Of Aquarius, Water and Dragons

Dear Friend and Reader:

The Chinese Year of the Dragon began Monday, Jan. 23 with the Aquarius New Moon. The Dragon is the Chinese equivalent to the western sign Aries — high initiative and innovative. Dragon years are almost always memorable years in Western society, and 2012 will be no exception.

Meet Lagiacrus, the water dragon from Monster Hunter Tri. He’s a picky eater: organic-only and no red meat. To learn more about the game, visit this link at Amazon.com. Screen image of this magnificent water dragon is from Monster Wikia, to illustrate the Wii product. Wait — that’s what video games look like now? I have got to see this.

This is the Dragon year in the element water, which gives a yin or receptive feeling to the usually rather yang energy of this Chinese sign. (For contrast, the last Dragon year was 2000 — the Metal Dragon, which was a bit harsh.) It’s illustrated perfectly by Neptune changing signs just as the Water Dragon year begins, from Aquarius (where it’s been since 1998) to Pisces (where it will be until 2025). So here in the year of passionate water, we get some extra juice right from the start. (I’ll have a lot more to say about Neptune in Pisces in the Friday, Feb. 3 edition of Planet Waves.)

Speaking as a Dragon, I can tell you that one key to working with this energy is being conscious of how and when you push your luck. That is to say, Dragon is considered ‘lucky’, and those in harmony with this energy tend to thrive on taking chances. Yet this quality is best used with a touch of authentic discernment, for example, taking calculated risks, with a productive purpose — rather than stupid risks with no useful benefit to anyone. Yes, fun is sometimes sort of useful — but you can have plenty of fun and not create problems (or danger) for yourself or anyone else.

That said, the thing to do with that daring energy is, specifically, to dare. You might say that it’s about taking a chance on what you want. Most of what we consider ‘dangerous’ and avoid is really a comment on our psychology, and our perception — not actual risks. This is not the year to make excuses for why you’re not doing what you want, or why you refuse to even try. It’s the time to see those excuses for what they have been and what they have done to you. Most of why we might resist is contained in our mental patterns, and with that, we now have some help.

Also as of Monday, Mars turned retrograde in Virgo. In a word, this is about rethinking. You don’t hear the term “Mars retrograde” very often, but it happens. On the most basic level, Virgo describes how we think, and Mars retrograde is a high-focus investigation. Virgo is also a sign known for its intensity and even obsession (both described by Chiron rather than Mercury). But it’s a feminine sign, and those who try to express masculine energy through Virgo can be a little insecure doing so. Imagine how Virgo herself feels, taking up Mars as a guest for longer than the average vacation, eight months. The peak of that timespan involves Mars making apparent retrograde motion between Jan. 23 and April 13.

Between April 13 and late June promises to be an interesting time in the story of the world, and Mr. Cock and Balls treading backwards through the sign of the Virgin sounds like she becomes a woman in the process. Retrogrades are often recovery missions, about claiming lost energy, forgotten personal assets, and aspects of ourselves that threatened others when we were little. Every kid does this — to some extent figure out how not to piss off the adults, however meek or vicious the results may be.

Montauk facing south, toward Santo Domingo, winter 2012.Photo by Eric Francis. (Read Eric’s account of this particular wave.)

Children thus embark on a self-pruning process that can leave them feeling neutered as adults. This is the essence of the “little man” complex described by Wilhelm Reich. In Gestalt therapy it’s the essence of guilt. If we’re wondering where our energy, or curiosity, or creativity goes as we get older, this is the place to look.

That’s what retrogrades can help with. They can send us on a soul retrieval scavenger hunt. Mars in Virgo will be useful this way, helping us come to terms with what we think of as aggression (and might feel as self-aggression). For some, Mars retrograde in Virgo represents a calling to impeccability. For others, it’s a deep self-inquiry. For still others, it’s about healing desire and unhooking the many hangups that make it so difficult to express desire without guilt.

I suggest being mindful of the pattern establishment quality of retrogrades. The last time anything like this happened was in early 1965, when the script was cast for the thing called The Sixties that ensued.

Everything that happened during that spell of retrograde Mars in Virgo became ‘a thing’; it was etched into the realm of potential in such a way that stuck. The music, the war, the protests — the pattern was set, as the energy crested. In personal psychological astrology, this phase is a systems check for all of the high-intensity astrology that arrives in the late spring.

