Sunday, November 28, 2010

Funny Squares with Squiggles and Finding the Healer Within

This morning I decided to launder the sheets. It's something I get around to every week or so, and whenever I catch myself waiting too long, it reminds me of college, when I washed things only after too many little bits of hair and other stuff started getting stuck between my toes at night. When this happened, and brushing the crumbs off the sheets no longer felt like enough, I'd hustle up some tokens and deal with taking apart the bed. With Philadelphia having just been rated number two for bed bugs by one of the major exterminating companies, I thought this day's activity could be a pro-active thing on my part. And anyway, warm, clean, and crisply tucked sheets are one of life's true pleasures.

While I was "at it", I felt one of those occasional rushes of motivation and vacuumed the bedroom carpets thoroughly, sweep the stuff up off of the wood floors, and thought about what I could do about the rather empty, unfinished area around my bed. This seemed like something likely to contribute to a rotten night's sleep, and lord knows my poor, aching body could do with fewer of those. I grabbed a feng shui book so I could refresh my memory of the basics and have some fun "doing it right."

That kind of thing is often a recipe for trouble. I had tried feng shui before, at my apartment in Nebraska, and got bogged down micro-engineering every detail of the process (*Pluto in Virgo*). I probably lost much of the intended transformative effect as a result (*Chiron in the second opposite Pluto, with both squared to a fifth house Jupiter*) Part of the problem had to have been my forcing the feng shui cure "down my throat," though I have to admit I took on the project with a sincere passion and steadfast earnestness. Evolutionary astrologer Stephen Forrest, who operates with a great deal of passion himself, says, when the intellect shuts the feeling function down, it's time to put the charts and books away for a while. Interpretations should feel "alive" with energy, not be the ones that are correct because they follow somebody's standard formulas and procedures.

Well, I've got a bit bogged down with the feng shui this time, too. I'm worrying some about whether this particular set of books should be in this corner or...and whether I can let go of these or...but, for the most part, I am kind of amazed by what I think the way I had some of the things arranged were saying about who I was and what my issues were. So now I've made some changes and look forward to seeing if they help clear anything up psychologically. I hope they result in some practical changes, too, especially a good night's sleep.

The pre-makeover arrangement was a product of a nine-month makeover that started in October of 2009. I had just returned from visiting the family of a college friend who lives in Canada and participating in an astrology workshop in Toronto. I was feeling kind of glum about returning to my lonely place in Havertown, so I didn't put things back the way they had been when I left.

This loneliness has been a big problem for me, one I've been trying to work through for years. It's the downside of enjoying the freedom to do things on my own. I take Jan Spiller's advice for a Gemini North Node by not pressuring myself to be around people all the time, and by trying to listen more when I am. Things get to feeling relatively peaceful when I experience domestic solitude for a whole uninterrupted day - and when I get a cushion of a few days on either side separating me from social events or family obligations. Still, I feel like I should "get out and have fun" more often. An ongoing balancing act that I'm feeling my way through.

Part of the process has been to learn that 1)something that feels like hard work (like pushing yourself to be around others) isn't "really good" and "worth a lot" just because it feels like hard work; 2)that being around people isn't the same as connecting with them (though it can help), and 3)there are certain kinds of people and ways of being that are more comfortable for me than others and it's okay to make those kinds of friends and activities a priority and pass on the others (even though I want to stay open to learning from everything and everyone). Which brings me back to lesson number one.

And now back to the part about arranging my things. The gloomy return to home last year grew into a reorganization project encompassing several rooms on two levels (*Uranus-Pluto trines the Taurus IC*). This led to more than the usual amount of things being left out of place around the house, something I don't often do (*Virgo Moon*). Either because I was feeling depressed or had some uncommon good sense, I let them stay that way until the "right place" found them. I'm trying not to let my Virgo Moon say it was a bad thing to have some messy corners - I had a lot of them before I moved into my first dorm and got jolted into the routine of moving regularly, but this time, I'd like to get things into place quickly, keeping some boundaries around this makeover project. When I did the makeover last year, it was nine months before the last piece of furniture found a place for itself as a writing table by a window in my bedroom. This was an old kitchen table that had found its way from the kitchen to the dining room and then to the living room before moving up the stairs into my bedroom. I can't imagine where it will head to next.

Last week, before this latest "manic makeover" got underway, I paused in my other work around the house to thoughtfully reflect (*Moon trine Mercury*). I told myself there were three different things I was doing here and spelled them out. These were 1) organizing my childhood belongings, 2) cleaning up the stuff my parents' left when they moved out, and 3) creating a nurturing living space for myself. The part of this all which I like to think about least, is that ultimately this work is meant to prepare the house for sale. Maybe I'll be ready and even willing to move out in a year or two, but in the meantime, I wanted to use the opportunity to try remaking the place in my own image - not that I have a god complex or anything - and wrap things up from my childhood on my own terms in my own way. In the process, I've explored values and the kind of lifestyle that I want to have, which is very much centered on my living space and a mission in life. Writing has helped me make sense of all of these efforts, and it's brought a sense of closure and meaning to the process as well as some new directions to take things in. A process of transformation, you could say. I've certainly been attempting to make it one, and just now, I think, as I realize the objects themselves and the memories related to them have the kind of finite boundaries that I thought they would always lack, the projects' direction and scope become clearer, and I can see the separation between them. Things are becoming easier, more efficient, and somewhat less stressful.

Besides treating the work on the house as an experiment in learning over the last three years, I've gotten the idea that a subconscious part of me is also using it to cleanse my Self of negative attitudes from the past, which I am often reminded of when I sort through things in this house. I see it in the items themselves, in the way they've been stored, neglected, left in the same place forever, or arranged in ways I find uninteresting or unimaginative. In changing something about them, or eliminating the things that don't seem to fit or aren't of use to me, I imagine I'm going about the process lovingly and with a higher purpose on one hand, while being a bit grating and a little overly forced on the other. I've felt that I've also created some friction by the way I've attempted to share the process with others or engage them in my mission here, which has probably made it a little more difficult on myself, though I suppose that when things have been suppressed for so many years, its going to get a bit cantankerous as one tries to bring them to the surface and change what's going on.

Okay, let me back up and talk about where I got this idea about cleansing from. It was in the section on sesqui-squares in Dynamics of Aspect Analysis, by Bil Tierney. Sesqui-squares are an aspect (angle between planets, flow of energy in the psyche) equivalent to one-and-a-half squares - either 135 degrees (90+45) or 225 (180+45). The planets in such an aspect are in a kind of relationship moment in their cycle that puts them halfway between a square and an opposition, and it represents a turning point in one's understanding of interpersonal dynamics that is often vexing to the person involved.

Tierney states that upper sesqui-squares (the 225 degree kind) require a cleansing of old negativity so that the person with the sesqui-squares can be free to use the big energy and penetrating insight (freed up by the Scorpic quincunx that precedes this aspect) to deepen their bonds with others. Until the cleansing occurs and "appropriate social outlets" are found for the inevitable vexation this aspect creates, one experiences a lot of frustration when he inevitably attempts to recruit others to his enthusiastic new vision and penetrating insight.

Well, that pretty much seemed to describe my behavioral issues and social and familial frustrations. I guess I've been unconsciously trying to cleanse myself by working on the house, and the process has certainly created a lot of frustration, when my father, the owner, doesn't share my vision. Now I'm finally getting that it is okay, and even feels satisfying, when I accept the reality that I can only do so much when the other person doesn't want to invest in the opportunities I see or has other plans for those resources. If I can generate my own resources, I can do more of what I want, but it is easier to let go of having to control the other person and merely open up to the possibility that seeing things from their perspective brings.

I have "major sesqui-squares" in my chart. The Virgo Moon sesquisquares the Capricorn Sun. The Capricorn Sun sesquisquares the Gemini North Node. Vesta, which is sextile to the Moon, sesqui-squares the MC. The example of my father and this house is related to all three, it seems, but especially shows up in the Vesta-MC, since I created a job for myself with someone who doesn't share the obsessive drive I have for this mission of mine, though it was he and some of his friends and advisors who initially proposed the idea. On my part, I for once listened long enough to consider something one of "those people" said, and its been a useful endeavor and a real learning experience, though sometimes unnecessarily difficult.

Just to explain the bit about the house and my father as an example - the sixth house represents the part of life related to jobs, pets, mentors and other forms of unequal relationships, and the MC represents your reputation, the work you're known for doing in the world. Yikes! No wonder jobs and careers (including the one I've attempted to create here with my father) have been such a huge issue in my mind! - now it all makes some sense, and hopefully it means that I'm gaining an awareness of the issues because I'm getting ready to make some important changes about how I handle the energy.

My natal chart's planets (and related objects and points) are pretty much divided into a group connected to the Moon and Mercury and a group connected to the Sun and Jupiter, with two smaller clusters of things in between them. That means close to half of my chart relates to my emotions - and thinking - and half relates to the ideal, heroic self I'm learning to become out there, visible in the world. Half of my lunar configuration sesquisquares a third of my Solar configuration!

The psychologist I started meeting with last month to work on vocational and other practical issues, says my logical side is at war with my emotions, which prompted one of these sides to go find an astrological explanation that would support or refute his seemingly astute, but somehow annoying, assertion. And this is what led me to sesqui-squares and the idea I'm currently hyping (*Jupiter in Gemini*) that they're a defining part of my personality. Now I have to find what to do besides hype it, since I don't really want to go into advertising or politics.

I guess I'm starting to see how my dad represents or acts out the part of me that I don't see as offering useful insight because I'm completely consumed with finding all the faults and articulating what makes me so frustrated. Since I finally feel like I am starting to do that successfully - articulate my frustrations and issues, that is - and I have an understanding of things solid enough to back it up, perhaps I'm just now ready to begin separating emotionally and experiencing life from a different vantage point and material base.

Now my Virgo Moon is going to look at myself critically again for a bit.

There is ample experience with which I can back my hypothesis up. For instance, I've noticed that when I've pursued a new program of study or gotten into some kind of new learning experience, I've unwittingly become ungrateful and dismissive toward people I'm close to - or I've tried to get them to do what I was doing. It's likely that I need to find the right people to share my enthusiasms with, but I can also see how my life would be a lot easier if I would relax my enthusiasm a little and channel my energy into finding out what magic there is to discover when you "let others be themselves" (Tierney). And if anyone knows of any "appropriate social outlets" that would be a good fit for me, please let me know - I'm still needing a few!

I first noticed this problem in phone conversations with my Libran sister while I was living in Michigan. Which makes me think this might have something to do with Quaoar - the indigo child planetoid, since it's the only thing I have in Libra. It quincunxes my natal Piscean Ceres, so there may be a challenge related to unconditional acceptance, and Ceres receives semi-squares from Mars and Venus in Aquarius, which means they might give Ceres the cold shoulder once they find something new to get jazzed on. Hmmm.

Interesting...Anyway, what happens is that I drive people away by pushing my ideas on them too enthusiastically - or sometimes by being subtly overbearing. I saw this manifest in a grossly unsubtle, heavy-handed way in a letter to an old college girlfriend that I recently reread. Bless her trusting, caring heart, she did go to the chiropractor I was seeing, was helped, and then moved on, while I remained stuck in a pretty frustrating relationship there for several more years.

