THE 71ST BIRTHDAY BLUES, Reality Takes Hold, or: How I learned to integrate Above and Below with the Surround.

Brace yourself. This is going to be a long post. In three parts. What are they? Not sure yet. But that’s what my “instructions” say. Okay.

PART I: The Set-up

A few days ago I got in the mail a birthday card from my one of my “little” sisters, Kathy (she’s 5’11” I’m 5’4″) and her smart-ass husband, Marty. He picked out the card.

Damn. I wish my hand wouldn’t shake when I take pictures! More on that later. But you get the gist. As the oldest of eight, I have been, undoubtedly, bossy. Kathy is 4th in line. Her husband, however, is one year older than I am. So there!

Inside the card were a few photos, some of which I’d never seen before. Backstory: just about a month ago, each of the sibs received a giant package in the mail that contained albums with photos from our voluminous common history. Wonderful niece Jera had been tasked with sorting and sending them to all her aunts and uncles after Dad died.

Here’s a photo of Dad (and me) from 1987. It’s the single best, happiest, most relaxed picture of him I’ve ever seen! Thank you, Kathy!


She also sent me a classic photo from when I was a baby and Dad had just left for the War. I’m here with my aunt, my Mom’s sister Marnie, in Saint Cloud, Minnisota, already worried, having absorbed my mother’s inner desolation.


Then, the photo that really got me. Loved it! Who took this picture of me changing my pants in public? Probably somewhere in the wilds of Idaho. Again, from 1987.

changing pants

What I love about this picture is that it shows my spirited nature, as well as my well-muscled thighs! Let’s see, let me count the years . . . That was 26 years ago. I was 45.

A huge gulf between my depression when young (my Taurus Moon grabbed hold, and, operating “negatively,” rendered me existentially insecure) and the fiery Sagittarian wild woman I finally loosed into the world. Long story there! but not now.

Just looking at that picture really inspired me. “Hey, for my 71st birthday, how about I go out into the woods and climb one of the fire towers, get the lay of the land? Do my annual ceremony up there?” YES!

BTW: I wanted to do it on the day before my December 19th birthday, because that’s the day of my Solar Return for 2013, when the Sun would register, once again, at 27°00 Sagittarius.

Screen Shot 2013-12-18 at 9.14.56 AM

This chart, frankly, is rather “scary” (to my Moon). The ongoing Uranus/Pluto square transit (2012-2015) is “angular,” i.e., on or near two of the angles of the chart (Pluto at the Midheaven, Uranus near the Ascendant), which makes this upcoming year personally very potent for me. Moreover, at the time of the Solar Return, the transit Moon and the transit Mars are also angular (near the other two “angles” of the chart), and configured by square and opposition to Uranus/Pluto, the entire configuration forming a volatile, eruptive, transformative Grand Cross in cardinal signs. Yeeeek! says my poor beleaguered Moon. An accident waiting to happen. A sudden event that shoots me into outer space. Worse, accident-prone Mars/Uranus is also a configuration in my natal chart, and frankly, the fractured wrist that I suffered last year from a fall on a trail in the woods has, not “broken my spirit,” but made me yes, more cautious.

But what the hell! I want to climb that tower for my 71st birthday, get the lay of the land, get above it all, so that no matter what happens down here below, I can see the whole. At least that was the idea. Detach, woman! Don’t let the whipsaws of outrageous fortune get to you, just rise above. No problem!

So I gathered my smudging materials for ceremony, pulled on my good boots, bundled up, got Shadow, and headed out.

PART II: The Journey

We decided to go first to Griffy Lake, just so Shadow could run around a bit before I stopped somewhere to eat, prior to the ceremony. I wanted to be on top of the tower, in ceremony, at the moment of the Solar Return chart, 1:39 p.m. EST.

Oops! Immediately, I notice that the trail uphill at Griffy is extremely icy and slippery.