You may feel a palpable calling to improve your life, your health and your wellbeing during the next few months — and it’s essential that you proceed with any such quest gently. Warm up before you stretch, and remember, it’s not how far you go or how good you look, it’s how consciously you lean into the tension. This goes for body or mind.

Virgo is given to spells of harsh self-criticism without the help of Mars, or Mars retrograde. Given this it will be helpful to think of your feelings in terms of pleasure-guilt dynamics, and to consider any approach-avoid tendencies that you have in this light. Another theme I’ll be exploring with Mars retrograde involves aggression, self-aggression and what to do with anger. We need Mars energy in our lives, but the key is, we need just enough. Fortunately, Mr. Dragon will help us keep that in balance.

Aquarius is an air sign, though its symbol is a container of water (or in early renditions, a ruler to measure the depth of the Nile). The Water Dragon is assertive and expressive in a way that comes from a feminine core. This is the year when fortune favors the bold. The Dragon of Chinese fame has none of the baggage that it has in Western mythology; in China, it’s the very essence of good fortune. As mentioned, Dragon is the sign related to Aries in Western astrology — cardinal (high-energy) fire energy.

So, be brash, bold and daring — in subtle ways too.

Eric Francis

Neptune in a Flask

When I was studying marine biology at John Dewey High School, I heard of this place called the New York Ocean Science Laboratory (NYOSL), out in Montauk — at the far end of Long Island’s south fork. That always seemed perfect — to have an ocean science lab out here on the far-flung edge of the North American continent, more than 100 miles out into the Atlantic Ocean. All kinds of complex aquatic systems exist around here — besides the ocean itself, there are inland lakes and ponds, streams, bays, harbors, wetlands and islands.

Grow room by the Sea — Algae stock grows in Erlenmeyer flasks at the East Hampton Town Shellfish Hatchery in Mondauk, NY. The algae provides microscopic food for infant oysters, clams and scallops (while they’re in the larval stage). After the algae matures here, the cultures are moved to much larger vats where the algae blooms under natural light — then a bunch of pea-sized mollusks have a feast. Photo by Eric.

I’ve looked for the lab many times on the ‘Net and I’ve never been able to find it — and I learned why today. The New York State Legislature cut its funding in 1979, before the Internet existed. So, it never had a website or a web presence of any kind, and there are few references to its existence. Even asking the locals, most only seemed to have heard of it.

The land was almost all sold to build condos, and most of the place (originally a former WWII torpedo testing facility) was torn down. The one remaining building fell into ruins. Then in 1986, someone thought to open a shellfish hatchery. NYOSL’s remaining structure was renovated and revived, and the Town of East Hampton (which includes the hamlet of Montauk) created a place to breed clams, scallops and oysters. So many of these critters are harvested from the water that the stocks were nearly depleted before World War II. So it makes sense to reinvest in the ecosystem.

With some help from the local newspaper, I tracked down the lab’s manager and visited there yesterday. It’s a gritty little operation, with a small staff. The facility is designed to get mollusks to mate, which they do by spewing their sex cells into the water — and then the staff collect the larvae. These are fed algae, which is bred first in beakers like the ones you see above, then in larger vats. Only the smallest fish eat algae stock; once they’re big enough, they are put out into a nursery or live on racks, in both of which cases they consume the naturally occurring algae in bay water.

Both Chiron and Neptune in Pisces are going to call attention to the oceans. The oceans are the immune system of the planet, and the wetlands are the spawning grounds where nearly all marine life has its roots. Chiron in Pisces is the essence of marine science — the spirit of inquiry, documentation and acknowledgement of the issues we face and the healing that’s necessary.

We’re going to need both scientists and facilities to understand and help us deal with the changes the world is going through. This has been true for as long as there’s been industrialization, though I can tell you from much experience covering polluters that they don’t like scientists. They don’t like research. The less that’s known about the effects of all this industrial activity and pollution, the better. Not everyone agrees with that.

The East Hampton hatchery is not a research lab; it provides a practical function, which is restocking the waters from which so many people eat and make a living. That’s a good start. I’ll post another photo to Planet Waves tomorrow.