My sister is especially sensitive to this kind of tone. She, a Scorpio rising with Neptune on the Ascendant, does not always trust me to do what I suggest - except when I present it kindly and rationally. I often have to listen to what I said again to hear the overbearing quality of my tone, and I usually think she's being overly sensitive, but, because I value having her in my life, I try to learn what I did and make adjustments (*that's like the Virgo quincunx*) - or, simply surrender the effort and let go of the fear that someone I need won't be there if they don't change with me (*that's like the Scorpio quincunx*). It's a lot harder for me to remember how to do that, but it's a wonderfully big relief when I do, and it helps a lot with the mental knots and crazy feelings associated, no doubt, with the Virgo Moon and twelfth house Mercury, which it trines.

Nine months, the pieces fall into place, and now, several months after that, I'm reworking it again, but keeping more of the underlying structure intact while changing major details. Nine months is a typical human gestation period, and it is also one half of a complete Venus cycle. In nine months, Venus, the planet of beauty, possessions, and social graces, goes from its conjunction with the Sun to its opposition (or vice versa) - from a New Venus, close to the earth, to a Full Venus, close to the Sun.

Today, I discovered what significant remaining issues my "intuition" had brought to the fore, by having placed things the way it did during that nine month period...even though I thought I was "feeling things out" in a way that would be healing and effective. In other words, it was a fantasy I didn't know much about, because I was afraid to express it openly for fear of it being unrealistic.

I was organizing furniture and things based on an intuitive logic that felt right and expressed both practical discipline, and a desire to show how I have good taste even when saddled with second-hand stuff that others had to buy - (*part of my second house Chiron 'wound'*). It seems to be a lesson in healing and community, because what I did by myself certainly seemed to be the case of one side not knowing what the other half is doing or trying to tell it. Doing it by myself is a big part of this whole three-and-a-half project of mine, and while organizing and cleaning up this place my way is still important (a cleansing process my sesqui-squares seem to be initiating), doing it by myself or in that me-against-the-world kind of way is becoming much less attractive.

Part of me was functioning like a would-be healer that has the wrong body or set of tools to work with, hence the problem of working on everything by myself, though it is important to have the time and boundaries I didn't in the past so that I can commit to learning who I am (*Vesta in Cancer sextile the Moon in Virgo and trine Juno in Pisces; Lilith asteroid in Cancer on the Descendant opposite the Sun).

Until I started writing here, about three hours ago, I was being critical of that part of me - the one that put the chair (as in charity) that belonged to my parents next to the basket (as in basket case) on the reputation wall, or the shelf full of academic textbooks in the marriage corner (both very accurate and very telling 'snafus'). I was making it into a joke, as I often have done in here with these things, perhaps seeking to cover up the fact that I've been very mean to myself for quite some time, having not given that part of myself what it wanted to feel taken care of. Yes, here was another example of the evil-spirit-killing-over-the-top-asshole-organizer-too-efficient-dictator part of my personality, and then I could joke about it. But now I think that I was being the asshole by not being open to what it was telling me.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Writing A Poem to Honor Venus, Among other Things

Last month I went to an astrology conference in Buffalo. I learned several new tricks there, such as how to create simple charts that don't require a birth time and can show you your world from the perspective of a planet other than the sun.

Here is a brief summary of my Moon chart. I was blown away by how clear and accurate a picture it created, though I'm used to astrology's power by now, so I won't say I was surprised.

Placing the Moon in my first house, which would begin at 0 degrees Virgo, puts my Sagittarian south node at the base of the chart. That fits because I often feel very much at home when I hit the road. Saturn moves to the seventh house, and it seems very wise for me to follow careful Saturn in relationship endeavors. The Mars-Venus conjunction in Aquarius, and Lilith, end up in the sixth. It reflects how often my idealistic enthusiasms, so strongly asserted, don't bring me the results I want, not to mention the concerns I feel about my seemingly ever-present romantic/erotic desires. On the positive side, I regularly spend time in and work with nature to keep me feeling healthy about life. Jupiter and my Gemini North Node fall in the tenth, with the Node on the MC. This is a nice affirmation of my thoughts about a teaching and writing career. The Sun and Mercury end up in the fifth, and I can say that I felt great after being given the opportunity to share a poem with everyone at the banquet Saturday night.

I learned some other tricks, too, such as how to create personal symbols from magic squares. However, I ducked into a lot of these short sessions after they started, so my level of expertise is a bit dodgy - for example, I probably can't tell if a person is romantically interested in someone else by casting a horary chart, though I have a pageful of notes from that session.

The lectures and people I felt most at home with turned out to be the more feminine or psychic-oriented groups. This coming from a guy who joked that he was using astrology to get laid. Well, maybe they're compatible perspectives in some functional universe I'll inhabit. I spent a lot of time in the 80s stoking up some militantly liberal views at Macalester, so perhaps I'm working on finding my own balance between the uptight self-righteous dude and the dumbass libertine.

I haven't been successful with the getting laid part, by the way. I don't truly want that to be the main goal, but it got me to thinking about what my underlying motivations are, and how my desire to use this fantastic system to get to know a person intimately can be applied appropriately. As well as how my level of maturity as a sexual being interferes with or interfaces with my feelings of belonging, outsideness, and self-worth.

At my first astrology conference in May 2009, I intentionally tried so hard to connect with people that I ended up feeling very hurt and angry. So angry, in fact, that I skipped out on my last paid hotel night and drove home in a shameful fury the morning after the conference was over. I knew I didn't have cause to be angry at anyone in particular, but I needed to get away by myself and work things out in my mind. Which I did, and the conference the following year was a lot more fun.

I wallowed in some of these familiar feelings this time again as I struggled to decide whether a friend was still interested in doing breakfast with me on Saturday morning. The funny part of it was that I had turned my cell phone off, so I didn't get the message that I should be meeting her out front instead of tossing around in bed. Its hard not to laugh at these feelings and behaviors, even as you're enduring them, because you know they're ridiculous, but I guess I'm not done working on them until I've described them and understood them to my satisfaction and can truly and freely let go. They're still a kind of anchor for me in a sea of anxiety. I don't trust what might happen if I let go too soon. Perhaps they're creating the anxiety.

The same friend shared this joke with me: there are two kinds of Capricorns, she said. The kind who has worked hard and achieved great things, and the kind that whines about how hard everything is they have to do. Haha. And ouch - pinned. Had been expecting a punch line that was a little lighter than that.

So, what I'm getting to with all this is the story of how I got to fulfill my Capricorn Sun/Ascendant's drive to achieve recognition for some decent, honest work, and how that changed my experience of the conference from my wallowing in self-doubt the first few days to feeling a bit more connected and fulfilled the last two days.

It started on Friday after lunch, when I ducked a little late to a session that was entitled something like "An Offering to Venus". Now, if you'll indulge me a while I'll paint an amusing picture of an image-conscious, logical Capricorn male with a background in science and geography brave or deluded enough to enter such a session, after its already underway. In reality, I've always been into poetry and writing and mystical wisdom - I just didn't dare show it in my family or to the world at large. Being able to "fly under the radar" with my writing and astrology has made them all the more important to me. But my tendency to get into unconventional things as a way of expressing my freedom isn't totally authentic, because I'm only starting to respectfully integrate the part of me which is more traditional and cautious.

And then there's that fact that I still haven't had enough sex in my life, and I haven't won my trophy babe. Half-joking, of course. I worry a lot about whether these are "acceptable" feelings to have and how I come across to others. I try all kinds of different ways of interacting, but I can't leave it behind, despite all my "higher" motives. Maybe it's the Aquarian planets battling against the Virgos. I just know its tiring to approach every social interaction with that kind of baggage and the fears of being rejected that come with it.

A woman who knows all the usual tricks a man, who is insecure, uses to impress her is very unnerving to me, at least until I can let go of the fear, drop the act, and be who I am, which is pretty much like everyone else, though I'm not at all used to spending time in that kind of "honest" space, especially not if there's a component of human sexuality involved - these things didn't seem to exist in our family, or maybe I have exceedingly high expectations on interpersonal communication. In any case, I'm finally getting that I need to stick with being who I am, despite the attractiveness and desirability of whichever manifestation of female energy comes into my range of sight. If I don't feel like I'm being given a chance to do that, then its time to move on. There needs to be time to process and figure things out, and I'm much more okay with doing that than I used to be, probably because I have succeeded at some of the things I felt so badly about needing to.

So, again, if you'll indulge my jokey artistry, imagine what I'm not saying or letting myself feel, as I walk into a room where an astrologer is not just giving a lecture about Venus. That would be something suitably logical and masculine and not too emotional or spiritual. No, she has laid out a cloth and put offerings on it to a goddess who I'm thinking might not like my "guyness" in the first place and sees through all my disguises in any case.

At one point in the presentation, it was suggested that we write a poem, as others from similar events had done in the past. This poem would express our sense of Venus, and we could share it as an offering to the goddess later on. Normally, I would jump at the chance to do something special for someone, human or godly, so, I wanted to see what would happen if I tried to reach some kind of compromise. I went through the motions of hemming and hawing and joking a little about it with the presenter, then went back to my room, exhausted, and got to work, driven by the thought that I had to bring it down to the session that evening.

Astrologically (because I'm still trying to explain this part to my satisfaction), I see this dynamic in the mystic rectangle-like configuration comprised of cardinal and mutable water and earth signs. Its composed of Vesta in Cancer, sixth house (I'm obligated to work devotedly for you, especially if you're family), Moon in Virgo, cusp of the eighth (touchy one, that - please let me do something deeply cool and useful that I'm good at), Juno in Pisces, first (make it just so divine - it's who I am, I depend on it), and Mercury in Capricorn, twelfth (let's get serious and practical about this ethereal stuff). Close? Anyone? :)

So I tossed down some images I had written in my journal, scanned my memory banks for more things that felt right (no shortage there, with that Moon trined to Mercury), and then, as I got comfortable lying on the soft bed in my room, I began to relax, and I turned the poem in a different, more positive direction. Away from Humphrey Bogart nursing his self-imposed wound at Rick's American Cafe in Casablanca, and toward a vision of hope for something genuinely positive. See if you can pick up the shift in the poem. (I couldn't find the underline function in here to help out with that.)

The conference organizer gave me the opportunity to share my poem at the banquet the following evening. I had to retrieve it from my room in the middle of the banquet, because I hadn't been sure I would be given the opportunity to share it at all, and also because I didn't want to lug my journal book to the table. I knew that was okay, and I got to ride the elevator with a man from the event next to our banquet, who was dressed as Jimi Hendrix. Kind of fun, and something to lead with when I got back to the banquet.

A Leo friend told me how he didn't think he was like a Leo in most parts of his life, but when he got on stage, he noticed that he did really open up and enjoy being there. It was like that for me - I have taught big and small classes for about fifteen years, so I'm no stranger to sharing with a crowd, but I had never yet been that visible in front a group of astrologers and shared something quite as personal. These are necessary moments of courage that really feel good to do.

It was a tremendous rush being able to freely share an expression of who I am and the kind of work I've been doing. There was a lot of applause for my poem, and the woman who read after me. We both had nature images that were quite beautiful, though the applause was still ringing in my ears when she read, so, honestly, I didn't appreciate the other poem as much as my own. I bugged myself about that and tried to learn something, but that's another topic.

Mostly, though, I felt fulfilled. When I thought about it later, I decided it was because I had been able to contribute something to the conference - this, in contrast to only absorbing others' work and taking it back for my own use. It felt natural to contribute, like something I had been waiting to do - for a long time. Along with being seen, this was what I really craved - a little taste of doing some creative work with others whose ideas I value, and being recognized for it.

