Don’t Thank Me. Thank Jerry.

Don’t Thank Me. Thank Jerry.


The Grateful Dead hold a special place in my life because it was in their presence that I first experienced happiness. I did a lot of fun things in the 22 years before I showed up at a show on July 4, 1986 at Rich Stadium in Buffalo, actually to see Bob Dylan play later in the day. Before then, I’d had some exciting adventures, started a magazine, played politics, and did a few too many drugs. There were some hot, creative girlfriends. I was well on the way to being a writer. Great rock concerts were not exactly something new; I grew up 45 minutes from Madison Square Garden.

And, emotionally, there always seemed to be some weight or sense of burden I could never get out from underneath.

It was in the presence of the Grateful Dead that I had my first experiences of pure, unmitigated joy, the kind you can’t explain. When I started going back to Dead shows soon after, this happened over and over again: the band would come out, there would be this energetic sense of a sudden upward rush, like all the weight of the world was lifting off of everyone all at once, love would flood in, and I would cry through most of the first set.

This did not solve my problems. But it’s what Hakomi therapy calls a missing experience: I was able to feel the existence of a state of being that I had no reason to believe existed before. And that’s a really good start.

My involvement with the Deadhead community has come with many strange synchronicities, fun miracles and in hindsight, incredible turning points. There was a long time when I could account for nearly everyone and everything around me as having some involvement or being some consequence of an association with the Deadhead karma. It was at a show in Pittsburgh that I met a little Leo named Kirsten, who brought me back to a guy named Mikio (I was born on his birthday, we discovered in our first conversation — the fifth such person he knew). That encounter led me straight to New Paltz, where I knew I was home from the first time I passed through town a few weeks later.

Even my work writing about PCBs and dioxins benefited. One of my biggest stories was based in Las Vegas (it involved the Nevada Power Co.), where there were annual shows in the early 1990s. A vendor/friend in New Paltz bought me an airplane ticket to Vegas (when at a time when I could have never even considered such a prospect) if I would only work outside the shows, essentially telling young women from every corner of the country how beautiful they looked in silk dresses. Then I saw one of the shows and, from there, spent a week at a plaintiff’s law firm, copying the files of GE, Westinghouse and Monsanto that formed the basis of my reporting.

Fun little miracles like that.

The Grateful Dead had about a dozen official members over the years, all of them awesome talents. But among them, Garcia stands out as the face we know, the voice we remember, and most of all, the creator of those magnificent, intricate, soaring lead guitar performances that are part of why Bob Dylan said outright, “He had no equal.” His presence, his passion and the feeling of his soul reaching, indeed, blazing out to the audience, were like nothing, no one, I have ever imagined, seen or felt; you had to be there to sense that psychic presence that once seemed to me like cool oxygen blowing into the room from another dimension.

For those who did not get to be there, they are in fact the best-documented musical act in history. There are some impeccable recordings easily available, to which I’ll refer you later in this article.

The Onion, in its fabulous book of news parodies called Our Dumb Century, has a small article about the Grateful Dead gearing up in 1965, in the peak of the Haight-Ashbury ethos and the true sweet spot of the Sixties — in the time and space where it all began. I must paraphrase, as the book is in storage. The Dead’s then-West Coast promoter, the late Bill Graham (alias Uncle Bobo), is quoted as saying something like, “We’ve had enough of the boring three-minute rock and roll tune. Everyone get ready, we’re now going to give you one long, outrageous, amorphous 30-year song.”

That’s exactly what they did, rumbling out of the glowing social morass of San Francisco like UFO, carrying that energy with them around the country hundreds of times, vibrating it into theatres and stadiums, and collecting a tribe of three generations of fans, most of whom would have gone to every single show if they could. I went to 35 of them, and I feel like I just had a little taste.