Monthly Horoscope for February 2012. | Eric’s Zodiac Sign Descriptions

Aries (March 20-April 19) — Focus on your health. The potential problem I see is stress. However I also see an opportunity to cultivate habits and patterns of living that open the way to your vitality and longevity. Your best window of opportunity for this endeavor is from now through mid-April, when the influential planet Mars treks backward in Virgo. Let’s start with stress — which in this case seems to be a study in how you handle obstacles created by the need for attention to details. If you’re experiencing any kind of a setback, view it as an opportunity to solve a lot of seemingly minor issues that you want to work out anyway, only now you have an excuse. The whole theme of ‘rethinking’ is one that will help you relax into a truly creative space, which will be good for you. As for wellness opportunities — the story boils down to remembering that you exist in physical form, and physical activity is good for you, indeed essential to keeping your psychic energy in balance. You have so much voltage running through you at the moment that balance and clarity count for extra. I suggest you start by unraveling or undoing habits you don’t want — such as subtracting certain foods from your diet — and then gradually shift your momentum into what you consciously want to establish or create. This is a simple formula. As you liberate stuck energy and aggravating factors, more of your vital force becomes available for creative purposes.

Taurus (April 19-May 20) — Einstein once said that imagination is more powerful than knowledge, which describes perfectly how the planets are speaking to you right now. You may be discovering that certain things you knew for sure are no longer as valid as you thought. Curiosity will save the day, as you can quickly shift from any sense of disappointment about what’s not true toward an inquiry into what is. Curiosity about yourself is high on the agenda, though this is the kind of curiosity you must answer in experience rather than in theory. You seem to have reached a new depth of relationship with your opposite-sex self, which implies experiencing both of your inner gender polarities as more distinct and vivid. They have a relationship to one another, and you have a relationship to them. Your creative quest involves diving into new and even improbable experiences of yourself. By improbable, I mean that if you have an experimental spirit and turn your sense of inquiry onto yourself, you may discover unexpected new inner territory. You’ll notice things about yourself that you don’t identify as, but which are no less part of your psyche. The question might arise: how far do I go exploring with others or physically experiencing what I desire? I would say, start where you feel safe, and work your way out to the edge of that. Test your boundaries. A significant aspect of this is expressing in words to yourself and to others what you want, for the pleasure of doing so.

Gemini (May 20-June 21) — It’s a miracle that anyone feels safe on our planet, with all that seems poised to go so wrong. Yet actual conditions have minimal influence on one’s level of security or insecurity; the assessment is usually based on an internal metric — and becoming conscious of this is the theme of the coming few months. Let’s start with the idea that your level of fear is influenced by much of anything outside you. If the sources of fear were really external, our lives would be strewn with the nonstop disasters envisioned by our anxieties. In truth very little that we fear actually happens. Fear has its origins — and many of those are likely to involve family baggage. We come into this life with patterns that go back generations, though we prefer to think that our minds work in some original way. The fears you experience might be so directly attributable to others it’s as if they come tagged with the name of the source. For the next three months you have the opportunity to take out the trash — identify and make a conscious choice to let go of every insecurity that you don’t want. I know that fears are among the most persistent thought forms, though part of their staying power involves a lack of understanding where they come from. In any event, I suggest you define as a primary goal your desire to feel safe living here. By the way, this works out to be a leadership question.

Cancer (June 21-July 22) — Logic is one of the most powerful tools in the shed, though it doesn’t work for everything. I suggest you test your logic and also apply logic to test your conclusions, and see how both factors check out. Just remember, logic rarely points to what is possible. More often it points to what is seemingly impossible, not worth doing or not even worth trying. For that reason alone, it’s worth testing. Every significant human achievement was significant specifically because it defied the prevailing logic of its day. Some limit was exceeded; some purpose not previously recognized was fulfilled; someone saw potential in a way that nobody else had noticed, or at least dared to try. In a similar spirit, I suggest that you open your mind’s eye to your potential, to unlikely possibilities and to the vision of things that don’t yet exist. Consider how you want to shape your life over longer spans of time than you usually think about, say perhaps 10 or 20 years. Allow creativity to bring something new to the conversation when typical approaches to problem-solving don’t get you where you want to be. Challenge yourself to both seeing the limits of how you think now, and to conceive of your life in certain ways that project you into entirely new territory. The world is wider than you may think; places you’ve never been, and experiences you’ve never had, are waiting for you — no matter what anyone may deem as possible or impossible.

