally you can get quite a lot done with Mars here.  It gives a more natural, instinctive approach – but  Saturn is too rule-bound to let you do things organically.  It’s hard to find the right rhythm, the pace that works.     

During April, things that would normally take days take weeks, and many things go unresolved. Instead of breaking out of your winter doldrums, you may find yourself brooding, planning and preparing for some hypothetical future event.  Seeds, normally so eager to sprout in April, seem to be taking an extra month underground this year.  And even if everything is budding on cue outside, you may not feel that quickening inside your own soul.   

Through the blockages, obfuscations and disappointments of April, everyone gradually goes to sleep. They keep on working in their sleep, the way you do when you’re not feeling particularly hopeful.    Things do pick up a little after April 20, when Mercury re-enters Aries, a speedier sign, and there’s a little more chance of action.  But Mercury is still retrograde, and it isn’t yet time to take off in a new direction. 

Mercury meets Saturn too, but in a more constructive relationship, a trine.  This will be in orb between April 21 and 28, and it makes for a bit more efficiency.  There will be some successes – not quick or flashy, but perhaps the culmination of months of careful, meticulous planning, with an eye to the bigger picture.  The Venus/Saturn square will still be in orb, though, so there won’t be much celebration.  A few wins may go largely unnoticed, but they will be something you can build on in the future.   

And then the month ends with Mercury meeting Uranus, planet of abrupt change.  So suddenly, after this long slow drawl of a month, everything is going to be upended right as April ends.  Suddenly, we’ll all be startled awake by some development we didn’t expect. 

And do all these April blockages mean that Neil Gorsuch won’t be confirmed?  Unfortunately, I think he probably will.  Currently, he has some lucky aspects -  Jupiter sextile his natal Jupiter, Pluto trine his natal Pluto.  These are the kinds of aspects that give you a professional growth-spurt.  Saturn isn’t making any aspects to his chart as all, so he has very little to worry about.  The rest of us do, but not him. 

The only positive thing I can say about this is that his natal chart is full of mutable signs, so he’s more malleable than he appears.  In fact, mentally, he’s on the skittish side, and he may suffer from hypochondria and anxiety.  So he won’t be the steadiest justice on the court, and he may be influenced by the other justices more than you would think, whether for good or ill. 

Trump’s luck is holding for now too, as Jupiter retrogrades and then goes direct over his natal Jupiter.  It won’t be till August that his luck runs out.  Right now, resistance is like digging a big hole in the ground, a time-consuming and dirty job.  Sooner or later, Trump and his gilded throne will fall into it.  For now, we’ll have to accept that this administration, as messy and awkward as it appears, isn’t going anywhere immediately. 

In April, it may feel like you’re on a time-loop, sometimes moving an inch forward, but quite often going backwards.  Things are done, and things are undone, and nothing seems to budge.  It can seem interminable.  And all the time, we can feel burdened by the challenges we’re not facing, the earth we’re not protecting, the future generations who might blame us for not doing enough.       

What will people remember of all this?  Maybe next month, we’ll be too busy to consider this, but now we can pause.  Pausing is what we do best this month.  And as we do, we can store away these memories - the earth, our loved ones, our bodies, the age we live in.  It’s just a trinket on the charm bracelet of the passing centuries.  But it’s all we have, right now.    

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

A Message from Venus

Here on the east coast of the US, we’ve had a strange surge of summer weather.  It’s been nice to shed the coats and scarves and gloves, even though we know this is not such a benign phenomenon.

In all of human history, there’s never been a time when humans felt responsible for the weather.  No wonder climate change denial is so prevalent, besides the fact that it’s well-funded by the businesses that contribute to it.  Beyond that, this new way of understanding the world is hard.  It’s burdensome. 

The weather has always been vast, powerful, a region populated by gods.  From Zeus snippily hurling his thunderbolts, there was always a capricious quality about it.  It was Fate, it was something that humans had to submit to, and this capacity to submit was a key ingredient in religious devotion.   Even when the weather ruined your life, even when it starved you and killed your loved ones, you had no choice but to bow to it.