At the same time, they brought back to popular culture the nearly two centuries of the traditional American music (and Irish ballads and much besides) they were steeped in, intermingled with their own compositions that stand out for their poetry and musical excellence. Working in the background of Garcia was the poet Robert Hunter, whose archetypal downtrodden characters, morality tales enacted by legendary villains and Elizabethan turns of phrase carrying metaphysical insights Garcia embodied with his gentle, grainy voice.

For example:

There is a road, no simple highway
Between the dawn
and the dark of night
And if you go no one may follow
That path is for your steps alone

Ripple in still water
When there is no pebble tossed
Nor wind to blow

Hunter’s lyrical pen, the writer said, was sparked to motion by Dylan’s 1966 Blonde on Blonde album; it was that record (With “Visions of Johanna” and “Just Like a Woman”) that demonstrated to many who played it to vinyl shreds that rock lyrics could be intelligent.

There’s simply no way to categorize this band, and everyone admits the name “Grateful Dead” is a little off-putting till get used to it, or till you hear the legend of the traveler who comes across the corpse of a man who can’t afford a decent burial. So he pays for the funeral, and some time later, when he’s confronted by thieves, the spirit of the man he’s buried scares them off and saves his life. That term, a grateful dead story, fell out of the Funk and Wagnall’s Dictionary one day when the band had to change its name, realizing there was another Warlocks out there somewhere.

The Dead had their roots in bluegrass (starting as a jug band), were influenced equally by the blues and old American folk and show tunes, adopted many of the conventions of jazz, improvised telepathically, practically invented acid rock, were the masters of electric rock music, composed haunting, Celtic-styled ballads, adapted and wrote western-styled country songs, experimented with world-beat rhythms with two drummers behind them, played spirituals the like of “And We Bid You Goodnight,” and as it worked out, made one of the most awesome contributions ever to American folk music.

The amazing thing is they could take you through this diversity of styles, eras and genres in the space of a 90-minute set without missing a beat, merging song into jam into song, good enough sell out ten nights in a row at Madison Square Garden, closing up the show with a Chuck Berry tune or Buddy Holly’s “Not Fade Away” like it was the Homecoming Dance.

Rock music is folk music, and in this respect, Garcia’s peers are not just his 60s contemporaries (Santana, Janis Joplin) but also Woodie Guthrie, Pete Seeger, The Carter Family and long-gone greats of American folk I’ve never heard of but should have. Garcia said that John Coltrane showed him how melody could portray an entire inner landscape with every emotion represented. Of every composer-musician whose work I’ve heard, Coltrane’s saxophone pieces come the closest to the spaces that Garcia could reach with his guitar, or perhaps vice-versa.

Many people who are not into the Dead have criticized Deadheads for being a bunch of Sixties nostalgia freaks. I’ve never seen this debunked by anyone better than Steve Silberman, in his article, “A Place of our Own” (included with the So Many Roads boxed set).

“As you became more familiar with the Dead’s music and its evolution, you realized that the mainstream stereotype about the band and its fans — that they were stuck in a tie-dyed time warp, married to a form whose time had come and gone — was the opposite of the truth. The band’s sound pushed relentlessly into the future, shunning past success and building on itself from night to night, tour to tour.”

He continues, “They played as if the entire human heritage of music-making — from goatskin drums turned over fires in the desert, to a lone singer on a street corner with his hat full of coins, to electric guitars employed as lightning rods for unholy fire, to late 20th-century digitally generated thunder — was their playground, their ‘instrument’.”

IT’S DIFFICULT TO BELIEVE that Jerry, who would have been 63 next week, has been gone 10 years, and that the band itself started (as the Warlocks) 40 years ago.

Garcia died of heart failure in a drug treatment facility shortly after his 53rd birthday. Had he been on a cardiac ward, he might have survived; he really needed bypass surgery, because (according to biographer Blair Jackson’s reporting) two arteries leading to his heart were blocked 85%. But apparently that never occurred to him or anyone around him, and if it did, no action was taken. But it’s not like Garcia liked doctors, or cooperated with the efforts of his friends to help him. And I had a Leo friend who died of heart failure at 53 because he refused to do what the cardiologist said, on the grounds that the guy was overweight.