Leo (July 22-Aug. 23) — One of the reasons that many Leos feel so good about themselves is that you’ve figured out that it makes more sense than feeling any other way. You take an almost scientific approach to self-esteem, rationally assessing the ways in which you both excel and other ways in which you need improvement. The world would be a better place if more people did this, though if lately you’re noticing that you fall short of your own standards, you need a new way to measure. I can think of two qualities to consider. One is in your ability to find common ground with people. That is an astonishing gift to have, because common ground is the substance of which cooperation is made. Second, you tend to project yourself into the community that surrounds you in a clear way that people can understand, no matter what point of view they’re coming from. They’re extensions of the same deeper property you have, which is your ability to hold people together like the Sun keeps its planets in their orbits. Over the next several months you seem poised to move into wider and more visible public roles that relate to both social and professional aspects of life. More will be at stake; bigger risks than usual will be on the line. Before you take your new role, I suggest that you really understand the truly unique gifts you have, so that you have full confidence in them when you need them the most.

Virgo (Aug. 23-Sep. 22) — There’s only so far you can take the concept of integrity before it ceases to be practical. In fact pushing things out to an extreme of impeccability can have the opposite effect, of making you (or any human) want to break some rules just for its own sake. With Mars retrograde in your sign, I suggest you beware of this kind of reactionary effect. Make some room in your relationships for some of what cannot be verified or judged. People need to believe some of their own illusions, and they can often do so harmlessly enough. I recognize that it’s sensible in some ways to judge people (including yourself) on the basis of whether they’re being strictly truthful, or whether they fit precise metrics of authenticity. Yet that doesn’t leave much room for imagination, which we depend upon to get through the day, every day. I suggest you view the people around you in a more idealistic light. See them for the good things they offer and make an effort to overlook what might annoy you. If you do this enough you’ll get better at doing the same thing for yourself. All of the flaws in the world do not add up to perfection, so if you’re looking for happiness, you will need to look somewhere else, or rather, look another way. Remember that much of what the mind sees is the mind itself. There are other approaches to seeing, though instead of wondering what they are, I suggest you open your eyes and look.

Libra (Sep. 22-Oct. 23) — How strongly can you identify with someone else’s experience? Or maybe the more accurate question is, how much do you want to? It would seem that someone in your environment is teaching you a lot — and has also become a powerful influence in other ways. This situation has been developing for a while, though it’s only recently that you’re noticing just how much the experience is helping you rearrange your perspective. In recent seasons, you’ve been investing lots of your energy into organizing your life, focusing on maturity and getting clear about what’s important to you. Yet it seems you’ve been trying to do this from an internal orientation, avoiding competing influences. Along the way, certain distinct elements in your outer environment have been playing a role that you may not have noticed till recently. Someone who others might think is too ‘challenging’ to be around has proven to be an inspiration, in particular, driving you to express your full talent and individuality. This is of course more than most people can stand for themselves — all that awakeness and talent and full expression of energy kind of stuff is scary for lots of people. You’re in one of those situations where your best option is to rise to the occasion and take full advantage of the situation. If you can handle some unpredictability and running a bit higher voltage than you usually do, you’ll get the benefits of a truly one-of-a-kind creative partnership experience.

Scorpio (Oct. 23-Nov. 22) — Everyone wants to be popular, but not everyone recognizes the potential cost. Everyone wants a meaningful role to play in their community, but hardly anyone is willing to do the work. Everyone wants to be seen as someone with integrity, though few are willing to make the investment in themselves to deserve that distinction. At the moment you have all of this going on, and you may be wondering how much progress you’re making. I would propose that you’re in the ‘cleaning and scaling’ phase of a new relationship to whatever you think of as the public: your circle of friends, your immediate community or perhaps some wider audience. I suggest that as you go through this phase, you take an experimental attitude, rather than assuming any long-term successes or failures based on what happens in the immediate future. The situation isn’t perfect, but it’s clearly workable — as long as you don’t set perfection as a goal. If more things than usual seem to be going wrong, or if certain objectives seem to be slipping out of reach, that’s because you’re testing a number of things in practice that you had only worked out in theory. You’re also getting to experience how ‘human nature’ responds when you turn up the energy, and you’re learning something about group dynamics that for some reason was not obvious before. Meanwhile, if you’re looking for a dependable working method, try this on: be clear with people and they will be clear with you.

