Monday, February 28, 2011

Private Papers of a Reluctant Astrologer

  “Why do you call these “Private Papers”? Peter asked while clutching my manuscript to his chest. I had just left the sun room, leaving scattered chapters of my book splayed out on the coffee table. I took the papers out of his hand, and sat down with our wine glasses.

They’re not so private when I’m going to publish it, eh?”

“These "Private Papers" of yours--is it a novel, memoir or--an astrology book? I mean, I'm a little confused--"

“--of course you would be, since it has elements of all--how much have you read?” I pretended a nonchalance I didn’t feel. I wanted him to give me a good first reading, yet looking at him there with my papers and his editorial pen in hand made me feel annoyed, and vulnerable. I better get over that attitude I thought. I handed the papers back to him, and got cozy at the other end of the couch. “Do you like it?” I asked, as I took a long sip of wine.

“I read just enough to get the jist of it— yes, it feels private, as if you were speaking personally to a friend. I like that.” He twirled his wineglass like he was peering through a crystal ball and pursed his lips. So now Peter might end up knowing more than he wanted to know. Peter tended to be a private person, but in reading this he would be forced to see the world from my perspective. Yet that was something I admired about him. He could allow himself to see things from different points of view.

I don’t need to be defensive I thought, but I still went on: “It’s more about different kinds of love--love within families as well as romantic love…and between people we idealize, and the difference between love that endures—and love that doesn’t.”

“And about you being a ‘reluctant’ astrologer?” he asked. “And a former divorced woman?”

“Yes, although I’m not that anymore.” I took another sip of wine and felt such gratitude for having him in my life now, and for having finished the book. And in the writing of it, I had moved beyond my secrets, beyond my reluctance."

“So it’s more than an astrology book—it’s a love story---” He asked again.

“Yes, with an unusual ending. Have you read that much of it yet?” I laughed.

“Well, I’ve only read the beginning of it. I was just wondering if I’m going to find some of this too personal. Me being the Virgo man with the Pisces moon and all that—is this supposed to be a memoir or—

“Fiction. It’s fiction, Peter, mostly. For some readers they’d say it’s about love and astrology, and moving beyond doubt…yes, the overcoming of doubt and skepticism. There is astrology there too—techniques of how to understand the chart in those email letters when I was mentoring Kendra.”

“So does this book fall into the spiritual “inspiration” category?” Peter put his pen in his mouth like a dangling cigarette. He had been such a “skeptic and non-believer” for most of our lives, especially anything that had the whiff of organized religion to it. We had many talks about the difference between spirituality and religion over the years.

“No, it’s not about converting to any belief—it just uses some astrology—I mean, that is what Isabelle is! She’s an astrologer, so the reader has to be open to that. Doesn’t matter if you believe in it or not—the reader just needs to be open to learning a bit of a new language and to move beyond the superficial sun sign astrology.”

“Okay, you don’t need to defend yourself. ”

“—I know. But…are you worrying that I said too much about you?”

He didn’t say anything, but I could see his face softening. It was only a few years ago he would have been closed down to me, to astrology, to too much disclosing about anything. Privacy mattered. Now I was breaking all that with these “Private Papers.”

“You just read the beginning of the story, didn’t you?” I grinned. “Give it a chance. It really is a love story—and it’s not just about us—its more about looking at what love is…and isn’t. You only sound like a “bad guy” somewhere in the beginning…really, you get much better!” I rolled my eyes in jest.

“And you only sound like a neurotic fortune teller for part of it, right?” Touch√©. He was playing with me now. “But, Isabelle, I still want to know, is this supposed to be a book for astrologers or learning how to love—or us? Because I want to know what’s true here and what isn’t.”

“That’s the essential question here, isn’t it? So what did you think, from what you’ve read so far?”

“Something sounds right. The truth? I don’t know, it’s not the literal truth, so far. It sounds more like emotional truth rather than what actually happened. There’s not so much astrology here that I got put off by it. I liked the part about us visiting Carl Jung’s house and your little studio on Beacon Hill and you and Sophie in the sacred sites in England. And…..” He stopped and put down his wine glass. “But it didn’t happen exactly like that, it was a rough road at times.”

“I know. Do you mind that I wrote it?” He looked up and gently smiled at me while nodding his head no.

“I’ve come to trust you.” It was true, we had somehow learned to trust the process of our life together again. And I had learned to trust the process of writing even when I didn’t understand what was happening. It was a trust I didn’t have before the book was finished.

He leaned back into the cushions. “But I think the question is: who is going to read this anyway? I hate to see you wasting your time. People who like romances will only like parts of it, and people who think they don’t like astrology will shy away, and people who want the memoir of a famous astrologer won’t read it.”