Everyone thought Garcia’s problem was drugs, which was true, to an extent. But drugs always obscure something deeper. Part of that something deeper was heart disease, and part of it was the incredible pressure of being Jerry Garcia. He was basically a mellow, easygoing San Francisco guy who didn’t like conflict and was interested in little other than music. Being Jerry meant not only being a musician, but also being a social icon on a level that even few rocks stars must endure; as well as a media figure, statesman and businessman when he would have been just as happy playing little clubs (which he did a lot of, with many side projects, right to the end of his life). As the crown jewel of a multimillion-dollar touring enterprise that employed dozens of people, he was the spiritual and musical center of a vast, traveling community that everyone knew could not go on without him.

It seems he felt trapped: he could not escape that role, and the resulting pressures (financial and otherwise), so he kept resorting to heroin to make the struggle go away for a while. He also smoked cocaine — a drug that seems to have done the most damage to the Grateful Dead and its organization, though several of its members also suffered from severe alcoholism. Repeatedly starting and stopping drugs took a serious toll on Garcia’s body. And his biographer, Blair Jackson, says he smoked between 40 and 60 cigarettes a day, despite having bronchitis and diabetes. I’ve seen him walk on to the stage many times trailing a thick plume of cigarette smoke behind him, as if he’d smoked the whole thing in one bite.

And, smoke and all, when he got on stage with the Grateful Dead, there could be no doubt he belonged there.

No matter what he struggled with, I still consider him one of my heroes. A person is not their problems, and more than anything, Garcia wanted to give us music — and that is what he did, in an incredible, decades-long outpouring of love. And he kept his sense of humor. One of my favorite stories is officially unverified, but I’ll tell it anyway. He was sitting alone at breakfast in the hotel dining room when a Deadhead came up to him and said, “Jerry Garcia! This is the greatest moment of my life.”

Says Jerry: “Well, I hope it gets better from here.”

He grew up in a household where music was a tradition; his father was a professional musician, so he was infused with show tunes and traditional American music from his first moments. Weekend family gatherings would transition from spontaneous musical events to intense, articulate political discussions. His mother was a classical pianist who could perform Chopin. Yes, this sounds exactly like the spawning ground.

The first instrument Garcia mastered was banjo, and he was said to be a titan at the regimented, fast, and precise playing that traditional bluegrass demands. (Some of his banjo playing is preserved in recordings of a band called Old & In the Way, though he says he was past his prime by the early 70s when that was recorded. Still, it’s well worth tracking down for the band’s renditions of some great old traditional tunes and excellent playing.) He also tried mandolin, dobro, fiddle and autoharp before getting seriously into guitar.

The style he developed was relentlessly unique. His leads would fade to the background when other musicians or vocalists were doing their bit, and then blaze to the open when it was time. He would pluck sounds out of thin air and weave them into the intricate rhythms of melodies that would live once and then disappear back into the ethers.

Reading Blair Jackson’s biography Garcia: An American Life, two stories to me say Jerry Garcia more than any others. First, there’s the story of a record set called the Anthology of American Folk Music, which collected dozens of folk tunes recorded between the 20s and the 50s that were originally released as 78s.

Garcia’s lyricist and longtime friend Robert Hunter tells the story.

“Back in 1961 there was only one copy around our scene, belonging to Grace Marie Haddie. The six-disc boxed collection was too expensive for guitar-playing hobos like me and Garcia, even if we had a record player, or a place to keep a record player. Grace Marie had a job and an apartment and a record player. We would visit her apartment constantly with hungry ears. When she was at work, we’d jimmy the lock to her apartment door or crawl through the window if the latch was open. Had to hear those records.”

Then there was the story of what happened when, some years later, checks started coming in — royalty checks, money from gigs, whatever. He would throw the envelopes, unopened, in the glove box of his old car. Just like that. One day a friend found them there.

