Horoscopes | Weeks of December 23, 2002-January 5, 2003

ARIES (March 21-April 19): I think I hold you to very high standards. I'm not quite as forthcoming with the unfettered praise and the buttery encouragement for you as I am with other signs, perhaps because I feel like maybe you don't need it. In a certain sense, I believe that you will do whatever it is you're going to do, no matter what I write to you. But maybe this is a misleading notion I entertain. I suppose it could seem like I criticize the self-motivated, always-active, full-steam-ahead energy that ceaselessly courses through your body, encouraging you to calm down or think things through or take someone else's needs into account—or maybe I mythologize this energy, fantasize about it, or find it threatening. I don't know. One thing I do know—regardless of what one astrologer's piddling little horoscope says about you, you'll always keep going, sure as the first blossom of spring always comes, no matter how long and severe the winter may seem. On the off chance you aren't so good at reading between the lines, let me come out and say what I haven't said in all these months. The greatest gift you can give yourself, Aries, is to recognize that you are a true leader, whether you have chosen to be one or not. Just remember not to wag your tail too hard or carelessly, as there will always be at least a handful of us humble followers directly behind you on your heels, and you don't want to knock us on our asses.


TAURUS (April 20-May 20): Though your official ruling planet is Venus, astrologers also associate Taurus with the Earth itself, seeing as you are the zodiac's fixed (or most stubborn) representative of the earth element. If you ever want to blow your mind tripping on a wondrous mystery of insane magnitude, just think about the Earth. Imagine its molten core, its ever-shifting plates of crust, vast oceans and networks of rivers, massive glaciers, the atmosphere, its breathable air, precipitation pouring down eroding its surface, the minerals, the volcanoes, the deserts, the unbelievably diverse biosphere of flora and fauna. And yet James Lovelock's Gaia theory of the 1970s—postulating that the Earth is a single, complex though coherent, self-regulating system, a giant super-organism—is still rejected by many scientists as metaphysical hoo-ha. Let them reject it, while I insist on its self-evident truth; nothing this amazing could exist as parts that don't comprise a perfectly functional whole. Taurus, let our home planet serve as an inspiration for your image of yourself as a mind-boggling mix of seemingly independent processes that magically hang together with a defiant coherence. The greatest gift you can give yourself is to peacefully acknowledge that others may not recognize the interdependent complexity which underlies your solid surface. Let the complete Taurus package remain a mystery that they all think they've figured out.


GEMINI (May 21-June 20): Perhaps you are sick of being reminded of the split-personality mythos of your sign. Gemini, the twins—two (or more) distinct characters inhabiting the same body, holding opposing views and acting out in inconsistent behaviors. It's a cheap shot when others pin angry judgments on you, falsely accusing you of immaturity or dishonesty by misinterpreting your unpredictability or changeability. As if the rest of us represent ourselves as perfectly coherent and unified selves. Hogwash. What if we are all, in fact, multiple selves sharing singular egos (which would account for fallible memories and variable emotions and momentary unexpected skills)? What if the only thing separating a healthy individual from a victim of multiple-personality disorder is the mutual acquaintanceship of our selves, our ability to call each of them into service at will? And what if you, Gemini, are our scapegoat, onto whom we project our fear of coping with our own multiplicity? The greatest gift you can give yourself is to allow your selves to know each other, to rely on each other for strength in adversity, and to never be forced to embody one when it's another's moment to shine.


CANCER (June 21-July 22): For the second week in a row, I am drawn to Buddhism to describe your situation. With its quiet inward orientation and the timeless peaceful comfort it offers, I suppose it's a good match for Cancerians. I am passing on to you a Buddhist meditation I heard about from one of my greatest teachers, who read it somewhere else. It isn't a private meditation, but one that is intended for a fairly populated public place. Its substance is this: To acknowledge that each other person you see has been, in some previously life, your mother. And its corollary, each has also been your child. As you scan the faces of men and women and teenagers and babies and the elderly, you apply the same thought. For that brief moment you catch their eyes, you scan their soul for the recognition of that deep true self, beneath the trappings of gender or culture, which comes to its fullest potential in this early bond. It helps return your focus to interconnectedness, at the same time it draws you out of the inevitable judgments that occur when confronting others whom we identify as not-ourselves. Your great gift, Cancer, is that your natural condition is much closer to an embodiment of this living meditation than any other sign—and for the sake of the rest of us, I hope that you apply your nurturing force toward mothering us, helping us also achieve this transcendent realization.


