Gemini Full Moon: Happy Whatever

Posted by & filed under Full Moon, Gemini, Sagittarius, Saturn.

grumpy-holidayNo sooner had the Thanksgiving leftovers been stowed away than my Facebook feed erupted in verbal fistfights about the language of the holiday season. Evidently, “Happy Holidays” is no longer a gently inclusive expression of good will, but the opening salvo in a new Crusades. And forget about “Xmas” as well, warned an indignant friend who demanded we “keep Christ in Christmas!” (I refrained from pointing out that the “X” in Xmas actually stands for Christ, because when someone is perched atop that high of a horse, facts might unbalance them and cause a nasty spill.)

Personally, I use Xmas prodigiously—not out of disrespect for others’ beliefs (I don’t celebrate Christmas but have no beef with those who do), but because it’s short and snappy. But since someone brought it up, I’ll state for the record that I don’t enjoy Christmas or Xmas. The vapid Christmas music and insipid holiday-themed movies, the unbridled spending, the hysteria of Black Friday and small business Saturday and cyber-Monday, and especially, turning what should be a season of kindness and joy into a philosophical battleground…whatever you wish to call our December holiday season, I call it exhausting.

I bring all this up, I suppose, because Saturn is getting ready to move in to Sagittarius (December 23). When a big, slow-moving planet lumbers into a new sign, it awakens new territory—in this case, the land of beliefs. Petty arguments about holiday greetings are examples of Sagittarius’ shadow side, the calcification of personal convictions into something ungenerous and exclusionary. Society still carries the scars of Pluto moving through Sagittarius from 1995 to 2008, when religious bickering and political bludgeoning took an ugly turn from which civility has never quite recovered. It would be a shame if Saturn moving through this sign reignited ancient grudges, encouraging the transfer of old opinions to new stone tablets. (more…)

Sagittarius New Moon: A Hat Full of Stars

Posted by & filed under Lunar Phases, New Moon, Sagittarius.

Once, on a visit to New Zealand, I stepped outside on a cool, clear evening and looked up at the sky. What I saw made me a little dizzy: not just a thick blanket of stars, but constellations so different from the ones I’m used to! As an urban dweller, I had no idea that I’d become so familiar with the night sky – until I saw one that was utterly foreign.

Sagittarius rules encounters with the unfamiliar. Some of them take us as far away as the other side of the world, where the sky is upside down. But simply traveling to an unfamiliar part of your own city will do the trick as well. Whenever you find yourself feeling a little bit uncomfortable, like a proverbial fish out of water, then you’re doing Sagittarius right. Whatever makes you look at the world, or even just your own life, with new eyes and wonderment – that’s Sagittarius territory.

It occurred to me, watching “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” for maybe the 40th time, how many of the stories we enjoy revisiting each year during the holiday season – as the Sun moves through Sagittarius – are tales of heroic journeys. Rudolph hits the road with his fellow misfit, Hermey the Elf, in search of a place where they fit in. The three wise men embark on the ultimate road trip, with only a star to lead them to the newborn savior. George Bailey and Clarence, and Ebeneezer Scrooge and his ghostly tour guides, travel to alternate universes to better grasp the importance of a single human life.

For each of us, Sagittarius represents our own Hero’s Journey, complete with tortuous paths, ordeals and rewards, and the promise of redemption. We recognize ourselves in Rudolph, in George, and even in poor old Scrooge. We understand their dissatisfaction and despair, and the feeling that there’s no better way to reboot our lives than to launch ourselves into the vast unknown. We know the fear of failure and the sadness of feeling like a stranger, and we know that there are times in life when proving that we can overcome that fear and sadness is exactly what we need in order to feel truly alive.

In the Northern Hemisphere, December tends to be one of the coldest months of the year. For most of us, its weather is better suited for bundling up in front of the fire with cocoa, safe and warm, than for taking off into the unknown. Even our winter holidays shine with a slightly desperate brightness, their songs and parties a kind of spiritual CPR meant to coax us into staying alive through the long, cold season. (more…)

Mars conjunct Pluto: Sometimes You’re the Bug

Posted by & filed under Mars, Planets, Pluto, Transits.

windshield-bug-300One morning last week, just as the transiting Mar/Pluto conjunction in Capricorn was rising, I was falling. I had just set down the cat’s food dish, and when I stood up, a violent spasm in my lower back sent me crumpled to the hard, tile kitchen floor. As I lay there writhing in agony, the cats ambled over to investigate. Spike apparently decided that if I was screaming, I was still alive; so he calmly started eating his breakfast a few inches from my ear, in a show of Mars/Pluto ruthlessness and Capricornian pragmatism.

