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.