And that’s when reality started to take hold. And never let go. My footing on the ground was not secure. I was not grounded. My Moon had to take over. I had to let the Sag fire go while I placing each foot in front of the other, slowly and carefully.

Okay, I couldn’t help notice the metaphor. Hmmm. Need to move through this entire wham/bang year that way? Slowly and carefully? Making sure I get a good grip on the ground?

It took awhile, but we made it. Here’s the top of the little hill, with a bench in the distance.

top of Griffy and bench

Okay. Start down, the same way, slowly and carefully.

Next stop McCormick’s Creek State Park about a 20 minute drive west, where I will first eat lunch in the lodge there.

Okay, lunch over. About an hour has gone by. Hmmm. I don’t think I’m going to make it to the top of the fire tower by 1:39 p.m. . . . oh well, let that expectation go. Take the trail to the Falls, first.

Oh good, trail not so slippery here . . .

The Falls! Upstream.

the falls


Wow, gorgeous from above. But I do not want to start down the icy, shaded stone steps.

Okay, time to climb the fire tower!

On our way in, trail still okay.

Ooooh, there it is. My long-awaited goal: the fire tower!

full tower

Look up.

tower from below

I can do this!

Just need to tie Shadow to the bottom to wait. Too dangerous to bring him with me.

I start up.

close-up steps

Oh geez, do I really want to go all the way? I realized as soon as I got to the park that I forgot my smudging stuff for ceremony, and wondered what that meant. (When I get home I will discover it still sitting on the table, all ready to go in my daypack.)


And now I’m discovering that each and every narrow, rickety step is icy. This is incredibly difficult. Each step fraught with danger. Ye gods! Is that what this year’s going to be like? Plus, the whole tower edifice seems to sway. Or is that just in my mind? Step by excruciating step, I climb up two tiers maybe 30 steps; four tiers to go.

I look down. Ye gods! Look how tiny, my orange-clad Shadow!

30 steps up

I feel gravity settling in, a heaviness taking over.

Okay. I get it. My fiery Sagittarian daring has run its course. Taurus Moon is in charge. And she feels decidedly insecure, unsettled. NOT grounded. I’m turning around, trudging down. NOT going to gain an overview of this year. Not going to “detach.” Not this way. “DAMN!” cries my Sagittarian Sun, but in a sort of dispirited way, a sort of babyish, I-feel-sorry-for-me way, “Waaaaaa!”

Okay, okay. Get over it!

Start down. Again, slowly, extremely carefully. One slip and god knows what would happen and when anyone would find out! Poor Shadow, tied to the post forever!

Okay, let go of fear, damn it! Just trudge down, step by step, consciously, with full intent alive awareness, noticing exactly every cell of my body and how it works with all the other cells. Stay centered, for godssake!

starting down

One after another, step by slippery icy step, gloved hands gripping the rickety rails, I trudge down.


You can only barely imagine the relief. Thank god I’m no longer daring myself to do what can’t be done. Thank god I’m older and wiser now.

No longer a bird who can fly wherever, just flitting about with no consequence. I must get, and stay, grounded. PERIOD. Got it? That’s the message of this day’s journey that saw my hopes dashed, over and over again. That’s the message of this coming year, apparently, that shows up both in my solar return chart and in this telling journey. But I still don’t know how to get an overview, and I know damn well I’m going to need it to negotiate the unfolding of this volatile and unpredictable Grand Cross solar return chart.

Okay. Do ceremony in the evening instead, in the living room, in front of the fire. See what it brings.

PART III: The Resolution

A few hours into the evening, I start gathering my materials for ceremony. I will do it the way I’ve done it for at least 20 years, the way I used to do it with my late husband Jeff Joel. (Ye gods! I just tried to link his name with my other (archival) website, Tendre Press ( and it’s no longer there! Instead I get “This Site Under Construction.” What? Huh? Geez! Here we go!)