Sharing my poem created opportunities later that evening and over the next two days to have conversations with other astrologers whom I had met before and yearned to connect with more deeply, and with ones that I didn't know before the conference. It took the pressure off me to connect with the few people I had known before the conference, but whom were often busy with their own work.

I felt far less frustrated by the end of this conference than I did at the end of my first one. This, despite the fact that I did allow myself to have "fun" by driving myself to mild distraction while gazing longingly at some pretty faces in the crowd, knowing that my social graces would likely fall far short of the ability to hold a pleasant conversation with any of actual persons. Of course, that is what's actually satisfying - getting to know a real person rather than an image or an illusion, and that takes time - not something a first house Mars conjunct Venus really likes to all.

Illusions, or projections, are powerful and commensurately disillusioning when there's an actual meeting. Thinking about my beautiful illusions made me miss my thruway exit the next night, but I was wide awake driving, so I guess they had a useful purpose!

Since, I feel like I don't step from illusion to social reality with any great agility, I've been telling myself that I should invest more in careful, laid back Saturn in Pisces rather than the excited Aquarian Mars-Venus when it comes to relationships. This advice is backed by the lunar chart I described in the opening paragraphs, though I suppose I have to let them both be themselves in the end.

So, I still have issues I feel like I've barely worked on - aside from those mentioned above, I ask myself, how do I get the recognition and opportunities I want without the ego taking all the glory. Or should I accept that I enjoy being in an occasional limelight as much as I actually do. In astrological terms, it must relate to working through my Sagittarian south node in the tenth house, a place of social recognition, and its ruler Jupiter in the fifth, a place of ego celebration.

To bring it back to the here-and-now, I'd ask my wiser self, do the words I a poem, in blogs and journals, or spoken in conversations, or sessions with the analyst, add up to something fantastic or are they a pile of crap? How does one find the middle ground and build on that to create a sustainable, practicable life's work? What are the daily acknowledgments of self-respect needed to bring such work into the public realm, into the world of paying work? And who are the people around me who support this process? How can I overcome my fear of taking a place among them?

Maybe these words have an expiration date, when its time to let go of the thinking, creating, self-analysis, and ego enrichment and just be. I noticed just recently that my progressed North Node has moved into Taurus from Gemini, but my progressed Moon in Aries is moving into my natal third, so...not yet! Until that time, here is my poem, tweaked a little since the banquet and inspired by a sense of Venus, which natally, falls in the first house (Placidus), intercepted in Aquarius and retrograde, conjunct but separating from Mars, tightly semi-sextiled to Saturn in second Pisces, sextiled to Eris in second Aries, and squared to the Midheaven in Scorpio. I especially like the line about the Grecian Urn - it's Capricorn humor.

Poem to Honor Venus

I am the thin man picking lettuce leaves in November.
I'm falling behind on the trail, because there's a flower I've seen,
and being seen, must photograph.

I'm standing before a Grecian urn trying to feel something deep.

I'm the bicycle and rider at home with the world, on his route,
The exhilaration of twenty-two degrees and a blue sky,
The thudding silence of fresh snow in the pines.
The rebel who wants his freedom and feels surprised when he is left alone.
The rush of talent and cool ideas yearning for something different.

I am a name for each garden that holds the idea of what it could become,
Form taking shape,
An image appearing on film in the pan.

The shelf assembled, standing - astrology books thereon.
The pleased look at the end of the year,
A slow pan of the room, its objects...
How I've done.
Do they reflect an idea of who I am?

And is there a softness to the order of things?
Is the eagle eye of detail brushed lightly with feathers?
(Enough at least to emulate the simple quality of creating quiet comfort in her surroundings -
The one thing I found to admire
When the affront of rejection and seeming finality still burned humbly inside)

But what is it that I want?
It is the courage to know, and ask
With hands unclenched and chest relaxed.
A decision to enjoy the strength of a flexing arm, the striding of graceful legs
Among friends.

To stand in the sun and know success,
But also to work with others who feel
The hope of the earth in their hands,
As fragile as breath on a petal.

All of us doing this together, all of us of each other.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Mining Current Events and Personal Events for Astrological Fodder

I'm one of those people who can watch radar maps of slowly moving hurricanes and some of the lesser storms for hours while listening to the weather channel broadcasters report from the scene. Last night I was engaged from mid-evening until midnight by the BBC coverage of the mine rescue in Chile. They had been showing, for god knows how long, live views of the room in the mine and the rig at the surface, where a Chilean team using a winch and a metal cage capsule systemically retrieved each of the 33 trapped miners and six rescue workers from the emergency shelter the miners had spent about seventy days living in almost a half a mile under the earth's surface.

Each time the capsule emerged from the tiny round hole in the cement pad that had been poured around it, a robust cheer went up - the first thing the miner heard upon reaching the surface. Each miner, wearing designer sunglasses and looking clean-shaven and generally healthy, was greeted by three workers who quizzed him about something briefly, then released him from the capsule and his harness. Then, like clockwork, one person who had been waiting for them came forward and they embraced. Then he embraced and exchanged stories with the President, the first lady, and a small crowd of the people who had been communicating with them from the surface over the past month and a half. Then each miner walked to a stretcher and was wheeled into a portable triage center in trailers that had been set up just a few meters from the opening in the earth. It was so smooth each time that it all appeared choreographed and rehearsed, a testament to the miner's ability to act in a disciplined manner and follow instructions precisely.

The miner waited in triage for three more miners to surface - by this time, each round trip only took about half an hour - and they were flown as a group by helicopter to a hospital in a city far away from the cold, dry, empty desert in which the mine was located. Ambulances transported them from the helicopter pad to the hospital, and there were crowds of cheering Chileans lining the streets along the route. The coverage also included the back story for each of the miners and clips of earlier interviews and photographs. One had been a professional soccer player, another's wife had given birth while he was in the mine, one was about to retire, another went to the mine on his day off to help repair something.

I can't sit on a couch without feeling like I'm being lazy, and when I feel like I'm being lazy I have to get work on something to assuage the guilt and irritation brought on by my self-criticism (Virgo Moon). I try to resist the urge to apply what I'm seeing on the screen to something that I'm learning or teaching, but it's almost impossible. That something used to be geography, but when that field didn't offer enough fuel for the imagination or self-improvement potential, it became astrology. So, I reluctantly let my mind start making connections between the events in Chile and the astrology I've been teaching myself and want to teach to others.

The first association was obvious - mines have to do with Pluto because they are a kind of underworld, literally being located under the surface of the world, and that's one of the things that Pluto is all about, in all different kinds of ways. It rules the zodiac sign of Scorpio, and I didn't have to think much about what was in Scorpio at the moment. It wasn't the Sun, which is still in Libra, the sign before Scorpio, but Mars and Venus, who are right in the middle of it. Venus is especially significant, because it's just slowed to a stop in apparent motion (meaning, the way we see Venus from our perspective on Earth) and begun its retrograde, or reverse motion, period. When a planet slows to a stop, it concentrates its actions on a few degrees of the zodiac for a proportionately longer time than it does when it is in normal motion. This could be like a prolonged stay of a favorite friend or a dreaded in-law depending on the angular relationship of the planet to yours and its nature. So, the two planets that handle personal desires - Mars the planet of action, and Venus, the planet of love, beauty, and attraction (which is focusing its energy as it slows to a retrograde station) - create a desirable outcome, namely, the successful rescue of thirty-three miners from the Plutonian depths. If memory serves, the number thirty-three is a significant number in the cycles we see Venus make around the Sun. It was the number of years Christ is said to have lived on earth before being sent to heaven.

Besides the Sun, Saturn is also in Libra, and the miners worked with great discipline, the kind of stuff Saturn does, to create a working society - Libra has to do with social interactions and relationships like the kind that sustained them through their incredible ordeal.

The capsule which brought them up from the depths was designed by the Chilean Navy. The Navy's domain is the ocean, which is ruled by Neptune. Neptune is retrograde in Aquarius, and Chiron, also moving in retrograde motion, is very near another conjunction with Neptune in Aquarius, the sign of progressive innovation and betterment of society and groups. The event was viewed as healing the Chilean wounds of the past - everything from Pinochet to this year's earthquake, which happened in February, perhaps when the Sun was in Aquarius. It also exposed Chilean wounds of the present which need to brought to light before the country can progress to a developed nation status. Perhaps this is all image and illusion, the domain of Neptune as well, but it is strong, hopeful thinking, a trait often associated with Aquarius.

Beyond that, I haven't found a plausible connection between the Aquarian pair of Chiron and Neptune and Pluto or things in Scorpio. Hmmm...let's see, more than 90 degrees apart...13 Scorpio for Venus and 26 Aquarius for Neptune and Chiron. That's 90 degrees plus 13...103 degrees. A bad fever or...biseptile! Venus stationed retrograde just a few minutes short of an upper (or waning) biseptile to Neptune, and Chiron was just a little ways beyond that. How about that. Wonder if there's a simpler explanation?

On the natural chart, an upper biseptile is found in the sign of Sagittarius, not exactly what one would associate with being pulled through a granite tube not much than bigger your own chest, harnessed into a steel cage, but the release to the surface was certainly an expansive event after living underground in a rock cavern for more than two months! And it meant something bigger for the people of Chile, too. Both Aquarius and Scorpio are fixed signs, so the energy is strong, very strong, as strong as the cable and the discipline of the effort, which, like the septile had a kind of spiritual aura about the whole event, especially with that number 33 involved.

The name given to their capsule, the one that brought all the miners and workers to the surface in just over twenty-four hours was the Fenix 2. There were three Fenix capsules, but this single one lasted through the entire performance. The name is significant as well as appropriate. Isabel Hickey describes the phoenix as being the symbol representing the highest expression of Scorpio energy, the only sign to have three symbols associated with it - the instinctual scorpion, the high-flying, clear-seeing eagle, and the phoenix, the bird that is reborn from its ashes. Not sure if it means anything that the second, rather than third, Phoenix did all the trips, but let's stick to the basics.

I think there is a theme that runs through my personality, which is something like 'champion of the overlooked.' I was the one who was taking a picture of a flower along the side of a trail in Poland while the rest of the group moved farther and farther ahead; the one who wanted to save the leftover stuffing from getting tossed in the trash at the graduate students' Thanksgiving dinner; the one who picked every last overgrown, bitter lettuce leaf in my aunt's garden at the end of the season; and the one who routinely stops progress to take a second look at something that I'm convinced has to have something of value left in it. This is both a good thing and something that I am learning to gently discipline. I am trying to be more willing to go with the majority when it's probably right, when it probably helps me more to do so than sticking to my overlooked things. Given this tendency, it should come as no surprise that I was a huge fan of the asteroids and all the other weird little objects winging their way around the Sun even before I had any organized information about them secure in my mind - another trait I'm learning to gently discipline.

I think it is plausible to say the energy of asteroids was also part of this event. Pallas Athene, the visionary female warrior, was in Scorpio for much of the miners internment, having just last week moved into Sagittarius. How could that fit? The innovative approach to this rescue effort, which, according to the media, was like very few that had ever been attempted before, could be seen as the kind of effort Pallas Athene would help out with by applying innovative thought and design to a problem dealing with mines and the underworld and the action of bringing people up from the depths. In fact, Pallas spent several months in Scorpio this year, as Mars did in Leo earlier. She traveled most of the way through the sign before retrograding all the way back to early degrees and then turning direct to travel again through the majority of the sign. Essentially, she made three trips through most of Scorpio, much like the capsule made repeated trips through the granite earth.