What these two stories have in common is music; in other words, you don’t need money. It is not surprising, given his particular values, that Garcia was the one who decided it was just fine that Deadheads were taping shows and trading the tapes. In Deadhead culture, there was and still is a tradition of giving the recordings away, or trading for blanks or copies of other shows, which is something I’ve been the beneficiary of many times and never seen violated once. Still, the Dick’s Picks series of live concerts produced and sold as CDs by the Dead organization sells wildly despite the countless bootlegs in circulation.

And as for the gig itself, why play a one-hour show when you can play a four-hour show?

If you want to know why you can just write to Planet Waves and ask for a free subscription if you need one, or email the newsletter to your friends — don’t thank me; thank Jerry.

Well, for that, and a lot else besides.

Garcia’s Natal Horoscope

Okay, so, I hope I have something new to add to the discussion in the form of a look at the natal chart of Jerome John Garcia. There are a couple of fun things that really stand out, a couple of scary ones, and I think we should take a look at his Neptune, which is what seems to have been his greatest asset and also what did him in.

Here is the chart:

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Even the blind can see the grouping of Leo planets in his 10th house. Not everyone who makes a major contribution to the world has a powerful 10th — but lots do. The thing about the 10th is, no matter how many planets you have there, you earn your place in the world, but at least you have the resources to do so. And as Debbi Kempton-Smith says, you have to live every minute like you’re being followed around by a television crew. The top of this horoscope is populated by two signs: Cancer and Leo, the very core of the zodiac. Cancer is to the right, toward the 9th house (spirituality, the higher self); Leo is to the left, toward the 11th (friends, dreams, rewards of profession). These three houses are among the places we really come into contact with the public.

Let’s work right to left. Look at that conjunction of Venus and Jupiter in Cancer in the 9th house. This is someone who has a lot to give, and who simply has to give it. What else do you do with that aspect? He would have made a really good college professor. In a way, he was one.

I’m going to invite Isabel Hickey into the discussion, through her book Astrology: A Cosmic Science, one of my favorites. Of this aspect, she writes, “What the world would call a lucky person, but it is an earned increment in the spiritual bankbook. Intense appreciation of beauty. Orderly and artistic. [Okay, not so orderly in Jerry’s case, but he could definitely focus.] Gives popularity and benefit through the public if in a congenial sign [it is]. Restless individual that wants to be on the move.”

This is a good book. She concludes with one of the best-known facts about Venus-Jupiter conjunct: “Overindulgence in appetite and extravagance need controlling.” Yes. In Cancer, we do get the image of too much cream soda and ice cream, diabetes be damned.

He identifies strongly with that Venus; his ascendant is Libra, consistent with his mellow nature, his dislike of conflict and at times an inability to make or stick to a decision. Apparently it’s a true story that at one point he fired rhythm guitarist Bob Weir and keyboard player-vocalist Pig Pen from the band, but they ignored him and kept coming back to work anyway — thank God.

The chart ruler’s conjunction to Jupiter de facto makes him a spiritual leader, ice cream and all.

Now, notice how the chart works from a professional perspective. Cancer reaches as far as the 10th house cusp, the career and the reputation (house cusp marked directly above, in orange). So while Leo is strong later in this house, the ruler is actually Cancer and thus the Moon, demonstrative of the nurturing and unambitious style of Garcia’s professional life — and how many people he took care of financially as a result of his own success. Cancer is another one of those public places, particularly when you put it somewhere everyone can see it, such as the 10th.

The 10th house ruler is the Moon, and by its placement, that refers us back to the 6th house — work, service, work, service, work, service.

Health. The Moon is in Aries in his 6th house: a need for innovation. In another article, I called this “the dauntless Moon,” shared by the likes of Betty Dodson and Salvador Dali. It’s a good Moon for artists. It stops at nothing, if it’s got a pulse. That suggests high vitality, but the 6th suggests that health is potentially a big issue, and it’s connected to his professional activities due to the 10th house association. It also says that practice makes perfect. You can read this placement as Garcia’s statement that he would rather perform concerts than play scales. He played hundreds of nights a year. How many Dead shows were there? A lot. There’s a searchable database of them at Then there were the Garcia Band shows. And many, many side projects. He was not ambitious; he just liked to do his thing.

