Thursday, December 2, 2010

A Llittle Flurry of Letters...

Dear Isabelle~
    I thought about your last email, and about what you said and didn't say. I know you said not to judge, but I don't trust this man Tomas; I don't trust that chart, and I don't even like his name. I don't care if it's Gaelic, it sounds affected.
         I wonder if you're telling me everything? Do you like him????   BTW, what's happened with your daughter Sophie?   Must run...more later~

Dear Kendra~
    You're right. I only told you some of the story because I've been falling apart missing Alistair and Sophie. I wonder if I completely fall apart if I will remember how to put the pieces back together?
         But I did love Tomas' prayer: his "catching me" ~ but I'm not naive. It's not hard to see the dangers of allowing oneself to be rescued or even setting oneself up to be the rescuer. That's what I like about astrology--it's simple insight without undercurrents or strings attached...
     It's so strange that you and I have never met, but at times when I think of you or 'hear your voice' through email, it reminds me of Sophie. But your charts aren't the same, and she's not interested in learning astrology....
      Till later then~

Dear Isabelle~
   How do you know your daughter really isn't interested in astrology? Maybe she's still upset with you leaving her father? Maybe she's going through a confusing time and just doesn't know what to do right now--she might be getting to know her father in a new way. I hope you're not jealous of their time together in Europe now, because maybe she just needs to get to know him in a new way--- so that she's not judgmental of him! You know, she might have some issues with him to get over...
     I'm sure you'll hear from her soon. I'm sure Sophie loves you, and I think Alistair still loves you as well....
       "Soothe your heart" dear Isabelle~

Monday, November 29, 2010

The Letter and the Journal: What is Said, and What is Felt

Dear Kendra~

Yes, all that Pluto in Tomas’s chart is a bit unnerving! Pluto can be ruthless and strip our egos of everything we think we need—even our health and closest relationships. Yet this Pluto, this “God of the Underworld” is somewhere in everyone’s birth chart—and it’s always busy “revolutionizing” by clearing away the old and making room for the new.

I think Tomas’ strong Pluto in his birth chart reveals his deep vulnerability, fear…and his strength. Did I tell you he kept fingering his Celtic cross as we talked? In mythology, Pluto wore a helmet that made him invisible, and as you may remember he stole Persephone and brought her to the underworld as his wife. It’s a strange story really—about a young woman losing her innocence, leaving her mother, and spending half the time in the underworld with her husband, Pluto, and the other half of her time in the above-world with her mother, Demeter.

BTW, did you know that Pluto has been demoted from a planet? I think it’s because of its tiny size (but astronomers don’t know it’s the most powerful ‘planet’ in astrology) and Demeter, who was once unnoticed by astronomers and astrologers, has now been promoted to the status of a planet, because of her size. Ah…the importance of “the Mother”!

Now they just discovered a new planet out beyond Pluto called Eris or Xena. Like the film goddess, Xena, she’s about the female warrior spirit, probably because she’d in the constellation of assertive Aries. Astrologers don’t know what to make of this new planet yet, as the meaning of the discovery of a planet always reflects something of the zeitgeist of the times. And Eris/Xena seems to reflect both the chaos and randomness of this time in history and the spirit of women’s struggle.

Hah! Sometimes I think science and astrology mix like oil and water…but history and astrology correlate in tandem, as the meaning of each new planet always reflects the nature of the time it’s discovered. When revolutionary Uranus was discovered in the 1700’s we had both the American, Russian and French revolutions. So, who knows how the archetypal “woman” beyond Pluto may impact our lives….?

But to answer your question about Tomas’ character: I don’t know whether it’s good to judge anyone too much by looking at their chart, as we don’t know how a person has acted out these energies. Being born with a lot of Pluto, like Tomas, can mean he was subject to a lot of trauma in life. But it doesn’t mean he was guilty or bad in any way because of it! In fact, with Pluto it’s really a victory to not fall into feeling like the victim, but to surrender to the story and heal. Many therapists have a strong Pluto—it’s like having a stamp on your passport, saying you’ve “been to hell and back”. You could say with Pluto: “What doesn’t kill me makes me stronger.”

Both Alistair and Tomas are strong men, each in their own way. I’m holding my loneliness and yearning with the “unknowing” of what’s going to happen---holding the tension of the opposites now, and waiting for the way to be clear—to hear from them! Do you remember Carl Jung counseling this? About holding the tension of the two opposites, till the third way is revealed? I am attempting to do that. Not easy.



Journal, December 1st

Tomas dropped by unexpectedly as I was finishing the email to Kendra. He found me crying. I was going to work on “the reading” with him for Friday, but he caught me…unprepared, in a moment.

As I looked up from writing to Kendra about Xena and Jung’s Reconciling Third Way, Tomas appeared at the door, and as soon as I let him in, I almost collapsed into my own counseling chair—

“Something’s wrong, isn’t it? Tomas took my hand in both of his. You can tell me…Isabelle….we don’t have to stay in any roles here. Just tell me what’s happening.”

“Tomas—tell me, if Alistair meant what he said about our story not being over, why doesn’t he come here? Why isn’t he with me now after my mother’s death…why does he keep me waiting? Why is he still –off in Europe somewhere? He doesn’t even email me. Sophie doesn’t either. What’s happening? I don’t know if I’m more sad, than mad, or more mad than sad. I can barely stand what I’m feeling.” I looked up at Tomas and a great wave of peace came over me. He was here. He was with me now; and holding my hand. Maybe this was all I needed.

Tomas continued holding my hand as he sat down. His head dropped. For a moment he didn’t say anything. When he looked up I could see his eyes were closed.

“Heavenly Father….Divine Mother” he began. “We ask your help and support for Isabelle. We ask that her way be made clear and that she feel the Spirit of God within and around her. Let her know she is loved, and that your Love always will always answer her every human need. Grant her peace...”

Tomas’ large hands were cradling and holding mine. There was energy here—it felt as if we had a direct line to God. No interference or static. Warm energy encircled us, and my mind flashed to Sophie’s healing circle of prayer at Lindisfarne.

Tomas continued: “Do not doubt the rightness of the two sides within you, and let whatever may happen, happen. A life without inner contradiction and tension is either only half a life or a life in the Beyond, which is destined only for angels. But God loves human beings more than the angels….Amen.”

“Amen” I whispered. “Didn’t Jung say that?” I asked.

“Exactly—I memorized it. There’s more to it, but that part stays with me. Ah…so my dear, I guess I dropped by at the right moment, yes?”

“Yes….perfect timing. And tomorrow, Friday…you’ll come by?”

He nodded. “Tomorrow I’ll come to you and you will hold me, and guide me. We can change roles that easy. Why not? Teacher-student, counselor-counselee….” He grinned, and walked to the door as I whispered my thanks again.

I’m struck by the synchronicity of Tomas quoting Jung to me just after I wrote to Kendra using Jung’s ideas. I want Kendra to see the tense paradoxes of people and astrology without being judgmental, but for me it’s about holding the tension of the opposites of sad and mad. Can I “hang in there” when the two people I love most are not even communicating with me? Is it deliberate or what? My heart wants to be with Alistair and Sophie again, and to let the mystery of their silence not crush me, or make me mad. But…I’m paranoid. I don’t get it. My angry sadness wants to take hold of me. And somewhere in there, I see that Tomas is in the equation now too. (c) elizabeth spring

"Don't Let Reality Get in Your Way" ~ Caroline Casey

“Don’t Let Reality Get in Your Way” ~Caroline Casey

Dear Isabelle~

It’s been so long since we wrote! I’m so glad we finally caught up with each other, and our lives, and that you finally sent me your new friend’s chart to analyze. I thought it might be good practice for me, as an “aspiring astrologer” to try to interpret Tomas’ chart--or maybe just to question you about it.

You seem quite “taken with him” if I might say—in the old fashioned way. But when I look at his chart I worry a little for you. OK, so he’s a charismatic assertive Aries, with a secretive (and sensitive!) Cancer Moon with Scorpio Rising. Sounds like he’s a charming alpha male the stuff of romance novels—but—really? Look at his Moon conjuncting Pluto and Pluto ruled Scorpio rising, and all that 8th house energy—again ruled by Pluto.

I think I would find it hard to trust him. All those square aspects between his Aries Sun, North Node and all those 5th house planets—(“give me love!” I can hear them screaming—or at least, “listen to me!” and they are all squaring his Cancer 8th house planets.) Feels paradoxical to me: can’t seem to reconcile that “me first” Aries nature and the “you first” Cancer nature, which are squared and not as ease with each other in his chart. Isn’t there a sensitive/puer/’Peter Pan’ quality of those Cancer planets that doesn’t want to grow up?

Oh, I don’t know. I’m glad you like him. But again, I have reservations. When you say he’s a spiritual man, and I see Neptune in his 9th house at the top of his chart, I can agree—but Neptune also has a saying “Don’t let reality get in your way.” And with so much of the “underworldly” Pluto in his chart—well, Isabelle, you must know what you’re doing!

Let me know what you think of all this Pluto, will you? How’s your new place? Have you heard from your daughter Sophie? Last I heard she was still in Switzerland with your ex, dear Alistair. He sounds so different from this Tomas—interesting how you are drawn to both! Alistair sounds so much more---oh, I don’t want to say---you tell me…..



(c) elizabeth spring

The Fortune Teller

“The Cure for Anything is Salt Water—Sweat, Tears or the Sea”

K. Blixen

I hung the painting of the ‘Fortune Teller’ in my new office. It fit perfectly above the mantel, and I was able to furnish both the studio and small office with furniture from home. I wouldn’t need a car here.

