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.

No comments:

Post a Comment