Reflections from a weekend immersion
Ok. It’s time to reflect, integrate and summarize my experiences from this accelerated weekend of astrological immersion. Let’s start from the beginning.
I wake up early with ease. My partner is having a rough 4 am start but he drives me to the airport and leaves me with a sweet kiss and kind but smoldering eyes. The security line is surprisingly long for such an early flight so I gather my courage and ask a burly, bearded man if I can cut in front of him. He gracefully lets me pass him and we chat about his work: he explores territory all over the world for mining developments and has lived for a few months in several interesting places, such as Siberia! I feel grateful for his kindness and calmness in letting me rush ahead to my flight.
Flights and customs go smoothly and soon I’ve landed in Seattle. I take a cab to the hotel but end up at the wrong hotel. The guy tells me to catch a shuttle back to the airport so I can catch a free shuttle to the correct hotel. He tells me to look for the shuttle with the giant cookie painted on the side; this is easy, I love cookies. The shuttle never comes so I take a cab with the happy knowledge that this particular cookie-loving hotel will reimburse guests for cab fare when their shuttle service fails to provide.
I arrive at the correct hotel, get my cab refund, and get my warm chocolate chip walnut cookie. So far, things are off to a good start! The room is rather luxurious with much more space than I require but I enjoy the desk and vanity and take some time to ground out and mentally prepare, hanging my clothing and freshening up.
I approach the registration desk, feeling excited and mildly awkward. People are buzzing around and it’s nearly time to begin. I get my name tag and my program and settle in for the opening talk.
A mad scientist-looking astrologer is the master of ceremonies. He cracks jokes in our delightfully nerdy language of astrology that only kindred folk can translate. We stand up to open the four directions, to ground into the above-below axis, and send out prayers and requests for guidance as the conference begins.
The opening speaker is an elderly man who is devoted to Buddhism. He has traveled the world and speaks in a voice that oddly reminds me of a most quirky character on one of my favourite television shows. His tone is rounded and drawling, deeply compassionate, decidedly queer, and emanating deeply from a place of lived truth. He talks about the rapidly increasing polarity of the times we live in and our place as astrologers in the strange mix of things. That so many people fully deny the cycles of time and the messages around us is puzzling. But extreme polarity creates space for transcendence, for the union of opposites can only emerge when the polarity becomes stretched very tautly. He calls on the crowd to use our skills and insights to stay deeply centered in the heart, in that still airy space that embraces all of experience, in order to act as loving and grounded guides along this chaotic journey. A full submission to the confusion of the times is in order, as no one knows what will become of humans and the earth so we really are in a birth gateway and only through staying really real with what is alive, with what is now and here, can we garner the strength to march forward into the dark. It’s hard for me to communicate what he really shared because so much of my response to his words was deeply felt as truth and love in my own body. He inspired trust and intrigue in me as he is a 72-year-old man with naught a wrinkle on his face. How?!
From here, I stay in the same room to hear a true elder of the field speak on finding the Lord of the Year. It’s a touch boring for me as I don’t engage in much mundane astrology but I feel a reverence for the depth and precision of scholarly effort to which this man has dedicated himself. His philosophical and metaphysical foundations are strong and I’m reminded of the many holes and gaps in my own knowledge and practice.
After picking up many usable, practical astrological techniques all afternoon, it is time for drinks, cheese, dinner, and conversation. I meet a young, outgoing woman born on the same fixed cross in the same year as myself. We become easy friends with a shared love of festival and rave culture. She is a student of one of my favourite astrologers and we end up spending much time together throughout the weekend. Eating Thai food and seeking out fresh-squeezed juice supports our brains to receive the cramming of so much information. She is frustrated with the dry, academic, indoor environment of the conference but I am at home in such a space. Several young people shared suggestions and criticisms with me in terms of the pedagogy and structure of the conference – it was a shared feeling in the collective youth consciousness and I was reminded of the depth of my own indoctrination into the authority-learner, linear teaching structures of my educational background. A clashing of old astrologers and young astrologers creates such incredibly rich, juicy fodder for growth and I’m interested to observe changes in teaching and learning methods at future conferences. I’m also inspired to integrate more interactive and experiential methods into my own teaching work.