Sagittarius (Nov. 22-Dec. 22) — Focus on your work and not your career. There is a difference, though it’s often forgotten. Keep your emphasis on what you’re doing now, rather than on the trajectory of what you intend to be doing, have decided to work toward, or where you’ve been previously. Let your experience only be relevant when it provides actual information you can work with. See what it’s like to proceed for a while with no ambition to be more visible, respected or even successful; rather, get into the Be Here Now experience of full presence in your immediate activity. That is where the real energy is for you personally, whichever way we might look at your charts. In the current version of the world, there is way too much emphasis placed on supposed success, on the technical side of the creative process and on this elusive thing known as fame. Where your charts are the strongest right now is on the quality of your creative or work experiences as well as the results you get; on the chemistry you have with your collaborators; and on being known as someone who does the job well, rather than being known for its own sake. As you focus on the present and your present efforts, you will gradually redefine your notion of success. You will shift your relationship to authority, including both your inner authority and those who seem to hold power in the external world. And when you proceed after this experiment, you’ll truly be your own boss.

Capricorn (Dec. 22-Jan. 20) — You are by nature an intuitive thinker. However, that’s another way of saying creative thinker. Yet creative is a matter of emphasis, with the emphasis being on noticing what you have not noticed before, or seeing what others do not; your apparent lack of logic often works to your benefit. You’re now in an extended phase of your life when the theme is how you think. You may be discovering that there is no such thing as ‘pure reason’, though it’s possible to ask reasonable questions. You may suddenly be able to tune into your perception and notice patterns that were not obvious before. This may seem clairvoyant, in particular if you don’t know how you reached a certain conclusion. Therefore, I suggest that you allow your mind to work in its new way, and if you’re wondering how you arrived at a certain destination, work your way backwards from your recognition to the facts that initially led to it. For the sake of credibility, you might want to leave some of your calculations in the margin, so that others know that there are steps you took to get where you’re going. However, don’t let them get in your way when you’re working independently of others. For your own sake, making sure that there are logical steps after the fact will help build your confidence in your observation skills. They may not seem important today, but the way the world is going, you’re going to be glad you have them the moment you need them.

Aquarius (Jan. 20-Feb. 19) — Lately you seem to have your doubts about where you stand with yourself, though I suggest you give that a rest. You are, at least, becoming fully self-aware and determined to know the truth about yourself. This is an excellent start. I would caution you against listening to what others try to convince you of, particularly if a sexual or financial relationship has gone awry or turned negative any time recently. You still have a lot of your self-esteem invested in that situation — and it’s going to take some time to work this out. I suggest you think of this as a technical exercise that will gradually get results. If there’s a spiritual component, that might be about compassion and patience. Know that your personal resources are more valuable than whatever you may have invested in the relationship. Indeed, it would seem that there’s relatively little invested, in terms of actual commitment; there seems to be more of an entanglement that you now have the responsibility of working out. As when untangling anything else, you cannot push, and you have to remember not to pull too hard. Yet the thing to really keep in mind is that this is not a measure of your value, to yourself or to anyone else. You’re merely in a situation that is calling for care and attention, and that you will easily let go when the details are resolved — and when emotions settle down. You can help by keeping them as cool as possible.

Pisces (Feb. 19-March 20) — This month, Neptune arrives in your sign, to stay until 2025. It is rare that you get to say that a new phase of your life has begun. However, astrology also provides a metric. Neptune in your sign will shift your experience of yourself — and as a result, your experience of the world you live in. Yours is the most watery of the water signs. Yet there’s just one planet that’s directly associated with water — Neptune. It moves extremely slowly, and has been hanging out since 1998 in an angle of your chart where its best properties have been difficult for you to access. This has had two effects. One is that you’ve had to turn your sensitivity up, in order to compensate for what was not immediately available. You’ve had to make company for yourself when you were feeling isolated, and find softness within when there seemed to be none around you. I suspect that any residual sense of isolation is going to gradually dissipate over the next few months, and your relationships — all of them — are going to go through a phase of adjustment. The gist of that story is that you’re going to feel a lot more comfortable being who you are, and exist in a world that’s more your kind of climate. Others, in turn, will need to adapt to your being more grounded in your being — or rather, they will or they will not, but either way, you’ll feel more at home.

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