I brought my old oak desk and placed it opposite the paned window. It was a Larkin desk; a desk bought at a reduced price by Victorian ladies who bought Larkin Soap and saved their coupon wrappers. It fit in with the old- world feel of the room. The amber light of the stained glass lamp on the little table between the rocking chairs gave the room a soft glow, like a sanctuary. I couldn’t have been more pleased. I brought out my favorite green fountain pen, my leather journal, and the ink-stained blotter that Alistair had brought me from a trip to Italy.

The computer screen was the one anachronism here, a touch of the times, but a necessary one. I put it on another table next to the desk but facing the wall.

And then I just sat, feeling ‘nestled’ inside the quietness of the room. I looked up at the painting; it brought back so many memories…

I allowed myself to drift back to Sunday afternoons at my aunts: she and my uncle lived in a tiny Quonset house tucked away high on a hill with a view of the Connecticut River. Going there meant a good time for me. We often went for long walks, sometimes for picnics or ice-skating, sometimes just to walk their dog who I was allowed to lead on a leash. We would often explore the woods and abandoned summer cottages down by the railroad tracks alongside the river. I would collect rocks and leaves for science class, and sometimes find old magazines and fragments of antiques from the attics of the abandoned houses. Some Sundays we’d go in search of daguerreotypes, which we would buy for 50 cents from various part-time antique dealers who’d open their homes on week-ends for Sunday lookers. These daguerreotypes were tiny hard-covered books, which when opened, revealed photographs encased in gold veneer and velvet, taken roughly one-hundred years ago. There we would discover pictures of Civil War heroes and children too cumbersomely dressed to smile. When we got the photos back to my aunt’s house we’d pry open the backs and look for bits of old love letters, locks of hair, or newspaper clippings from that time.

Then it would be time to feed little Teddy, and I would watch as my aunt crushed up little oat-meal bars and carefully mixed them with the meaty dog food. She seemed to know what was best for her little dog. My uncle would then cook up a hearty, and usually too spicy meal, after which there would be a few sprinklings of good-humored criticism from my mother, who was not one to use onions, garlic, and anything more potent than a pinch of salt. That’s the way it was then….but by that time, we’d be full and I’d be tired, and taking a flash light we’d make our way through the darkness down the unpaved road to our car. The stars seemed so close and brilliant on those nights! As we rode home I would nestle my head against my mother’s soft beaver coat, and listen to Jack Benny and Rochester on the car radio.

Those Sundays were a patchwork; crisp November twigs snapping under my feet, cold cheeks and frozen mittens warming near the kerosene heater, glimpses of oil paintings examined through the haze of my uncle’s cigarette smoke.

I stood up from my reverie and walked to the window and looked out. A few people walked by, but I seemed invisible. I’d have to get a sign, put some ads in the local papers, and get some clients. I couldn’t afford to spend all my time day-dreaming, yet the thought of doing that just now drained me. I sat back down and closed my eyes…

There she was—my grandmother; Elizabeth. I can still see the moss-green sofa where she would sit, quiet and untouched. I wonder if her children made her happy; I wonder why she never went back to her art. I wonder what she thought when she looked at that last painting. Was she pleased with her fortune? Had she been selfish enough? Had she been giving enough? Had there ever been enough love to go around?

There was not enough of ‘something’ for my aunt—for as I got older, she succumbed to a series of illnesses after my grandmother’s death. It changed the pleasant Sundays, and changed me. After a severe bout of hepatitis my aunt became depressed and the Sunday visits became less frequent. She often cried on Sundays…especially on Sundays. It became too difficult to go there every Sunday, and my uncle simply said she was “indisposed.” He didn’t let us to talk to her about anything serious, or anything that could upset her; but it upset me deeply.

I wonder if she was shocked by the awareness of her limited reality—a menopausal woman with no children, no career—she didn’t even drive a car. What would be the consequences to her marriage if she should try to change? Did my grandmother ever try to talk to her about these things before she died? I’ll never know; I only know the mixed blessings and curses of the family karmic inheritance that has been handed down to me. An artistic nature is part of the gift, but so is a pre-disposition to anxiety—

A fly flew past my face and landed on my arm. That was distracting---but what was that? Another one flew by. I looked up again and could see a couple of nasty oversized flies flinging themselves, in desperation, against the windowpanes. What was this? No, it wasn’t a couple—there must be ten---no twenty flies there! Or more! What was the meaning of this? I must get a vacuum tonight and suck them up.

“Hah!” I laughed out loud. “Menopausal madness! That’s what I have.” I spoke it loudly, confirming my diagnosis--then stretched and paced the small room; thinking…..I can’t control this aging body, but I can resist it from stopping me from traveling, or keeping me from writing, or squashing my hopes for love…I will never let anything violate my personal destiny. Yes, I’m going to write that down in my journal. Not that it was brilliant, but I could never have enough reminders of courage.

I walked over to my desk and took out my journal. One thing I knew was that I wasn’t going to go crazy like my Aunt, and I would never settle for a controlling husband like she had. But I also needed to stop ruminating on the past and finish the book. Did I have the energy now? I decided to anchor myself to the chair for at least an hour and write.

I was sitting there looking at the flies swarming around the panes in the office window—noting in particular, the plight of the trapped fly caught in the screen and the near-by spider, when I saw a man’s face looking in at me—no, he wasn’t looking at me, he was staring beyond me. He didn’t move; his eyes were straining to see the face engraved on the fireplace mantle. I shot a glance at the closed eyes of the black Goddess on the mantle and then back at the stranger’s wide eyes. They were that pale shade of blue that was in-between extreme innocence and cold detachment.

Merlin, my short-haired, long-legged prince of a cat, brushed up against me, curling his tail provocatively around my leg. I reached down and held him to my chest like a protective shield. I didn’t move, in fact I froze. But then the man’s eyes caught mine; he had me pinned. He looked like the artist, Monet, with his straw broad-brimmed hat pulled low over his forehead, accentuating a trimmed white beard.

I tossed Merlin to the floor and opened the door: “Hello. I’m Isabelle…I’m new here.” I extended my hand. He tipped his hat, and put his large hand in mine.

“Didn’t mean to disturb you. I was admiring your fireplace.”

“Thanks." We turned to look at the goddess' noble face. "Yes, she’s why I rented this spot. It’s special to be here opposite the old library and that copper beach tree-- but she—well, she clinched the deal. I think of her as ‘Hestia’, Goddess of the Hearth.“

“Really? I thought she might be St. Bridget. Excuse me for not introducing myself, I’m Tomas.”

“Isabelle Cocroft. Ah…Tomas: that sounds Spanish, but you look—“

“Irish. Actually it’s an old Gaelic name.”

He certainly looked Irish with his ruddy complexion, and I could see that one of his eyes was milky, as if a film covered it. He was carrying a loose over-the-shoulder bag that contained a large leather notebook and some paperback books.

“So what will you be doing in this fine room, if you don’t mind me asking--?

“Astrological counseling.” I paused. “And some writing.”

“Really? Don’t exactly believe in it myself, but I find it fascinating with the myths and all. I’m a therapist myself; though somewhat retired.”

“Which gives you time to walk around the hill and explore?”

Oh, I live here--over here on Spring St. We’ll be neighbors now.”

“Well, come in--- can you visit for a moment?” I pointed to the two rockers that flanked each side of the fireplace.

“Can’t say I haven’t got the time, ‘cause I do.” When he smiled, I saw his yellow stained teeth, and could smell pipe smoke. I looked down, and saw that he was wearing pointed black cowboy boots. So much for Monet.

“Your goddess here...”Hestia” if I remember right, she was often paired with Hermes.”

“Really? I never heard of that pairing. I remember she was a virgin: a woman who was ‘one –unto- herself’ as they’d say.”

He grinned, and took a deep breath “Come in—sit down,” I said, pointing to the chairs. “And if you want to have a smoke, it’s OK…really, it’s Ok.”

“You don’t miss much, do you?” He laughed without smiling this time, and with one swift movement brushed Merlin off the chair with a sweep of his hat. “Right…right,” he muttered while pulling the wicker rocker closer. Pulling out a well-used pipe, he lit up the half bowl of tobacco that was still there, and turned all his attention on me. “So this Hermes---did you know, he stood at the door keeping evil out while Hestia tended the fire in the temple…or office.”

“Office?” I laughed at his stretch of imagination. “No, never heard of that. No, in my world we call Hermes, ‘Mercury’, and he’s all about communicating. But he’s got a trickster side to him too.” I could feel a strong hot flash coming on.

“Trickster? Hermes? Well, she looks like she’s got a few secrets,” he added, pointing to the closed eyes of the goddess.

“I think she’s just more detached; she likes to focus inward. She was the guardian of the sacred fire.” I picked up Merlin again, and stroked him. “Hermes was a messenger, and I don’t remember ever hearing that he was a guardian at the door to keep out anything…even evil. I don’t exactly believe in evil.”

“Hmph.” Tomas took a long inhale and let the smoke out slowly with a quiet sigh.

“I mean, I’m not saying it’s not true, it’s just that I think of her as my muse, and—“

“—and you don’t need anyone or anything to protect you, eh?” He raised his eyebrows in question. “And perhaps you’re the messenger too—the one who answers the questions?” As he leaned over, I could see a small Celtic cross slip out from under his shirt.