But that 10th house is something to speak about, and whether he wanted a reputation or an impact or not, it called him, and he was in many ways the consummate Leo, completely at home in the public eye despite being a shy little kitty. Reading his Leo planets in order, we have Pluto, Mercury, the Sun and Chiron. Hey, George W. Bush has Mercury conjunct Pluto (in his ascendant, which carries a lot less responsibility than the 10th). And apparently worse musical tastes. He listens to “My Sharona” on his iPod (true fact, verified by the White House — if you believe the press reports).

Garcia’s is the chart not just of a big star, but one whose soul-level communication has impact, and represents the core of his identity. This is the combined influence of the Sun, Mercury and Pluto. (Along these lines, Mr. Bush really is who we think he is as well, the dark side of these aspects.) Mercury-Pluto puts a bit of death in that message, or an awareness of something that feels like ultimate finality all the time. We can see two different ways the same aspect has been played out by two different men both considered great leaders.

Neptune is worth looking at, as it’s the ruling planet of both music and drugs. He has it in Virgo, like millions of people in his generation and indeed people born as early as the late 1920s, just before the Great Depression hit. This is not an easy placement. NOT. It can be driven but frustrated; Neptune wants ease, bliss, freedom and dreams (skip the details), while Virgo wants things just the way it wants them, down to the red jellybeans. It’s certainly a good aspect for someone whose dual nature is perfection and hanging loose, for someone who projects spiritual energy through virtuoso skill — if they can work through their insecurities. Mars in Virgo helped that a lot — it’s definitely a competent placement. When the chips were down, it was Garcia who would do the heavy lifting on the band’s albums and films; he could work for days on end.

Let’s see what Isabel Hickey has to say about Neptune in the 12th house, where it stands in Garcia’s chart. “Feeling of being cribbed, cabined and confined strong. Stress on the subconscious levels due to extreme sensitivity. With Neptune afflicted the individual feels far from home on a foggy night and he can’t see where he is going. Deep seated loneliness that only connection with the Higher Self will abate. ‘Serve or suffer’ is the keynote here.”

Serve or suffer indeed. We have a lot of music to thank Jerry Garcia for. I am grateful he had music for no other reason than he really needed it. Fortunately for him, so did the world. Not a bad deal.

There were days
and there were days
and there were days I know
when all we ever wanted
was to learn and love and grow
Once we grew into our shoes
we told them where to go
walked halfway around the world
on promise of the glow
stood upon a mountain top
walked barefoot in the snow
gave the best we had to give
how much we’ll never know we’ll never know.

— From “Days Between,” Jerry Garcia’s last song
written with Robert Hunter

My Recommended Dead CDs

For acquiring commercially available CDs, I suggest going right to Grateful Dead Merchandising, recently available at (800) 225-3323 ; they have nearly everything, including lots of stuff your record store tells you is out of print, never existed, etc. All you can get in record stories (usually) are studio albums, which usually miss the point, but have some transcendent moments for sure. To catch the spirit, though, start with the live stuff.

I have several unequivocal recommendations that are in the “no turning back” category. The first is called One From the Vault, a live recording made during the band’s hiatus in 1975. It’s basically a perfect, if mellow, performance with an excellent sampling of the Dead’s original and cover repertoire, before an invitation-only audience of about 600 people. If you’ve never heard the Dead, or have only heard the occasional song, this is the perfect introduction. Even your parents and kids and cat will like this CD.

Next on this list is Dick’s Picks #10, an historic show from Winterland in San Francisco, recorded 12/29/77. Garcia’s guitar sounds like no other performance except the surrounding nights (extra songs at the end of the CD); the band feels like it’s 14 feet tall. They played some of their hottest shows (as did many others) in Winterland, this rundown, falling apart little arena formerly in San Fran, once home to the Ice Follies. Deadheads loved the room so much some took their chairs when the wrecking ball hit a little over a year later.