“So you’re wondering who is going to read it? So that’s the question isn’t it?” I said, gazing out the window, my eyes strained and unfocused from yet another long day at the computer. It was a fear of mine as well. I looked down at my wrinkled hands. Why did my hands look so old? “Well, you read it! You weren’t a believer, and you didn’t care--”

“—but I do love you and I am reading it.” Peter took a long sip of wine and put his glass down. Then he reached his hand over to me. “You did a good job, really. You were a reluctant one…me too, I was one of them, and you were even a reluctant writer. I guess you could say I’m one of the others now, I’m your reader. No reluctance.” He squeezed my hand, and I hadn’t realized till then how cold my hands had been.

I took Peter’s other hand in mine, and thought how much more “we” mattered to me than this writing. But still I cared about the story. Was I getting ready to die? Was that what all this introspection was about? Or was it simply that I believed too, that the “unexamined life wasn’t worth living?

I looked past Peter to the framed calligraphy on the wall behind him and let out a long sigh. It was a quote by the writer George Eliot, and said: “It is never too late to be who you might have been.” Was I sighing from acceptance or relief? I didn’t know, and perhaps it didn’t really matter. Beneath this quote was another inscription by Thoreau, written a little smaller:

“We are constantly invited to be who we really are.” This was good: I was pleased we are accepting this “constant invitation”. And we would see where it led….
(c)Elizabeth Spring

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Astrology Readings

I'm back!--and doing a limited number of astrology readings again- on Wednesday and Saturday mornings/noon EST. Contact me through and put "Reading" in the subject line so I don't miss your email.

Readings are 90 minutes long, and focus on the meaning of your Nodes as well as your "astrological forecast", through transits and progressions, for the next year ahead. Relationship, career, and timing issues are discussed. Cost: $150

I ask that you email me a letter first, that includes your birth day, time and place, some information about who you are and what's happening with you now (if you like), as well as the best appointment time for you--a Wednesday or Saturday. I can usually do a reading within a week or so....

Include your phone number, and I will begin working on your chart at the same time as I process your card--in the past, most people have included that information within the email letter, but we may also do that by phone.

More details on astrology readings are on the bottom of the first page on website:

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

There are No Atheists in Foxholes

“Hell is hot, isn’t it?” I shouted to Peter while hurrying through the Paris airport. I thought how hell happens in the “in-between times”: the times when you don’t know if you will make it or not—those times between the biopsy and the result, between the labor and the birth, between the knowing whether you are loved or not. We were in-between planes, and yet I had been looking forward to the flight back to the States with Peter. We were in the in-between time of knowing if we could love again or not, and I felt in my bones that by the end of this flight we would know. We would have a chance to talk, and after 5 years of divorce, of silence, who knows? We might have changed just enough to bridge the in-between.

I glanced again at our tickets as we walked down the aisle: “Isabelle Bailey: seat 15 E Peter Cocroft 15 F.” He had the window seat, I had the aisle. We were the last to board the plane with only 5 minutes before take-off. Thank God the air-conditioning would be on soon.

I pulled out my laptop and opened it to my chart for today, July 21st. Transiting Mars opposing my Venus; Mercury squaring Uranus at this very hour. Hm…it didn’t look the way I wanted it to look. As astrologers say, it’s not “auspicious” for flying when Mercury, Uranus and Mars aren’t in harmony. And I knew that Pluto, god of the underworld, was squaring off to my Libra Sun—my basic identity. Sigh. I closed the screen with a snap, shut my eyes and listened as the engines struggled to turn over. The overhead light bleeped on and off.

Peter pulled out a book to read. I snuck a look at the title: “Truth is a Pathless Land; Krishnamurti.” So he was still into that stuff; the “be awake and aware philosophy” that I wasn’t so sure of—it paradoxically smacked of both atheism and spiritual pride. I don’t know, I guess there was goodness there too, but it felt cold. I wasn’t going to dwell on that now or even mention our differences. I closed my eyes and waited. It was 15 minutes past take off time and I listened to hear the reassuring sound of the engines starting up . Could they have overheated on the tarmac?

I caught the steward passing by. “Is there any chance of getting the air turned on?” I asked, in my most pleasant, but transparent voice.

“I’m sure as soon as soon as the captain can do it, he will.” If the steward was a dog, he would have bitten me, or at least snapped.

Peter waved his hand as if to quiet me, to get me to calm down. He closed his book and his eyes. I tried not to see that as being dismissive, knowing that Peter was not always aware of how he affected others. He meant no harm. I stared at the curling gray wisps of hair on his forehead and saw again that face with the same serene kind look I had always loved. And then I looked away—what would he have thought if he saw me staring at him now—a woman with sweat running down her face in rivulets, smearing her eye make-up into dark raccoon eyes. I wondered if he could still see the wide eyed yearning in my eyes, the woman he had once married. But he didn’t look. The eyes of this menopausal woman were the same, though the blonde hair was now short and cropped rather than long and loose.

