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.        

Monday, March 2, 2020

Lag Time

Nature seems to be in a hurry, rushing us out of winter and towards spring, with these too-warm days.  The calendar marches along at a quick trot too, heading towards Super Tuesday.  The news cycle sends up new things to worry about all the time.

But I’m lagging.  With Mercury retrograde, and three planets going through Pisces, I’m captured by a deeper flow.  I only want to meditate, to daydream, to drink tea, to gaze out the window, and to reread books I’ve read before.  I want to spend my time in the Dreamscape, a place where I’ve felt at home since childhood.  My brain produces the images, and I just wander around in them, untethered, free as any discarnate spirit. 

I recently read the novel The Starless Sea, by Erin Morgenstern, a book I’d heard lauded everywhere.  To me, the novel was a beautiful, intricate stage without any actors on it.  The characters were embryonic, the plot scanty, but the setting was amazing, full of intricate details, constantly unfolding.

This feels like the current moment, with all this Piscean energy.  Everything is open, everything is possible, but there is no pressing need to do anything in particular.  The universe flows onward, carrying us all along.  Of course, we bring along our baggage, our worries and concerns.  But most of these seem to be resistant to action. 

Take Covid-19, which is spreading like a storm cloud.  What can we do about it?  We can wash our hands more often, and watch for symptoms, and avoid crowded places.  But mostly we just stand and watch the cloud move along, not knowing when it might decide to dump some rain, and whether we’ll get wet. 

A virus is invisible, as it travels through the air.  It wafts gently towards people, looking for the moist places where it can grow.  It comes for its victims without a bite or a sting, with nothing dramatic happening, and lays them flat for a little while – or forever.  Three thousand people have died, mostly those who were already weak, or who lacked any kind of medical care. 

It’s a very Piscean epidemic.  We humans have always been colonized, although we pretend we’re autonomous beings.  But we’re permeated with different life-forms of all sizes and kinds, and mostly we make amicable arrangements with them.  There are no barriers, though.  And so we’re helpless when confronted with less benign life-forms that want to merge with us.    

And there are no barriers between people, either.  None of us live in isolation.  Rich people have always needed poor people to do the work for them, to cook their food and take care of their children. So we’re all in this together, touching each other in a million ways.    

Of course, the current US government is spreading its own cloud of misinformation, assuring everyone that the virus will miraculously disappear.  In most situations, they’ve been successful with their miasma of lies – but in this case, the virus is more subtle, and is able to slip through their net. It can’t be contained, especially when nobody is prepared, when there’s a general disdain for science, and when the emphasis is on economic damage rather than health.

But Pisces isn’t the only important influence this month.  Capricorn is also strong, with four planets in this sign, and Capricorn is very different from the drifty, dreamy, watery energy of Pisces.  Capricorn is the most realistic sign in the zodiac, the most pragmatic, often the most pessimistic.  So while the administration is sending clouds to fight other clouds, there are people who are actually facing the problem.  They’re the ones organizing, containing, and countering people’s fears with accurate information. 

They’re just like the people who tackle global warming.  Weather systems are very Piscean;  they flow freely over the globe, ignoring borders, sensitive to all passing changes, bringing everyone together. The only way to deal with weather disturbances is to stay practical, to organize, to dismantle outmoded structures and to build new ones. 

These threats are not the same, but they have one message for humanity:  that we’re all together in this, that we are not really divided from each other, or from all the other life-forms in our midst.  There are no national boundaries that can stop these things, and to believe in walls and checkpoints is just magical thinking.

But is the answer just to flow with it?  I think that’s part of it, but the other half is to strategize and to work.  These are the things that Capricorn is good at.  For myself, even though I really just want to float along in the Piscean stream, I know that I have to deal with deadlines and commitments.  I have to stay clear, and to keep it real. 

Both Pisces and Capricorn can help you deal with your fears.  When you’re flowing with Pisces, the main fear is that you’re not in control, and you don’t know what you’re doing.  The answer is to move towards what’s beautiful, sacred and inspirational.  You can tap into all-encompassing divine love, whatever your religion, and you can find healing for the suffering you’ve endured and the suffering you’ve caused. 

And when you’re working with Capricorn, you can appreciate the unchanging physical laws that govern our planet, that keep you from floating away into space, and that ensure that every action has consequence.  These laws are both tools and teachers.  They form the framework of everything you are and everything you do. 

You are at once body and soul, limited by time and space and yet unbounded in this endless universe. And you are not unique in this.