I sank into my chair feeling my face flushing. Turning away I stared at the flies at the window again. The pipe smoke smelled sweet and wonderful and turned the late afternoon sunlight into a blue gray haze. Finally I came around again---“So what’s your sign?” I said with a smile that was as broad as the length of his pipe.

“April 7th” he said. “You tell me.”

The next morning at ten thirty Tomas arrived for his “reading.” When he sat down I noticed that he had a pipe in the pocket of his jacket, and so I offered to let him smoke, as I truly liked the smell of pipe smoke. He was surprised and pleased, and as he sank into his seat and lit his pipe, he seemed prepared to be amused if nothing else.

I was prepared for this reading, and was hoping that the initial reading might lead into a little short term therapy. I can never tell how a session will go though--sometimes it appears to be an easy read and then turns out to be much more complex than anticipated. I think of astrology as being the positive contemplation of change, and try to keep my readings in that tone. This reading might be a challenge for me, as Tomas’s forthright Aries Sun was squared by illusory Neptune, and I puzzled over how to tell him about his Cancer Moon conjunct to Pluto, with its challenging square to Saturn. One has to tread lightly on a person’s psyche and yet be bold enough to let them know that you ‘get it’ and that they can feel safe enough to open up in a dialogue. And clients often assume we see or know more than we do.

But astrologers only see the symbolic language of a life and we don’t know how it’s going to get played out in a person’s life. I always feel it never hurts to allow the client to project onto me what they need to—I won’t lie or pretend, but I encourage self-disclosure, as the sooner the particulars of a person’s life comes up, the sooner the release or healing happens. In a way, it’s like short-term therapy; or at least a beginning to therapy.

And so I began: “When a soul chooses to be born with an Aries Sun, they want to learn courage. And to learn courage one needs to take risks, to feel the fear and do it anyway. So we often see Aries volunteering to be first, and thriving on new beginnings, but we’re all quite paradoxical… and for you, these courageous new beginnings are probably more stressful than most…” I looked over at him for confirmation, but he wore a poker face. “The stress arises more from your private emotional nature, that changing Cancer Moon, which is much more introverted and moody in nature to Aries, and being next to Pluto, the invisible god of the Underworld, it’s suggesting that you’re more comfortable not being exposed. You’re more likely to be the one nurturing the other person while keeping the focus off yourself.”

That comment cracked the poker face just enough to open the eyes a little wider. “But I’m here, aren’t I? Being exposed?”

“Yes, you’re being brave, acting on your Aries Sun now, and that Scorpio rising makes you very curious, a little intense, maybe secretive. But we need to go deeper.”

His boot started twitching a little, as he took a deep inhale. The pungent sweet smoke filled the room. “Go on, you’re doing good. I can take it.” We both laughed.

“Well, like me, you’ve got a family karmic inheritance to deal with, and I’d say it’s probably more intense on the maternal side of your family too. Although with your Sun in the 4rd house that represents your family of origin in hard aspect to Neptune…well….was your father an alcoholic or not there for you?” That was a leap, but I wanted to try.

“You got it; he was both.” He seemed pleased with my success.

My eyes swept around the chart again. “You’ve got some things here—this Cancer Moon conjunct Pluto— that suggests your childhood was rather difficult, and that your mother could have had a powerful if not manipulative effect on you. Perhaps that relationship was---“

“Yeah, yeah, that’s why I became a therapist, you know, to figure that all out. And my childhood was mixed, but with my blind eye the other kids saw me as being different and that didn’t help. She tried to help or intervene for me. I was painfully shy as a kid, and my mother was always breaking up fights between me and the other kids.”

“Perhaps she took center stage for a long time--even up to your Saturn Return at age twenty-eight? Did things change then? They usually do…”

“Yes, I had been studying for the priesthood—another idea of my mother’s actually, and it was around that time that I became disillusioned with the church—just before I was ordained. It was a shock to her--- she never understood. I took a little time off, and then did some things and then went on towards getting my psychology degrees. It was a rough road for an Irish Catholic kid.”

“I bet it was.” There were some real issues around illusion and disillusion in that Sun/Neptune aspect, and possible abuse as well, as the 8th house was full of planets as well. I also guessed that he had been married at some point and acquired some hidden Plutonian money as well. Cancers like the idea of family and being financially secure. “But you didn’t go for the analyst degree right away did you?”

“No I didn’t. I was married for awhile and worked as a social worker with kids—the really gritty kind of social work with abused boys. My wife inherited some money, so we didn’t have to depend on my money.”

Yes, this Moon/Pluto aspect would give you an understanding of the underworld that those boys lived in….and yet that opposition to Saturn reflects how you turned your personal hell into a “structure and a way” of helping others…well done! But your wife…..did you leave her? I see a lot of change in your chart around the age of forty-one, at your Uranus opposition.”

“No, she left me. I was exhausted from trying to care for those kids, but then I miss it sometimes still….being able to make that much of a difference in someone’s life.”

What a good man, I thought; what a decent person he seemed to be, and yet with all that Cancer in his chart he probably had acted out the ‘puer’ quite a bit too. Maybe I’d check in on that thought: “So did you ever feel that part of you was like Peter Pan and never wanted to grow up?”

“Oh yes. The boys loved the Peter Pan in me, but my wife hated how I resisted responsibility.” Just then the desk phone rang, and the answering machine came on…

“Hello, you’ve reached Priorities Astrological Counseling. I’m either with a client or out of the office so please leave your number and a message and I’ll call you back.” The caller hung up. It felt a little embarrassing. “Let’s go on…sorry.”

I picked up Tomas’s current transit charts for the year and the coming year ahead and looked at what I had circled. “The transit charts here give a kind of ‘weather-forecast’ of the year ahead---I don’t like to think of it as prediction, but more a general mood of the time….and you’ve got a couple of well—life changing aspects here.”

“I should hope I have a few. Wouldn’t want to bore you!”

“Well, you’ve made it past your second Saturn Return as you turned fifty-nine last year. That can sometimes be a hard passage because it’s about coming into your own as an elder. Everyone goes through these Saturn Returns…one at around 28 to 30 and the second one around age 59. Actually, the second time isn’t usually as hard as the first Saturn Return.” I smiled knowingly while trying to think of words to describe a transit I thought was much more difficult.

“This year your progressed Venus conjuncts Pluto and the Moon, and with your transiting Uranus squaring your natal Uranus, it feels to me like something is stirring uneasily in you….a little revolution beginning to happen.”

“I certainly have felt rebellious in a way that I haven’t felt for years. And also open to being in relationship again. That’s new.”

“Well, since you’re a therapist, let’s talk a little about how Venus-Pluto relationships can be like. It feels like you’re being drawn again into the underworld to explore something within yourself that wants to come up and be made conscious.” He didn’t say anything, so I went on: “Venus-Pluto relationships arise from unconscious complexes and become compulsive. They move into the realm of the taboo…lover’s triangles, incestuous feelings, dangerous love affairs. The stuff of novels.”

Tomas let out a big sigh and put down his pipe. “And when is that happening?”

“Well, it’s happening now and for most of next year. Do you know what I’m talking about? Can you feel this at all?”

“No, not really.” It was awkward. Then the phone rang again, and this time I didn’t answer, but turned it off instead.

“We could finish this up later, and you could take your call. Maybe it’s important. I could come back on Friday. And I could pay you then…or now. It’s up to you.”

I thought it would be nice to see him again, since I knew no one yet. “Well, we’re far from finished, but yes, that would be fine, especially if it works for you. I don’t usually do two-part readings, but why not? It will give you time to think about it.” And it would give me more time to try to find words for some of the more challenging aspects on his chart.

And so he left, and I anchored myself to the chair like I said I would and brought out my journal. The telephone call was forgotten, as his presence seemed to overpower my thinking, and my willpower pulled me back to my work. (c) elizabeth spring

It is Never Too Late to be Who You Might Have Been"

“It is never too late to be who you might have been.”
         Mark Twain

My hands gripped the steering wheel as if the car was going to go out of control at any minute. The radio was turned up high to a country-western station. Thoughts and words flew around me like the lyrics to the songs: ‘Free at Last’, ‘Wild Woman’, 'On the Road Again'. I turned to to an oldies channel where the Eagles were singing 'Desperado'. Ooh…I snapped it off. I couldn't allow any more tears; the windshield was all fogged; the sleet had turned to snow and it was dangerously slippery.

I had to hold on tight and focus. I wanted to reach Newport by dusk, and check into a little hotel downtown—one that I had walked by and admired many times.

It took longer to get there than I hoped. I circled the inn looking for a parking place, and checking the hotel out from the street. It was opposite a large beautiful hotel, but at first glance I couldn’t tell if this little inn looked quaint or seedy. It was somewhere in-between, but it was too late to make changes.

Putting on a matter-of-fact persona, I checked in with the clerk, telling him my basic information while quietly reminding myself that I could be cheerful. “ Isabelle Cocroft: Room 301” he told the porter. He wasn’t listening, so he repeated it even louder--

“Isabelle Cocroft, Room 301.” It echoed. This was me; nothing more. A middle aged woman staying for an indefinite period of time at a questionable hotel.