And now we know that, as much as the weather influences us, we also influence it.  The trees we chop, the color of our rooftops, the particles we manufacture, it’s all us, swaying and converting and influencing those ferocious weather gods.  But we can’t just demand that the weather do our bidding, any more than we can point our fingers at an electric outlet and demand that the electricity flow.  No, we have to learn its language.  We have to speak the language of our former gods. 

We’ve always suspected that we could influence those weather gods through prayer and sacrifice.  I think we were on the right track, and if we had kept up these rituals, we might have noticed the earth’s distress much earlier.  And now we have to do a lot of praying and sacrificing in a hurry.  Praying that a ray of light enter the thick brains of the country’s current leaders.  Sacrificing some old conveniences for new ways of living. 

In March, we get a chance to backtrack, and to work on this relationship, because Venus, the planet of love, will be retrograde.  Starting on March 4, she’ll be going in apparent backward motion for about six weeks.  And so this is a time to look at everything we love:  the ideas, the things, and the people.  How do we love?  How do we connect?   

The relationship between the human race and the earth can tell us something about our patterns of loving.  First, we were subservient, at the mercy of these fierce gods of lightning and rain and sunlight.   Then we gained a bit more independence, harnessing the powers of warmth and light, and at that point, we could’ve had an equal relationship.  But fear was still driving humans, and we chose domination. 

At its root, domination is always fear.  Dominating the weather is about trying to rise above those wild, elemental powers.  Dominating women is essentially a fear of women’s unique ability to give birth.  Domination of gay people is based on the fear that patriarchy won’t prevail if people have a choice about their orientation.   Domination of African-Americans is the fear that that cruelty will be answered in kind, and legitimate anger will seek retribution in blood.  And the longer domination goes on, the stronger the fear grows, and the harder it is to root out. 

And domination precludes love.  On writing this, I thought about S & M, and then I realized that that's play domination, not the real thing.  S & M is based on mutual consent and the person at the bottom always has a “stop” signal to reassert control.  True domination doesn’t allow this level of mutual awareness. 

No, in domination, love is crowded out.  And we all know that love is key to survival for our species.  Unloved humans do not thrive.   They die early, as wistful babies, and they die late, as neglected senior citizens. 

It takes great courage to turn fear into love, and this is the challenge of our times.  Venus’ retrograde through Aries will show us something of how this works.  Aries is the fire sign that has most to do with autonomy and independence, and Aries’ keyword is, “I am.” With Venus moving in reverse in Aries, that changes to, “Am I?” and further on, “Who am I?”

The answer for all of us is “a lover”.  All of us love something or someone, but what do we do with this energy? Do we use it to possess, and to feed our addictions?  Do we use it to connect, to celebrate, and to find joy?  Do we truly see the people and things we love, or are they just our mirrors?  Or is it always some combination of these things?  Does love cease when the person or thing or god you’ve loved is ready to shift roles?

We know Trump loves an overcooked steak and the clink of a cash register, but what else does he love?  Looking at his chart, we see Venus in the emotional, affectionate sign Cancer, so we know he is attached to many people, places and objects.  But Venus is also conjunct Saturn, the planet of fear, so he is also very afraid of losing what/who he loves.  The fear leads him to work hard to maintain control, to dominate.   

But this doesn’t work when you’re trying to govern millions of people with various and immediate needs.  And it doesn’t work with the weather gods, who are waiting for us to learn how to communicate with them, to speak the wider languages of wind and rain.  They are waiting for us to be empowered by love, rather than frightened by it. 

Venus is not just the planet of love, but the planet of beauty.  And it seems to me what we need to do is stitch some beauty together – not just in art museums and manicured gardens, but in daily life for all people.  When all people live and work in places that feed the spirit, where there is air and sun and an absence of fear, then we’ll be in a place of balance with the earth.  Everything she has given us is beautiful, and when we learn to echo that beauty, we can be the lovers we were born to be.   

Friday, February 3, 2017

This Land is Our Land

It’s ironic that in the middle of this mess, when so many immigrants find themselves in limbo, that my wife finally got her green card.  So we’re staying.  We’re not running off to Canada, thank you very much. 