Her move into Sagittarius, if I could shoot an arrow at this one, could be the inspired action at the end of the research effort - Sagittarius is a free-spirited, adventurous fire sign. Though the rescue itself was methodical and careful - characteristic of Capricorn and Saturn, not Sag and Jupiter - the tone of the media coverage seemed very free-spirited and adventurous. Perhaps it was the thin,cool air of the Chilean desert or the lack of sleep. The Pallas theme seems to be similar to that of the Aquarius-Scorpio bispetile between Neptune and Venus that was figured out above.

Vesta, the devoted, focused servant and keeper of the hearth, moved into Scorpio last week, just a few days after Pallas moved out. Demetra George views Scorpio as one of Vesta's home signs, and she seems like a good symbol for the devoted, focused effort that actually brought the miners up from the depths and returned them to their hearths at the culmination of the process. George also sees Vesta as a beginning stage of personal transformation, and symbolically, more than a few politicians would like to see this event as bringing the country (their country, perhaps) to its depths and emerging with a more focused vision of itself and a new, competent, inspiring image for the rest of the world to associate them with.

It could all be a bit of stretch, and other interpretations would probably be just as good. However, I also remember how clearly an interpretation using the asteroids jumped out at me when the Haitian earthquake struck last year. Mars, Ceres, and Juno were all connecting at the time. One was in Leo, a sign associated with generosity in its more elevated expression. The theme of the media coverage was far and wide, the generous, unconditional outpouring of food and other forms of material aid that the armed services of the US and other countries immediately committed themselves steadfastly and without reservation to providing and distributing. Ceres is the asteroid associated with earth's abundance and unconditional acceptance of others in the sharing of that abundance. Mars represents the warrior, and Juno represents commitment. It is often thought of in association with marriage and the wife, but Demetra George explained that its broader meaning is about commitment, finding a way to stay with something even when things get hard...till death do us part, etc.

An interpretation for this theme could have been found that didn't include the asteroids, but it wouldn't have been as simple and straightforward as the one that examined the one planet and two asteroids that were, at that time, found at nearly the same degree of their respective signs.

Finally, I came up with a very intriguing personal connection to the event. I was actually able to resist looking into until the next day, because it seems a little weird to my hesitant Capricorn mind, though the more undisciplined Uranian part of me was chomping at the bit.

My research confirmed what I quietly suspected. The rescue took place when the planet Venus was just about in the same relative position of its retrograde period that the planet was in when I was born. I was "rescued" by doctors performing a cesarean section because I was getting wrapped up in myself even back then, quite literally. My umbilical cord had twisted around my neck nine times according to my mother's recollection.

In my chart, Neptune is located near the MC, the point at the top of the chart, the cusp of the tenth house. It is a position Hickey says brings a person guardian angels throughout life. This placement occurs in Scorpio in my natal chart, the sign of the surgeon, the one who cuts beneath the surface. This theme is evident in the symbol of Scorpio itself, an M with a barbed tail that dips below the line and then rises back above it, incising and retrieving things from the depths, much like a surgeon performing a C-section or a team rescuing trapped miners.

Neptune relates to my birth because it sextiles my Ascendant. The Ascendant is the degree of the zodiac that is on the eastern horizon at your moment and place of birth. Its placement and the aspects to it will describe your birth. The sextile is an angular relationship of sixty degrees that, in line with Tierney, I would say is experienced as a nice combination of stimulating interest and ease that creates an opportunity. I've initially interpreted, hopefully with something more than just ego, my birth event as the acting on an opportunity to be brought into the world at that place and moment by a surgeon.

It is intriguing, and perhaps useful in some way to an understanding of my life, that the rescue operation yesterday used a cable to raise the Fenix 2 - the capsule of rebirth for the miners. The cable wound around and around the barrel of the winching device as it slowly but faithfully brought the capsule with each miner in it to the surface, working correctly and steadfastly in a positive way to facilitate the continuance of lives.

I guess in my own life, I have been feeling like my awareness of the tangled depths of long-standing problems are finally being brought to the surface (along with anger and relief), and there they are being untangled at last. We are finally taking the time to work things out precisely, allowing them to express themselves on their own terms. Bringing things patiently, and without judgment, into the light, where the horrendous creatures turn into everyday foibles, and the terminally unique oddities are seen to be only a slightly different form of patterns common to millions. Brought to the surface with focused work and repeated attempts to engage others in an effort to learn how to get what I desire, to learn what exactly that could be, and to be honest about which of the things I involve myself in are truly of value to me. I guess you could say this is somewhat like the miners working to survive in the depths and then working with those above to get to the surface. I would venture to guess that the miners had considerably more discipline and stronger positive attitudes than I. In any case, I might be able to say that lately I've been busy untangling that umbilical cord, sorting out the dependency issues and trying like a baby to become more aware of myself and bring order and light to the chambers that fill with the darkness of my own shadow.

I think current Venus retrograde period, which lasts several weeks, is an important one in my life. There have quite a few big events this year, including the two eclipses, a cardinal grand cross, and the Mercury retrograde period, which affected me directly via the planets in my natal chart. The retrograde Venus period links strongly to my natal planets, too, and most the things involved are not the big, heavy planets (except for Pluto), but the personal planets and the asteroids, and I'm curious to see how I might be experiencing this event differently than the others.

The first events involved the asteroids connecting with my natal Ceres at 28 Pisces. They are moving through my Moon-Mercury-Nodes configuration this weekend. After the Ceres connections, and just before stationing retrograde, Venus, as well as Mars, connected tightly via upper squares to the positions they were in in my birth chart. The only difference between the two pairs were that Venus was retrograde in my birth chart and still direct in the present.

According to the mathematics explained by Anne Massey, retrograde periods happen several times in the same sign over three or four decades before shifting into the previous sign. Previous Scorpio retrogrades were significant moments in my life, too, for several reasons. If memory serves me correctly, the earliest Venus retrograde in Scorpio that I experienced was also the first retrograde to happen after the one that was going on in Aquarius when I was born. I was too young to have conscious memories of the event now, but I believe it is still important in my life, because it touched my natal Neptune and, in a later cycle, my MC. One of them connected to a point on my chart on my sister's tenth birthday, though I don't have any information that might suggest the precise significance of that.

What it means to me, at this early stage of my understanding of these things, is that something here maybe can help me uncover my true vocation and diminish the feeling that I'm playing second fiddle to my more conventionally successful sister, around whom I occasionally get the painful feeling that I'm floundering arrogantly along despite all my diplomas and hard work. I don't feel that way often anymore, because I've made some real progress in practical areas and in the knowledge of who I am and what is of value to me, so I can honestly feel that I'm working on things important to me and don't have to feel like I'm competing with a traditional form of success or rebelling against it. Or at least that is how it is ideally.

During the current retrograde period, Venus stationed (came to a stop) on the degree that formed an almost-to-the-minute exact trine to my natal second house Saturn in Pisces. Also around that time, Juno in Virgo formed an exact opposition to its natal self in Pisces (which means that it also made an exact square to my nodes). In terms of commitments (what Juno deals in), I worked with great seriousness (in retrospect, it was more like sad but humorous amounts of gravity), over a decision whether to commit to a program of astrological study that was being started up in New York. It was very tempting. Things pointed that way with neon fingers, like Mars transiting the MC, but I think the grand cross (the opposition and two squares) was about understanding what commitment feels like for me when I'm being truly honest with myself, versus when I'm scared about missing out on something. Natal Juno is in Pisces, a sign associated with loss and suffering as well as letting go. I felt calmer after making my decision and letting things continue as they have been.

I recently read something about Pholus - the "genie in the bottle" centaur (an object in the neighborhood of Jupiter and Saturn) that activates all kinds of things all at once after waiting for a very long time. The author suggested doing only what is necessary when Pholus is activated until things settle down. I've been working on applying the brakes and sticking to a more and more refined set of activities in an organized living space for the last few years. I think this time I "got it," whereas before I would have persuaded myself to take on yet something else I wasn't quite ready for and felt bad about it, because I was ignoring my intuitive sense of what I really needed and afraid of not getting enough of what I really wanted.

I got to look at how I handle the process of making a decision such as this one - and, while it was serious and deeply felt, it was also very random, with lots of extraneous advice, excitement, second guessing, and pressure to do great and important things thrown in - all suspiciously characteristic of a Sagittarian south node in the tenth house. That node is squared to Juno in Pisces (exact) and the Moon in Virgo on the cusp of the eighth house, as well as Haumea, which is in the same degree as my Moon.

A little side note: I've decided, after some internet research and personal reflection, to look at Haumea as the "I think everyone here can enjoy each others' company" planetoid. It orbits out past Neptune, like Pluto. It was discovered (in the very recent past) in Libra, so it has to do with social harmony, and, like Libra it's likely to use a bit of less-than-voluntary persuasion to create it when people don't get along naturally.

I once stormed out of a dorm room late and night and threw one of my floor-mates against a wall with a very convincing glare because my frustration at not being able to get to that wonderful world of sleep was boiling over. I was very hurt and surprised when he didn't treat me like old friends again the next day. It was a good lesson, and I hope things like that always humble me, because I need it. I think it also might be a good example of how my picky Virgo Moon can believe that everyone will naturally forgive its less elevated expressions, because Haumea genuinely wants to get along with everyone and thinks they should do the same.

Also, interestingly enough, Haumea and the Moon are in Virgo in my chart, and my front teeth, even after braces, cross slightly just like the tail end of the symbol for Virgo, while in one of the Hawaiian legends of Haumea, it states that a child was said to be recognizable as an offspring of Haumea (she is related to natural childbirth), if they were droolers. Salivation is a prominent characteristic of my mouth, and in childhood, I soaked a lot of pillows. I have to admit, it's pretty cool to have something you thought of as a handicap tag you instead as a child of a Hawaiian goddess. Finally, as I've already mentioned, I was born via a C-section, and one of the things that came out rather spontaneously at my first therapy marathon was an insistent desire that I "rebirth" myself naturally.

A lot of ego feels like it got in the way of that and ego gets in the way of many other things I do, including this writing, but I also believe from experience that the essence of what I say or write about comes from a place that is accurate and tuned-in...and then it gets distorted on the way out...of my mouth, especially, but also in my decisions and behaviors. I think this might be a good example of what Stephen Forrest would say is my fifth house Jupiter expressing itself unskillfully as the ruler of my south node - the thing I still have to work through in this lifetime, and maybe also the karmic reason for Mercury, ruler of my north node, being placed in the twelfth house.

To get back to the decision-making, I decided in retrospect that the process was as anxious and disorganized a process as the time I was deciding on which college to go to, and it also brings back memories of the first time I was asked by a therapist to "just fill out" a contract of expectations. It could just as easily reflect my attempts to pick out a jar or bag of this or that to buy at a grocery store or food coop in my first years of cooking for myself after graduating from college. It's ridiculous, really, how the smallest and biggest decisions, and all the ones in between, can feel equally stressful when the whole tyranny of "the right answer" being out there holds sway.