What about Isabelle the devoted mother of Sophie? And the loyal Mrs. Alistair Cocroft? What about Isabelle Cocroft, MA; professional astrologer and aspiring writer? What about the Isabelle who used to live in blue jeans and cowboy boots and wore her hair in a loose bun on top of her head? Or the other, older Isabelle--the one with curly cropped coppery hair—the one who loves picnics on the beach with a bottle of wine and a sunset to dream upon? And what about this Isabelle Cocroft—the one standing here right now—the one who feels like she's losing her mind? Mr Alistair Cocroft would suggest that they accept her for just one overnight stay, for she will be returning to resume her normal life tomorrow. But this Isabelle Cocroft of Room 301 was checking in for a week, and she was going to prove him wrong.

When I got to my room I called Alistair to let him know I had made it safely here, but the answering machine picked up instead, and I heard myself announce: “Hello, you’ve reached the Isabelle and Alistair, but we’re not here right now, so please leave a message after the beep” A little passive-aggressive for him not to pick-up, but understandable. Just how much did I want him to care?

“I just wanted to let you know I made it here safely and you’ve got my cell if you want to call.” I paused. What else could I say? Hope you’re feeling better? Sorry? “Bye.”

I dropped my cell in my bag, and put on my black-hooded coat and purple scarf. I could take a walk up on Bellevue Avenue. Why not? The little white lights of the Christmas season were up on the trees and shops, and the snow had stopped.

And so I walked up one side of the street and down the other trying to find an un-crowded restaurant where I could feel comfortable. The cappuccino place, C’est Ci Bon was closed. Nothing looked right, and I was reluctant to eat alone where I’d stick out, so I walked back to my room and collapsed on the bed. As I stared at the blank wall at the end of my bed, it reminded me of a blank page and my life now; fresh, full of promise and fear; ferocious in its emptiness. I lulled myself to sleep thinking how I was mastering my ambivalence—how un-Libra like I was becoming. It must be my moon in Aries. Or was it that my Sun conjuncted Neptune? I finally took an ‘Ambien’ my doctor had prescribed for sleeplessness, and fell asleep.

The next morning, after bringing a bagel sandwich and coffee back to my room, I opened my laptop and brought up the astrological aspects.

Jupiter, the planet of expansion and new opportunities, had just passed over my Moon. I always told clients how Jupiter was an “ancient beneficent” in the old astrological texts, but that it has to be taken in context with the rest of the transiting aspects in the chart. This was the art of the astrologer—to be able to synthesize the whole chart.

I wasn’t so happy to see that old devil Saturn, the ancient ‘malefic’ and planet of transformative change going into my seventh house of relationships; of marriage. But it was the truth; I had ‘saturnized’ my relationship with Alistair; seeing him in a negative light, and now it remained to be seen how we would play it out. I was going to have to be mindful of my projections. Did he abandon me or was I leaving him? It seemed like he had left me years ago, and I had just now become aware of it.

Closing my eyes, it all sank in and took only a minute before I knew what to do. I had to get on with the immediate job of my life and find an apartment. ‘Saturn’ calls one to action and restructuring one’s life, I reminded myself. How many times had I told others this?

Fumbling in my bag, I found the number of the realtor I had circled on a piece of paper. I called, and she told me to be there in an hour.

Down on the street again it felt good to join the multitudes and the mass of humanity bustling on the streets. It seemed hard to be really lonely in the city; guess that why I love them so much.

Thames Street was crowded, and it had the feeling of a city within a city. Here the sidewalks were full of people chatting happily on their cell phones and walking their dogs---but they looked me in the eye when I looked at them. I wondered if they could feel my fear….

I turned left nearing the side street with the old Swiss-German house as I had an extra fifteen minutes before my appointment. The guidebook called this historic area between the downtown and the ocean “the hill.” I loved walking on the brick sidewalks, and I walked up to the top, yet I knew if I wasn’t careful I could trip on the uneven pavement. I had on the wrong kind of shoes on for this kind of walking, and it was dangerous with my head in the clouds as well. Better be careful: ‘pride cometh before a fall” I reminded myself. While pondering this, I gave my feet a rest and leaned against a wall while gazing across the street. There was a “For Rent” sign up in a paned window of a small shop—or was it an office?

I hobbled over and looked in. The room was very small, perhaps only big enough for a desk and a couple of chairs, but the ceiling was high and the walls were a combination of wood and my favorite color: a soft salmon red. It had an old world charm, and best of all there was a fireplace; no not exactly a fireplace but a mantle with a black iron-cover to a fireplace that was molded into the face of a woman—or was she a Goddess? She had closed eyes and a serene expression.

How expensive could this be? How much could I afford? It felt like almost too much, too soon. But if I didn’t pay too much for an apartment couldn’t I make this my astrology office?

I took down the phone number and forgetting my sore feet hurried over to the realtor’s in a state of hope almost like falling in love. Could I really do this? Do I dare spend money so quickly—on me, on this, now?

The realtor had the key to the office on a peg board behind her and in no time she was unlocking the black door and turning the old latch. The room smelled like fireplace ashes. I loved it.

It was somewhat out of my price range, but then again I wasn’t sure what that really was. The most amazing thing was that this wasn’t only an office, but upstairs was a small studio apartment that came with it, and a tree shaded little courtyard behind it. The flagstone courtyard had a few small evergreens, and an oriental-looking stone bench and birdbath. I said yes immediately. What wasn’t perfect? The studio apartment had skylights and a small alcove with a view of the garden courtyard and a writing nook. The guilt of renting this was delicious, and lasted till the evening.

Walking back home, after signing the lease, I stopped off again and peeked in the window at the silent goddess who had blessed me with this opportunity. Then I treated myself to lunch with wine, at the Italian restaurant, and felt like I’d been transported into a romantic fantasy. I let the feeling linger…

That night I called Sophie from the hotel. Alistair had already told her about my leaving and I could hear the pain and coolness in her voice. But I assured her it was a temporary arrangement—a marriage sabbatical, and not a legal separation. She had a hard time understanding why, and I wished I had called sooner, or at least before Alistair had. I kept telling her how much I still loved Alistair but that I had to go. I didn’t want to tell her the details; I didn’t want to build a case against her father. There were long pauses.

I asked about her current boyfriend, but she was reluctant to talk about him—why couldn’t I have just stayed in town instead of moving to Newport? She asked. Was it because she was here? I assured her that I loved her, and that I knew she needed to have her own life now that she was out of college and out in the working world, and that I loved her and wouldn’t interfere, but I would come to Boston to see her for lunch each week. For lunch at least. I just wanted her to try to understand…not take sides, but just to allow us to do what we each needed to do.

“But why? Why did you leave?” Sophie didn’t get it. I told her the truth as I felt it. I told her the story again briefly—how I had gotten sick, desperately unhappy, and how her father distanced himself.

“He wasn’t there for me what I felt I was dying. He didn’t know what it felt like to be told: “you might have cancer and you’ll know by the end of the day the result of your biopsy.” He didn’t understand about anxiety attacks, and he didn’t want to be involved in “my fear.” He had never felt unsupported this way, and I had. That why I left.” And I left it at that. Sophie’s phone was beeping in with another call. “I love you” I almost yelled, as the call ended abruptly.      (c)~elizabeth spring

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The Prediction Was Coming True

"The prediction was coming true—of course, astrologers don’t like to call it a prediction, but it was a prediction nevertheless. And it was worse in this case because Isabelle herself was the astrologer; the predictor. She certainly wasn’t a fortune teller, and she certainly believed that free will could overcome any karmic challenge that might arise, but it was shocking to see how her life seemed to be dissolving in front of her.

She had to admit that it was a liability of her profession to sometimes see too much. Signs and synchronicities had a way of seeping into her psyche like water slowly rising in the basement. She didn’t use the words like good or bad, but instead she believed in “fierce grace.” Anything could be turned around, and often what felt like a terrible fate could turn into grace. Sometimes the change occurred because of what we did, sometimes it was because of what we didn’t do; our patience. At this point, all she knew was that she desperately needed some of that “fierce grace.”

Isabelle had been an astrological counselor for over twenty years, and it felt good to be on the helping side of things, to be on the “knowing” side, of this profession. How easy it had been to encourage her clients in “foul weather or fair” or suggest ideas as to how to handle the moment of crisis or opportunity. But no matter how many ways she looked at her chart now, she saw only the slipping away of certainty and the call of an unknown summons –a prediction that she could not evade or barely understand.

Isabelle liked to muse on possibility and probability. But her rambling thoughts now were a liability rather than an asset. Her hands clenched and gripped the steering wheel in an effort to keep the car from careening out of control. The windshield wipers fought fast against the icy rain, as her eyes tried to adjust to the kaleidoscopic white swirls of snow coming at her. She kept her frozen foot on the accelerator at a steady 50 MPH. She was going to make it to the city before dark; she was going to make it to Newport before she lost her courage.

Courage. People would call Isabelle when they needed to summon their courage. She loved that word, because in French it meant to “take heart” and she was good at helping others do this. She believed in the power of a generous heart and a beginners mind. But before this, she had always been on the giving end of the encouragement and the receiving end of the numbers—the birth dates, times, and credit card numbers. It had been an honor to be invited into the private lives of others, and to get paid for it.

Isabelle needed to concentrate on the road now instead of a chart. Her hands gripped the steering wheel as if the car was going to go out of control at any minute. The wipers were mesmerizing as they thrashed across the windshield and the sleet had turned to snow making it all dangerously slippery. Isabelle turned off the old “Enya” CD and turned on the car radio station. Country music, static, hard rock and roll, or the oldies station playing “Desperado”. She switched it off.