I am happy at dinner on Friday night when a notable, intense, and highly perceptive astrologer joins me at the table. He teases me about my ‘resting bitch face’ which oddly emerges as a topic of conversation with multiple people all weekend – some people find the phrase sexist as they feel that women are conditioned to look nice and pleasing all the time. I am usually quite smiley but when I’m tired and feeling rather Saturnian, the furrowed brow nestles deeply into my face, knitting my forehead together in effortful concentration. Him and I share fixed energy and I feel a sense of ease and comfort in our conversations.
The ease of conversation overall is encouraging and people connect through sharing the basic stats of their personal birth data with one another. It’s both mysterious and delightful to feel part of this exclusive, kindly, intelligent, creative crowd. I feel a sense of belonging that I am not accustomed to, I am an equal and I am both interesting and interested. The astrologers seem to have an air of comfort in their own skin and energy bodies, and the lack of defenses and shields creates an environment where auric patterns and energies mingle and move with incredible ease. I can feel people’s water and fire emanating and mixing with my own. I return pleasing Libran smiles and absorb dark and piercing Martian eyes.
Friday night closes with a tribute to the recently passed over founder of the conference. I did not know this woman but I can clearly feel her spirit as people share stories and cry together. I’m way too tired to be surrounded by such emotional intensity, so by 9:30 pm, I take my vulnerable self to bed, dissolving into my soft and clean bed, dreaming of capsizing boats and canoes on choppy waves.
I wake up early with focus. Today will be a great day of learning. To prepare, I breathe, stretch, and send some love to my love. Though I learn so much in each lecture, much of the insights is gleaned in moments and connections with other conference-goers.
The night of the banquet is joyful. At dinner, I wrangle my way into a seat beside one of my favourite authors and astrologers. I’m too awkward to inject myself into her conversation but I think just through sitting beside her I can soak up some wisdom. People are dancing to cringe-y music on a weak sound system and us younger folk criticize the party planning abilities of the older folk. I seek a balance between judging the party and embracing it just as it is. The older women love the disco tunes and I get over myself and join people on the dance floor, as here we can really feel each other’s charts swimming and mingling. I am Lilith, erotic on the dance floor, I am Mercurial, appearing and disappearing with drinks and smokes and friends. All around people are animated, sharing tales and insights, appearing inquisitive, flirtatious, passionate, and simply happy to be reunited with fellow oddballs.
I meet a glorious astrologer, wickedly tall and lean with long, long textured hair that she sweeps as one unit over a witchy shoulder. We have met online for a reading on Skype and as I introduce myself, she peers for a long long time into my eyes. Her eyes are giant, light in colour, and compassionately embracing, she holds eye contact for a few moments longer than my comfort zone entails and I feel my cheeks heat up from being seen so deeply. I can see her recalling my chart dynamics and taking in my whole person. She is an inspiration, so gleefully and totally enraptured by the cosmic mystery. She throws her hands up in the air like a child when discussing symmetry and seasons.
To meet people who are more experienced in life and astrology than me but who have maintained such a fresh knowing that the universe is astoundingly strange yet organized, seemingly harsh but deeply purposefully and loving, is so necessary and affirming for me. I yearn for people to care about me, to find me interesting, to ask about me, and she does though I tingle with mild discomfort while engaged in such a revealing manner.
The elders of the community remain open to the changing tides of time; they look upon us younger folk with curiosity and intrigue, amazed to see conjunctions they’ve written of and theorized on long ago take form into smart, spry human bodies and minds. Us younger folk talk of healthier food and movement workshops, learning that takes place outside under the actual stars and skies. We muse with laughter as to what future generations will find to criticize about our methods.
The astrologers mingle with love and ease from what I perceive. A true sense of belonging and spaciousness arises in this brief gathering. People know they can truly be themselves here because we have all united on the premise that astrology works. We are affirmed of our own and each other’s uniqueness and purpose through the sharing of chart delineations. I am moved to a near-weepy state on multiple occasions (Venus in Cancer?) and I relish in the feeling of experiencing my true nature. I can move through the space, floating from conversation to conversation, introducing myself boldy and sharing bits of knowledge gleaned. We guess each other’s charts and placements and marvel at each other’s responses. The appreciation of uniqueness is most moving to me. The acceptance of such diverse viewpoints is incredible. People poke fun at each other’s signs, theoretical orientations, and technical decisions, but this is all done in light-hearted jabs that encourage constant learning and growth. The push-pull of Saturn and Jupiter, Ouranos and Kronos is evident. The love that weaves this web of weirdos together is very real: luscious and sweeping as the lunar tides.
