Today I share these letters with you after a month of long nights typing and erasing, wondering whether any words will do when the world seems heavy with unbearable cruelty and violence. And, it did help to remember that the world has been violent for a very long time and it has also been beautiful just as long. That despite the atomic bomb, Bikini Atoll now boasts an oceanic paradise.
Sometimes I wonder, when it gets to be this late in the month, if these letters will do you good, if they would mean much. But then I remember how good it feels to write you a letter, how in writing a love letter, I’m restored to the planet where lovers cross paths, exchange sparks, live and die in each others’ arms.
It is then that I stop wondering and become grateful.
I love you, I see you, I think of you often,
P.S. If you feel moved to donate toward the writing of the horoscopes, you can leave an offering in turn here.
A huge shout out to my friends and supporters… especially Angela Watrous at Restorative Empathy and Amelie Zurn-Galinsky…”a warrior with a sensitive soul… who could it be? A Scorpio.”
P.P.S. thanks Claire Skinner, for being my first and best reader.
Somewhere outside my window, in an apartment not far from mine, a group of women is singing Ginuwine’s “My Pony” and I can hear the laughter in between notes. I like it, being inside the song with them, how it feels free and easy which has not been the case this month for anything else. In a karaoke bar somewhere in my recent past, an Aquarius I knew would always choose this song. On stage, she transformed into a lanky glamor of light riding the song like a perfect wave.
When I asked her how she knew which song was the song for her, she said Always choose what you sang out loud to a mirror when you were a teen, hairbrush in hand, the lyrics already inside you long before you’re sure of them. Something about this advice stuck with me, widened and stretched its meaning. I wanted to sing the song that was right for me, yeah, but more than that I wanted to know how to get up in front of a spotlight and give a performance that was entirely free of inhibition and modesty.
When you sing in front of people, it is a little act of love, an undressing, even when the note is false, even when you’re not sure how it goes. You learn how to be by being, relentlessly. And how do you choose the song of your life? Imagine your child-heart and your wizened future-self, joining hands down the long path.
I’ve got this picture I took while lying in your coral-colored bed, an old book titled “Life on the Sea Shore” resting by your pillows. It’s reminding me of all the articles about our dying coral reefs and also, an article in the Smithsonian on “ocean optimism” that opens with the lines: Things are far more resilient than I ever imagined. Me, green sea turtles, coral reefs blown to bits by atomic bombs. This is an article about believing in your ability to heal, even thrive, in the aftermath of great trauma dressed up as an article about environmental journalism. It maintains that reporting on the dire status of the ocean does not seem to better the ocean one bit. People, it turns out, are motivated by an optimistic tone and a hopeful outcome.
They call it the “finite pool of worry.” Overburdening people’s capacity for worry with too much doom and gloom leads to emotional numbing. When we believe our actions are too small to make a difference, we tend to behave in ways that create the conditions in which those expectations are realized.
As we shift seasons in this turbulent year that has brought you upheaval and sweetness, both in good measure, I have ocean optimism for you, dear Pisces, especially when it comes to dealing with your “finite pool of worry.” I know you’re a brilliant water being, rare and beautifully sharp. Perhaps, something you are learning slowly is that your ability to swim through emotional intensity has granted you the ability to hold emotional space for those around you. That you might have healing powers that transcend your own personal experience, a gift for building communities that are in accordance with the ocean’s virtues: interconnectedness, diversity, and an imagination that glows in the dark.
It’s after 10 pm on a Tuesday and I’m up writing these astro-love letters, listening to Billie Holiday sing one of her many heartbreak songs. You know, I wouldn’t have pegged Billie for an Aries at first, but I can understand it. A young girl would’ve had to be born a leader, a creator, to endure so much brutality in one lifetime and still leave behind beautiful things in this world. Besides, how many thunderstorms can a firebird take before she lies down in the wet ground wincing?