Maybe she should be thinking about a plan to defuse the energies of Saturn, Pluto and Uranus instead of just reacting. These planetary energies were striking her chart and her life with such force already. Maybe she should be coming up with a real plan, but astrologers all had different ideas about the 2012 predictions that had already started. It was hitting everyone in such a unique way, and Isabelle had no solutions this time, especially for herself. The combination of these planets aspecting her chart was like an earthquake---the rumbles had begun and she was holding on—at least to the steering wheel, at least in the moment.

It was a classic story for sure, of death, reinvention and rebirth. Pluto, Saturn, and Uranus. But if astrology was about anything, it was about trusting what she had always called “Divine Right Timing” and she hoped she had it. ~ © Elizabeth Spring

Monday, November 15, 2010

Meeting Alistair. Seeing A Chart for the First Time.

“The birth chart is like a conference table, and the planets circling around it are like the different parts of your Self sitting around the table. The Sun is the chairperson and represents your basic identity, the Moon reflects your emotional nature, the Ascendant is your style of “moving” in the world, and the Nodes are about your life direction and soul purpose. The aspect lines cris-crossing in the center of the chart connect all this—all these voices in our psyche—showing where the conversation is divided and aligned, where it’s tense and where it’s flowing…. ” (excerpt: "North Node Astrology; Rediscovering Your Life Direction and Soul Purpose")

My voice trailed off as I looked up at Alistair. I wanted to see if he understood this and if he was receiving or resisting this information. It’s easy to see most things, as our emotions are revealed on our faces more than we’d like to imagine. Most of us have no idea how transparent we are—nor do we want to admit that everything about us speaks to who we are—not just our clothes or our tone of voice, but even the way we look at each other, or don’t look, or the way the jaw muscle can be seen tightening or the twitching of the nose that can reveal almost as much as the astrological chart.

As I opened the door of my office that morning, I wasn’t thinking about this or if this client would be receptive. I was feeling my usual reluctance and nervous anticipation, and so was taken aback by Alistair’s stunning presence. Thick dark hair, pale white skin and near-black eyes framed a nearly impeccable face, hinting of some purity of heart. I knew he was thirty-five years old yet something made him look older than his years. He was coming here today for his first astrology reading, and as he extended his hand, I was impressed by the gracious formality of his handshake.

The flesh and blood reality of a client always shocks me at first, because after spending several hours analyzing their charts, I think I know them, and I don’t. Clients never seem to look as I would imagine them, and it’s humbling to be so often wrong about first impressions from the chart. And then it’s heartening to hear how courageously they’ve survived and even thrived even with the most “challenging” of birth charts. Alistair appeared to be a survivor, and had somehow learned to thrive despite living under what the ancient astrologers used to call ‘”malefic” aspects. Of course, I never use those words, malefic or auspicious, but I couldn’t help but wonder what kind of wounding this man had survived. His chart was challenging, yet his eyes were kind.

“Is this your first reading?” I asked, while motioning him into the cozy room.

“It is…and what a lovely place you have here! Is that a Goddess’s face carved into that fireplace mantel?” He stared intently at her face while I stared at his. He was tall and thin, and wore a dark navy pea-coat with the collar turned up around his neck.

“It is” I answered, while motioning him to the green rocking chair, hoping he was approving of the setting for his reading. This Victorian office had high ceilings and dark wood walls where the lights could cast shadows and allow nuances of mood. The black wrought iron fireplace was carved into with the face of the Goddess, and I hoped that the numinous face would bring the spirit of the feminine into the little consulting room. Her downward looking eyes seemed to know how to keep a secret.

“So have you been doing this long? It’s my first time—you know---I don’t even come up to this part of town much. I’m not much of a believer in anything….so I hope that’s OK, just to try—“

“Of course it’s fine! Let’s just see what we can find here that could be helpful to you.” I splayed the charts in my hand like a card deck. “I don’t predict death by execution or anything like that—but who knows what we’ll see….we’ll just read what’s here.”

I pointed to the two chairs on either side of the amber stained glass lamp. It was so quiet for a moment. I could hear the motions of the antique clock on the mantel, and I wondered if I had remembered to clear the clutter of papers off my desk. He looked instead at the bookshelf which covered one wall.

“Lovely,” he whispered, as we sat down, and I admired the pristine clarity of his English accent.

Most of us don’t like to feel too vulnerable, and though we don’t want to admit it, I think there’s a mutual resonance that happens when we like or dislike another person or situation, it’s almost instantaneous. We want to feel more in control as we pretend to ourselves that our words, explanations, and sometimes false optimism can present things differently. Yet I could see that Alistair was not only allowing himself to have a reading, but he was willing to “let me in” as well. He listened to my words without interrupting.

Alistair’s chart echoed his personal manner: a warm, skeptical and private sort of man. He had his Venus in the private and intense sign of Scorpio, but that was softened by his dreamy Pisces Moon in the 12th house of the unconscious. He had called the day before saying that he was coming to me because he liked the tiny advertisement for my services in “Newport This Week” which noted my background in psychology—specifically, the psychology of the famous Swiss psychologist Carl Jung who was noted for his work with the unconscious and synchronicity.

“You know, I can see that you take this seriously, you’re not just a—what do you call them—a ‘sun-sign’ astrologer or a sketchy fortune teller. I like that…”

I nodded, and thought: here was a gentle man who had come to yet another turning point in his life, and who simply needed a little psychic cheerleading. I knew he was a potter and shopkeeper down on the wharf. Here was someone who wanted me re-affirm for him what he already knew to be true---that his first marriage was over, but that the chance for love was still on the horizon. Of course he didn’t say that. What he did say, at the end of our session, was that he’d like to come back.

What he didn’t know about me that day was that I’m a bit of a reluctant astrologer. It’s not about believing or not believing in astrology, because astrology is a language of the soul that exists, and to say that you don’t believe in it sounds to me like saying you don’t believe in “Spanish” or “French”—it’s simply a language that conveys meaning in a very particular way. It opens conversations to personal places without blaming and shaming. I believe deeply in this language, and yet it’s like a finger pointing at the moon. It doesn’t get you there. Instead it describes the journey.

Maybe Alistair did know, but he never let on that I had hinted at that “reluctance” in my book. He didn’t let on to everything he was feeling, nor did I…but maybe we knew.

And how surprised I was that those “opportunities for love”—those astrological aspects between Venus and Jupiter—those aspects that I saw in his chart that day would be directed at me. I wouldn’t have believed it if someone told me we would be married within six months. And how shocked I would have been if someone told me the story of how sweet our love was, how lovely our daughter would be, and how challenging our marriage would be as it “raveled and unraveled” and then….but instead of me analyzing it, let me just tell you the story... ~ ©  elizabeth spring

Friday, November 12, 2010

Tomas's Chart

Dear Kendra~

Here's Tomas's chart and an ancient chart I found in an old book today...

I don't know why I included the other one...maybe it's the alchemical and mysterious nature of that one. It's bizarre, yet fascinating. The pictures for the signs are all in the wrong places, as you see the Pisces symbol of the two fish is in the "first house" at the position of nine o'clock. I don't understand the rest of it at all....

 But anyway....want to practice a little of your astrology and tell me what you can see from Tomas's chart? You'll see that his Sun sign and North Node are both in Aries....want to comment on that?

Hope you are well and enjoying your studies.....




Thursday, November 11, 2010

Tomas Re-appears: Saturn Conjunct Neptune

Private Journal~

I look at the photo of this gate and wonder how I can possibly walk through it into the next stage of my life. I wonder how transiting Saturn conjuncting my Libra Sun, Neptune and Venus now will play itself out. Melancholy and disillusionment? Or becoming a “wise old crone”? I don’t feel that old, yet they say Saturn “ages” one….Saturn conjuncting Neptune can be illusive and deceptive, either in the birth chart or by transit. It worries me….

Mother’s funeral is over and I’m glad we had the chance to heal our relationship at the last minute—the simple grace of an “I love you” said at just the right time. But in coming back here, I lost the chance to reunite with Alistair in Switzerland. Alistair and I have now been separated five years! I feel so alone. Here was our chance to see if the stirrings we felt in our hearts could lead us back together. Here was our chance to see if our hearts could triumph over our heads…if we could forgive each other, and truly find out if our story isn’t over yet. But we didn’t get the chance; I had to come back to mother.

It’s torture to feel the chance of love igniting, and then to be cut off from that chance. Instead, I’m back here at my Newport office, at my “little study” doing readings and life is seemingly going on as usual. But it isn’t. I feel like I have lost my chance, and Alistair has chosen to stay with Sophie in Zurich rather than come here to be with me. It’s understandable—he wants to spend time with his daughter who he never sees! But I’m jealous of their time together, and so lonely. It’s hard to be betwixt and between things, because my “head and heart” is so unsettled. I’m a confused Libra for sure.

But yesterday—yesterday!!! I don’t know now if it’s better or worse, but Tomas, my old mentor-rescuer-healer-friend re-appeared---unexpected. Who is he to me?? The man who saved me during the separation from Alistair? A spiritual guide? Simply my old therapist who has become a friend?

He just showed up, after five years, without even calling. He said he was just walking by my office. But I wonder if I had been on the second floor—?—instead of having an astrology office that looks like a retail shop that anyone can just walk into—I wonder if he still would have just ‘dropped by’? Maybe. He’s an Aries, and they can be impulsive and daring. Aries is learning courage and they get lots of chances to find it….life stresses them into going beyond what they think they can do. It’s admirable really; like beginner’s mind. Some people find Aries to be somewhat arrogant, but it’s an ego-arrogance that appeals to many women. The romance novel hero. Hah! Alistair’s “arrogance” was of a completely different nature.