As Mark Knopfler once wrote, “Sometimes you’re the windshield, sometimes you’re the bug.” When Mars and Pluto come together, anything soft and slow is going to get squished against hard, fast-moving reality. Much of what happens during this roughly one week transit seems sudden, like a slap across the face; but the underlying cause has been building for awhile. I’d known for days that I needed to do some yoga to stretch things out and relieve the building tension in my back. Driven by deadlines and obligations, I’d ignored the warning signs and let circumstances twist me into a pretzel. The next thing I knew, I was crawling to the sofa to wait, powerless, for the next spasm.

Transits involving Pluto always reflect our part in a larger, collective struggle with power and control. Struggling for control creates fear and tension that collect deep below the surface until something—say, Mars—sets off volcanic emotions that melt them into hard, unyielding glass.

Even the transits of fast-moving planets like Mars can express themselves potently. When Mars and Pluto, two hard-edged characters, come together in any kind of aspect, little bugs like you and me need to look both ways before we fly across the road. We rarely see the windshield coming until we’re already on the floor.

The solution is to be a smarter bug. Fly higher; the hard, fearful places are down low, and that’s where the danger is. Don’t let yourself get sucked into petty disputes. Fly faster, in the direction of your own choosing. Recognize when you are powerless, and retreat to fly another day.

Upcoming transiting Mars/Pluto aspects: conjunction (Nov. 10, 2014), sextile (Jan. 30, 2015), square (March 11, 2015), trine (April 21, 2015), opposition (July 15, 2015). These are the dates the aspects are exact; the influence of them is usually felt about one week before and after the exact aspect.

Taurus Full Moon: The Center of You

Posted by & filed under Full Moon, Lunar Phases, Taurus.

center-of-youEach time we visit my husband’s native New Zealand, I spend the first five days or so completely gobsmacked by the physical beauty of the place, feeling emotionally massaged by the gentle and courteous manner of its people.

And the cows! New Zealand’s sheep get all the press, but I’ve never seen so many cows in my life, and I come from a farm community. Everywhere—alongside the motorway, next to roadside cafés—cows roam verdant hills, chewing contentedly, sometimes just standing completely still and staring, seemingly at nothing. Not necessarily my idea of a good time, but their sleek, well-fed appearances and placid expressions lead me to think these cows are pretty happy with their lot in life.

The people seem generally happy too. Oh, there are problems, of course. But even in the heart of Auckland, New Zealand’s biggest city, we were met with the steadfast civility of people who have long enjoyed relative prosperity and social security. Yes, if ever a place could be described as Taurean, with its leisurely contentment and celebration of earth’s beauty and bounty, it’s New Zealand. Just stepping off the plane in Aotearoa (the Maori name for New Zealand, translated as “land of the long, white cloud”) is enough to make your blood pressure plummet.

So why is it that after about five days of basking in the politeness, civility, and bucolic wonder of it all (and I haven’t even mentioned the dairy products, which are—as implied by a nation knee-deep in contented cows—superlative), I’m ready to run screaming back to the States?

I suppose it’s that while travel is stimulating, broadening, and all the rest, it’s also pretty intense. The simplest things become a challenge; just crossing the street can be life-threatening when you’re visiting a country where traffic crosses in the opposite direction from what you’re used to. It would seem that for most of us, real contentment requires some measure of home’s creature comforts, familiar objects and routines. So even visiting bucolic New Zealand can be stressful, while finding myself back in my accustomed hectic, suburban surroundings, with the cats underfoot and a plate of my favorite dinner under my nose, soon has me lowing contentedly.