I looked instead at my hands and stared at the finger where my wedding band had been. I had left the finger bare, but had bought myself an onyx ring for the other hand; a ring that recognized my new commitment to myself. I was trying to take good care of myself these days.

I looked down at my computer, and put it under the seat. Even it was making me hot.

Peter’s eyes remained closed. It was a bit annoying, really—he could at least ask me how I was feeling. “So Peter,” I finally whispered, “What do you think? I mean, is this plane going to take off?” I wanted to say more, but this was at least a start. He opened his eyes as if he was coming out of a deep trance. I couldn’t help but think how people with a lot of Neptune-Pisces energy in their birth chart seem to be able to block out this world and retreat to another planet. He was one of those, but I was not going to sit here alone in silence.

“What?” he asked. He knew I was disturbing his attempt to escape and that I did it anyway. The attendant interrupted us: “We’re being delayed, the pilot has suggested we offer you complimentary snacks or beverages, as we may be stalled for a while longer.”

“For how long?” I asked.

“Oh not long, I’m sure.” The attendant smiled, shrugged and lifted his eyebrows wickedly. I was sure he was gay, and wondered if he felt powerful seeing certain people like me squirm. I shouldn’t make sweeping judgments like that, as I hated people making judgments of me as an astrologer.

“I’ll have a white wine with ice, and what about you Peter?” He shook his head no, and pulled out an eye pillow and put it across his eyes.

I touched his arm. “Peter….” Let’s be present for each other now. Let’s make the best of it.”

He nodded his head yes, but said nothing. He didn’t take off his eye patch. “You know,” I continued, “you could take a lay-over in Boston for a few days before going back to San Francisco…we could spend some time together.”

He sighed. His hand reached over for mine and tapped mine as if to calm me down. Then he refolded his hands on his lap. He had no rings on his hands but they were more wrinkled than I remembered.

I sipped my wine. We were now seriously delayed. I could feel the mood in the cabin and it wasn’t good. People began talking more, but not us. Another ten minutes passed. I finished my wine. Peter’s forehead was dripping with sweat.


“What? What do you need?”

“I don’t know…. to talk?” I paused. It was hard to make small talk in hell. “Do you believe in love still?”

“I don’t know Isabelle. What does it say there in the chart?

I gritted my jaw. “About love? About us? The plane?” “I thought you didn’t believe in astrology, so why are you asking me about it now? Is that sarcasm or do you really want to know?” I tried to take a deep breath. “I’ll tell you-- things don’t look so good right now.”

He didn’t say anything. Perhaps he was pondering the questions. I ventured a solution: “If you wouldn’t label me and my work, and put me in a box of sorts …..if you chose to see me as not knowing all the answers, or trying to control…well, we could have a chance. I’m simply trying to survive…and trying to reach you, Peter. I’m sorry, maybe I’ve done it poorly.”

“I know, Isabelle, I know….” The engines started up again and then stalled with an irritating whine. Their noise made it almost impossible to talk.

I raised my voice. “Do you still believe in God? I asked. “I mean, despite all the rational reasons to the contrary, do you believe that God—that love--can still survive in this world—I mean, do you believe that we could be together? That you and I could have a second chance?”

The engines let out a terrible noise. Peter grabbed my hand. He looked suddenly terrified and I could see he was barely breathing. The sweat poured down his face. I brought his hand up to my cheek and moved his fingers across my lips.

“Oh my god, Isabelle….there aren’t any atheists in foxholes.”

Then he leaned over towards me and looked at me as if for the first time. His other hand reached for mine. Sometimes Peter wasn’t good with words, but I knew in that moment, he was willing to give us a try again. The dangers around us were deep.

But it wasn’t his voice I heard just then, instead it was the intercom: “Please leave the airplane immediately; do not bother to take your overhead luggage..we will get it to you. Exit immediately to the front of the plane. Attendants will be here; do not delay; when you are de-planed we will reroute each of you to other planes that will take you to your final destination point. The attendants will make sure that all families traveling together will stay together on route to your destination.”

Nobody panicked, but to say we walked out quickly was too mild. We moved in a hot steaming roll, and Peter was shuffled off to one small plane and me to another. We weren’t a family, and so Peter Cocroft and Isabelle Bailey were each going home separately. The old craft was overheated and dangerous, but who knew the future? I certainly didn’t know, but I felt hope as I pondered all the possible ways that Pluto, Venus and Mars might play out in my life now. Maybe even Uranus could be kind. ~

~elizabeth spring