This post reminds me of another one —
— since both discuss different levels of “necessity” with which transits of these planets gift us. And in both cases, necessity presents in the form of a crucial crossroad for us to learn from.
This essay was published in the Spring 2000 edition of SageWoman magazine, and presents one way of looking at that issue’s theme of “Welcoming Abundance.”
IS THE UNIVERSE FRIENDLY? From Saturn to Pluto
by Ann Kreilkamp
October 1981. I am flying solo in my little blue Chevy Monza down a deserted Wyoming highway, destination unknown. For months now I’ve been flopping on friends’ couches all over Wyoming and Idaho. As Robert Frost said, friends are those who, if you knock on their door, they have to let you in.
And for all these months I have been unable to move the stick shift into reverse gear. Which means that I must always go forward, seeing far enough ahead to recognize what to avoid. Diagonal parking is out. No parallel parking on busy streets. My predicament is a metaphor for the course my life must take, and I know it. No mistakes. No backing up. No looking back. I smile grimly to recognize this perfect outpicturing of my inner reality.
I have been on the road, “down and out,” ever since I left early one morning, seeking shelter from Phil’s storm. Had been in this new relationship, living in a new town, for one year. Took him on. Thought I could heal him. HA! What a fool! Escaped just before dawn that morning to a new friend’s house, hid the Monza in her garage, sat trembling in her living room, behind drawn shades. Hoping he wouldn’t stalk me, hoping he didn’t know I knew this reluctant hostess whom I had desperately dialed from a public phone booth.
Ever since I left her house I have been driving around Idaho and Wyoming without a reverse gear, each night collapsing gratefully into the friendship net I’d sewn over the years. What comes next? I have no idea.
So here I am on this glorious new morning, hair flying in the wind, down to my last $20. And I’m not talking “cash flow,” I am talking reality. Twenty dollars is all the money I possess in the world. No bank accounts, no CD’s, no houses, no insurance, nothing. I am alone, a rolling stone, free.
With no idea what comes next, every moment counts. I am at once scared and exhilarated, sunk deeply into the moving present, my senses drinking in the stark sage desert stretching to wind-scarred hills beyond.
“Okay Goddess, ”I yell out the window into the wild, desolate, rocky land, “‘It’s time! I have only $20 left. Now what?”
Stripped of cultural attachments, sitting in my little car while the world rolls by, over and over during these months I have come to this same place, this place of unknowing, of asking, of listening for the answer to the one question I have always been afraid to ask. I need to know, I must know, now: “Is the universe friendly?”
That existentialist journey, the initiation into my own midlife crisis, occurred 18 years ago. In astrology, this crisis is triggered when the planet Uranus opposes its natal position for the first (and only) time, somewhere between the ages of 38 and 42. I was 39 years old. I will never forget that image of me, flying through the desert, asking the universe for whatever was next, expecting an answer. An answer which always came. Everytime I asked, it came. Another friend’s couch. Another $20.
At the time I did not know that this was the real point of my journey. I just thought I was going through a muddy, confusing patch and doing my best to cope. Now, nearly two decades later, I recognize the larger significance.
Most people I know have not had to strip themselves down so drastically. They have not had to discover whether or not the universe is friendly. I was lucky to have the opportunity. And lucky too, to be born an optimist: the tendency to trust the universe turns out to be my default mode, just below the cynical crust of cultural conditioning.
I discovered that either the universe isfriendly, or the universe is friendly if I assumeit is. It doesn’t matter which interpretation is “true.” Both lead to the same result.
For years, prior to this experience, I had counseled astrological clients: “Follow your nature, and nature takes care of you.” And though I had been following my nature for some time, not until I walked out of that mean drunk’s home with no visible support and nowhere to go did I discover that nature would indeed support me. That if I attended to the present moment, entered fully into the presence, something unexpected would happen. My path would unfold, one step at a time.
Though this business of staying present, of opening to the moment, is the key to the unfolding, it is one of those things which seems so obvious as to be trivial, not worth mentioning, much less contemplating. Entering the actual reality of the presence is difficult, because subtle. We don’t realize that we are not here, but there. That we are not moving into this particular moment — which then opens. Instead, we “spend our time” worrying about or longing for the future, and/or regretting or longing for the past! We are seldom right here, right now. It usually takes a shock to wake up to the present moment, where time “slows down ” and colors bloom into aliveness.
It is especially difficult to realize the abundance of the Now when we are surrounded by the distractions of cultural artifacts. Houses, jobs, couches, computers, clothes, social status, cars, refrigerators, beds, social clubs, appointments of one kind or another — all these filter our view of the natural world, so that we do not see things whole. So that we do not realize our need to discover that Nature will support us if we but follow our Nature.
In astrology, this idea of the differing levels of reality, of what appears and what is, is articulated via the meanings of two planets: Saturn and Pluto. Both these planets have to do with necessity, with what is hard to take, hard to fathom. Both are severe taskmasters — but with a difference. Saturn has to do with Culture, Pluto has to do with Nature. Saturn works at the level of identity, the various roles we play; Pluto at the level below identity where life and death, our very existence is at stake.
Saturn invokes the consequences of choices we make, recognizing and coming to terms with them. These choices accumulate, to form or fashion the role we play in the social world. Pluto invokes the necessities of coming to this earth as a soul yoked to a body/mind. A body/mind which follows natural laws, a soul which is evolving. Our life is the dance between the two — their seeming polarization, their eventual integration.
Through Saturn we are responsible — for imagining, planning and then going about the slow, patient mind-over-matter business of constructing a (“manmade”) reality.
Through Pluto we respond — to continuous or episodic transformation, death and rebirth. This process requires, always, a surrendering — to a reality deeper than mind.
Whirling down that deserted Wyoming highway, I had let Saturn go. I had no job, no identity, no recognizable role in the world. I had only one “thing”— my car. I needed money for gas; food and shelter were provided by my friends. In exchange I would “look at their charts.” I had studied astrology for seven years; now astrology was starting to support me. So I did have a role after all. Or, I was beginning to fashion one. I was not destitute. My life, measured in terms of skill and energy available for work, was abundant.
By walking out of Phil’s house I had dared myself to surrender to Pluto, to “hit bottom.” And in hitting bottom, I found the universe was friendly. That it would support me.
Of course, there are plenty of people who have to go further down, who have no thing, no car, and seemingly no means of exchange, who have to dig themselves out of holes that feel more like graves. And when they do rebirth themselves, their life force is prodigious. In releasing the persona, we plug into the soul, our pipeline to the Source.
Even the small taste I had of “being at the mercy of the universe,” gave me a taste of what She is about. Of Her benevolence. Had I not undergone that experience, I would not have discovered what lies below our regular salaries, insurance policies, etc., all those Saturnine structures we install and maintain so that we don’t have to discover Pluto, and its significance: the benevolent Nature of Nature.
The Goddess truly does, always, hold us in Her arms.