We need a secure, contented platform from which to launch ourselves at life’s persistent worries. The Sun’s annual trek through Scorpio each November is exactly the right time to look these worries in the eye, to march up to life’s edges and peer into the abyss of extreme experiences, situations, and emotions. Like an intense, smoldering stranger across a crowded room, Scorpio summons you to leave what’s comfortable for an opportunity to join in ecstatic rapport with the unknown, the unseeable, the mysterious. (more…)

Scorpio Solar Eclipse: Sparks

Posted by & filed under Eclipses, Lunar Phases, Moon, New Moon, Pluto, Saturn, Scorpio.

Just after Halloween 2009, the new bride of our neighbor, a lovely man in his late 50s, was killed in a car accident. Our neighbor, who was her passenger, was left hospitalized in critical condition. They had been married less than one year.

When we occasionally encountered him on our evening walks, he was so happy about his new marriage, so in love with his wife, that he seemed lit up from the inside. They were still engaged in the happy work of newlyweds – negotiating space in their home, having the place painted, deciding where to put the piano. It was weeks before he regained consciousness after the accident, weeks before he realized she was dead.

After some neighbors first told us the news, my husband and I ambled home, in shock. “It just goes to show, you’ve got to enjoy every minute,” observed my Moon-in-Taurus spouse, “because you don’t know what’s going to happen next.”

That is the truth. Bad news (especially when it happens to someone else) makes us appreciate what we’ve got. But untimely death is the ultimate Bad Thing, the grim joke that raises profound questions about life itself. It’s best not to rush past the mourning and depression that naturally follow death; they are instructive. They are moments when we examine our commitment to being alive; can it survive the certainty of death? (more…)

Aries Lunar Eclipse: Rights, Grievances, and Relating

Posted by & filed under Aries, Eclipses, Libra, Newsmakers, Pluto.

rooseveltsAt this Lunar Eclipse in Aries, the call of the Sun and Venus conjoined in Libra is to lay down our arms and pull together. But the Moon and Uranus conjoined in Aries are determined to fight tooth and nail for their own needs and freedom. Somewhere in between, Pluto, square all of them, calls for setting aside egos and resolving conflicts for the higher good.

Some relationships are toxic, unmendable ships that should be abandoned. Others are simply floundering a bit, undermined by each partner clinging to the satisfaction of making the other person wrong and themselves right. Ask your friends for relationship advice, and you’ll nearly always get a response that takes your side and encourages you to look out for yourself. But is that always the right approach?

Recently, I watched Ken Burns’ terrific documentary about the Roosevelts. A contemporary woman, I got angrier and angrier as the topic turned to FDR’s betrayal of his wife, Eleanor, with her own personal secretary. After his affair, theirs was more a political alliance than a marriage. But Eleanor never wavered in her public support of her husband, even after his death. (more…)

New Moon in Libra: Laws of Motion

Posted by & filed under Libra, New Moon.

laws-site“All forces occur in pairs, and these two forces are equal in magnitude and opposite in direction.”
Newton’s Third Law of Motion

With the popularity of books like “The Secret,” people are excited about the idea of creating the life they want through the power of positive thinking. It’s an appealing, though not particularly fresh concept. But I suspect that what appears to be a kind of loophole in Eeyore’s Law – which states that if your life can suck, it will suck – is not exactly a get-out-of-jail-free card. This is because you are not the only force at work in the world, and so your power to achieve precisely what you want is necessarily limited by what others want. After all, all of the candidates running for office in the upcoming mid-term elections want to win, but each race will have only one winner.

I don’t mean to dismiss positive thinking out of hand; I perform my new and full moon rituals, after all. But it seems obvious that what we want is not always exactly what we’ll get – sometimes, it won’t even be close. And I’ll take this a step further: Sometimes, maybe we shouldn’t get exactly what we want. I shudder to think what would have happened had I married the man with whom my 25-year-old self was so desperately infatuated. Our ability to visualize something and to pursue it with positive thoughts and actions is not only no guarantee that we’ll get it – it’s not even a guarantee that it’s something worth pursuing. (more…)

The Equinox: Magic Hour

Posted by & filed under Seasonal Essays.

magic-hourTraveling between the Northern and Southern Hemispheres near the solstices can be tough. Climb aboard a jet in San Diego on a sweltering day in August, and expect a shock when you arrive twelve hours later in chilly, midwinter Auckland.

