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.