But….I could have fallen into Tomas’ arms when I saw him outside the door here. It’s been so many years, and it was so…..what? ---soul-satisfying, I guess. We sat together for over two hours, rocking and cogitating in the green ‘rockers’ by the window and staring at the afternoon sunlight striking the leaves on the red maple tree. He was smoking his pipe as usual (I must admit to loving the smell of black cherry) and he was wearing the same black cowboy boots he used to wear, and carrying his bag of books. I brewed us a pot of Earl Gray Tea. He told me he’s into playing Irish music now, the Irish drum and tin whistle. Seeing him felt like something was coming home again. ~ ©Elizabeth Spring

Thursday, November 4, 2010

The "Alchemy of Cooking": Love is the Only Ingredient That Really Matters

Dear Isabelle~

Ah....these spices remind me of the "alchemy of cooking" and the choices I have to make as to what to include and what not to include in a recipe. But mostly,  I'm thinking about the alchemy of cooking "opposite" emotions...what happens when I heat up sad with mad? Knowing and not knowing? Surrendering and striving? What happens when I've become confused in the middle of the recipe and lost the way?

What happens when it feels like one is in the middle of a labyrinth and the path becomes obscured--the heart map gone, and the instructions unclear? I feel that way. What happens when I add mad to sad, or sad to mad, and it comes out....well, you know--not glad--!? Not good. You tell me that astrological transits pull us in opposite directions --how do we reconcile Jupiter square or opposite Saturn? How does that change with Saturn squaring or opposing Uranus? Or stirring up a bit of Saturn with Neptune?

I know you've said that I should look at each ingredient, or each planet, separately, and write down what that planet is all about, and then put the two together. Like Saturn can be limitation and "time", and Venus can be love and money. So when I put the whole list together it shows good possibilities as well as not so good~with Saturn and Venus are together, like in my chart now, then relationships can mature and can stand the test of time.  Do I have it right? When I'm lost I'm learning to ask for help. Today I felt really lost. Then I found this on a scrap of paper:

"Your vision will become clear only when you look into your heart. He who looks outside, dreams....he who looks inside, awakens."  Author: Carl Jung.

It's almost confusing, because Jung liked dreams. He liked them alot! He looked to them for hints, metaphors and even divination....but then he brought it all inside and allowed it to simmer and heat up, till just the right alchemy of the cooking "awakened" the vision.  He honored the process of waiting and holding the tension of the opposites, till the third inspiration appears....that particular "spice" that changes the chemistry of the whole stew into something new. Something special. Who knows how long it takes? Who knows just the right blend of spices?

Cooking with love is all that matters, don't you agree? Maybe the same goes for astrology....the intention must be one of love.....     (c) elizabeth spring

Monday, October 25, 2010

The Astrology Reading: Notes From An Astrologer's Journal. Part 2

I stared blankly at the chart. There was so much to say, yet the words didn't come. Silence is fine, I thought, she can see I'm contemplating the chart....but what was this internal sabotage happening within me? I Beginners mind. Do I know what I’m doing? This is so much harder than psychotherapy, I thought. I ought to be using my counseling degree, instead of doing this! I thought how much easier it is when the client does most of the talking. And, I reminded myself how crucial it is to get the ego out of the way so one can be a conduit for what needs to be said--but the words simply weren’t coming. Beginner’s mind, I thought…..beginner's mind. Use it.

My eyes circled Judith’s chart looking for a clue….then they landed on Venus. “Ahhh—look at Venus here! She’s not in the conversation at all! No aspect lines to her; she’s silent….except that she’s square to the Nodes. This is called ‘the skipped step’ in evolutionary astrology—any planet that squares the Nodes reflects something that has been skipped early in this life or in a previous one, and it’s a strong hint about what one must do now in order to stay true to one’s life course. ”

This felt important but I wasn’t sure where to go with just then. I made a mental note to come back to that solitary Venus. “And your Scorpio sun squares Uranus, the planet of unpredictability and change. Have you moved a lot in your life? That would be hard on Venus connections….”

“Eighteen times.” She began to talk of a life of broken relationships and innumerable new starts in different countries, with different jobs. There were so many endings and beginnings, no wonder she wasn’t eager to hear of yet another new beginning. What could I say that would make a difference?

“Venus…she wants to be brought into the conversation,” I insisted, while searching for the word to describe the spiritual aspect of Venus. Some old brain synapse came to the rescue: “Have you ever heard of ‘Sophia’? It’s a Greek word meaning wisdom. Originally she was the third person of the Holy Trinity. She was called ‘Hagia Sophia’ and she was seen as the feminine aspect of God. The Roman Catholics later changed her name to ‘Spiritus Sanctus’ and the feminine aspect of the Holy Spirit was lost. Sophia is the aspect of God that finds the sacred in the commonplace, and she expresses herself through beauty and love, and sometimes through synchronistic human connections.”

Judith leaned forward to take a closer look as I went on: “I suspect your Venus here is not being nourished for some reason. Venus doesn’t care about being right or having the best job or having the right answers philosophically…but she wants to bring beauty and relationship into your life. She needs a voice…..”I I breathed a sigh of relief, grateful that my beginner’s mind had somehow retrieved that insight.

Judith’s large dark eyes began filling with tears. “Last week I went to visit one of the Newport mansions here…and as I was standing in front of this exquisite tapestry someone came over and placed a huge bouquet of lilacs in front of it. The smell was so heavenly, and I suddenly found myself upset…crying. It was so unlike me, really.”

“Why was that unlike you?” I asked.

“I don’t know.”

Sounds like you were struck by beauty, by Venus” I added.

“I prefer not to be so emotional; so out of control.” She sat up straighter. “I’ve been thinking I should be more restrained and not indulge myself…my mother is a Buddhist and she lives very simply.”

I could see that I was going to have to challenge her “internalized Mother” who was represented by Judith’s Moon in Capricorn. “That may be right for her, but perhaps not for you. It sounds like Venus, or Sophia, was opening your heart with that hit of beauty you experienced with the lilacs.”

She nodded her head just slightly. “My mother always complained that I had too much stuff and clutter around me when I was young, so when I moved here I decided not to take my things out of storage and to live frugally. I thought I should keep it uncluttered. I don’t even have a window in my bedroom.”

“It sounds austere; and not a way to nourish this Venus-Sophia—it sounds like you’ve been starving yourself of simple beauty for the sake of your mother’s values; not yours…”

Judith’s eyes were close to overflowing so I handed her a Kleenex. I could see her pain, but now where could I go with this feeling and thought? We were moving beyond descriptive astrology and I wanted to give her something more tangible to help. I cared about her in a way I don’t always feel. Psychotherapists warn each other about this “transference” of feelings that can happen in a session. Jungian analysts honor these feelings, but they caution against moving away from a professional detached attitude. I’m not so good at recognizing the dangers of these feeling spaces, with my Sun conjunct the permeable and boundary-less Neptune in my chart.

Judith picked up the small celadon vase that sat on the table between us. “It’s beautiful.” She laughed softly. “So does this help? I mean having this little vase, this little bit of Venus here—does it help?”

“Good question…yes, I think it does, especially because it’s handmade and it makes me think about what I can only imagine—about the potter who made it, and how it was once clay, and how it was shaped on the potter’s wheel and went through the fire of the kiln. So many changes….and yet it’s not worse because of all its changes and imperfections.”

She lowered her eyes and was quiet again. So I just stayed in the silence with her for a moment. In fact, I didn’t know what to say at all…so I picked up the little pot again and turned it over. “Ah! The name on bottom is ‘Maya.’ Do you know that means ‘illusion’ in Sanskrit? The Hindu’s believe that this reality—even this little piece of pottery, as we know it, is an illusion or dream. They believe that what is most real is beyond appearance, and that all things have a hidden life within them. I’ve always wondered if the potter knew the meaning of the word…”

I handed Judith the vase and she began rubbing her fingers across the pale green glaze. “There’s a lot going on beneath the surface of us all. Look at all the cracks and crackles…” she added as she continued stroking the surface. Then her finger ran across a chip on the rim. “It’s chipped even.” A tear rolled down her cheek. “Yet perfect.”

Just then I could feel the energy in the room change, as if a wave of ever so subtle sacred energy had descended on us. So we just sat there for a time, looking at the little vase, finally comfortable without words. At one point I found myself staring at the framed quotation on the wall next to the fireplace which reads: “Called or not called, God is present.” This saying was carved in Latin above Carl Jung’s door, and I was once so taken by what he was implying with this, that I had it printed in English, and always made a place for it in my office whenever I moved. And here it was again.

It was obvious that our session was over. As we stood to leave I leaned over and gave her a heartfelt hug and placed the little pot in her hand. She was about to refuse my gift, but I simply shook my head ‘no’ and walked to the door. As I closed the door behind Judith I thanked ‘Sophia’ for her unexpected arrival, for I too had forgotten about the power of Venus-Sophia. And as I stood in awe of the ‘little magic’ that had just happened, I remembered that when I let go and let the spirit ‘Sophia’ speak through me, she knows, far more than I do, what needs to be said and done.

The Astrology Reading: Notes From An Astrologer's Journal

As I opened the door of my office I was struck by Judith’s stunning presence. Thick dark hair, flawless white skin and near-black eyes, framed an impeccable face hinting of sadness as well as "some purity of heart." I knew she was thirty-five years old yet something made her look older than her years. She wore an old-fashioned summer hat and pearl earrings. Judith was coming here today for her first astrological reading, and as she extended her hand, I was impressed by the gracious formality of her handshake.