But nearer the equinoxes in late September and late March, which mark the beginning of autumn and spring, you can fly from one hemisphere to the other and notice little difference. If no one told you, you’d be hard pressed to say whether you were in the season of autumn’s endings or of spring’s beginnings.

In life, too, there is little difference between endings and beginnings. Their borders overlap and are softly blended. Beginning something always, by definition, marks the end of an era, and endings herald the dawning of a new one.

The equinoxes are like twilight, like the golden, hazy hours just after dawn and just before sunset. Cinematographers love to film during these hours, because the footage for one can double for the other time of the day. They call it “magic hour.”

Are you beginning something now? Or are you ending something? Is it autumn in your life, or is it spring?

It’s both. It’s the equinox. It is magic hour.

Full Moon in Pisces: The Lilies of the Field

Posted by & filed under Full Moon, Lunar Phases, Pisces.

lily-of-the-fieldI’ve never been a napper. I’ve always been jealous of friends and family who can catch forty winks without breaking a sweat, and frustrated by my inability to rest while the Sun is out. Similar to my wariness of drugs and caution with alcohol, I have resisted the narcotic of sleep except between the socially sanctioned hours of 10 pm and 6 am. With strong Virgo planets and many hard aspects to Neptune, I’d rather remain on task, alert. My early life was so chaotic and uncertain that I suppose I grasped at structure and duty like a drowning woman pulling herself into a life raft. If I don’t fight the undertow of unconsciousness, I fear it will drag me under and drown me.

But relatively late in life, I have embraced The Nap. I suppose my sudden ability to succumb to sleep is thanks to transiting Neptune’s long passage through Pisces, a sign that has elevated napping to a fine art. I still work hard, but some days the world is so exhausting, so enervating, that I just want to escape from it for awhile. There are lots of ways to accomplish this – getting lost in a book, playing or listening to music, watching a movie; all have been favorite escapes of mine at one time or another. But lately my refuge of choice is the power nap, a 20-minute tonic for mind, body and spirit. Why, I find myself wondering, have I spent so many years resisting this restorative daily mini-vacation?

Each year when the Full Moon falls in Pisces, we’re asked to reacquaint ourselves with the value of retreat. Work, itineraries, and striving to become better, faster, and more accomplished, dominate our consciousness while the Sun moves through diligent Virgo. But as many of us know, overwork can lead us down wearying and unproductive paths. Work, order, and routine can be escapes too – from the big picture, the meaning of our lives – unless we periodically pause for reflection. (more…)

New Moon in Virgo: The Grand Mess

Posted by & filed under Lunar Phases, New Moon, Virgo.

cool-broken-pot-flowers-gardenWhat does it mean to be healthy? Orderly? Tidy? Or – that most dreaded of Virgo adjectives – perfect?

Like just about everyone else, I’ve had the kind of life that placed perfection decidedly out of reach early on. I’ve never had a prayer of achieving anything close to the perfect figure, the perfect career, or the perfect family life. Imperfection is the human condition, it seems, but it makes me sad that I’ve so often fallen so short of my own standards. Wouldn’t it be wonderful, every so often, to be able to trade in your beat-up old life for a shiny new one as easily as upgrading your car?

Some of my imperfect life is, undeniably, my own fault – a fact my Mars, Pluto and Midheaven in Virgo never let me forget for a moment. I don’t have the right kind of personality for office work, so I probably should have finished college right after high school instead of making the decision to drop out and earn a living as a secretary. I should have found a better method of coping with my childhood traumas than self-medicating with junk food and putting myself behind the metabolic 8-ball. And no doubt I could have avoided some of the credit card debt and bad relationships that caused me so many headaches throughout my twenties.

But some of my missteps were simply the best coping techniques I could come up with at an early age, in response to events beyond my control. By the age of ten I’d lost a parent in a tragic accident, been dragged across country to live in California, seen my family’s financial status plunge to near-poverty, and was living as a latchkey kid long before it was fashionable. Despite this rocky start, I eventually improvised my way to a satisfying career, formed a happy marriage, finished college, and forged a much healthier relationship with money. (more…)