Okay, breathe! Just breathe. Let go of your shock at the missing website and go back to describing the ceremony you did last night, which, wouldn’t you know, in meditation, turned into a session on breathing! It turns out that the way to get the distance I need and yet stay grounded, is to breathe. In a certain manner. A manner which came to me, very forcefully, like a download. Which I shall describe. But first, here’s a photo of my little temporary altar, with candle in middle, over a tiny piece of cloth that holds the image of the Raven, long a personal symbol for me (ever since Crone Chronicles, long story), with other personal goddess and animal symbols grouped around and special crystals in the four directions.


Here’s the breathing exercise that came to me in meditation, before doing Tarot, and before drawing a Rune.

• On the inhale, shoot awareness (and chi) down into the Earth and up into the Cosmos simultaneously.

• On the exhale, reverse direction for awareness (and chi), again simultaneously: what went down comes up, what went up comes down, to meet in the heart (and slightly into the solar plexus), and shoot out horizontally, in a 360° circle, to bathe the whole world in love.

Over and over again, simultaneous inhale both up and down vertically, exhale also up and down, but reversed, the chi meeting and mingling together in the heart and spreading horizontally into the world.

Just as the solar arc grand cross has a vertical dimension (Pluto and Moon near MC/IC angles), and a horizontal dimension (Uranus and Mars near Asc/Desc angles), so does this breathing exercise. That’s how I center myself. That’s how I stay both grounded and detached, simultaneously. That’s how I both connect to my own integral self (vertical) while serving the whole (horizontal).


Here’s what I copied down from the book on the Rune that I picked: Inguz: Fertility, New Beginning.

“Centered and grounded, freeing yourself from all unwanted influences and seeing the humor, you are indeed prepared to open yourself to the Will of Heaven and can await your deliverance with calm certainty.”


Meanwhile, however, how did I get to be so old? How did I get to the point where I won’t go very far up icy steps, to where my hand shakes when I try to take a picture with my iPhone? How did I lose those well muscled thighs, that insouciant grin? Huh? I’m 71 today and these are the 71st Birthday Blues.


This entry was posted in 2013, local action, Uranus square Pluto, waking up, wild new ideas, zone zero zero. Bookmark the permalink.

0 Responses to THE 71ST BIRTHDAY BLUES, Reality Takes Hold, or: How I learned to integrate Above and Below with the Surround.

  1. Many happy returns! Will be tweaking my meditation on your suggestion <3

  2. Kent L. says:

    Ann-happy birthday and let me say as a newly awakened 66 yr old that I really appreciate your posts on this site and keeping us up to date on whats happening in our world.

    Its a tough call that we all have to face when even though one doesn’t think of oneself as “old”, the body has other ideas!.

    Then we have the wisdom of our senior years.

  3. rose day says:

    Wow Ann, I was a bit anxious just reading your account of “The Ascent”… (for Shadow as much as for you and all whose lives you touch.) I am calling your ultimate decision a ‘Wisdom Glimmer’.

    The media likes to paint concerns with the mechanics of aging as a strictly boomer thing but
    having watched numerous relatives age (many aging WELL) the issues really seem universal.

    Even as a teen, I never viewed my beloved aunts and uncles as ‘old’…yet by today’s often incredibly superficial standards they would probably be categorized as fossils.

    However, on an upbeat, although my relatives did not climb Everest, they aged gracefully, (even if at times ‘fitfully’) accommodating each ‘passage’ with hard-earned wisdom, vibrancy and spirit.

    Our generation can do the same…yes the landscape has changed but we can rise to the challenge
    and engage creativity in managing the new terrain. Spirit never ages…you are 71 years young!

  4. Jelene says:

    Great story. Happy Birthday too.

