Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Mercury Retrograde Meandering

During my "sick" weekend, I managed to get out of the city for a day and a half by visiting my parents. That I'd managed to convince myself I'd get some real rest out there is proof that tonsillitis can also infect the brain.

The one bright spot was visiting the cemetery with my father, as it was my dearly departed grandfather's yahrzeit (i.e. anniversary of death). Grandpa died on May 25, 1982, while I was on a weeklong school trip. It wasn't until I'd returned home from it that I was told he'd died earlier that week. Grandpa was my favorite relative, the one who taught me about unconditional love. Not too coincidentally, he was a fellow Moon in Scorpio, although with his birth time unknown, I don't know the exact degree. What I do know is that if I hadn't basked in this man's affection for my first twelve years, I would've turned out to be a much nastier strain of Plutonian toting an even bigger chip on my shoulder. Truth be told, I'm still pissed off at my parents for not coming to get me or have my teacher put me on the next bus; I was a few hours away in the Catskills, after all, not Togo. It's not as though attending a loved one's funeral is fun by any stretch of the imagination, but by being left out of the loop, I was denied something important: an official chance to grieve and cry with my family and with all those who recognized my grandfather's compassion. He'd been a doctor, a GP, and I don't doubt that a Pisces with Moon in Scorpio would have had quite a bedside manner, and healing abilities that went way beyond allopathic medicine. But like many healers, he did not take such good care of himself.

As you might expect from a Plutonian, I like cemeteries. They're quiet and well organized, unlike life, and I can pick up on a strangely soothing kind of energy. It occurred to me to jot down birth dates of other relatives who are buried there. After returning home, I pulled up my great-grandfather Samuel's chart. Samuel was the patriarch of my father's side of the family, the one who came to America as a teenager, studied (and later taught) at Cooper Union, and established himself as an architect who had worked on one of the most famous housing projects in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, during the (last) Depression; the design was considered revolutionary at the time because it allowed actual sunlight to stream through the windows. The Sun sign of this "patriarchitect" was not Capricorn, as an astrologer might more than half expect (in fact, it was his wife, who died before my birth, who was a Cappy), but Gemini. When I perused Samuel's chart, I found a wide-but-approaching Sun/Saturn conjunction; the latter planet's influence certainly contributed weight and purpose to a typically lighthearted, insouciant sign, but what really stood out was a tight Sun/Pluto conjunction, which was exact at 11 a.m. in Hamburg. Another point of interest: Samuel was born with Mercury Rx conjunct Neptune in Taurus and trine Uranus in Virgo; not only was he an extremely intelligent visionary, but left-handed. My father, who was also born with a Mercury/Neptune conjunction and is also left-handed, recalled that Samuel wrote with his right hand, as most people were switched at school in those days, but drew with his left. I myself was born with an exact Mercury/Neptune trine, an aspect that informs my own left-handedness, as well as my vivid imagination, intuition, empathy, and capacity for visualization--all of which, thanks to the trine, I flow into naturally.

Yesterday afternoon I felt well enough to walk into Brooklyn Heights, where I paused in front of the building where Samuel set up his practice in 1920, according to the "Special Index Issue" of The American Architect, July-December 1920. (God bless Google.) It was situated on a junky stretch of Court Street, much of it covered in scaffolding, but it was right across the street from the courthouse, which impressed me. I zeroed in on the somber gray number 26, the only thing about the building that seemed apropos for an architect; now it was a New York Sports Club. Its next-door neighbors? A bank that will probably fold or merge with a bigger bank within the next six months, and a crappy-looking little deli that had probably not been operating since 1920.

I tried to avoid being jostled by all the people whose mission on Court Street was most assuredly not rooted in nostalgia but in present-day errands and business, and wondered if Samuel would have approved of me. He lived to ninety-three, an extremely old age by 1970s standards. I have a few early memories of him; my main impression was of a quiet, stern old man who radiated power and control, the farthest thing from a doddering, incontinent victim of senility. I imagine that even if he'd recognized a fellow Plutonian in wee me, I had not yet reached the so-called age of reason, and was therefore too young to bother instructing. What would the patriarchitect have taught me, anyway? "Hey kid, don't worry if you start to feel alienated by the age of nine, and don't get separated from your luggage?"