Looking back, I see now that I was supposed to be clever enough and hard-working enough to find the right answer - I had to find in fact, to keep the family dynamic going, to sustain their image of me that became my job to maintain. But I wasn't strong enough then to value outcomes that might have felt better to me on a really deep, important level, even though they didn't sound important enough to keep me progressing in a logical sequence up a set of prescribed steps. There was never too much heart behind these efforts, and we were all too scared to consider why. Now I think I'm seeing things more clearly, which I think has something to do with the retrograde period as well as a long term Pluto transit of Mercury, which includes, this upcoming weekend, it's final crossing of the opposition point to natal Vesta retrograde in sixth house Cancer.

By the way, I almost did go to a less prestigious, more conventional college, the one my dad went to, but in the end I chose the one a little closer to family. I thought they were both fairly close, but my dad somewhat clumsily informed me that he thought my hopeful thinking was kind of ignorant, as he often still does, because his relatives lived about fifty miles over rural highways and wouldn't likely pick me up on the weekends - I didn't have a car, but let's work through that fight/story another day.

The college I did attend was close to my mom's relatives, and I did visit them a lot at certain times of my life there and avoided them at others. They brought me out and returned me some of the time, while I took the bus or rode my bicycle at others. The college there, perhaps like my mom, was more challenging, but, unlike her moderate Republican views, had a vocal, liberal tone. I've written about my reflections of that experience and its importance to me now in an earlier blog.

I'm glad I went where I did, but I think I know now that there was no right decision, merely the Geminian facts of what I did and didn't do, without the Virgoan judgment, and without the Sagittarian "right answer". My college experience enriched many aspects of my life, and I might not have been mature enough to get motivated to do something worthwhile for myself or others in a less stimulating or well-regarded environment, but who knows.

Now its time to favor the quieter, calmer, more private route, learning how to be true to the values that are congruent with my Self, and maybe I can also accept being the "same old me". As for those contracts and patient forms one fills out, I can do them in an hour or so now and make a new one later. They're focused and precise, though perhaps a bit expansive and free-wheeling. It still pisses me off when the person glances over them and files them in a drawer forever. These are things I used to agonize continually over, I want to say. It's hard to trust that they know what I've worked so hard to understand and articulate myself, but sometimes that's the right thing to do. I used to be consumed with frustration at the merest attempt to define who I was, if I thought of doing it at all. Now it appears to be a productive routine, and perhaps one that is going to become less urgent as the definitions become simpler and easier to come by. As for the astrology program, I'm still intrigued, but I want to have fun doing it, and I'm going to try to keep my focus on the more realistic and responsible-feeling opportunities and support that I have here.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

The Story of the Dreaded Geography-Department-Newsletter Update Request

I feel like I'm in a holding pattern lately, but it's not a bad one. There is music I like playing in the background as I go about my business, which is, for the most part...

...tending to my gardens,
...checking email and facebook and astrology on the computer every day or two,
...organizing another pile of papers or old toys or rocks or matchbox cars, and setting the box or bin down next to the other ones,
...doing a bit of writing and pondering my future,
...and watching the movie channels, the travel channel, the food network, and the weather channel. Lately I've added college football and some hockey to the mix.

I need more sleep and less screen time; I need to "work" on relaxing, breathe more and think less. But things are going okay, overall...though, just to be honest and cover all the bases, I still don't trust my ability to know when things are actually going truly and 100 percent okay versus when things are going okay but I'm not really thinking about what's going on or talking about it because most people don't like hearing about intractable problems when they ask, "How are things going?"
But, like I said, at least the music in the background isn't bad and the foreground looks like its settled down to a familiar pattern that's not too hard to change.

I thought I'd share the letter I wrote for my geography program's newsletter at UNL. I was a graduate student there for ten years and have been pretty sensitive about reconnecting with folks there after my experience with teaching in Michigan. But I thought I'd give it a fair shake, and after I wrote two full pages for the 150-200 word summary that was requested, I dug in and came up with a 150-200 word summary of what I had just finished writing. ("I really can get along with authority and institutions and still assert my independence. I really can get along with authority and institutions and still assert my independence.") I sent them both, but since people won't get to see the full, two page summary of what I've been up to, I thought I'd add it to a blog and share it with my graduate school friends via facebook, since almost all of them are my friends on there. So, here it is. What I've been up to, polished for professional presentation and attempting to be respectful of both my ego and my soul, as well as the geography program's newsletter:

Although I graduated with a PhD in 2005, UNL already seems like something from a past life. I taught for a year at a university in Michigan, where there were extensive, well-staffed geography programs throughout the state school system. It was an emotionally wrenching experience, and I hugely missed the support and camaraderie of the Geography Graduate Student Organization at UNL.

When the position in Michigan was cut in favor of a tenure track, I took a year to slow down and begin “figuring things out.” I also explored the state which I hardly knew. Sadly and ironically, I had neither time nor encouragement to do so while teaching geography classes. I created my first photo essay that year, and I continue to meld my passion for geography and photography in a photo blog:

In 2007 I returned to my suburban Philadelphia hometown and the house I grew up in. One of my major tasks since then, which I’ve actually contracted with my family to do, has been to organize my life’s stuff and clean up what my parents left behind when they moved into a retirement community. I’ve participated in two yard sale events this year and have enough things for two more. The process has been enlightening, useful for the development of practical organizing skills, and deeply satisfying when I journal about what I’ve discovered – in the closets and attic for sure, but also within my memories and emotions.

I am not a person who stays intellectually inactive for long, and so, when I arrived “back east,” I searched for books about Pennsylvania and created my own regional geography class to teach to adult community members at my old high school. This is a physiographically and biologically diverse state with more densely populated landscapes than Nebraska - though there are areas that resemble the Sand Hills with bigger forests and different soils. It seems even rural villages have a bit of a suburban edge around here, and there are some very urban settings far away from the two largest cities.

My course and travels focused on southeastern Pennsylvania at first, but I am slowly expanding my appreciation and knowledge of various locales in the Appalachian Ridge and Valley Province and in the Pocono Plateau and Endless Mountains. My degree, or rather the experiences I gained in and out of the classroom while earning it, are a resource I used time and again to see the place I grew up in from a new perspective, and that was very helpful in dealing with the weirdness of it all and the emotional sensitivities that inevitably arise.

I’ve developed other intellectual endeavors since my experience in Michigan. I’ve created several native plant gardens around my home, including a native prairie, a bank of buffalo grass that I purchased from a nursery in Lincoln, and a north-woods garden with birch trees from the Arbor Day Foundation in Nebraska City. I also became active in a volunteer naturalist training program at one of the Northeast’s finest native plant sanctuaries:

Currently, my major focus is on astrology. I’ve learned the basics on my own, taught classes in the community, written a short text, and I participate in regional astrology conferences much like those of the AAG.

The diversity of backgrounds and interests among astrologers is truly astounding, but I’ve yet to meet another person with a geography degree. There are subfields of astro-cartography and relocation astrology that have obvious geographic themes, but right now my interest lies in teaching astrology to dedicated beginners and using it to better live our lives.

I joke that I’m in the two disciplines that everyone thinks are something else - geology and astronomy. The real connection for me is that both disciplines use symbolic representation and analyze spatial relationships. Furthermore, both encourage a person to organize an understanding of life, either by interpreting the evolution of landscapes in one’s environment or by interpreting the evolution of a soul and its inner circuitry.

My plan is to continue to build my network of astrology friends and professional connections and to pursue a more engaged and structured educational program, perhaps culminating in professional certification. I write essays about my activities in the home and my continuing quest to master the basics of astrology in a blog:

This past winter I applied to work on the upcoming census. In March, I received my first assignment, which was for group quarters. I became acquainted with several other highly educated and underemployed individuals from the area, which was an unexpected benefit of working for the census, where you never know what to expect from one day to the next.

Later, I did follow-up interviews and address verification for quality control. The former was the most frustrating project of any, because we were interviewing people who didn’t send in their forms but had already been interviewed once at their door. It was basically a game of salesmanship – you had you pitch your product to them in the few seconds they gave you before walking away. Interestingly enough, there was a clear generation gap among the respondents. Those under thirty-five seemed willing to help without a question or complaint, but those older, wasted more time fighting and complaining than it took to do the full survey.

Address verification was a lot less stressful, and the most geographically interesting, since I got to plan the most efficient route linking all of the addresses in my binder. It was a good way to end the experience in August, having driven about 1100 miles on the job and earned almost $3600.

And here, in case you can't wait for the newsletter to come out, or aren't a geographer, is my short summary:

When I returned to my suburban Philadelphia hometown in 2007, I set about creating a regional geography course to teach to adult community members at my old high school. I have been gradually expanding my travels and knowledge of Pennsylvania and have a photo-essay blog to showcase my twin passions of geography and photography: I’m an active volunteer naturalist and native plant gardener, having gone through the training program at one of the Northeast’s finest native plant sanctuaries ( as well as the Philadelphia Horticultural Society’s Tree Tender training. My current intellectual passion is astrology. Yes, astrology. I learned the basics on my own, have taught classes to community members, written a short text, and I participate in regional conferences much like those of the AAG and other professional organizations. My plan is to pursue a more engaged, structured educational program, perhaps culminating in professional certification. This year, I worked for the U.S. Census on three consecutive projects over the spring and summer months, which added almost 1100 miles to my vehicle and netted me around $3600, some intense frustration, and a sense of accomplishment. Also this year, I began writing essays about the job I have taking care of the house in which I live and my quest to master the basics of astrology. It can be found at My email address is

Monday, September 20, 2010

A bit of surgery, a night in the ER, and reflections on Nessus

This summer I worked for the census bureau and the weather was very hot. Sometime in June, I was driving to and from some rather frustrating assignments, and I remember feeling very uncomfortable, even a bit nauseous. The discomfort was compounded by my working around the yard, planting seedlings and clearing some sod, carrying heavy bags of topsoil and mulch. Later I noticed some blood droplets appearing after I urinated, to use the polite, medical term. I had had a little blood discolor the urine before, but it would only happen once and then disappear. This time, the bleeding occurred two or three times and then again a few days later. I was suitably freaked, called the doctor's clinic, and punched up WebMD.

I was referred to a specialist at a local hospital and went in for a few tests. The tests came back clean, and I hadn't had a re-occurrence, so we figured that the strain had caused a little blood vessel to burst in the prostate, which was not a big deal, and with a little more care and attention to how I did things, shouldn't be a problem again, but the doctor still wanted to look.

I missed the first appointment for the procedure, and I eventually rescheduled when things were less hectic. Medical concerns have not been a part of my life, and with all my history of "overusing" alternative practitioners, I had developed an attitude of keeping medical people and their way of doing things at arm's length, but I didn't want to have a bad attitude hanging around when I needed medical attention, so I framed this an opportunity to create some change.

The procedure was not a big deal, just like they say on WebMD, but the doctor found a tiny growth on the wall of the bladder and declared it should be removed. I rescheduled the surgery once, since the original date coincided with the training session for another census project. I earned over five hundred dollars that week and had some fun verifying addresses. It was easy work that used my geography experience to create routes. It paid for all those Ikea boxes I'm putting my old school papers into, and a lot of other things.

At ten o'clock on Monday, September 13th, my sister picked me up and we checked into Delaware County Memorial Hospital. After waiting about two hours, an attendant came to move me and the bed into pre-op, where I waited again after the IVs were hooked up, and then I woke up in recovery and was taken back to the room where my sister was waiting. This time I felt time passing during the procedure. When I had a wisdom tooth removed a few weeks earlier, I swear I was getting the anesthesia one moment and waking up the next. The doctor had spoken to my sister, and she had pictures of my bladder, including the little frond that had been removed. It looks very healthy otherwise.