  5. Paul Crawford says:

    Happy Birthday! You don’t look a day over 61…

  6. Bill Chisholm says:

    Yo Queen Ann… a big Happy Birthday.. as usual you did it in style..your own style… I was thinking of Kenny Roger’s The Gambler as I read… “know when to hold em, know when to fold, know when to walk away, know when to run” Hard to believe the waters that have flowed under the bridge of life since I first met you at the farm all those many years ago.

  7. laurabruno says:

    Happy Birthday, and if it makes you feel any better –after taking 6 years to recover from a “mild” traumatic brain injury — there is no WAY I would climb those icy steps just because it was my birthday. I used to be a rock climber and mountain biker, as well as an avid hiker. Sometimes you just need to weigh the high with the why and decide if it’s really worth the risk. Potential gained vs. potential consequence. It sounds left brained and cautious, but in my very intuitive opinion, it was just smart. And exactly right on, too. Blessed year to you…

  8. Pamela says:

    Happy Birthday and Many Blessings to you, dear Ann!
    Thank you always for your warm and genuine sharing of experience.

  9. rose day says:

    …forgot to add…
    re: ‘bossy’ birthday card…I too received the ‘bossy’ card one year…sent and received in fun.
    I am the oldest of six and I agree that the inherent bossiness is a definite side effect of
    shouldering eldest born care-giving responsibilities from early on.

    I no longer offer apologies as true friends and loved ones ultimately realize that my intentions
    are in the right place. Birth order just is what it is and each position comes with its own set
    of plusses and minuses…plus I’m working on dropping a boat load of ‘must-do this and must-do that’…super liberating (and great fun actually).

    Let’s hear it for “Bossy Pants” (…love that Tine Fey)!

  10. Catherine France says:

    Happy, Loving, Grounded, Blessed Birthday. Catherine France Sent from my NOOK

  11. Jamie says:

    I think the thing I noticed the most about your Horary Chart, Ann, was that wise, Scorpio counselor sitting in your 7th House, and, making a beautiful Trine to your Moon. While transiting Uranus and Mars may have been egging your Moon on to “throw all caution ( and rational boundaries ) to the wind” it seems that transiting Saturn may have been working overtime to subdue those two naughty energies. 🙂

    Every day is a fine day to celebrate points of light that illuminate the darkness of this contrived world. I hope that you “keep the light on” for a very long time to come.

    • Bingo! I was going to add the slowing, moderating influence of Saturn into the boiling mix, but forgot! And yet, obviously I didn’t forget, or I wouldn’t have turned around on those icy steps. I just forgot to include in my report. I have written several posts that express gratitude for Saturn’s holding us all in some kind of cauldron during this Grand Cross “fraught” time on Earth.

      • jjsanto1962 says:

        ” And yet, obviously I didn’t forget, or I wouldn’t have turned around on those icy steps”.
        Exactly! You passed this exam with fireworks! I rather look at this Saturn in Scorpio as holding us, not only within that “cauldron” ,but, more importantly, taking us underground to see the roots of our collective dysfunction. I feel at home with Scorpio in Saturn right now and maybe this is because it is sitting smack dab on top of my Neptune/Venus/Moon conjunction in the 1st House ( why, yes, thank you for asking! I DO have boundary issues, but, I hoped no one would notice, lol! This is why I love Saturn right now! 😉 ).
        I can only hope that everyone else is just as excited about having Scorpio work it’s magic within the scope of their birth charts! 🙂 There is a great deal that can be spoken about in regards to transiting Saturn in Scorpio, and, it is deeply, radically life altering for those who are willing to traverse the subterranean landscape.

        • Yes yes YES! Subterranean is the word. And it’s excavating the impacted bowels of this so-called “civilization.” And wow, Neptune/Venus/Moon Scorpio first house. Are you an artist? A psychic? An “investigator”? Private eye? Certainly, your eye must be VERY private. And wow, combining that with, I presume, a second house Sun in Sag? So always motivated to come up to see what’s going on in the big picture, no matter how deep the dive, eh? Talk about Bridging/Blending Above and Below? You should write the book.

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