My heavily aspected Neptune is Retrograde in the Third (Mercury) House, and when I walk around my local environment, I often drift into waking reveries to the degree that it's probably safer for everyone that I'm usually a pedestrian. I definitely feel like I'm communing with my grandfather whenever I'm in Brooklyn Heights, particularly on Henry Street, where he was born; had he been born on Clinton Street, perhaps my grandpa would've been named Clinton instead of Henry. Especially with Mercury still Rx, such strolls make me feel as if I'm walking into the past. Yet I'm not sure that I managed to commune with Samuel yesterday. The man put his Plutonian nature to use by moving across an ocean at the same age that I was a self-styled nihilist disgusted with my high school--hell, make that my entire home town, and much of society except for that which occurred below Fourteenth Street in Manhattan. (Sigh.) Samuel came from admired, successful artisans, and upped the ante by becoming an admired, successful architect and establishing a family many of whom entered the medical profession (though my father's younger sister became an architect). As for me, I am on a decidedly downwardly mobile slope, and my friends, the majority of whom are struggling freelancers and/or kooky creatives, are my family.

I like to say that writers are architects, using words instead of bricks, literary stories instead of literal stories, character studies and plot lines instead of blueprints. Both writers and architects reflect as well as challenge the collective soul, the collective dream. Yet people will enter the same building countless times without a second thought, while rereading a book is a big deal. (Well, not to me, or to most writers, but most people don't bother unless it's something like the Bible.) Even if my great-grandfather would smile at my comparison, something tells me that he'd frown at my mystical tendencies, dismiss them as part of the Old World that he apparently left behind without a backward glance.

It is easy to forget that just as Pluto deals with transformation and cutting one's ties and burning one's bridges, it also has to do with repression and simmering resentment. As much as Pluto personifies the old Groucho Marx joke that it would never want to belong to a club that would have someone like itself for a member (which is exactly why Pluto doesn't give a shit that it's been demoted from planethood), as much as Pluto wants to wear the pants and dominate (preferably behind the scenes, so that it can be the puppet master instead of the sitting-duck puppet), perhaps the most significant paradox of Pluto is that power can be mined in its very vulnerability as an outcast, or outlier.

Whatever Samuel may think of that statement, I feel unconditional love still pouring in from his younger son, my grandfather. It's real. I would bet my left hand on it.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

More Mercury Retrograde Angst

For the past several months I've had semi-idle to not-so-idle thoughts of Philadelphia, mainly because even with the recession/depression, real estate in New York City still sucks; as a freelance copyeditor/proofreader/writer/astrologer I can do my work from anywhere; I'm definitely a city girl and Philadelphia is a city; and especially if you live in the "old" part of it, you don't need a car, so you really can save the money you're not shelling out for rent. It's also not too far from NY, so I could hop on Amtrak to visit friends and family.

Imagine my happiness when a dear friend of mine offered to take me to a Burning Man offshoot in Delaware called PDF (short for Playa del Fuego, although it's not on a beach) for Memorial Day weekend, and in a neat bit of Jungian synchronicity, the group of 25 or so people in his camp was called PEX--the Philadelphia Experiment. So not only would I finally get to experience my first-ever "Burn," but would get to hang out with some cool people from the City of Brotherly Love.

With Mercury Stationary Retrograde at the time of my friend's offer, I should've known it wasn't going to be so simple.

At first it was a question of getting an extra ticket, because another friend he'd asked several weeks earlier said she could come just a few days after he asked me. But the extra ticket was secured on Monday. What happened very late that night or very early the next morning, with the Sun opposing my Neptune, was that I got sick. This entire Mercury Rx period has been jam-packed with work, comings and goings, various responsibilities, and dealing with people from my past. What I didn't count on was my health suffering. But since Mercury is my ruling planet (something easy to forget, as Pluto sitting on my Ascendant tends to overshadow the Virgo Rising part), and I've been under an unusual amount of strain and haven't gotten nearly enough sleep, eventually my body decided to rebel. At first I thought it was a continuation of the spring allergies that normally peak for me during early May, but then I started feeling achy. Like any self-respecting Virgo Rising, my medicine cabinet includes a thermometer, which confirmed that I was running a fever.

I managed to see my doctor yesterday although I had to wait most of the day for her to squeeze me in. Oddly enough, I was not seriously concerned about swine flu, probably because at a very deep level I think of myself as invincible. But my tonsils apparently resemble Polaris missiles and my nose and ears are congested. (What, did you say something?) At least my lungs are clear. I'm on antibiotics and codeine for my cough, and by tomorrow morning I probably won't be contagious anymore, but I'm still running a temperature; even if that goes away by tomorrow, partying this weekend is out of the question, my body just couldn't handle it, and although I'm semi-altruistic, it would torture me to watch people around me having that kind of fun if I am unable to participate.

(Cue: violin.)

And how can I gift the people at PDF with my astrology, stories, and poetry if I barely have a voice? I don't want to be around others feeling like warmed-over doggie-do anyway; the antibiotic I'm on is making me nauseous even though I took it with food, and I just want to hide out in my bed with the phone turned off and catch up on sleep, Netflix, journaling, and fictioning.