In order to get all of the growth, which turned out to be a low-grade cancer, the doctor removed some of the cells that made up the bladder wall. Because I hadn't had any nasty things irritating my bladder - I don't smoke, I don't drink much, and I'm not on medications, nor do I work in a coal mine or chemical plant - the walls were relatively thin. As a result, the doctor made a hole in the wall and I had to have a catheter inserted while it healed.

I woke up from surgery saying, "I just have to pee. Can I go to the bathroom?" It was the pressure from the catheter I was probably feeling, and no, I could not. Drat. It was a day or two before I learned how to relax when I felt the urge to urinate rather than go to the bathroom and pee.

Its kind of wild - how I was thinking hard and organizing things from the moment I regained consciousness - trying to feel in control of what was going on, and make others understand that I was rational. It was the same with the wisdom tooth. I felt so clear-headed and purposeful, but realized later that it was almost entirely an illusion, that I was somewhere else...which is interesting as well.

I guess the racing mind was my reaction to the stimulus of surgery and the feelings that arise when others are doing things to one's body that you're not consciously aware of nor in control of. It's always hard for me to trust others when I feel they are withholding information from me or not letting me participate in the process. Then again, intellectual activity is a way to cover-up feelings that create more lasting impressions and better effect change by allowing things to complete.

Some of the frenetic mental busyness slowed down as I recuperated during the week, and I'm trying to keep that focus around as I get back to my regular activities. It is challenging, with television and computers and my books and journals around, but I have this sudden awareness that I cannot judge things if I wish to change them. I can change how I respond to them inside. That idea, or maybe it's an awareness, is one of the things that seems different, and maybe it came as a result of what happened after I was released that afternoon.

We left the hospital around four in the afternoon. My sister picked up my medications, drove me home, and we got things set up in my bedroom. It was about four in the afternoon. I hadn't figured out how to walk or move around very easily with the catheter attached, and I felt as enthused about retaining instructions as a high school student might feel about returning to classes after summer vacation. I also hadn't had anything to eat since the previous day, except for the peanut butter crackers I got at the hospital. I had some fruit juice, bread, and a banana. I took a pill for the pain - oxycodon - and for burning. Neither was too noticeable, but I figured this had been a more serious surgery than my wisdom tooth, so I ought to try using them.

Sometime in the evening, the cramps started. Then I vomited after drinking water and the cramping got worse. I called my sister and tried to explain how bad it was. She said she thought I had just made the mistake of drinking orange juice on an empty stomach, but asked if I wanted to call the clinic. I called the doctor on call, vomited right next to the phone, and was told to go to the emergency room. It was between nine and ten in the evening.

My sister drove me to the DelCo ER and we were there until almost three o'clock in the morning. We waited a little over an hour to get a room, then another hour or so for the nurses to get the medication and IVs hooked up. I basically focused on breathing through the pain and getting a handle on the thoughts and emotions I was experiencing. I didn't make much headway on either, and I didn't feel like making any decisions, either. The football game on television was the best distraction of anything, along with the light back massage my sister gave me. I could tell her exactly how to do it to deliver the best effect. Again, whether I had any idea of what I was talking about is a bit questionable.

As the IVs, anti-nausea medicine, and morphine got into my system, my head began to return to a calmer, normal-feeling space. In fact, my sister said I was more alert and rational than she was as we left the hospital, though she was walking a lot better than I. Those cramps were exhausting. Apparently, I am very sensitive to pain-killers. I only took Ibuprofin for my wisdom tooth. Good call, as it turns out, but I didn't know to expect what happened with the oxycodon.

Now we're at the main point of my blog entry - the insight into my character that I experienced while in the Emergency Room. For those first few hours, I was pretty much nothing more than a self-absorbed victim. And I had a lot of reasons to feel that way - things were so tight inside that I couldn't breathe freely; at times I was hiccuping. My sternum, which I've had trouble with since my twenties, was pulling in on itself as hard as ever, creating the mindset of a person who had to find a piece of driftwood and cling to it while wondering when he would be rescued from this storm-tossed sea of pain. Somehow, I located a still place in my mind and body - or it found me - and I didn't move from it, not a millimeter. Over the rest of the week, my leg muscles grew pretty sore from holding them in one place for long periods of time. The fear of pain and damage is a very powerful motivator, one that can even transcend a sleep state.

I could not get around the pain. I could not get above it. And yet, that's what I felt like was I supposed to do. My moans and groans and frantic, though accurate, descriptions of the pain all sounded like drama to my ears. From somewhere or someone, I was getting the message that I should be clear and calm in spite of the pain; that I should respond, not react. But I was not clear and calm. I wanted attention for my suffering more than anything else, and that all came, in time.

What stayed with me, though, was the sense that what I really wanted was a little different; that there was another part of myself that I was keeping hidden away, even from the conscious, verbalizing aspect of my personality. I imagine it is a part of me that is calmly centered and rooted in life, feels connected, and accepts itself, life, and death, unconditionally. Those kinds of things.

It doesn't 'n-e-e-d' with highlighted, underlined, and capitalized letters. It receives nourishment directly and sends it wholly to the place that needs it. It deserves and can ask for what it wants without fear. It doesn't depend on or require me to perform, to gather relevant information efficiently, or figure out how to make all kinds of clever adjustments in order to approximate meeting what its true needs are.

During the stay in the ER, it felt really important that I bring this hidden, stored part of myself up to the surface and allow it to connect to someone else from that place. It was a test. An opportunity. But I couldn't. Not yet. I could sense very clearly as I have a few other times that there was this 'something else' very close to the surface, but so used to being closed off, hidden away, that it was subverted every time I opened my mouth to say something.

The 'subverter' is something that I seem to hold on to at my core. I seem to know that I have to let go of it to feel relaxed, at peace - though I seldom, if ever, do. And all the busyness and accomplishments, the food, the television, the computer activity, while not without purpose or usefulness, is still, at some level, serving to distract me from this basic awareness, until something happens to make me aware of its existence again, its waiting. It is the holding on that causes me to take forever to fall asleep, to avoid interacting with people directly, and to believe that no one could actually be interested in me as a partner.

Astrologically, I am thinking that this relates to the difference between my fifth house Jupiter in Gemini, and its aspects, and the fourth house North Node in Gemini. More of the astrology after I finish my report.

During my time in the ER, I focused on this dilemma, as it manifested in the excruciatingly boring sameness of intense pain - and while distractedly viewing Monday Night Football, talking about life and dozens of movies with my sister, or communicating things to the doctor and nurses. I said 'focused on,' because I didn't actually 'think' about too much about it -- thinking conscious thoughts was too distracting and potentially painful. I experienced it. Endured it.

When I had a little more literal breathing room, I tried putting it together in my head and out loud to see how it would sound if I tried to convey it in words. My sister always gets still and quiet when I talk about these things. She's more of an outward-oriented person, though not without deep feelings and awareness, too. And although I didn't feel like dramatizing my experience, I did want to make note of it, so that I could share my experience and any insights it might have brought. Maybe it will help others, maybe it will correspond to something they've felt, and probably it makes it more likely that I'll move forward with things rather than pretend I can go back and repeat them.

The catheter was removed on Friday, and my gut is getting back to normal. I can pee without spraying all over the place, though it still burns. Acute, short term pain is much easier for me to handle than deep, unrelenting pain. I figured it wouldn't be long before I'd give up my resistance to sitting down at the computer and organize a blog post.

There is an object in the sky and a corresponding symbol in astrology called Nessus. From what I've read, Nessus was one of the least savory characters to inhabit the landscape of Greek imagination, but then again, he had a lot of company. One day, Heracles caught him screwing his wife, and in his anger, shot him with a poisoned arrow. Nessus decided he would return the nastiness with some of his own, so before he died a painful death, he smeared his cloak with the toxic blood and semen that were on his person and handed it to Heracles' wife, saying that it would bestow great strength and healing power if he would wear it.

Time passed and the cloak was nearly forgotten, but one day Heracles was gravely wounded. His wife, remembering the cloak, gave it to him. He put it on. His skin began to burn as if on fire, and to this day, Nessus in the chart is associated with skin irritations, such as hives and eczema. Heracles was thus horribly betrayed, and died. As compensation for his suffering and his heroic bravery throughout life, Hera made him a god, Hercules.

After reading online about the operation of Nessus energy in a person's chart, I've come to think of it as something that works like chemotherapy, though not just on a physical level. It's really painful, but its purpose is to release deep stuff, patterns of victimization and victim-like thinking and behaviors that have been around for generations. The victimization is often related to misuse of power, just like in the myth. Another thing that I've read about Nessus is that no matter how much suffering occurs or how irrational or illogical a person's victim-like behavior is, it will not release until the time is right, until the transit of another planet or some kind of similar occurrence triggers the change.

I think the themes of Nessus and how it might have been triggered in my natal chart that evening fit the experience I described above. Nessus in my chart is located at four degrees fifty-six minutes of Gemini. It is in the fourth house, the house of home, family, and inner life. It forms a close inconjunct to my natal twelfth house Mercury, a link that is strengthened because Mercury rules Gemini. It is less than three degrees from my natal North Node - even closer to the true node. It forms a fairly close square to my natal Moon-Haumea conjunction in Virgo (on the cusp of the eighth house) and a wider square to natal Juno in first house Pisces. Of course, being in conjunction with my North Node, it is also in opposition to my natal South Node in Sagittarius.

On Monday, Mercury had just stationed direct at 5 degrees of Virgo, and was still only about one degree from a lower square to my natal Nessus. The lower square occurs when a planet has reached the ninety degree mark in its journey away from the other object - one quarter of the entire 360 degree cycle. According to Tierney, who uses the natural chart to describe the nature of each aspect, it thus makes us get to work on issues related to the sign of Cancer, the sign ninety degrees from the beginning of the zodiac at zero degrees Aries. These are things like security, nurturing, and coping behaviors learned very early in life when getting our basic needs met were wholly emotional experiences - experiences which may have felt like life and death, and to which we may continue to react in very emotional ways.

Because Nessus is located in the fourth house and squares the Moon in my natal chart, the effect of the lower square would likely be compounded. Its the same energy repeated in several different forms. Add the fact that Nessus is located in Gemini in my natal chart, and Mercury is associated with both Gemini and Virgo, the sign it was in when it stationed direct, and you end up with a lot of very brightly colored flags on this particular event.

Also, at 12:37 that morning, while we were watching our football game and my veins were filling with electrolytes, Pluto in Capricorn was returning to direct motion after having stationed close to my natal twelfth house Mercury. It was therefore also near a quincunx to my natal North Node and an opposition to natal Vesta. Vesta is one of the more well-known asteroids. Its action in the chart relates to focus, devotion, autonomy, and sacred duty.

Vesta is in my sixth house natally, which represents the area of life related to health, jobs, and service. I was very focused on my health that night, on very deep levels, it seems, and over the subsequent week I seemed to strengthen my focus. It became less subject to the scattering effects of cool ideas to pursue, and I want to believe that will stick at some level from now on.

I also noticed that I returned to my journaling, astrology, and organizing activities, with less of an obsession with meaningless details - such as recording the precise degree of zodiac of every transiting particle of dust. I often get hung up on the excitement of thinking I'm going to discover the answer that everybody has missed in these details. I've had a kind of addiction to extreme uniqueness and an overly focused devotion to the overlooked.