The flesh and blood reality of a client always shocks me at first because after spending a few hours analyzing their charts, I think I know them, and I don’t. Clients never seem to look as I would imagine them, and it’s humbling to be so often wrong and to see how graciously they’ve survived even with what looks to be the most challenging of charts. I try to remember that what I see in the chart is partially biased by my perceptions —yet the “woundedness” in the chart always seem to leap out first—the t-squares, the South Node, the oppositions, the conjunctions of certain planets. And, I’m continually surprised by how well most people thrive despite living under what the ancient astrologers called “malefic” aspects.

Of course I never use those words--- sensitive astrologers try to avoid any judgments of good, bad, malefic or auspicious. We also don’t know how a person is choosing to live out their chart, or how they’re living out the transits that are happening now. “No transits come before their time” my teacher used to say. Astrologers are aware that certain karmic factors may have been involved with us being ‘fated’ to be born with “givens” such as gender, nationality, good or bad parenting, but the “Formula” I honor is this: fate + character = destiny. The key word is character.

Fate is simply the “givens” at birth; the time and place and zeitgeist of that time—like being born a 1950’s Ford model car, doesn’t really make you better than a sixties Chevrolet. Just different. The force and choices of character however, makes all the difference. It’s about those free will choices we make along the way that determine our destiny.

Judith’s chart had a “motivating” grand cross, and I was curious about her choices and how she was living out this challenging aspect. Squares and grand-crosses like this tend to motivate people because they can be so painful, and some of the most famous “achievers” in history have had motivating charts like this.

And so I invited Judith to sit, motioning her to sit in the soft green chair, hoping she was approving of the setting for her reading. She stared at the carved Goddess face in the black wrought iron inset in the fireplace, and I hoped that the numinous face would bring the spirit of the goddess into the room. Its downward looking eyes knew how to keep a secret.

“Lovely” she whispered, as I silently admired the pristine clarity of her English accent.

The amber stained glass lamp between us shed a warm glow in the room, as I turned the recorder on for our session. I took out the charts in my usual fashion, and was eager to tell her all the good omens of new beginnings I saw there. The “significators” were all there: Jupiter had just crossed her descendant, Saturn was just leaving the 12th house, and the progressed moon would be coming to conjunct her natal Jupiter shortly. It looked like a new beginning if I ever saw one. And so I began….

“The birth chart is like a conference table, and these planets are like the different parts of your self sitting around the table. The Sun is the chairperson and represents your basic identity, the Moon reflects your emotional nature, the Ascendant has to do with your style of negotiating in the world… and the Nodes have to do with your life direction and soul purpose. See these aspect lines in the center? They connect all this—all these voices in our psyche—these planets—and show where the conversation is challenging, flowing or avoiding…they show the alliances and tensions between different parts of yourself.”

She nodded her head as I went on: “So we see your Sun is in Scorpio, an emotional water sign. There’s a curious hunger about the Scorpio nature, and they look at the hidden side of things, such as secret motivations around sex, power and money. They want to know what the emotional bottom line is….they are gifted with a penetrating intensity and the power to heal themselves and others. Scorpio has three symbols: the scorpion, which is capable of attack as well as killing itself with its tail, the eagle, which gives perspective and vision, and the phoenix which has the power to rise from the ashes of death. Scorpio folks often have had a life of many chapters, in which there are numerous ego deaths and rebirths. Being able to let go of the past is important for them….for you….”

“Oh yes,” she sighed. “I’ve had to do that many times. I’ve had a life filled with so many chapters with radical beginnings and endings. It’s exhausting.”

“And many people with their Moon in Capricorn, as you do, can have a hard time expressing all their emotions. Scorpio and Capricorn don’t wear their hearts on their sleeves. Sometimes they’ve had childhoods with mothers that were austere, strict, or not there in some way….not always, but we see here that the assertive planet, Mars, is in Aries squaring your Moon, so we get a hint that your mother may irritate you, and that this relationship is challenging for you…especially since Mars is coming from the 4th house of home and family of origin.” I was using the “rule of three” here—to see something reflected three times in the chart before mentioning it.

Judith quickly agreed with that observation. I explained the nature of her rising sign—her persona and style in life, and the nature of the “conversation” that was going on with her trines, squares, and oppositions. Then I began hinting at what might have been the emotional climate for her during the last two years while Saturn was transiting through her 12th house of the unconscious—what I call the “house that Carl Jung built.”

“For many people it’s a time of soul-searching and inner questioning; a time for reviewing one’s life, and listening to dreams and synchronicities. For many people it can be a lonely passage, because our culture is more outer directed. It’s a good time for inner reflection and for doing creative things such as painting, poetry, journaling, collage, music—anything that can help you see yourself reflected in what you create, or see yourself as a channel for allowing spirit to enter.”

I waited for a response, but she just looked blankly at the chart. Her Sun was conjunct Neptune, which sometimes reflects a spiritual, ethereal nature or a love of music, so I ventured---“Do you listen to music very much? Has it been a help?” It was interesting for me that I found it hard to tolerate her silence.

“Well yes. It has been a lonely time these past couple of years. I’ve been brooding over the mistakes I’ve made in my life.” She leaned back and stared at the ceiling. She was being polite, but not completely forthcoming about what was really on her mind. Obviously I hadn’t touched on it yet. I could see that she was going to be a bit private till I hit upon something that truly resonated with her. Not unusual for Scorpios to be a bit private, and very “British” as well.

I pulled my thoughts back to the charts and went on: “Saturn often drags up old memories and fears that we thought we’d put to rest a long time ago. It’s been sweeping through your unconscious, churning things up for the past couple of years….I think of transiting Saturn here as the “Graduate School of the Soul” and the good news is that you’re about to graduate! A new beginning….”

“So I’m graduating…” A slow smile began emerging. So what do you see for me spiritually? I mean….I’ve been reading all these books because I’ve been feeling so miserable, trying to meditate, but that’s not working too well. I spend a lot of time taking long walks alone…”

“Everything you’ve said is just right for Saturn going through the 12th house of the unconscious, but now it’s time to start, ever so slowly, coming out of seclusion and into the world more…! Ah…. look here, do you know what this glyph means? I pointed to the symbol of her North Node. This Node describes the direction your Soul wants to grow towards—it’s good soul medicine—and it’s in Gemini.”

She frowned. “But isn’t Gemini disorganized and superficial…and talks too much?”

I laughed and went on: “Gemini is the communicator. And every sign has a negative side that it can operate from, but Gemini is summoned to talk, or write, or teach or somehow communicate with the world. And it has an insatiable curiosity that packs more into one lifetime than most of us ever will. Gemini’s are willing to throw themself into the chaos of life to make order out of that chaos. Their openness allows them to experience such a variety of things, and it’s only from our point of view that it looks out of control at times. Gemini is called to fully experience life— in the valleys and cities and marketplaces of life, rather than in retreat on any “spiritual mountaintop”.

I could see that Judith was with me now. “With a Sagittarius South Node you may have had “blinders” on in a previous life-- if you believe in re-incarnation-- blinders that kept you focused on what you believed. Now your beliefs are getting bigger and being tested by life. You’re opening to a wider perspective. As your South Node in Sagittarius implies, you’ve seen the larger perspective on life--the view from the mountaintop, but you’ve had these blinders on too—now, you’re learning to live with the relativity of things in the everyday world. Not simple anymore.”

Silence. There was so much information in front of me on the chart I felt overwhelmed. It’s so hard, and such an art to try to synthesize the birth chart with the transiting planets and to put it all into words something that will be helpful—suddenly I felt overwhelmed and unfocused.

I stared blankly at the chart. There was so much to say, yet the words didn't come. Silence is fine, I thought, she can see I'm contemplating the chart....but what was this internal sabotage happening within me? I Beginners mind. Do I know what I’m doing? This is so much harder than psychotherapy, I thought. I ought to be using my counseling degree, instead of doing this. It’s so much easier when the client does most of the talking! I reminded myself how crucial it is to get the ego out of the way so one can be a conduit for what needs to be said. But the words simply weren’t coming. Beginner’s mind, I thought…..beginner's mind. Use it.

(continued in next post )

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Simple Grace

Private Journal~

The air smelled warm and chemically sweet in the nursing home. I pressed “two” as the elevator slowly rose to the second floor. The door opened, and I walked across the dining area looking for Mom. She wasn’t there. The other patients were slowly eating though many had their heads drooped over as if they were asleep. Hardly anyone talked. The lights on the Christmas wreath on the far wall twinkled in the somnolent dreamscape.

The door was open to her room, but the curtains were drawn around the bed. Could she have died? The hall was so quiet, maybe no one had noticed. Pulling the curtain open I saw that her eyes were closed, her jaw was open and breathing weak. I sat down next to her, took her hand in mine, and began to pray to God to release this Soul, if this was for the highest good of all.

“Isabelle?” She stirred and opened her eyes. “It’s you?” I could hear how hard it was for her to talk.

“Yes, Mom, it’s me.”

Her lips pursed, as if to say more, but we were interrupted by a nurse checking her vital signs. I was asked to wait outside.

