The battle for spring

Of all the seasonal transitions, the one between winter and spring seems to be the most violent.

I’ve tried to predict weather using astrology (astrometeorology). The starting point are the seasonal ingress charts, i.e. the charts for the equinoxes and the solstices or the cardinal signs. For the spring equinox the chart is made for 0 degrees of Aries, which is ruled by Mars. For the summer solstice, it’s 0 degrees of Cancer and Moon ruling. For autumn, it’s 0 degrees of Libra and Venus ruling. And for winter solstice, the chart is for 0 degrees of Capricorn and Saturn ruling. These dates are approximately around the 21st of March, June, September and December, respectively.

I live where we have four seasons and am used to how they flow into each other, and how it can vary from year to year exactly when one can say that one season is officially over and we are fully in the next season. Spring glides into summer by budding, one type of bush or tree at a time, and growing the leaves and turning a deeper green by the summer solstice. July and August are rich thick foliage, but during August, ripening of berries breaks up the solid green. Still, the trees can look quite lush well into September. October is the month of changing colors, and November is the first month of naked trees. The first snow or frost may appear where I live at this time but not stay. In fact, a true winter chill doesn’t happen until January, well into the winter season.

But the part that has my attention, is the transition between winter and spring. This seems to be the most obvious conflict of interest. Whereas the other seasons move into each other on a gliding scale, even weatherwise, Winter seems to arm itself and do serious battle with Spring.

The hedge had started to leaf, and then the snow returned

The hedge had started to leaf, and then the snow returned

I mentioned ruling planets above. I think they may be key. In traditional astrology, Saturn and Mars are called malefic. In more modern terms, they are challenging or difficult. These two planets require more self-discipline to use correctly than, say, Venus or Mercury do. In a person, Saturn and Mars in a bad relationship to each other can be volatile; it can mean a bad temper or bad impulse control. I have this myself, but maturity, meditation and some therapy have tempered these two for me.

But weatherwise, we have two planets both known for high energy, high winds and a desire to make bad weather. Saturn is the ultimate low pressure significator, while Mars is just volatile. Venus is a moderating influence on the weather (though she can misbehave if in bad company) and the Moon is about clouds and rain and wind, but the normal stuff, not the extreme that Saturn can be. Mars emphasises whatever is there, and brings on heat and movement, usually.

So in the transition from a Mars season to a Moon season, the force necessary to generate new life gives way easily to the force necessary to grow life (watering the plants). And later that growth force transitions calmly into the final ripening and harvesting energy of a Venus season. Venus then quietly passes the torch on to Saturn who sets about making sure everything acts dead.

And so Life reappears, with the Mars energy of spring (and of course, the increase in hours the Sun is up), and starts to throw its weight around old, cold Saturn who isn’t having any of that. Saturn demands proof that you are viable, that you deserve respect, and so throws whatever it has at the budding life lured by some mild weather. It’s snowing out as I write this, and I’ve already seen fresh dandelion leaves on our lawns.

The other seasons do battle too. It’s just so obvious with Winter and Spring and perhaps more so because we humans need to see life and warmth and growth again. We want Spring to win. We need to know the dead of Winter is not permanent. We’ve all had our rest. It’s time to get moving again.

Ultimately, Life wins. Aided by warmth and ever lengthening days, growth takes hold, and the dead of winter gives way until next time.

90, if you want

A friend commented on another blog post of mine about how we're told that loneliness shortens a life span like a smoking habit does. Her married parents are now within waving distance of 90; she doubts she'll get to that age.

I have a theory, or maybe it's just a good ol' opinion about longevity and it's this: People live a long life because they want to.

I know where my friend's coming from. I have thought the same: That making it to 90 (or even 80) just might not be in the cards for a single, childless woman who has nothing but seated hobbies like knitting, watching TV, surfing the 'net, blogging…

I grew up with "The Greatest Generation", the people who practically starved to death during the Great Depression, then went through a world war (and maybe starved then, too) and still made it into their 90's before giving up this earthbound life.

So the researchers think they lived long because they ate little. Underfeeding yourself makes your metabolism slow down which makes you live longer (is the theory I've read). I have, however, also read the opposite: That people with a hearty appetite for food also have a hearty appetite for life. And we do know that for both people and animals, going off your feed is not a good sign.

Here's the thing: The folks I grew up with, my "Greatest Generation" grandparents (or maybe they're the generation before), made it well past 90 before deciding to leaqve this earth. Grandpa was torpedoed and divorced during the war—and subsequently estranged from his son ; Grandma has been widowed twice and never got along with her own mother. They've moved countries, getting stuck with a kid in their retirement that they weren't planning on. Both had a past as smokers. Grandma was always overweight and hypertensive. Big stressors. They went through a lot of unhealthy shit and still they made it past 90.