Pluto transits are often painful and deep, and Pluto as a planet relates to obsessions. It conjucts Uranus in my natal chart, which relates to uniqueness, and opposes Chiron, which could convey a feeling of separateness and being overlooked. I guess I would say I've achieved or have been given a more balanced focus, and that could be seen as the work of Pluto moving forward again toward its final opposition with natal Vesta in my lifetime. My experience with the medical arena also matured and hopefully I'm less of a victim of old injuries and attitudes.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Reflecting on Memories of My Life At Macalester - as brought on by a Mercury retrograde transit of a natal eighth house Pluto-Uranus conjunction

Earlier today, I figured out that Saturn is about where it was in the early 80s, when I was beginning high school, experiencing new types of social adolescent frustrations, and increasingly isolating myself from my friends, as well as getting into some pretty deep insights about life, and expressing them skillfully with words. This part I gleaned from rereading, with a surprise I've gotten accustomed to feeling, some of the essays I wrote for high school English, and other classes. I guess what was missing back then were the benefits that might have come from a more conscious application of the kinds of things I was thinking and writing about as well as a deeper and kinder perspective on my life and the people in it.

With the Pisces full moon on hand, I inexplicably took on another box from the attic, which was stuffed to the gills with event flyers from both high school and college. Later, I kind of realized that my activity is actually an excellent fit for a retrograde Mercury transit of one's eighth house retrograde Pluto, especially when Pluto retrograde had also just transited a natal Mercury opposition to natal Vesta retrograde in the twelfth and sixth houses. Just to bring things home, the Moon in my chart trines Mercury, Uranus and Pluto trine the IC, and the North Node in the fourth house quincunxes and semi-sextiles Mercury and Vesta.

One direct result of my reading Isabel Hickey's essay on Pluto is that I've decided to really try hard to err on the side of purge rather than caution when I'm cleaning house. This is done in order to get past the past, but I don't do it without caring or attention to the neglected needs and sensitivities of my younger self. It's difficult, and this is likely one aspect of having a Virgoan Pluto, as well as a natal Saturn working opposite, but the grinding, outworn nostalgia for my childhood is something that I finally realized might not reflect my true values, and that it is okay - indeed, necessary and healthy - to use a little extra force when loosening my grip on the things that don't really give me glimpses into the tender, young soul that I occasionally was.

A saving grace, that also relates to Virgo, as well as my Aquarian planets, is the strength and skill I possess to organize things. What I save, I can organize down to its atoms and put into categories, boxes, and files, or transform into artistic projects that honor the values and efforts of my childhood. This seems to me, a kind of Virgoan Pluto recycling theme that pulls in my natal second house Chiron and Saturn in Pisces, too and connect to the MC-IC axis. Maybe I could do something like this for others, for a living? These art projects become something new that originates from this point in my life, rather than being something still hanging around that I've meant to do something with for years, even decades, and would still be waiting to do, in which case, it would still be tying up my energy here.

So, I've kept most of my event flyers and for several hours I worked ceaselessly to put them in a detailed order, because they chronicle what I chose to do with my time for fun, for learning, for involvement, for friendship, and to explore. There were flyers about peace group activities in great detail - Nicaragua was a hot topic that first fall at Macalester - a place known for its liberal political involvement. Elections approached and an invasion seemed imminent. There were protests on campus and demonstrations and direct actions in Minneapolis that I attended. I remember watching myself on the news at one of these - it was early November and the temperature was in the single digits. I was bundled in my parka my mom and I bought at EMS sports in Springfield, and you could just barely see a face in the round hole formed by a tightly drawn hood, lambs wool scarf, and sable colored earmuffs.

I realize now that I liked standing up with others against what seemed like an unjust bully pushing other, less powerful people around when they were experimenting with new and independent ways of being. I also realized that I didn't like devoting energy to the more militant, ideologically driven protest movements, or work for something solely because someone said it was your duty (though I certainly tried to get others to get involved, and still have to work hard seeing that aspect of myself clearly). But these were things didn't have that human, caring quality that moved me the way the sanctuary movement or 'save the whales' did, and I think that's a really important insight for me, because it stays close to that sensitivity, keeps things open, soft. Astrologically, I think it relates to my understanding of a sixth house Vesta in Cancer and its trine to a Pisces Juno - you have to really find yourself and what's of value to you, before you can serve others - and it sounds a lot like a Venus retrograde in Aquarius, too - sensitivity, kindness, friends, and progressive causes.

There were many programs for musical performances, dance, theater, and literary readings, and there were also some parties at the houses of international friends that I especially liked, again, because they were quieter, more intimate, and intellectually stimulating events, but not in the way that would make you feel like you were interviewing for 'the hip crowd' or would be tested later. Like the way my first girlfriend at college made a 'nice environment' in her dorm room, these events awakened something in me that I realize I valued, but couldn't describe or find within myself, perhaps because I didn't recognize it in my home environment, or yearned for something other than that which I got, and I probably got angry as a result and thought it had to be found somewhere outside.

I smile with recognition of descriptions of retrograde Venus, again, which is intercepted in the first house behind a Capricorn Ascendant that, along with other Capricorn objects opposes things in Cancer, but now I'm getting onto an intellectual on ramp before I've learned enough about these objects to feel their impact and write about it from a less ego-concerned place. Sigh. I have that need to show someone that I've learned 'something cool,' and it mixes with a genuine desire to teach and share it. Its tough to recognize and let go of a perceived need - almost a compulsion, really, to grab attention when you feel like you're values and the valuable insights you're excited about have been ignored for most of your life, pushed aside to take care of others' anxieties and doused with the weight of questionable obligations.

Even the handful of college search brochures I had kept reawakened 'feeling memories' and brought forth insights about the enjoyment I got from loving ideas about and the things in the natural world and wanting to do something to help - and that is where the difficulties begin; the translating of 'wanting to help' into action that supports and the needs and desires of all of us involved. There was also the memory of good feeling about being less focused on the work and just enjoying doing things with the company of others who cared about this stuff that I was into.
I enjoyed feeling like I had found friends who shared my values and could help the world get better, who not only had a vision and a zest for trying out their ideas, but who also cared about the things on this planet and wanted more than anything to make a connection with the earth, another species, another person - recognition of your own special qualities in another, when you thought you were isolated and unable to express them openly or allowed to feel joy in that expression.

Or simply recognition that there are ties between us humans and our animal selves that show we both share this planet. I had a moment of this kind of joy last weekend when a dolphin shot out of a wave generated by our whale watching boat with such an obviously exuberant and intentional double twist and jerk that you knew that dolphin was feeling that thing the exact same way you felt it and was doing just what you like to do when you feel like expressing yourself physically for the sheer joy of it. It brought a tear to my eye and a smile to my face.

While there is unmistakable shades of Pisces and Neptune compassion in there and, I like to think, my natal third house Sedna connection, this theme must also be my Aquarian retrograde Venus because it contains that vital element of friends and companionship mixed with the adventure of trying out some progressive ideas (Venus conjuncts Mars in Aquarius, though they are mutually separating), and I hadn't remembered these feelings in quite the same way for a long while. It was nice now that I had the benefit of understanding a little astrology so that I could help to fit it more efficiently into a systems I can use to direct my life thoughtfully in worthwhile directions - at least when I don't get too obsessive about applying it.

The organizing theme I'm still trying to get straight in my mind. It could be the Aquarian energy of Venus and Mars, but it could be my Virgo Moon, too - I'm not quite clear on the way they're different, but I would guess it would have to do with the modalities - the Virgo moon, being mutable, might be more worried than a fixed Aquarian planet, and fussier about the details, but quicker to adapt and adjust; she could find new tricks quickly to handle the little details that come up in challenging ways, though Mars would be convinced that his drive to find new, brilliant solutions would succeed. I would say that my Venus, being retrograde, is, like the Moon, quite sensitive too, even if she's an Aquarian, and she might get upset by emotional reactions that pop in out of the blue when I'm enjoying her beautiful, sensitive vision. Saturn tightly semi-sextiles my natal Venus while it opposes my natal Virgo Moon and Uranus-Pluto conjunction. It looks like a kind of lynch pin in the chart, loosely binding the three major areas, and made all the more important because, as a Capricorn - a double Capricorn - it rules both my Sun and my chart.

Going through these documents gave me a broader perspective on my college experience - and they also reminded me of a dark time that perhaps I'm just beginning to recover from - to thaw from - now. Of course, I've had my share of accomplishments in the meantime and developed a much deeper, more mature understanding of who I am and how people relate to each other, which are not diminished by the suffering involved. It began around the time of my first Chiron square, so it could very well be related to that transit, and since Chiron is in the second house, widely conjunct Saturn, the theme of security issues that were evoked fits superbly. My father, you see, had set me up for college, like many dedicated, hard-working, self-sacrificing men from the mid-twentieth century. And there was a sense (perhaps it is a reflection of his grand earth trine) that everything was taken care of, but (as befits a person with a tenth house Neptune, which is me) there was no practical plan for looking after the development of skills that might help a person get on with those others things that one is generally concerned with doing after that magical day of graduation. The flyers from the events of that fall - the fall of my senior year - have none of the energy of the good feeling of belonging and shared friendship and faith in the future that I felt looking over those from earlier years. They are bereft, desperate, burning with emptiness, as if I terminated my college experience the minute I subconsciously realized that it would be coming to a close; that the grand party was over and it was time to find the car I hadn't yet learned how to drive or gotten the job to earn the money to buy. And of course, it wasn't just the college experience, it was the weaknesses of the script for my entire life that were being plastered on billboards all over town. The glaring omissions, the things I wasn't ready to do, and the stubborn, fearful refusal to talk about not knowing how to do them. Not that practically everyone doesn't face these issues. They just seemed like they had to be particularly, impossibly really, challenging for me. I've read in books that this relates to the natal Saturn-Uranus opposition of the generations from the mid-sixties, and I have the idea that adding Pluto to that opposition, and the Scorpionic Neptune at the Midheaven would heighten the pressure tremendously. I'm also thinking now that that pressure may be the force of the squares between my many first house Aquarian objects and the Scorpic MC-Neptune conjunction. Hmm..starting to tease this apart. More to follow...

The Chiron square corresponded as well to a healing gift - my first sexual relationship and the beauty of an intimate, caring connection that can provide one with a great deal of inner strength and feeling of value, but its demise, due in part to some aggressive, confused behavior on my part after a long, exhausting summer trip abroad, marked the beginning of a long, unhealthy dependency on alternative health care providers and therapists, many painfully low-paying jobs interspersed with periods of unemployment, and incredibly frustrating and unproductive long distance phone conversations and awkward visits from parents filled with vague, unspoken angst and sometimes infantile power struggles, victim-like behavior, and understandings that were few and far between. All of this played out on the stage of my mother's relatives, and down the street from the campus that reminded me every day how far I had seemed to have fallen off the pace of accomplishments I was 'supposed' to be keeping up to.

I realized while walking down the street the other day that I graduated out before I wanted to leave the womb of dear old Macalester, even though I had assiduously figured out a way to move ahead to part time status by the beginning of the final spring semester. It saved my parents money, which should make them happier, and I enjoyed exercising my skills to make that happen (I have an eighth house Virgo part of fortune). All these ideas and things I rationally sold myself - and my parents - on. I've been trying to find the right approach to taking care of myself and my practical needs ever since, and to find the right pace to life. It seems there are two sides to myself - the slow, Taurean Capricorn with a retrograde Venus, and the Uranian first house Martian with a Virgo Moon in a mystic rectangle, who just can't stop from getting into learning the next thing and working hard to improve his life and make it easier for others.