The last talk of the conference offers up a totally novel and controversial re-assigning of goddesses to several of the zodiac signs. I enter it skeptically for I am Saturnian and I appreciate old, tired-and-tested systems that are coherent from the ground up, but this speaker makes such a strong case for each of her selections and her courage and confidence in her own experience seduces me. I get weepy again when she speaks of Sophia falling and descending, becoming the body of Gaia, remembering a favourite song of mine (Pressure by My Brightest Diamond) that seems to sing of this divine moment. I imagine Sophia and Christos reunited in each of our hearts and am taken back to the very first talk of the weekend: heart space is not simply a new age, slippery concept, it is a very real, very feel-able zone of experience.
On Sunday night, I leave the hotel with some reservation to attend a backyard fire at a new friend’s rented home. He is vivacious, outgoing, queer and determined plus well-versed in Hebrew philosophy and deeply connected to earthly magick. We have a strange connection as he has family roots in little old Saskatchewan. He, a woman of Russian and Siberian descent, and myself share spirited conversation. We all have prominent Leo charts and spend the first hour or so fighting over air space. After a smoke around the fire, I sink into a quieter, contained space and observe the chemistry of this pair. They are the ocean and I am a candle flame.
We share stories of ancestry and I realize that this woman and I have familial or ancestral weightiness: her Russian roots take issue with my German history; my Latvian blood has grief and fury over past deaths at the hands of the Reds. I marvel at the healing we do simply by existing in the same kitchen with love and honesty.
I keep critical thoughts contained as I embody a perfect audience for the rabbit-dragon-monkey’s need for attention and affirmation. He is bursting with insight and knowledge and I am irritated in brief moments by the lack of space for my own thoughts and words but I know it’s a morning for me to humble myself in order to open to the great gift of strikingly fresh teachings he offers so freely and passionately. We ground the astrology chart into real, physical life. The IC, private and sensitive, underneath our feet, the MC, spirited and elevated, stretches up into the starry sky. Campfire aroma fills me with comfort as we orient toward the freshly rising Sun, feeling the light of the ascendant minus Sol’s blinding light that characterizes the odd 12th house.
I realize how little I know, how stunted and rigid my lists of keywords and images are. I feel shy to even be part of this wondrous mystery and pledge to always be better, do better, learn more, and communicate more articulately to do my best to honour this incredible lineage. As we sit around the fire breathing together, feeling into each other’s energies with honesty and presence, time stops and opens, swirling back and forth simultaneously. We affirm the source of wealth and abundance and greet the trees who have breathed water up and down this hill for oh so much longer than we have.
On Monday, I am tired as I awake. I get to spend time with three lovely women, journeying into downtown Seattle for the next leg of my adventure. My Sag friend and I drink, laugh, and giggle, enjoying the lack of deadlines and schedules in this holiday life. I later spend time with a spritely, pert-nosed Gemini creature, a truly brilliant young woman who I hope I can witness emerge into an old woman one day. I get into a fight about judgment and safety with the tough yet sensitive and powerfully expressive Russian woman. We confront each other and articulate our issues with one another as miss Gemini silently receives our intensity.
The ability to stay connected through irritation and annoyance with one another is an interesting experience. She bugs me but I love her, I hurt her (and probably annoy her!) but she loves me. I see the potent, violent roots of her birth chart come alive as she articulates her issue with what I’ve said. I realize humbly that it is possible to get along with one another, even when we clash, and that astrology is a beautiful vehicle for facilitating this understanding and appreciation of one another’s experience.
Now I sit in a sunlit coffee roastery, feeling urgent to grasp these experiences and teachings, to make them real and memorable, to wind them together into my being so they may be used in all of my future days and interactions.
Thank you NORWAC!
***Blog art by Sara Conca***