Yes, they were married. They had each other and they got along, and they both had a positive, friendly disposition. They had both stopped smoking decades earlier, and I guess having me around in their old age was also a positive.

These are my two data points. Still, the question is: With everything going on, why live into your 90's? Why did my grandparents?

Nothing says "I've been here a while" like a moss veneer

Nothing says "I've been here a while" like a moss veneer

For Grandpa, the end started when the war came back to him. Psychosis brought on by PTSD robbed him of the last of his strength and he spent his last months in a nursing home. He was hard of hearing, had cataracts and was basically hard to communicate with but also restless. He calmed down when Grandma and I visited and just talked like we always did. Us gals yapping, Grandpa just listening—the way it had always been.

He didn't die until I gave him permission to. I didn't know that's what I was doing at the time. Same thing with Grandma. She didn't die until she knew I would be OK without her.

With Grandpa, it was a Sunday visit, him oblivious to Grandma's and my presence. Knowing he would never come home again, I started talking, telling him that bringing me to a foreign country, away from my parents, was OK. It turned out well. I wasn't angry; I was grateful. The deaf man turned his head towards me as I was speaking, his cataract-covered eyes looked clear and focused and he was: Focused on me, on what I was saying, alert. And I am damned sure he heard every word I said. Two days later the nursing home called and said he'd died.

He needed closure. Then he could go.

Grandma was 9 years younger than Grandpa and we got to enjoy another 11 years of talking about everything and anything before it was her turn. With her it was the body that gave out first. A lot of sitting probably gave her more pain than necessary. It was frustrating for me with her in the nursing home; I handled being the adult and having to be responsible for both of us rather badly (sorry, Grandma). Bless her, she always stayed patient with me. Our last conversation ended with me telling her I had as much in my savings account as she had in hers. "You do?" she said. Later than evening she had a stroke that put her in a coma and she died within a week.

She was always after me to save, always worried about my finances (she had worried about her daughter the same way, so I guess it was habit). Knowing I'd got the message and was doing fine let her know she didn't have to stay around any more, so she left. Keep in mind, this was a woman who would wonder why she'd lived so long. What for? Now you know.

So if people actually choose when to leave this earth, what is all the advice regarding longevity about?

It's actually about 1) pain avoidance and 2) purpose. Taking care of the body through regular movement and eating well helps mitigate problems with aging or illness. Having meaningful relationships and hobbies gives one purpose.

It's like making sure your aging car is well-maintained; it won't break down as often if it is. Also, a car needs to be used regularly so the battery doesn't go flat and the oil doesn't turn to sludge. That analogy of regular use also applies to human minds and bodies.

Here's the thing, though: We can't all do all the things researchers think will make us live longer. If you want to live a long and happy life, do it your own way. I mean, if you hate exercise, exercising will just be another life-shortening stressor in your life, especially if skipping it makes you feel guilty. Likewise with anything mental. Creating stress and guilt in ourselves defeats the purpose. Find something that lets you move that works for you. And for your mind, same thing. Find something that sparks your own creativity, something that makes the hours fly by. And if it's done sitting, so what. Peace of mind and joy far outweigh sitting.

Speaking of peace of mind, my adventures with Norwegian sick leave, therapy and having a depression have taught me a few things about myself. I thought I was strong and positive about myself, but whadya know: I too have a skeleton in a closet. I made the closet; I put the skeleton there. It's named Guilt and it has very strong bones. (Obligatory Astrology: This whole blog post is nothing but Saturn/Capricorn stuff.)

So the new lesson I'm learning is how to be gentle with myself, how to have a healthy perspective on who I am and what I am capable of. Also: Practicing forgiveness. Forgiving myself, and forgiving others (mostly myself, these days). The healthiest thing I have found I can do for myself is to be my own best friend, to accept and love myself.

We have to make our own rules for living. Knowing how to make ourselves happy has huge value. Who wants to be ancient but miserable? Find your peace of mind and your joy, and enjoy for as long as you want.

My grandma. I try to be like her.

My grandma. I try to be like her.

Longevity: My maternal grandmother when she was 93. Those are her paintings on the wall. Art was one of her joys.

#astrology: Transitting Mercury in Capricorn is right on my natal Saturn today.