O, I don’t want you to think I don’t see you, doing your best to pump those wings and fly forward through storm winds and heavy rain. I do. You’ve got it under control, am I right? It’s just that it can get isolating, having it all under control, especially when having it under control means being so busy you spend all your time meeting everyone’s needs but your own. What’s a meal? What’s gentleness? It can be hard to taste to sweetness when there’s no time to eat. Even the act of reaching out, of combatting isolation, is another task on a long list that never seems to get shorter.
What’s a firebird to do? How is she supposed to remember where her fire comes from and for what purpose when it’s all she can do just to keep it going? Obligations and responsibilities make demands but, Firebird, you were born the fly and make beautiful things. What do you love, in the world, in yourself? Make a commitment to your spirit above all earthly contracts.
We’re out dancing because you said you wanted to be out dancing, even though you’re the only one not dancing. Instead, you’re leaning against the wall and watching, savoring the rising pulse and radiating pleasure of your friends—who are, in a sense, dancing for you. A song comes on and I’m gone inside of it, refracting the waves of sounds through my body, reflecting our friends’ movements, our limbs speaking to each other.
Someone says “I’m so tired, I’ve got to go home, I have work in the early morning,” but you beg them not to. No, you don’t beg. You direct your energy at them at full charge, “No, you are not going. Don’t even think about going.” Nobody leaves for a long time. Not because they can’t but because it feels good to be needed so badly by someone so rooted to the earth. The gravity of your affection is just tempting enough to ignore your unreasonable demands.
As I surface above the music and search for you, I wonder if you know how loved you are, how celebrated. I wonder if you understand that the moments in life when you have felt ignored or unappreciated, the moments when your heart ran way past the roaming fields and it took days to bring it home, were moments when a community of lovers stood behind you. Lovers and friends and lots of wild animals, all of them guard you, all of them lucky to know you. Whenever you’re feel you don’t know yourself, they’re remind you.
I took a walk because the room felt tight and now I’m sitting outside at a café where the patrons to my left talk very loud and close like babushkas from Brighton Beach. I guess life feels a little tighter this season since we’re scrunching under awnings in the rain and huddling together for heat. Tight enough that the line between what has happened and what will gets a little worried like, did Bob Dylan get a Nobel Prize for poetry if he won’t acknowledge it? And did you really have that argument if no one says sorry and no one says I forgive you?
And of course those unsaid things that sit so tight against the chest you can barely breathe through them make me think about family and where our negotiations get us. How my Gemini brother just grips the wheel tighter and tighter as my mother goes on and on about what he’s got to do to get his life right. The thing she’s not entirely wrong, she just doesn’t know that being right doesn’t matter when you’re talking about someone else’s life. Meanwhile, I’m in the backseat waiting for my brother to look toward me and create a confidence but he never looks. He’s so tight inside himself he can’t even see my love which, if he reached for it, would have space for his truth and my own.
A Gemini is a double and when there is a double there is a split. Where there is a split there is a wound. When a split self guards both sides of a wound, the wound is both unbothered and untended. When a Gemini is a creature of habit, he makes new wounds and keeps them in a familiar place. The well of wounds grows deeper and widens the space between two guards, who would rather not be so far from each other. When a Gemini turns inward and tends to the wound, his split selves touch and support one another.
You dreamt a house into being. You dreamt light streaming through a window and falling on the pages of a book, the curled back of an animal that was your animal, a room where everything you cherished was protected from rain and time. You dreamt a life into being and grew into that life, the doorways framing your frame, the kitchen with its endless ritual of making and unmaking. You took the house’s shape and forgot what the dream was built on, by whom. You married an idea and made a vow. You thought you were the house; you forgot how dreams are made.
What happened when the house you built no longer fit you? You let the boards sigh while you paced the floor and packed your life. You were neat and then you were messy. You lay on the ground until the difference between you and the ground was very clear. Then you got up and did what you had to do. You are powerful enough to have many dreams, many lives.