Then there is Reckoning (previously, For the Faithful). This is an acoustic recording from the early 1980s, mostly ballads, traditionals and some great slow-moving country songs. The acoustic guitars and Brent Mydland’s piano are a superb mix. If you like the super-mellow folk sound, there’s an earlier studio album worth having called American Beauty, which is beyond beautiful but with a very different selection of music than Reckoning. The Dead family’s vocals at the end of Ripple are worth the whole thing.

Okay — that will get you started.

If you want to get a taste of the band’s original, early sound (with blues man Pig Pen), there are two that are exemplary. The first is Two From the Vault. The second is Live/Dead, the band’s first live release. Live/Dead is truly an astonishing recording, preserving the psychedelic spirit of the late 1960s like nothing else.

The Closing of Winterland, recorded New Years’ Eve 1978, one year after the 12/29/77 show, is one of the grooviest things ever put on a CD or DVD. This is a new release, I think. The band is once again at its best (it was Winterland, after all), they play three full sets, and if you get the DVD (salvaged from a public television broadcast — with full quality audio), you get the opening acts, including Grateful Dead proteges The Blues Brothers.

There are two commercially available CDs that exemplify the band’s sound in its third incarnation, with keyboard player and vocalist Brent Mydland, whose playing soars and whose voice feels like the sound of a jet airliner. Those two recordings are Dozin’ at the Knick and Nightfall of Diamonds.

I don’t know enough about the Bruce Hornsby and Vince Welnick periods at the end (between 1990 and 1995) to recommend the best recordings from that era — but some are in the Dick’s Picks series, and Blair’s book, below, briefly reviews every available commercial recording until the time the book was published.

As for books: I’ve loved Blair’s excellent biography of Garcia, An American Life, which I got in Woodstock a couple of months ago and just finished. But one of the funniest books I’ve EVER, ever read is called Living with the Dead by Rock Scully, their former manager. It’s considered somewhat apocryphal and less than balanced, but who cares (except for the people who felt offended, so that counts); but if you factor in the biases, it’s well worth reading. Bassist Phil Lesh has a new book out, called Searching for the Sound, which I’ve not read — and which I’ve heard contains lots of regrets about drugs and alcohol (Lesh has a liver transplant).

The band’s original lyrics, including all by Robert Hunter and John Perry Barlow, are at The Annotated Grateful Dead Lyrics, which has a ton of information, discographies, and has recently been released as a book. The free site is here:

Grateful Dead Merchandising, which also has a toll-free number above that hopefully still works, is . They are now offering downloadable shows for about half the price of Dick’s Picks.

Deadbase is

See examples of Jerry Garcia’s art at:

Earlier article by Eric on Jerry Garcia, from 1995

Grateful Dead on Wikipedia

Planet Waves Horoscope for July 29, 2005
With Weekly Horoscope #569

Happy Birthday, Leo!

At the moment, the universe is playing all its cards face up; you know what you’ve got going for you, and you’re aware of certain pitfalls as well. You may wish those pitfalls weren’t there, but you’re a lot better off knowing about them, because at least you can put your intelligence to work — intelligence which has never failed you, once you’ve asked for its help.

The most important thing you’ll be making your mind up about this year is how you feel about your own life. You have many reasons to think you’re completely sorted out on this matter, but emotional business is a little more complex than that. But when certain tensions arise — such as a potential identity crisis between who you are, and the various commitments and professional callings you feel — you will have many opportunities to quite literally rise above the conflict and learn something new and spectacular about yourself.

That, in itself, is an achievement, and it will open the way for more.

It’s amazing what can work out in the world when we work it out emotionally first, and when we insist on a policy of honesty in our most intimate partnerships, no matter what the culture may demand. That’s never done as a single leap, but it does come naturally to you, as long as you can keep yourself emotionally clear. And you have reason to do so: Saturn newborn in your sign is sending you the message that you need to take over your life. There’s nothing like an emotional fog to make that impossible, and nothing like clarity and a sense of commitment to make it seem like the most basic thing in the universe.

