Monday, May 17, 2010

Mercury Out of Retrograde

I was the teenager who wanted to know everyone's birthday, but not just when they were born, I wanted the time of day and the location too. I didn't just hold with the entertainment of astrology, I went deep into books that taught me the arcane calculations, so that I could construct detailed, mysterious looking charts of where every planet was located at the time of someone's birth. I knew all the symbols by heart, knew the significance not just of which planet was in which house, but also the meaning of the degree. I played with how conflicting placements mitigated one another. I had favorite aspects: a trine was happy but too easy. A square, on the other hand, meant you had a shot at developing the force of character, thought and will required to achieve something of lasting value. I even believed that it was possible to read a chart to discover the purpose of your present life and to discern what you had encountered in past incarnations that would inform your work in this one. It was all a fascinating soup, and I loved trying to making sense of it and imposing it's graphic order on my world.

Everyone else outgrew asking other people what sign they were. I grew deeper into it. By the time I had my first job, and there was a computer in my home, I bought a professional strength astrolger's program, and for a while, I was in heaven. I loved playing with that thing, loved being able to plug in dates and times and locales and come up with a map of personal relationships. It was the relationships that most fascinated me. I didn't much care about optimum dates for business pursuits, contracts, real estate deals, and the like. It was the alchemy of human interaction that drove my curiousity.

Then my children were born. When each of them were babies, I did their charts. And then, until my son was about age 3, and my daughter age 1, I would revisit their wheels, interpreting and reinterpreting their futures. Until suddenly one day, I no longer wanted to do that. I no longer wanted to think I knew anything at all about their futures. I suddenly realized they were their own blank slates, and it was their task to map out their own futures. My job was to guide and nurture them, to try not to mess them up too much, and to pray like hell.

For a while, though, I couldn't get their charts out of my head. My chart is filled with trines and sextiles, which are lucky aspects generally, but a little wishy-washy. My husband's chart is the same, and after we met, we both admitted almost guiltily to one another the secret belief that we were born lucky. Sometimes it seemed we had only to wish for something, and soon it would fall across our path. When I was writing a book or story, I would always run across the information or experts that I needed right as I got to that place in the work. Even now, when I am working on a story, some event will blow up in the news that makes it ever more timely. It has happened again and again. I know, of course, that perspective is everything. I know that I may run across details I don't even know I am seeking because I am more tuned in to a thing, and so I will notice information that might otherwise have slipped my attention. Still, I like to think there is a little magic, a little God, involved. I like to think my angels are particularly loving, attentive and gifted.

My children's charts, on the other hand, are filled with squares and oppositions. Suddenly, my teenaged conviction that this, this was the kind of chart it took to accomplish things in life, abandoned me. Selfishly, I wanted my children to have it easy. I wanted them never to have to suffer. Which I know, when I am in my right mind, is tantamount to wanting them never to grow. We grow from our trials. We get stronger. I know this. So why did I clutch at the aspect in my daughter's chart that suggested (to unforgivably simplify things) that she would either lose herself in addictions or be a highly evolved spiritual being. I hate that I even let that into my mind! Sixteen years later, I can see that my girl is spectacularly wise, deeply kind, and a spiritually evovled soul. I want to apologize to her every day that I was ever watching, calculating, wondering which path she would take. I wish I had accorded her simple faith. I should have understood that I could trust her angels as much as I trust mine.

(On the other hand, I did laugh with delight when my infant son's chart told me he and I had been astrologers together in a king's court in Spain. Oh, yes.)

So this is why, when my friends would ask me to do their children's charts, I would say, no, you don't want that. Just let them be. Let them show you who they are and who they want to become. Eventually, I stopped consulting astrological charts altogether and began to enjoy the sweet mystery of chaos, the everyday surprise of events simply unfolding, without any attempt by me to impose preordained meaning. Later, I even decided that horoscopes could be read any way a person chose, that they were plastic enough to fit any given real-life scenario.

The second thing that made me stop consulting astrology was when I keyed in on the trickster Mercury retrograde. The incidence of the planet Mercury appearing to move backwards as viewed from our revolving world occurs roughly four times a year, and it's supposed to bring rampant miscommunication, technology breakdowns, contractual fiascos. Astrologers say it's supposed to reveal the lie that we are in control. Mercury retrograde is a good aspect for finishing up old business or reconnecting with people from your past, but other than that, everything seems effed up, everything needs to be done twice, misunderstanding need to explained, broken fences mended. But I had to stop worrying about Mercury retrograde because who can stop their life for three weeks at a time, waiting for Mercury to move forward? Life demands that you wade right in and do your best, even when Mercury pauses.

That said, I did regress a little this month. This last Mercury retrograde (late April to mid May) has presided over exasperating miscommunications and equipment breakdowns. At home our modem stopped working, my BlackBerry refused to load pages, and at work, nothing pleased our boss, yet she couldn't quite communicate exactly what was displeasing her so we could get busy fixing it. We'd fix what we thought she said wasn't working for her, and she still wasn't happy. We basically ground to a halt on multiple stories.

My niece B was also having the worst of times with her roommate, all of it around their inability to communicate effectively with one another. B finally decided to move out. My husband and I worried that she might be moving too precipitously for a number of reasons, but she found the perfect place for herself yesterday, in the same neighborhood that she likes, at a rent that is $3 less than she is currently paying. She messaged me photos of the light filled place, and then texted me this: "I feel like everything that was going wrong went right this week!"

Thrilled for her, I didn't text back: That's because Mercury just came out of retrograde.


  1. That is so fascinating! I have always been interested in astrology, but I've never learned how to do the charts. And I've heard about Mercury being in retrograde, but I never knew what it meant.

    So, knowing me as well as you do, does my being a Pisces surprise you? :) I don't know the position of the planets at the time of my birth, but apparently I am a typical Pisces.

  2. ellen, your being a Pisces doesn't surprise me at all! You're typical of the best of your sign in that you are kind. You have a generosity of spirit. And you value your dreams. How's the novel coming?

  3. I fear I also have some negative Pisces traits, too: I'm overly sensitive, daydreamy, shy and introverted.

    Oh, I am so completely lost about my novel. :(

  4. Being lost in the novel is part of the process, so don't worry. As for those "negative" Pisces traits, they make you creative and imaginative! I love Pisces people. They don't mean anyone any harm, and they're artistic and funny and compassionate. And yes, verrry sensitive.

  5. I can totally relate to part of what you said...protecting our children so nothing hurts them. When my oldest was a baby, I decided not to say "no" to her, deciding that she'd have plenty of time in her life to deal with rejection and disappointment. I did that until I realized I was creating a monster so quickly made the change. She's still a princess but can accept (with a bit of back and forth sometimes) when things don't go her way.

    I had no idea that you were so into astrology. I have a childhood friend living in NYC, as a research scholar at NYU this year who just did my chart. He's been doing them for years and is in the process of writing a book about the history of astrology. While I'm excited to hear what he has to say, I must admit that I'm feeling a bit nervous too. As soon as I locate a tape recorder, I plan to listen and process it all.