The foundation is in you and you build each dream on top of it. You construct a nest of pillows and shift the duvet to make a smooth plane for your limbs. You cover your eyes and are in total darkness. The hypnosis tape assures you that all hypnosis is self-hypnosis. You know this is a form of self-protection on the creator’s part but take it as an offering. Rediscover our ability to forgive those old hurts says the man on tape who speaks deliberate and slow. Your mind is a span of clouds teased out into skinny threads. Your mind is a mood opening. Listen to your own voice, whispers the hand in the clouds, be guided by your own heart. And even though it is hard to hear the whispers, you listen.
Some of us spend all our emotional energy figuring out the intricacies of giving ourselves up. We know trust comes in waves: I trust you in confidence, I trust you intimately, I trust you to witness my weakness and still see me as strong.
Because I’ve loved you for a very long time, I know your trust is earned not lightly. The truth is, I’m just trying to sit with you at the same table and I don’t care what happens after that. No I’m lying. I care. We both feel it and it’s a weighty thing, all this affection. We are servant in love’s name; I give you my spoonful of honey and listen to your story. When you embellish and I say Hey, don’t do that. Tell me again, simpler. And it is good to believe we can be honest with one another.
What is seen, acknowledged and what is left to sink heavy to the bottom? If you are not getting what you want from those closest to you, consider this: people learn how to treat you by example, how you treat them and how you let yourself be treated. And this a tenet of trust as well, asking the ones you love to do better, giving them the chance to live up to your image of them—which is an image held together with rare sweetness and good faith.
And, because I trust you to understand me, I offer you these words in hopes that you hear them in your own heart: I trust that you mean to be kind to me, I will be generous when you fail to do so, I will support you by maintaining my boundaries, I will tend to my fire with patience so that it warms us both and burns no one.
Because there are times when our own words won’t do, I wanted to speak in a language you would understand. I begin poring over the books of Jean Rhys, specifically Good Morning, Midnight, although I spent time with Wide Sargasso Sea as well. And I know, I know, that Rhys’s words in these books are written through characters but if there’s on thing I learned from hanging out with fiction writers it that they put a little bit of their interior into every character they imagine. So now I’m thinking about these lines:
Every word I say has chains round its ankles; every thought I think is weighted with heavy weights. Since I was born, hasn’t every word I’ve said, every thought I’ve thought, everything I’ve done, been tied up, weighted, chained? And mind you, I know that with all this I don’t succeed. Or I succeed in flashes only too damned well. …But think how hard I try and how seldom I dare.
Jean Rhys wrote about the weight of intellectual loneliness but it did not dispel her loneliness, her enduring bewilderment. In the wilds of mental production, nothing we make for the approval of others will ever be good enough to nurture us. And I’m holding these words like a little candle so that we might warm up a dark room together, wondering what success is when your heart’s far from it or when, in fear, you hide your heart lest it jeopardize your power. And what is a heart? A muscle that grows weak with age and heavy with time or something unknown to us—scientists and speculators—the way spirit is unknown and felt especially in absence. Perhaps, now that you’re thinking about it, you feel it beating in your chest and the sound of it—stronger than you remembered—is a good sound, a guiding sound.
I’m burning a bunch of cedar I bought at a little place in my neighborhood called Sacred Vibes Apothecary and thinking on your sacred vibes, how you anoint your feet with tea tree oil before sleep because bed is a sacred space. Tea tree oil cleanses and cedar invites sweet spirits to the table. A few weeks ago, for your birthday, I entered into a many-gendered coven of creators. Over honey cake and gluten-free fried chicken, I watched you weave between each person at the table, touching them lightly with your eyes, praising them with big laughs. I realized that it had been a very long time since I had been amongst close strangers who, collectively, were open and welcoming to an outsider and I knew it was you who drew this circle with its shifting circumference.
I know what I meant and I meant what I said
You can think what you want but the truth is, at the end,
you read me wrong.
With such a gift for friendship, it can be hard to reckon with misunderstanding. Especially since those of us with “gifts for friendship” know that the gift is less a character trait and more of a daily devotion to nurture our most meaningful bonds.
