Friday, August 27, 2010

Back to the Basics

I was going to keep it a secret that I hurt my back.

Why? Because a backache doesn't fit into my picture of myself. I have no problem admitting all kinds of frailties - an unreliable sense of direction, a lack of phone skills, and a tendency to go out without combing my hair - but a bad back isn't one of them. I see myself as having a strong, flexible, healthy back at all times.

I was really indignant. I do yoga! I stretch all the time! What's up with this?

There is nothing one feels as possessive about as one's body, especially as one gets older. I have spent almost sixty years living in this body, and it reflects me so faithfully, both in negative and positive ways. I've created it as it is - sometimes by stretching and walking and dancing and swimming, sometimes by ignoring and neglecting it. True, the basic physical matter was a gift from my ancestors, and from the earth herself. But for a lot of what's happened since then, I can take the credit or the blame.

So when I bent over to pull that pan out of the oven, I never suspected that that sharp twinge would become an insistent pain by the end of a very busy evening. We were giving a party, I had been on my feet all day, I was excited and having fun, I was thinking about a million things at once. But by the time the last guest left, I couldn't bend over any more.

Yes, it's Saturn. It's generally Saturn.

The Saturn/Jupiter opposition, in orb now for about four months, has signaled an economic downturn. This aspect shows the clash between Saturn's caution and Jupiter's extravagance. Saturn asks for everything to be grounded in reality, while Jupiter is busy taking it all to the next level. Jupiter is usually high and happy, while Saturn has a well-deserved reputation as a downer.

Pundits who celebrated the return of a healthy economy are now saying that it looks pretty bleak. But currently Saturn is moving away from the opposition to Jupiter, and so that should help the recovery - at least until next spring, when this aspect forms again.

As Saturn moves away from Jupiter, it moves towards an opposition to my natal Jupiter. So it's getting personal for me now. And I can say it's definitely been about economy. Economy of movement, today. Doing everything with my back absolutely straight. Avoiding sudden movements. Finding out about limitations that I didn't even know I had.

Jupiter and Saturn are the planets that anchor us to our world, our society, our community, but they do it in opposite and often antagonistic ways. Jupiter has to do with the ways we grow through community, and help the community grow. It fosters the belief that everything is possible. And, in this ever-expanding universe, perhaps it is, one way or another.

Saturn has to do with the restrictions which society imposes, and the ways we limit each other as well. We all believe things that we've been trained to believe, things that our ancestors passed down as valuable truisms. For example, the belief that when you get old, you get stiff and have trouble moving.

But there's Saturn saying, "Oh yeah? That's a myth, huh?" Then I hear that dry, kind of papery Saturnine laughter that always makes me want to throw a rock at something.

Yes, you're right, Saturn. These limitations aren't just arbitrary. They're based on something real. They are the lessons taught by experience, by the passage through this world. I look back and see a long train of my ancestors, learning these same lessons, reminding each other of what works and what doesn't.

All the other planets allow you to transcend this worldly frame, one way or another. The sun does it by feeding your ego. ("I've got a really healthy back, and if it ever does hurt, nobody is going to know about it!") The moon does it by offering a support system. (This is when I crawled into bed and let my spouse know how pitiful I felt.) Mercury does it by bringing up other perspectives and ideas. (I'm doing a great job of distracting myself, writing this.) Venus does it by offering ways to have fun. (That's why I didn't recognize how much pain I was in until everybody had left the party.) Every planet has its way of taking you away from mundane reality, and in that process, helping you create one that's less mundane.

But Saturn never does that. It keeps coming back to our inexorable connection to the cycle of life. Everything that's born decays. Everything that's physical will someday crumble. That's the way it is. And so Saturn keeps us humble, keeps us grounded, keeps reminding us that there's one thing that's stronger than the will. And that thing is time.

But don't worry about me. I can already feel it healing. And that too takes time.