I walked back towards the dining room and collapsed into a chair. Staring blankly across the room at a simple crèche of Mary and Jesus in the stable I saw the naïve tackiness of the plastic figures. But it didn’t strike me as naïve or cheap this time; instead I remembered how Mom had put real straw in the manger of her plastic crèche, and I remembered the time she devoted each year to setting up the Christmas village under the tree. We both loved the miniature scene that transported one back to a simpler time and place. There was always snow, the girl always had an ice mirror to skate on, and the warm lights of the church were welcoming.

Simple grace. I thought of the simple grace and perfect faith I had felt on the day of my first communion. Dressed in white, like the little bride of Jesus, I wondered if I would feel a tingling as the body of Jesus, in the form of a simple wafer, was placed in my mouth. As I grew older I lost the peace that came with such simplicity and embodied faith, but in its place came a trust in the cycles and the process of life, leading again, to a vaguer but still simple “goodness/Godness”. Astrology had given me that, yet what would happen if all the astrological signs were present for this great transition, and nothing happened? Would I lose my faith in astrology? Would I lose faith in synchronicity and the mysterious correspondence that existed between the chart and life events? Would I even lose faith in this Goodness, this God?

I was too tired to think anymore. Seems as if I’m forever attempting to read the mind of God. And God’s mind is ultimately unknowable, yet ‘learning lessons of compassion’ would sometimes feel like an excusable reason when life felt unfair and the transits were hard. But now, all I could do was to let my head fall on the table in front of me like some of the other residents of the home. My energy was spent….this must be what it’s like to die here, I mused.

And for the first time, tears began to flow into my lap. They came in a flow of gentle drops….till I felt cleansed and empty. I must have fallen into a light sleep, as I seemed to drift back to my sanctuary room, and staring at the astrology charts I imagined the signs had changed once more….but, like in a bad dream when you’re called upon to know something you don’t know, I felt ashamed. Here I was, unable to read what was the charts. I couldn’t remember if it was an ending or a beginning, or whose it was.

I awoke by the soft touch of a nurse’s hand on my shoulder. “You can go in now, dear.”

I sat down next to the bed again, and took her cool hand in mine. Her eyes opened again and she whispered: “I love you…..”

I waited for the rest of the sentence. But there wasn’t any more. I was shocked. “I love you too, Mom.” Then she closed her eyes as if to close our session, and I walked away. When I got to the elevator I panicked, and ran down the steps instead. This was one of the very few times she had ever said “I love you” when it wasn’t followed by a “but…” I had been graced.

Early the next morning she died. Jupiter was quickly approaching my Sun, and my grief began lifting like the morning mist, being ‘over-lightened’ by this mutual act of simple grace.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Astrological Signs of Death

artwork: Susan Boulet

Dear Kendra~

It was good to hear from you and to hear you are well. I simply haven’t been able to write till now, but here I sit, staring at the computer screen back in my astrology “office” in Newport, R.I. I left Sophie and Alistair to come back to care for my mother in the nursing home. Her stroke was massive, and the astrology charts are blatant in their verdict. All the signs are there: the subtle and foreboding omens of a mind and body slipping away. I feel exhausted in dealing with a problem that has only one solution—death. This is the final act in a long and tortured relationship that has been bandaged, but not healed. But no matter how much one may know in one’s mind that the end is near, and try to put it all in perspective, the reality is always a shock. And I can feel my grief…

This morning when I went to the nursing home, my mother was scared and wanted to talk about dying. I told her how I had heard that dying is sometimes compared to slipping out of an old shoe that was too tight. She seemed to like that. The nurse came by with some pumpkin pie and I fed us both, spoonful by spoonful, and there was something about feeding her this way that felt healing. Then I rubbed her feet for a few moments before I left and went back to my “sanctuary.” It was hard to leave, but yet I couldn’t seem to stay longer today…

Kendra, did I ever tell you about where I work? Sometimes I think of it as a sanctuary—it’s a small room with high ceilings and dark wood walls. It has a small fireplace, two comfortable olive green chairs facing each other with a large amber stained glass light between them. There’s a Victorian writing desk on the side—it’s made from a deep grained oak and has several drawers and secret nooks. It’s called a Larkin desk, and was traditionally bought with coupons by Victorian ladies who bought enough Larkin Soap! On the desk I keep a fountain pen, a leather journal, and an ink-stained blotter that I found in Florence once. The amber lamp casts a soft glow across the writing table, and I love the spare moments when I actually use my old pen and journal. There’s a bookcase next to the desk and at least a dozen journals I’ve kept through the years.

Anyway…when I sit at the desk I look out the front window to see the old Redwood library with its enormous copper beach tree. (How appropriate or strange it is that the historic library and the astrologer’s office should be right opposite each other!) When I first opened this space I wondered if the townspeople would even allow an astrologer on this well-heeled end of Bellevue Avenue. So I found an antique pendulum clock and put it in full view from the front window, hoping that the Victorian ambience would not feel threatening. So far it has worked! And for me it has created a sacred space.

The only anachronism here is the computer, but I must have it for the astrology programs. And here is what I’m staring at: Mom is 88 years old, with transiting Saturn conjunct her natal Saturn in the 12th house, and Uranus conjunct the Moon. The transiting Uranus on her Moon is the shock of this change, this stroke. The restrictive 12th house atmosphere of the nursing home and her paralysis is echoed in the 12th house placement of Saturn….and she’s having her third Saturn Return. The Saturn metaphors of transition with solitariness seem fitting. And dying is both work and letting go…ah, not easy! Everyone has a third Saturn Return around the age of 88, if they live that long—did you know that? Not all of us live to see it or live through it, but how interesting that it’s seldom talked about.

Death is usually indicated in the chart of a person who is close to the dying person—rather than the person themselves. It often marks its presence by a strong Jupiter transit in the caregiver when it’s a matter of “When will she be released? And me?” And I see that Jupiter will be aspecting my Sun within the next couple of weeks. And with her 3rd Saturn Return happening at the same time as Uranus, the planet of sudden change, aspects her Moon, her emotions—well, this is as close to a prediction of a death as I’ve ever seen. In fact, if it doesn’t happen now, I think my faith in astrology will be severely tested…we’ll see…the question is: Can we do any more healing between us? Till later my dear~Isabelle

Monday, October 18, 2010

Astrological Symbols and the Greek Inscription on Jung's Bollingen Stone

Dear Kendra~

Knowing that I’d have to leave Sophie and Zurich the next morning, we spent a few hours wandering the old city in search of the perfect “parting” gift for me to give Sophie. What I found was a little framed photograph of the “forgotten stone” carved by Carl Jung at his private sanctuary at Bollingen. It’s full of carved astrological symbols. At first, Sophie thought it was a strange little image.

“I don’t have a cross as a talisman of the astrological mysteries,” I tried to explain, “Or a symbol of my spirituality, but this stone mandala comes pretty close. It’s called the ‘forgotten stone’ because it was left at Jung’s house by mistake, by men who were delivering supplies from a quarry nearby to his home. When they remembered the large square stone they’d left, Jung refused to let them take it, saying ‘No, it has found its way here.’ And in honor of his 75th birthday he carved into the stone….”

Sophie looked at it closely, as I continued: “You see first, it’s a mandala divided into four; the number of wholeness. In the center is a little monk holding a lantern—some call it a ‘homunculus,’ which, in ancient texts, meant ‘the little man inside the brain’. And if you look closer, you’ll see that he has the astrological sign for Mercury on his robe. It looks like a pendant he’s wearing. And this is the sign of Mercury, or Hermes, who’s the one who links the outer world to the inner world. Heaven and Earth. God and man. He’s the one who communicates. Everyone has Mercury in their own astrological someone where…doing something. And if you know what sign and aspects Mercury takes in your chart, you learn a little more about yourself.”

She looked curious. “You once told me that my Mercury was in Scorpio, and that it meant I loved delving into the hidden and invisible worlds…..interesting! What do the other astrology signs and writing mean? Sophie asked, pointing to the glyphs.

“On his right side of him you’ll see the astrological signs for the Sun and Jupiter, and on the left: Venus and the Moon. These relate to what Jung called “the alchemical sacred marriage” of the male (Sol) and female (Luna). Jupiter is grace, and Venus is love. The planets across the horizontal line—just like the horizontal line on the cross hint at a receptive grace, and the vertical axis points to human pain and striving. On the top here, is Saturn, and beneath him is Mars. These ‘yang’ signs represent the struggle to live on this earth—the resistance of Saturn and the assertiveness of Mars. Together the planets in the four quadrants tell a story….and Jung believed all “the opposites in our nature”, even of good and evil were intimately related and inseparable. He even felt God and man needed each other, in a sense, to be whole.”

Sophie reached across the table and touched my hand. I felt a little unnerved, because her gesture went so far beyond anything I had said. But she simply said: “Go on….”

“…and look here at the Greek writing around the center; the translation’s under the photo: ‘Aion (time) is a child at play, gambling; a child is of the Kingship. The man who accomplishes, the homunculus, traverses the dark places of the world, like a star flashing the deep, leading the way to the Gates of the Sun and the Land of Dreams.’”

“It reminds me of Jesus saying that we must become like little children again to enter the kingdom of heaven,” Sophie added smiling.

“I agree…truly, here’s another human on a cross, and he’s trying to communicate a great mystery….through symbols.”

“I get it…but now…don’t say anything, Mom. I’m going to do a little magic on you. I’m going to pray now…see if you can feel it.”

And I did. I had no words for it.

And that’s what happened today, Kendra—! I’ll write tomorrow when I’m on the plane back to the States.

 Love, Isabelle~