Of course, it has nothing to do with Trump, any more than current upticks in employment do.  But it reminds me that there is a momentum that’s already been set.  We’re moving towards a wider and more inclusive future, and we’ll get there.  It’s just that progress will be a bit slower, what with Trump amusing himself with all the shiny knobs in the driver’s seat.

The Women’s March was also encouraging.  Half a million women, a crowd spotted with pink hand-knitted hats, thousands of pithy home-made signs. I felt the enormous power of women like a hand raising me up into an unmarked sky.  I moved above the rumble of dread and fear coming from this new administration.  I knew that growl of thunder was mostly bluster, that there was nothing there that could bend the human spirit. 

There’s an energizing aspect this month -  Jupiter opposing Uranus -  and this will help us avoid resistance fatigue.  But does show that things are not going to settle down in February.  Not for any of us.

So yes, Trump and his minions will probably do all kinds of outrageous things this month.  And the rest of us – people interested in a fairer and more civil society – will stay underfoot, using every tool we can call to hand.  There’s a great deal of creativity in this Jupiter/Uranus opposition. 

This aspect is basically about rules vs. anarchy.  Jupiter in Libra stands for laws, protocols, civility, and moral standards.  And yes, I have to say it.  Even though I’ve seen myself as a rule-breaker most of my life, I’m actually quite invested in the idea of a truly lawful society, one that treats everyone equally, with unhurried deliberation.  One that’s transparent and open to all. One that’s expressed in dignity and courtesy to others. 

And to some extent, we have that here.  Oh, I know the law we have is far from perfect, both in practice and in theory.  But there are some basic ideals that have become enshrined in our law and our system of government, some of them quite precious.  So we’ll be using those, relying on them.  Jupiter in Libra is also about relationships, about compromise and cooperation, and we’ll also need to master this if we are going to make positive changes in this world.   

And then there’s Uranus, planet of sudden shocking changes.  This is Trump’s specialty, mostly because he’s kind of a brat.  He doesn’t believe that any set of rules has any hold over him, and I have a feeling that some of the people who voted for him were kind of fascinated by this unbound, unfettered quality of his.  It’s the same reason we all like to look at videos of little kids and puppies.  Look at what they get away with!  Look how awkward!    

So he’s got the Uranus thing down, as we can also see by the sun/Uranus conjunction in his natal chart.  He’s got people around him trying to handle him, but they’re not generally going to succeed.  He’ll seem docile up to a point, but then he’ll turn around and do something unexpected.  And of course, you know what they say about too many cooks.  There are a lot of people around Trump, pulling strings in all different directions, so this is going to add to the flailing. 

But we have to own Uranus too.  The secret to dealing with an opposition is to find ways to express both sides of it, to bring them together.  We already are pretty good at the law side of things.  We have the ideals, the basic human sense of justice, on our side.  How do we work in the creative excitement of Uranus?  How do we keep them as off-balance as they’ve kept us? 

It’s not easy because we’re used to seeing the office of the presidency of one of authority and dignity.  That goes along with our basic respect for law.  And yes, we’re used to seeing a dignified, intelligent man there.  But Trump is doing his best to show us that the office can become an international laughingstock, and it can happen in a matter of days.  So I think we can adjust.   

So I suggest that this movement, our movement, is going to be two-pronged, in order to succeed.  You could say it’s a juggling act.  One ball is law, one is anarchy, and we need them both in the air.  We need our pinstriped lawyers, working for justice in the courts, and we need the crazy radicals, calling into question all the things we thought we knew. 

So don’t worry if some of your friends have gone completely around the bend, and are spending their time mumbling about the revolutionary things they intend to do.  Encourage them!  We need the wild-eyed ones.  Give them some ambrosia, and let’s get moving.  Let’s give our movement color and sound and excitement.  Let’s take it where we never dreamed we’d go. 

But at the same time, we have to keep our footing.  We need to be able to leap off the high wire and land upright in a world of justice, peace and equality.  We can do it.  Our net is wide.  Our net is as wide as the this land.