The almost astrologer

So, I'm busy downloading old photos from my Flickr account because Flickr is being sold and I'm tired of dealing with various TOS. 'Sides, I'm paying for Dropbox. And digging through the old stuff, here's one from 15 years ago: The weekend I was a professional astrologer.

Giving an astrological reading at the Bergen New Age Fair (Alternativmessen) 2003

Giving an astrological reading at the Bergen New Age Fair (Alternativmessen) 2003

First of all: Dig the Mac laptop! The toilet lid, as Norwegian Mac afficiendos called it. Heh. I still have the striped knitted sweater behind me. Handknitted by a dear no-longer-with-us friend who picked quality wool and did quality work. I shared the booth with the Tarot reader in the corner. Haven't stayed in touch.

If you dig into the links to earlier pages, you'll find where I wrote about the weekend I spent at the New Age Fair 2003 in Bergen and some other astrology stuff.

I never stuck with it. It turns out I don't find people all that interesting. Let me rephrase: I like helping and stuff, but I don't really "get" people. It takes me a long time to understand someone else, and I usually never do. I never seem to learn anything about other people. I certainly don't understand their motivations. I understand human motivation; I understand why someone would cheat or murder or steal, for example. I just can't understand an actual individual's motivations. I can't apply the theory.

The friend who knitted the jacket for me? She always gave me amazing and appropriate gifts. I'm not aware of others enough to do that. I cared enough about her to pay attention and ended up buying her a book on a topic she had expressed an interest in several times. She burst into tears when I gave it to her. I was surprised. I was also relieved and happy I'd bought that book. I finally did something right in the gift-giving department!

You see? I'd been friends for years with her, paid attention to her interests, and was still surprised when I got it right. Honestly, sometimes it would make sense if someone told me I was on the autism spectrum or something. At any rate, I try to remind myself to pay close attention so I can do something nice for a friend.

Since it takes so much effort and energy for me to get into what's going on with an individual, even with the help of a horoscope, I decided that working with people as a counselor was not for me. But I'll happily dish out advice on the fly if you ever need it.


I like that the word "parallel"—if written in a sans serif font—contains a parallel. What also contains a parallel, is astronomy and from there, astrology. Keep reading if you want to see me attempt to explain the tilt of the planet.

First of all, let's get one thing in our heads: All the planets, except Pluto, revolve around our sun on the same plane.

Now add to this the fact that the Earth tilts about 23 degrees and this is the reason for seasons. I once really messed explaining this to the point that I called the other person stupid. But I was the stupid one, so let's see if I finally have this straight (hah!) in my head. This is, of course, far easier to understand visually, so grab something and hold it at a tilt and then move it in a circle parallel to the floor, keeping the same tilt, i.e. the object is tilted the same way as you see it all around the circle.

You'll notice that at one point, the bottom is closest to the center of the circle and the top is farthest away. 90 degrees from that—or a quarter of the way around the circle—the whole side of whatever you chose is equidistant to the center of the circle. Another quarter turn and now the top is pointing toward the center of the circle, i.e. closer to it than the bottom is. Yet another quarter turn, and once again the whole side of the object is equidistant to the center of the circle.

I have just described how our Earth looks relative to the sun for, respectively, winter in the northern hemisphere or summer in the southern hemisphere, an equinox, another solstice but with reversed seasons, and another equinox.

The sun in the northern hemisphere climbs very high in the summer time, and above the arctic circle at 66 degrees, 33 minutes north (or 66N33), it is so high, it doesn't set. (The closer you get to the north pole, the more days during the summer you will have this phenomenon.) At the same time, south of the antarctic circle at 66S33, the sun isn't rising at all. And, the closer you get to the south pole, the more days you spend in the winter without sunlight. (These circles are also called polar circles.)

As our planet moves around the sun, it slowly either tilts one way or the other (and here is where I was stupid: The planet doesn't actually move from side to side; it stays fixed in its lean, but appears differently to the sun depending on where in its orbit Earth is). And because of how this tilt changes the angle of sunlight hitting our planet, it seems to us that the sun is climbing higher in the sky as we approach summer (either hemisphere) or lower as we approach winter. That height is called declination. Declination is given as latitude.

So, 00 or zero declination is at the equator. The equinoxes are when the sun is at zero declination (00N or 00S, same thing), and at that moment the sun's rays hit us at a perfect 90 degree angle and day and night are of equal length.