It is scary seeing what other people often go through in the world, and nobody really likes to think they are immune from chaos setting in. But in many respects, you know it’s all a matter of how much responsibility you take for your own life. At this point it would seem like you’re feeling an unusually important calling, perhaps involving both a creative drive and also an instinct to better yourself materially. These alerts we often must follow when we have the chance.

If you run into complications as you go, you must be patient, and allow the original seed of your idea to propel, direct or guide you into the future. All progress involves some degree of conflict and thus overcoming conflict. Those who get past it are the true achievers in the world. Those who get trapped are the ones who seem to fail. But to state it again, the extent to which the seeming differences in agendas or values will best resolved is as a function of your own growth and consciousness — not what you put others through. Get their help if you need it, but resolve to take the lead, and resolve to change old patterns if that’s what you must do.

You are, at the moment, able to have some unusual insights into the otherwise impossible to discern inner worlds of other people because you’re deeply in tune with certain factors from your own past. Understanding the psychology of past friendships (which may be surfacing in strange ways) will provide you with some rewarding information when it comes to building trust now. You don’t take well to being lied to, or deceived in any way, but the reasons this may have happened, and the reasons you may have missed it, are about to be so apparent that you may well figure out how to never let it happen again.

Perhaps the greatest challenge you will meet with your usual Leonine gusto is integrating your personal affairs with your work responsibilities. Most resolve this boundary issue by doing meaningless work. Then it’s easy to “leave work behind.” But you’re on a higher level; you must live with meaning, in all aspects of your life — and you know it. This is a process that has come into full awareness during the past six months, and you are learning, if nothing else, that work relationships really are relationships, and that personal encounters, romances and love really are working partnerships.

In some mysterious way, each small or large experience in any of these relationships hands you a key to yourself. Each time you solve a problem or resolve a situation, you open up a new room in your inner world, which is nature’s way of giving you incentive to stay on top of whatever you may face, and to face your future with optimism and gratitude that you really do have a life, and a good one at that.

Aries (March 20-April 19)
Thankfully you’re in a rather grounded state of mind, because what a partner or loved one is going through is, to say the least, exciting and unpredictable. So don’t be too grounded; now that the difficult stage has passed, I suggest you take the adventure as far as you can go. In fact, while you’ve theoretically been assisting someone else, you’ve also been working out a lot of your own psychological and emotional blocks. Whether you can celebrate life right now has a lot to do with how free you feel, not how free anyone else lets you be. But you can let them set an example.

Taurus (April 19-May 20)
A chance meeting will lead to some extraordinarily interesting developments in your life, but you have to plunge in with no fear for the cosmic game to really work. Part of what holds you back is a certain set of expectations of how you think your life is supposed to be. Rather than pleading with you to give those up, I can only suggest that you’ll soon have a chance to see what life is like without them. The truth of the matter is you have a lot less to lose now than in many years past, and I hope you’re finally figuring out that the only alternative to living in the past is living in the present.

Gemini (May 20-June 21)
Recent developments may seem to have thrown your plans off the tracks, but in reality, you’ve just got a few additional opportunities to reassess where you’re going in life. You need to count on something deeper than what you see and feel at the moment, which is a foundation of stability that you really are standing on, and which really can hold you. Besides all of which, that elusive factor called luck really is on your side, but it’s going to work in ways you could never have foreseen. Do yourself a huge favor and stay out of its way.

Cancer (June 21-July 22)
In the great design of the universe, often the surprise or hidden factors are the ones that turn out to be the most valuable. A particular resource that once was much more important to you, but which in recent years you’ve discounted, has suddenly re-surfaced. This phenomenon may actually be taking several forms: a partnership, a talent, and an idea all come to mind. Look to one you once considered “less than a friend” for information or assistance, and remember to trust just a little more than your instincts say is safe.

