One of the first concepts I learned when I began studying astrology was the idea of the twelve houses. Simply put, there is a kind of snapshot taken of the sky above and beneath the earth at the moment we are born. It contains the twelve constellations of the zodiac, the moon and the sun, and the eight remaining planets other than earth. Yes, astrologers still count Pluto; in fact, he is rather important. This snapshot becomes what is known as the natal chart, and it offers a blueprint of the energetic forces that we will carry with us throughout the remainder of our lives. It is divided into twelve different sections, with each one representing a certain area of our psyche and life experiences. Knowing a client’s exact birth time is crucial to astrologers because it informs us as to which constellation was coming up over the eastern horizon at that particular moment. This section of the sky is known as the first house, or the rising sign, and it sets the house placements for the remainder of the chart. The first house is the lens through which we interact with the world, and in the other houses we find things like our childhood experiences, our deep interpersonal relationships, our career and public selves, and our friendships, just to name a few of them. As with everything else in astrology, none of these house meanings were determined randomly, and have no origin in pop culture, but rather they were based on an ancient methodology that arose from a complex blend of the observable sky and corresponding mathematical calculations, as well as the principles of Greek philosophy and mythological stories. The natal chart can offer us insight into who we are as individuals by highlighting our strengths and challenges, and by helping us to understand why we behave and react in the ways in which we do. It is meant to be a tool of self-illumination, nothing more, and certainly nothing less.
This past week, I taught a workshop about the eight phases of the moon and how the one under which we are born tends to give us a particular perspective on life. It’s one of my favorite astrological sub-categories because while many people are aware that their moon is in a certain sign, they don’t realize that the phase is just as important. It’s a lot of fun to witness the moment when the lightbulb turns on. In addition to covering the topic of natal moon phases, I also talked about how the moon in the sky continues its journey every month, changing phases every three to four days and infusing each time period with its corresponding energy. Under this scenario, we’re given the opportunity to interact with each phase every month, setting intentions, working towards realizing them, and eventually releasing what didn’t serve us. Our focus changes monthly depending on the signs where the new and full moons are occurring, and especially how those signs are placed in our natal charts, with all of that being beyond the scope of this post, despite the fact that I could talk about these ideas forever. What I noticed most of all during my workshop was the number of times I referenced the opposing concepts of light and darkness as related to the moon, and the ways in which they differ in terms of energy and expression. What it reminded me of, in particular, was the Italian term chiaroscuro, which literally means light-dark and refers to the use of shading to create three-dimensional volume in a drawing or a painting. Developed by artists like Leonardo da Vinci and Caravaggio, this technique emphasizes increasing or decreasing brightness levels instead of using different colors.
When I nine or ten years old, my parents gave me my first big bike as a birthday present, a blue Schwinn that I loved beyond measure. My father wheeled it out of the garage with a huge bow on it, and I immediately jumped on and took off down the street, despite the fact that I was supposed to be blowing out the candles on my cake. I also didn’t bother to let my dad check on a few safety things first, like whether or not I could actually reach the pedals. “I’m just trying it out!” I called, as I disappeared. When I didn’t return after five or ten minutes, my cousins launched a search and rescue. They found me in a heap, covered in an alarming number of scrapes, technically termed abrasions, but more appropriately called strawberries. Needless to say, I had no desire to attempt another ride, so we wheeled the bike back up the street where my dad was waiting to administer first aid. This was always his responsibility. My mom was what is known as a hemophobe, or a person who is terrified of the sight of blood. When injuries happened, she tended to go hide in the bathroom. The first line treatment for strawberries back in the 1960s and 70s was the orange horror known as mercurochrome, which was banned in 1998 due to fears of mercury poisoning. Before we knew anything about that, however, we wore our orange stained scrapes like badges of honor. In the days after my bike tumble, I can remember studying those strawberries every day and waiting for them to go from oozy and worrisome to scabby and then good as new. As they healed, so did I. My confidence in riding my bike returned, and before long I was drawing my maps of the neighborhood, tucking them into the little pouch behind the seat, and taking off on my many adventures, often very much on my own.
We are all familiar with the idea of reprising a television series or a movie. Some of these do-overs can be fantastic, hitting all the right notes, while others can be absolutely abysmal, threatening to ruin our memory of the original we enjoyed so much. I confess that I’ve spent some time recently binge watching And Just Like That, the largely popular reboot of the wildly successful HBO series Sex and the City. I did not expect to be wowed, but I most certainly was. Because there is such a wide range of quality when it comes to TV and film reprises, l think we’ve all come to approach them with a fair amount of caution. This led me to wonder what is it exactly that makes for a successful do-over? Why does one work, while another fails so miserably? In terms of And Just Like That, the answer has a lot to do with the fact that the new series captures the feeling of the original perfectly, yet moves the storyline in new directions that are completely unexpected. These shifts allow us to accept that the characters are on new journeys, and any new additions to the cast have become both comfortable and complementary. Even the absence of the beloved Samantha has been handled deftly, and in such a way that makes us feel as though she is still present, yet changed. Because And Just Like That bathes us in so much familiarity while making it clear that this is 2023, and not 1998, it made me think of the times that we try to reprise something in our own lives that comes from a certain time period or place. I wondered if there were any parallels that could be drawn between our own do-overs and Hollywood reboots. Does the same formula for success apply?
I’ve been giving a lot of thought recently to the idea of staying within or moving beyond our comfort zones. By definition, a zone is an area that is delineated by fairly hard edges. In some cases these boundaries do not move at all, while in others they may vary under certain circumstances. Plant hardiness zones are definitely shifting north, for example, and a zone defense in basketball might need to collapse onto one player if he or she happens to break through it. Time zones, on the other hand, have remained rather constant, with the exception of the ongoing debate about daylight savings, but that has very little to do with the zone itself. I think we could say with a high level of certainty that comfort zones tend to shift as we get older, or if we experience some kind of a trauma, with both of these being something we might be willing to work beyond. When I was young, I loved roller coasters; the bigger the better as far as I was concerned, especially if it was one of those wooden ones. Now, they terrify me. At one time I loved to fly, but I had a bad experience on a plane after talking off in a thunderstorm. Needless to say, I am now an apprehensive flyer. Yet I have, on occasion, pushed against these self-set limits in order to experience the momentary thrill of a really good roller coaster or the extended exhilaration that comes from traveling somewhere amazing. In both instances, I have been willing to stretch the edges of my comfort zone.