It's a sunny spring day as I write this pathetic little blog, which somehow adds to the indignity of the situation. A person should not get tonsillitis when it is 73 degrees and the sky is a seamless cobalt blue.

Astrology teaches that, just like George Harrison sang on his first solo outing, all things must pass. Mercury will not be Retrograde forever. My health will return if I listen to my body and slow the hell down for a bit instead of flipping the bird to the cosmos and continuing to burn my candle at both ends. PDF is a biannual event. And Philadelphia, the last time I checked, is also still there if I seriously want to see if it's my kind of place.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Mercury Retrograde Musings

I promised this wouldn't be a traditional horoscope blog, and it isn't, but thought I'd mention that Mercury Retrograde is a particular pain in the ass to the two signs that are ruled by this planet: Gemini and Virgo. Also, if you were born with either of these signs rising, get ready to get all bollixed up. And let us widen the net even further to include all those who were born with any of the inner planets besides the Sun (Moon, Mercury, Venus, Mars) in Gemini and Virgo.

To be sure, that's a lot of people, but this theory fits when you consider that "Mercury must be Retrograde" is the one astrologese phrase that lots of people who don't speak it get the gist of. When it takes you an hour to get someplace that normally takes half that time, or you can't remember which witch is which, or you can't pin down anyone in terms of making definite plans, including yourself . . . well, Mercury must be Retrograde.   

Other planets turn Retrograde all the time--in fact, as of this writing, Saturn is still Rx (it will turn Direct on Sunday 5/17) and Pluto is Rx till mid-September--so what is the big deal about this li'l pipsqueak planet, anyway? Here's what: Mercury is the planet that governs communication, both written (Virgo) and spoken (Gemini), as well as messengers, postal/UPS/ FedEx workers, siblings, neighbors, your neighborhood, grade school, and short-distance travel (think commuting or a stroll). In other words, Mercury covers myriad things that comprise everyday life. You may shun love or money (Venus issues), or avoid taking direct action or getting angry (Mars issues), but even if you are a total shut-in, monk, wimp, or crackpot, you probably can't avoid Mercury issues for long, including trying to figure out where the hell you put your keys that you clearly remember placing on the coffee table just two minutes ago. That's right, Mercury also rules keys.

Decisions made during a Mercury Rx period are often unmade a few or more weeks later; purchased items may not satisfy, or work, or fit. So if you can delay, it might be a wise idea not to commit to anything major, sign any contracts, or buy anything other than essentials till Mercury turns Direct, which will be at 9:22 p.m. EDT on 5/30.

Mercury Rx does have its beneficial side: you may be thinking more about the past, and such reflections may help you figure out solutions to problems that have bugged you for a long time. Someone or something from your past may pop up during this transit, as well. Depending on who or what it is, such a visitation could be either amazingly wonderful, unbelievably bad, a mixed bag, or whatever-neutral. However you react, just don't shoot the messenger.


Saturday, May 9, 2009

The Moon Is in Scorpio, Mercury Is Retrograde...Do You Know Where You Are?

I thought it would be delightfully contrarian of me to start this astrology blog just past the Full Moon in Scorpio with Mercury Retrograde, a time when no one can tell their ass from their elbow, let alone stumble upon a new site with zero traffic. Yet it also makes a certain amount of sense for me to finally recover something quite similar under the same name. For at the dawn of the '00s, the decade with no name that I refer to as "the naughties," I created and content-managed an astrology website for a now-defunct company called Webseed. At one point I received something like 52 cents every time someone clicked on an ad that was invariably trashy and had nothing whatsoever to do with astrology. Then I was down to 17 cents per click. But until sometime in mid-2002, when Webseed went the way of so many of the dot-com empires, i.e., bust, it was a rewarding experience. People from Montana to Malaysia wrote in to my advice column. Pluto Rising got good PR on a German website. I always figured I'd start another website devoted to astrology. Not the typical Sun Sign horoscope kind of website, which I personally believe cheapens the art of astrology and contributes toward people's skepticism of it, but something simultaneously more serious and more fun, more profane and more sacred.

Pluto Rising, by the way, refers to a placement in my own astrological chart, in which Pluto is conjunct, or smack-dab on, the Ascendant, or the eastern horizon. Not everyone has a planet rising in their chart, but if it's Pluto, then you're all about transformation, in addition to being a pain in the ass and partly or completely unfathomable to most people who think they know you. Astrology itself is transformational in that it encourages awareness, reflection, healing, and change.

Pluto is also the skeleton in the closet, radioactivity, the phoenix rising from its own ashes, X-ray vision, and X marking the spot to buried treasure on a pirate's map.

For all 7 of you who are reading this, you indeed have much to look forward to!