Leo (July 22-Aug. 23)
Each of the turning points over the next few years is going to seem more important than the last one, which is true enough. Yet in reality, that does not make what has just happened any less meaningful. You have reasons to keep a close eye on your past, and to keep assessing each influence that seems to be disappearing like a dream. The human mind typically abuses the past by clinging to it instead of learning from it. You are uniquely situated to not make this mistake. Remember that there are no past situations it’s too late to correct, or at least make the most of. To put it in three words: Adjust, don’t abandon.

Virgo (Aug. 23-Sep. 22)
It is true that your life seems to be turning on a dime every day. You may be wondering where the stability you crave has gone. It hasn’t gone anywhere, you just need to look for it where it is. You’re the one who is seeking the influence of people who have the power to change you. But to actually let this be real, you have no choice but to actually become someone new. The stability factor arises not so much from your being stuck in one spot in life but rather from your ability to dance with those whose knowledge and power you respect and trust.

Libra (Sep. 22-Oct. 23)
Be mindful of subtle or not-so-subtle changes in the political climate of your life, particularly as may be revealed in communication amongst your friends and colleagues. I’m not suggesting you spy on people or take up a new role as village gossip, but it wouldn’t hurt to do a little ordinary detective work and find out where people are coming from. The chances are there’s considerable confusion, and you’re likely to be the only person who actually discovers what’s going on. Others may be so wrapped up in themselves they may not even think to ask.

Scorpio (Oct. 23-Nov. 22)
There are some people who, when some worldly power is vested in them, immediately strive to establish their position and make all kinds of changes. That would be ill advised right now. I suggest you take an approach that combines “wait and see” with the kind of leadership that stays focused on maintaining some continuity for a while. As recent events have demonstrated, you don’t know everything, and people are not going to tell you everything. Eventually, you’ll find out everything you need to know, but the operative word is eventually. So take your time, find out who your real allies are, and solve important problems as they arise.

Sagittarius (Nov. 22-Dec. 22)
You can afford to take someone else’s leadership on an issue of far-reaching importance, particularly because at the moment their thinking is quite a bit more conservative than yours. You may think that they’re dwelling on problems that don’t exist, but I suggest you take the opportunity to continue a careful discussion of your plans that will at least take you through the equinox. From that point it will be a lot more obvious what choices you need to make not only to safeguard, but also maximize, your long-term position. Optimism is not enough; you need concrete plans that pass the test of reason.

Capricorn (Dec. 22-Jan. 20)
Now comes a test of your patience. It’s not that others are acting in bad faith, or that their hesitancy is any kind of a reflection on what you have to offer. Don’t take it personally. Rather, really focus on where people are coming from. You will gather part of your information from what people say and part from what they don’t say. Try to overlook the fact that you think they’re really neurotic and hung up on petty issues that don’t matter anyway. If you can tune into their long-range objectives, and your own, you will be able to distinguish what matters from what does not.

Aquarius (Jan. 20-Feb. 19)
Information continues to emerge in layers, and you have a lot to learn about people and how they think. You need to keep reminding yourself that you’re in new territory, which equates with unfamiliar. As long as you don’t try to convince yourself that you know what you’re doing, you’ll be able to use these first weeks of a new era in your life as a learning experience you’ll benefit from for a long time. The most important lesson is that when life is in flux, don’t try to nail yourself or anyone else down to objective truth — and don’t let them do it to you.

Pisces (Feb. 19-March 20)
So much is changing in the lives of others that you may be wondering if you’re missing some great opportunity. You do have an opportunity, which is to rise to the occasion of an unusual situation in your working life that’s calling for your leadership and is, in truth, an opportunity for you to really shine. Part of holding your own life in a steady place is being able to adapt to the changes that others go through, and I assure you that no matter what those might be, your position is rock solid and you have it in you to be psychologically stable. Focus on what is important, which includes plenty of time away from it all.

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