Today I celebrate my 50th Solar Return – the day when the sun returns to the same astrological degree and minute as the moment of my birth. This is distinct from the calendar date of my birth.

Last month I synchronistically reconnected with a most beloved friend and colleague who is an astrologer that practices Astro*Carto*Graphy. In the late 1980s I was his editor for a monthly column called “Earth Harvest” in the print journal Welcome to Planet Earth. The process of creating that body of work was some of the most vivid and enlivening time of my life.

Out of the blue in April we were reconnected after a lapse of almost 8 years and, surprise, he just happened to have another writing project in the works, this time a book collaboration with another astrologer on the interaction between Astro*Carto*Graphy and the esoteric YOD pattern. I am thrilled to be in this world again, but working with Wayne always presents a challenge beyond the words we do together.

I whine to Wayne about my “Life” and “Work” and all he does is remind me, like my father often did, that I have choices. Choices not just about what I do, but how I do it, and the perspective I take. And then he takes it a step further and reminds me that within my life I have a mathematically powered framework in motion and that this framework has certain activation points – moments in time when I can choose to push, or push back.

My Solar Return is one of those times.

Wayne suggested that I use the moment of my Solar Return to set the framework for my next cycle. And so he set me to an impossible task. What do I want for this next cycle? What have I ever wanted in life that I stood up and said “I want this!”? How do I define and frame that which I cannot, have never been able to, acknowledge?

Ah, the astrologer says, and points at the problem:
You have your natal Sun, signature of the lifeforce in you, constrained by square with Pluto – that archetypal signature of ‘complete transformation’. Translation – what you create with your lifeforce has a great potential to effect transformation in all those it reaches – for good or ill. My observation over the years is that you have a tough demeanor protecting tremendous compassion and vulnerability. You were always very careful when it comes to your own self expression. That’s not to say you weren’t brave. You were. You were easily exposed.

Well, what the hell am I supposed to do about that? It’s not like I can move a planet. No, but planets move on their own and re-relate themselves, and with Astro*Carto*Graphy, different places present different faces. Wayne points me to:
[T]he New England states of eastern Pennsylvania, eastern New York, New Hampshire, Vermont, and western Maine. In all of these states you get Taurus Ascendants with your Sun (creative expression) in the 1st House of action, assertion, courage, identity, image, your face to the world. You can submit work to places based in these states. You can use resources from these states. You can form alliances with people born in these states. You can visit and find out for yourself. Even Montreal, Canada looks good.

But what about old Pluto, I ask, and he continues:
Pluto still squares to the Sun in this position but a look at Saturn (now in the first degree of Virgo) and Pluto, now in the first degree of Capricorn) points to an approaching season of mitigation to your Sun that will last a decade.

A decade! Now we’re back to the framing problem. What is it that I want?

Sunday was not a good day for me. It started on Saturday with a fateful viewing of Under the Tuscan Sun with my sister-in-law. She’s getting ready for a trip to Italy with her Catholic Young Workers group and someone suggested the movie. I was transported by the beauty and the green and the clean. Intelligent people talking about interesting things beyond the price of tortillas and where to buy good chicharron (fried pig skins). I took Eurail from Paris to Rome in March 1988 and have wanted to return to the Italian Alps ever since a brief stop at a border town for immigration to pass through showed me quaint streets, charming architecture, and handsome men. That flame was fanned anew by the addition of the Tuscan countryside to my imagination.

Then Sunday came and we took the mothers and daughters of the family to our favorite quaint little Mexican town – Tepozotlan. It’s famous for its church, but we go for the artisans on the plaza and the lime ice. When Miguel and I go alone, I make him take the highway. It’s a quick 20-30 minutes transport to enjoyable surroundings. Almost as good as snapping your fingers or wiggling your nose. Unfortunately, Miguel’s mother doesn’t like the highway, so we take the back roads. After two hours in Tuscany, what is usually just scenery becomes an interminable hour of traffic, road bumps, garbage, wrought iron fences enclosing more garbage, and hillsides so dry you expect spontaneous combustion.

On the plaza I arrive at an unusual vendor’s table. No chotch. No carved cactus. No huichol beadwork. No miniature pottery fountains. No Oaxacan cotton dresses. Small watercolors, signed by a very not-Mexican name, something Scandanavian with two dots over the O. I look up and see a white woman with short blonde hair. In English I ask her if this is her work and she responds to me in English. But we are both so disaccustomed to it we immediately slip into Spanish. She has a very good accent. Not a tourist. So I ask and it turns out she’s been here 30 years. Her Mexican husband died, but she stayed.

“After all this time, Germany is not mine anymore either,” Ursula says. I remember her name because of my favorite author, Ursula Le Guin. “We are not comfortable here or there,” she includes me in this “we.” She smiles slightly and nods. Knowingly.

She is right, of course, and my head spins and fills. How far do you go for love? And what kind of love? Partner love? Family love? Whose family? Love for a child? Whose child? Love of a country? Whose country? Where do you draw the line of love? If you come here because you don’t want your partner’s child to suffer his absence, like you did as a child, who are you doing it for? Her? Him? You? Your long-dead father?

If you love beauty, would you live in ugliness for your beloved? If you could create your own corner of beauty, would that be enough? If everything about the place offended your sensibilities, how long would you, could you, last? Would it be love if your partner didn’t notice your distress? Would it be love if your partner noticed, but did nothing? And if your partner acknowledged your distress but was as powerless as you, would that be enough?

And what is more important
That he be with his family?
That he be with his daughter?
Even in a place that is dirty and cruel?
Or that you live surrounded by beauty?
By peace?
In balance with the earth?

And if you rescue a starving cat,
or a ridiculous dog that adores you,
or both,
Does it make a difference?

I went to bed early and passed Monday in a funk, the pressure of framing something good from this conundrum too big for me to think about anything else.

But then this morning I arise at an unearthly early hour to prepare for that appointed moment of framing. The smell of gardenias weaves through my darkened kitchen. At my desk I notice two more blooms unfurling on my Lily of the Nile. Slipping over the edge of the pot, a long solitary stem ends in a four-leaf clover. This is the third time such a wonder has sprouted from this pot – June, December, and now May – it is becoming a regular six month cycle. It is the Divine finger pointing directly at me. Repeatedly.

“You,” it says, “what do you want?”

And I confess to myself that all I really want is to be creative and to be supported by the Universe in that endeavor. Like this abundance of flowers that now inhabits my home, I want to allow my nature to open forth from within me and express itself in beauty. So I open my mouth, state my desire to the listening sky, see that it is true, and plant that Seed.

I turn back to the clock and the appointed moment is past.