For the summer in the northern hemisphere, the sun climbs northwards to 23N26. (This figure varies slowly over time, but has a range of 22-24 degrees.) This latitude is the maximum northern declination of our sun, and it happens on the summer solstice. Astrologically, that is 00 degrees of Cancer, and the imaginary line at 23 degrees north on planet Earth is called the Tropic of Cancer. It's opposite, the imaginary line that markes the sun's southernmost declinaton is the Tropic of Capricorn. The areas between these two are known as the tropics. The word "tropic" means cycle or turning. We're just drawing huge circles here.

In case you're wondering: 00N declination is 00 Aries, the Spring Equinox and first day of spring in the north. 23N26 is 00 Cancer, the Summer Solstice and first day of summer as well as the year's longest day in the north. As the sun climbs back down to the equator and 00S declination we have the Autumn Equinox at 00 Libra. Finally, the sun goes all the way down to 23S26 and the winter Solstice at 00 Capricorn, giving us northerners our shortest day of the year.

Now that that is clear as mud, what's a parallel?

All the planets do this declination thing. Our tilt along our orbit is also relative to the other planets on the same plane we are. So any planet in a summer sign (between 00 Aries and 00 Libra) will have a northern declination, and any planet in a winter sign (between 00 Libra and 00 Aries) will have a southern declination.

If two planets are at the same declination, let's say they are both at 19N, they are said to be parallel. The symbol for parallel is written as //. If two planets are at the same degree but in opposite declinations, such as one is at 8 degrees north and the other is at 8 degrees south, they are said to be counter-parallel. The symbol for that looks like the // with a single bar across but you can also use the hashtag/pound/flat/octothorpe key: #.

Astrological aspect grid showing regular and parallel aspects

Astrological aspect grid showing regular and parallel aspects

What is this used for in astrology? Parallels have a similar energy to a conjunction (zero degrees apart), i.e. the planets strengthen  each other—or crowd each other. Counter-parallels have a similar energy to an opposition (180 degrees apart), meaning they work against each and at best can only take turns being in charge.

One of my interests in this is due to astrological meteorology. Simply put, expect a weather change when the moon changes hemispheres; that is, when the moon crosses the equator or zero degrees declination, i.e. is moving from north to south or vice-versa.

The Daily Prompt: Parallel

PS: If I totally screwed up the astronomy, PLEASE let me know! Thanks!

A glimmer of a post

I could give you all kinds of astrological reasons for why my flow suddenly choked, but suffice to say that the communication planet Mercury is slowing down to turn around and right itself on Sunday. Until then, I shall amuse myself—and hopefully you, too—by wondering about the "false friends" language has. Things that look related or alike, but do not mean the same thing.

Take "glimmer" for example. A word that means faint or wavering, especially of light. The dying beams of your flashlight are glimmering. Then there's the Norwegian word "glimmer", which means brilliant or excellent or brightly shining and flickering. Both the English and the Norwegian word have made the rounds but started with German. At what point did the English version come to mean faint rather than bright?

Anyway, if someone tells you you're glimmery or something like that in Scandinavia, beam brightly and steadily with pleasure.


The Daily Prompt: Glimmer

Bad star

Disastrous: Causing great damage. Fortunately (heh, see what I did there?), I have never experienced a disaster. Neither of the natural kind, nor the personal kind. And that leads me to the word's origin: From "disaster" which means "ill-starred" or to be ill-fated because of the stars.

Modern astrology is more psychological and less about fate, more about choice and less about destiny. If I really want to scare myself all I have to do is read an old book and my own birth chart will horrify me. I should be in prison or a psychiatric hospital, or perhaps married to a violent man whom I stay with because he's stinking rich.

Here's where I like the modern stuff better: Understanding that a birth chart is exactly that: A chart, a map, not a reality. You can experience your map in many different ways, and how you do will be colored by the people in your life and your circumstances. We all share a birthday with many people and none of us are having the exact same life. I spent part of my childhood in Norway and that affected how I would travel my map.

It's not just the position of the planets at birth, but also how they move and interact with the birth chart over time. The hands on the clock move and at certain times things are more likely to happen. A bad transit can be disastrous—or not. The difference between the "lucky" and the "ill-starred" probably belongs to chaos theory and not astrology, anyway. Something said or not said, an accident, a temporary decision that became permanent, the butterfly wings that flap during childhood and take us somewhere we never expected.

One disastrous event in my childhood was my parents' divorce, which I was not handling well leading me to self-destructive behavior, and some situations that for an adult would have meant prison. I did not stay on that self-destructive path. Instead, I grew up in a safe place, with loving grandparents, exposed to transcendentalism and affirmations.

One suggested antonym for "disastrous" is "heaven-sent". How about that.

The Daily Prompt