The power you have to communicate with love and acceptance is not to be taken lightly or taken for granted. You are perceptive, discerning, and generous all in good measure. When communication breaks down, it is important to step to the side of the words themselves lest they distract you. Words, after all, often get in the way of meanings. Ask yourself, instead, what you hope to achieve in the exchange you are in and what actions will communicate that most clearly. Focus on the word exchange. Don’t temper what you need to meet the needs of others.
What I like is the way you don’t look like you’ve changed at all, same old leather jacket and row of silver in one ear, your energy hard and soft at once—the line where the lamp’s glow meets night’s edge. And even though we could have been in conversation this whole time, had the means to be anyway, we act as if in seeing each other we experience a lost pleasure. I am a lamp in the night too, and flickering. I’m almost ready to perform a disappearing act but you’re asking lots of questions and I can tell we both got our hearts on the line so I don’t stop answering.
What I like is how neither of us has the answers. I’m ok with being the bad one, you say, but this feels outside of my control, outside my ability to change. And I’m remembering how I spent all afternoon listening to Joni Mitchell, the craziest Scorpio who ever was, and how good it felt to lie down in her loose high notes.
I’ve looked a love from both sides now, from give and take and still somehow, it’s love’s illusions I recall, I really don’t know love at all.
All of a sudden I want to tell you how love is just like clouds, how it takes shape over us and changes and changes and darkens and releases and recedes. How there’s nothing we can control above us or below, and that’s a kind of terrible freedom. But then I look at your face, so guarded and hopeful at once, and instead I say, some people are hard to understand but sometimes it’s worth the difficulty, trust yourself to know when to hold on and when to let go.
In my shady bedroom, everything that should be on the walls is resting on the floor, waiting. I’ve got to paint the walls, the can waiting patiently by the door. The name of the color is “cool lime” and, in my mind, it’s a can full of light. I lugged the can of light for miles from Home Depot, the handle digging into my grip and the hot sun beating down. Exhausted from what some might call a small physical task and glad to be home, I had to admit it felt good to choose something and make it happen.
After my arduous afternoon, I left for a movie with some of closest friends. It was a movie about women who, in different ways, were invested in their own depletion. We watched a lawyer endure a male client who imposed himself into her car and wept. Our row couldn’t stop laughing as he cried. We’d all been there, someone demanding we take care of them, someone taking advantage of our empathy. Things only got worse.
Watching the movie, a Max Ritvo poem came to mind: Things don’t change unless we want them to. And why would we want to give up the little things we know, when we know so little?
Then I started thinking about you, Sagittarius, and whether it’s no longer tenable to wait until you’re ready to give up the little things you know. Well anyway, I’ve got these ugly beige walls and paint can full of light. Sometimes, the most daunting aspect of change is thinking about it.
This fall I’m remembering the autumn when, waiting for my girlfriend to pack up her life and move in with me, I bought a box of used books and read almost every single one. The one book I kept coming back to, on the chance that I might have read too quickly and missed something, was Brownies by ZZ Packer. I read Brownies for a week, sitting with each story, changing locations and times of day
It was so rich, all of it, the narrator’s interior—so tense and vivid—and how it collided with the language of the world around her. What stuck with me to this day was the striking final paragraphs where the narrator, a young black girl, began to reckon with systemic racism: the trauma she was to inherit and her relationship to that trauma, her role in it.
When you’ve been made to feel bad for so long, you jump at the chance to do it to others.
When I think about the books that have taught me what identity is and how it shapes us, how it splinters us into painful irreconcilable bits, I realize that the writers have often been Capricorns (Woman Hollering Creek and Caramelo by Sandra Cisneros come to mind here). And I know, that books can’t teach us everything, that we must learn from each other how to hold ourselves up and hold ourselves responsible. But, know this, somewhere along the path toward reconciliation and (dare I say it) justice, there are women who are waiting for you to walk with them and clear the way for others.