Right now, I can't see exactly which of the major parts of my chart correspond to these two sides of myself - is it the lunar and solar, or the solar and lunar, some other combination I haven't found in all those diagrams I've made? - I'm befuddled, but it has come down to a sense of 'healthy responsibility,' and a willingness to trust in that path, which has shown some actual, positive results. Basically, I think this means applying myself, but not harshly, and knowing how to do that is going to be the key. For decades I couldn't access this subtly balanced, caring yet responsible energy, but it has been building gradually in me, more consciously now, but also quietly, as I navigate the day with an inner compass that tries to distinguish between the actions I could take, and the projects I could undertake, that would abandon who I am and cause suffering - or the ones that I can keep pushing forward sensitively, because they are worthwhile and in line with the values I really feel inside, even if I don't always trust that those efforts will work out.

A side point about responsibility - at college, I recall having the thought that it was shocking that parents would make their kids work instead of letting them devote all their idealistic energy to learning. I felt the same way, even stronger though, about parents who sent their kids to private schools - it seemed as scary a thought to my safe place in a nice, if rather average, suburban house as say, the way that Native American children were ripped from their families (as well as their language and traditions) and sent across the country to learn how to be good, poor Americans at the bottom rung of society. This I might add, is similar what happened to Louisa May Alcott as a result of her father's devotion to progressive education. Everything is capable of cutting both ways. She did not suffer as great a separation from her family, though she had to toil endlessly and in harsh conditions to support them while contemplating suicide because her creative life and progressive ideals that sustained her had to be left behind for a while. I can't help but thinking that my reaction to these somewhat common situations reflects a past life, or something buries deep in my family's histories.

Some of the other students and faculty thought I was rather spoiled, or at least eccentric, but that was only if I let them get close enough to find out what I was like. I was pretty moody and liked to wrap my dark moods and slightly eccentric behavior around me to create some brooding mystery. It isn't a very effective method for getting girls, since you tend to self-destruct rather viciously. That's a characteristic related to some retrograde Venus placements that I've read about, but with Saturn nearby and me being a Capricorn, I kept it mostly under wraps and made sure to do the nose-to-the-grindstone stuff that kept up the appearance of responsible behavior and acceptable achievements. I graduated magna cum laude - I don't know what that means, but its the second highest honor. I was disappointed in myself and probably mad at those who didn't give me the super high grades I desperately craved, but frankly, I was getting burned out by the time I graduated. I am still proud of my seeing things through to the achievement - more than the achievement itself, which I think I'm just starting to learn how to value. If the achievement reflects values that are honestly my own, then it is a simple, but deep, healing feeling to someone with a second house Chiron-Saturn conjunction and a retrograde evening star Venus. Now I recall that I was able to activate this in a small way on one of my census job projects this summer, and that was a little turning point that stuck, because I brought it up later in an analysis session. And now I'm making a point of it here, as well.

Come to think of it, at Macalester, and in other times of my life, I was terrified of not finishing things, and downright consternated by others who didn't, and despite what I said at the beginning of this piece, I still have a hard time letting go of commitments that might not be reasonably worth sticking with - and, paradoxically, trouble sticking with those that really are important and worthwhile - looks like Juno in Pisces again (commitment connected to sacrifice) and the Cancerian Vesta it trines (feeling obligated). One of my therapists noted this second quality, but I'm not sure he highlighted the first in the same way, because it seems more hidden in my personality. The interpretations fit with what I read in Demetra George's Asteroid Goddesses. I sense a corner being turned on this issue, and hopefully it will help when it comes to considering causes and opportunities to devote my energy, time, and funds to.

It is also a paradox that when one values oneself more truly and humbly, one also treats others with more authentic respect, and that is something I am really really bad at doing. In fact, that might be an interpretation I'm searching for for the fixed squares between Aquarian Mars and Venus and Lilith and Pallas in the first house (identity in action - this is what I do because it's who I am) and the fixed MC and Neptune in Scorpio - not wanting to be compassionate or respectful, but pushing personal goals and desires head-strongly and rebelliously at the cost of others. Might also work for asteroid Lilith opposing the Capricorn Sun. Wherever it is my chart, at one point, not too long ago, I felt intensely awkward, but honest, when I felt like I was made to realize how I was buying favor by making donations without actually feeling like I was giving because I cared - worthy, well-researched charities notwithstanding, it seemed honestly to be more about my need to show off my good taste and selectivity in finding donors than about the honest willingness and desire to give to someone. It feels powerful to make donations, to feel you are able to contribute, when for many years, you scoffed at the notion ("call me back when I have a 'real' job, ha ha") or wished you did have the money to put to a good cause, only partly so you could feel like you belonged with your 'more successful' cohort. My college, by the way, is still close to the top of my list of places I am devoted to supporting every time I get the chance. There's a lot of support there for students' trying out their own ideas and making the world - and their communities - better places, even while they are still being students. That seems like something very much worth supporting, especially when it carries with it that delicious combination of practical heads and rebellious, optimistic spirit.

I want to say something about the astrological details in these blogs: its a kind of compulsive practicing of my astrology - if you're put off by it, I would guess that could be me still working on my sesqui-quads. My drive is to learn (first house Mars in Aquarius) and to get it right (Capricorn Sun and rising, Virgo Moon, Sagittarius south node in the tenth), and I feel the need to turn around what I learn and teach it to others. This is my disseminating Moon phase in Virgo, and it quintiles Jupiter in Gemini in the fifth on one side and my Scorpio MC on the other. I realized, as I wrote in my journal about the things I was rediscovering, and as I was beginning to find meaning for them in the context of new organizing systems (astrology and psychoanalysis), that this fifth house placement is why teaching feels different to me than a job - and why I might need to learn how to make myself see it as a job. Teaching is just how I play at expressing myself, but the sixth house Vesta is the one that is has been needing work, to use an obvious metaphor for the sixth house. Last week, while working through more of Tierney's book on aspects, I uncovered a pair (well, trio really, since one is double) of sesquiquadrates emanating from or terminating at Vesta. One of those goes to the MC. Hmm...quintile versus sesquiquad - which one do you think is easier to handle? :) - And I thought it was just the Pluto transits and eclipses that were giving me a hard time working through job issues this summer!.- Makes me kind of marvel at what I stuck with to get through.

True, Vesta is part of the wonderous mental whirligig of a mystic rectangle with Mercury, the Moon, and Juno, but that rectangle, as I figure, isn't the end point. The end point is the North Node in Gemini, and it's in the fourth house. So the journaling and the focus on my private, inner life and home environment is what allows me to rest at night and feel that I deserve to work again the next day, but that hooks to the mystic rectangle via squares, quincunxes, and semi-sextiles. The squares, being mutable, are probably positive things, because they're adaptable and balance the ease associated with the trines and sextiles of the rectangle. The astrology plays a role, but the twelfth house Mercury, which is where a great deal of it probably is seated, quincunxes the North Node, so it requires a transformation (upper quincunx) before it's energy becomes useful for my soul's evolution. And that is what Pluto has been doing over the past year, and especially, this past summer. Jupiter is the ruler of my south node, so there are some karmic issues to be worked through there, as well, but, something else I just realized, is that its mutable t-square (and maybe even the two quincunxes) are vitally important injections of work effort into a system composed of the sun, outer planets, chiron, the angles, and lilith asteroid, that is otherwise nearly a self-contained grand sextile. It seems the expression of Jupiter is what is being presented to me for a bit of retooling in this lifetime.

I've come up with a theme for my nodes that goes like this - adventure and thrills and the public eye in the south node - mars-venus and uranus-pluto quintile the south node, its in the tenth house in Sagittarius, and its ruler is in the fifth - lots of attention in other words. Add to that, wasted energy and quarrels in relationships and with financiers - the Moon on the cusp of the eighth and Juno in the first squaring the nodes, Jupiter squaring Uranus and Pluto in the eighth. That's the interpretation of the South Node story using Stephen Forrest's methods in Yesterday's Skies. The theme of the north node is something like, creating a private, humble, healing environment for the soul (and that includes friends) - Chiron alone quintiles the north node. The lunar aspects of the north node are stunning. Vesta in Cancer semi-sextiles the nodes and the Moon forms a lower square (the energy of Cancer) to the Node in the fourth (the home of the Moon in the natural chart). This theme jumped out at me when I was trying to complete Yesterday's Skies to my Saturnian and Virgoan satisfaction. I just sat at my desk and straightforwardly diagrammed the south and north node with their aspecting planets - one on each side of a piece of office paper - in a ladder like formation that allowed me to visualize very clearly, the rungs of the ladder, if you will, that I had to climb (each rung corresponds to an aspect to or from the south node) and the rungs that will support me in doing the work of my north node. I asked the paper, what is the theme? and the contrast between the pair of quintiles to the south node and the single one to the north node, plus the lunar emphasis of the north node wove me this story almost immediately.

Which begs the question, why am I sharing this semi-publicly. I agree - it feels a little incongruous, and writing these long things and putting them out there does often set me back a bit - for a few days, perhaps. I guess, if I were to analyze some of the old feelings, that I feel like I have to sacrifice my privacy because others have more power than I to know what's right for me, and also that I've been bad somehow, and have to confess and face the music. That's the nitty gritty of the feeling - I know it's not usually the reality. I am, when I can stop myself before reacting automatically and freezing up, less scared of confessing the truth than I used to be. A quick digression - as a Protestant, I've been suitably horrified by the idea that people tell a clergyman 'bad' things that they've done; well, the confiding aspect of it maybe could be a relief, and a way to connect secretly with someone, which is kind of appealing, but the idea that giving yourself away leads to punishment (it is what you deserve, after all) is bred into me. So, you see, it's my protestant perspective that's the problem - not the ritual of confession! The positive, healing power of a confession done right, with self-respect on the one side and compassionate responsibility and understanding on the other, I would think could actually heal a person.

The answer to the original question, in the language of astrology, is that a Gemini object, even one in the fourth house, has to communication, which is a kind of connection, in order to activate its energy. And while I'm getting a little pricklier about my right to be private, and assert my other needs and personal opinions, I also know that, as painful as it sometimes is, I learn and move forward a great deal when I connect in order to better myself (that Virgo Moon again), and I'm learning to do it more gently, more patiently, more sensitively, and with a bit more social acceptably, if you will. Venusian social skills perhaps, a stronger Saturn? Nessus is also conjunct the North Node, which to me, explains the intense inner suffering on a whole new level, but I'm saving that for later - after I do a little more research. I mean, I'd like to jump in Sagittarily and offer a widely speculative, expansive theory that would nevertheless, if I know my writing, have an uncanny and unexpected amount of truth and insight in it, but I wouldn't be feeling that truth, slowing down to breathe as I wrote it out - and that, to me, is the difference between the royal fifth house Jupiter Gemini, which wants to share grandly and bask in a generous party of love and attention, and the private, sensitive lunar-connected fourth house North Node. I keep forgetting that we have to accept and work through our south node foibles and those of their rulers and aspecting planets - not just skip them (as if we could)! This blog is an experiment, a bowing to the feeling that I don't do enough to put myself out there and engage others, an allowance to my fifth house Jupiter ruler, and a way to trick myself into being accountable for what I say, posting it so that I won't allow myself to fall back on the same ideas and words over and over again without accepting the lessons I've learned in writing them.