LEO (July 23-August 22): You are my favorite easy target. Whenever I'm stumped for something to write, I can always just start conjuring metaphors of stages and audiences and performances. Even a totally unskilled horoscope writer with little background in astrology will have no trouble detailing the Leonine need for attention. And as the events of your last few months reflect, I have no current shortage of exciting opportunities and newly opened doors and examples of good luck to hail in your favor. I've even gone so far as to peek beneath the surface of the stereotypical Leo behavior, finding a child terribly hungry to show her potential to love and be loved. All these comments, and many others regularly hurled your way, maintain a focus on what you need and what you take for yourself. They don't, however, appear to address what you offer to others, how your dynamic personality provides a certain service to us. Forgive me if what I am about to say is overtly obvious to you, but I beg you to dwell on its power, even if for the billionth time. Don't forget, even as we love to make fun of you, that your greatest gift, my Leo friend, is the joy that you bring us simply by being you. You inspire admiration, adoration and envy in those of us who wish to cultivate those traits of creativity and fun-lovingness you naturally exude.


VIRGO (August 23-September 22): In the middle of the night, while I was trying to sleep, I was plagued by an uncontrollable itch on the bottom of my foot. It was distracting enough to wake me up. But, each time, as I reached down to scratch the affected area of skin, I couldn't quite find the itch. It was as if it didn't actually exist. This went on for what seemed like an hour, every couple of minutes falling back to sleep, only to awaken to this phantom itch that threatened to drive me crazy. I even went so far as to get out of bed, turn the light on, and carefully scan my sole with my fingers, figuring that I would eventually stumble upon some sensation that indicated I'd found the stubborn location. But to no avail. Basically, I was forced to contend with the possibility that this itch was coming from the inside of my foot, that I was preternaturally sensing its symptoms before they'd had a chance to reach my epidermis. I also realized that, due to its elusiveness, this itch could not be scratched. I would be forced to muster enough peace, using my mind alone, to return to slumber. In this midst of itchy half-sleep, I thought of you, Virgo. You have the gift of this sort of acute sensory perception, observing subtleties that may have yet to come fully into being. The true blessing of this gift is the discovery of what to do with these observations, learning to practice the wisdom of which itches can (and should) be scratched and which must be mastered with the power of mind.


LIBRA (September 23-October 22): The principal of homeostasis involves numerous unseen forces, continually interacting to maintain the stable equilibrium of a system. We don't necessarily reach balance in an easy or graceful fashion, like a skilled yoga enthusiast who can stand effortlessly on one foot, or on the hands or shoulders or head, for an hour at a time. In fact, wide fluctuations of circumstance require us to exert hefty counterforces to compensate and move us back to center. Thus, Libra, you are an extremely forceful person, though a mild temperament or strict decorum may mask this fact. Your strength and will are less blaring than, say, your opposite sign Aries, who wields power in one direction at a time, leaving the rest of us to contend with it. The greatest gift you can give yourself is to recognize yourself as powerful, quit entertaining false notions of being anything less, and experiment with directing your forces in new ways that produce some thing you can actually touch.


SCORPIO (October 23-November 21): In recent weeks, I've described your life both as a ransacked home and the backroom of a Goodwill, two images of spaces strewn with belongings, some of which are valuable while others are pure crap. I hope you don't find this repetition of themes too offensive, Scorpio (though, truth be told, your sign does rule all forms of refuse). You are discerning. The rest of us might spend our lives floundering in the shit, unaware of its excretal quality because we are unwilling to examine the darker or more unsavory parts of life. While you, on the other hand, may be unable to avoid the dark side, this trait is likely to bring you closer to enlightenment than the bliss ninnies who insist the glass is always half full. You sort through people and experiences the same way you sort through the old clothes. As the imminent end is always a possibility, you don't have time to waste on unworthy subjects. Scorpio, you rule sex and death, those two complimentary forces that make up the essence of life. Your greatest gift (and perhaps the greatest gift) is this unceasing power, without which everything and everyone else would cease to exist. Therein lies the infinite wonder toward which spiritual types endlessly quest, but without necessarily being able to speak its shadowy name. Is it any wonder we fear you, we scorn you, and yet we lustfully yearn for you?


SAGITTARIUS (November 22-December 21): Life is short, and don't you know it. There is little time to lament when things don't turn out quite as expected, nor to sit around wringing our hands in worry while potential adventures pass us by. It's this underlying sense that inspires your liberated approach to your words and deeds. No surprise, you are likely to face frustrations from others who might lack your broad and meaning-inflected perspective—those who'd prefer that we all live in ways that don't rock the boat too much, drawing attention to the stagnant conditions of their own perfectly stable lives. Surely, you understand how threatening someone like you can be to someone like that. A loose cannon, or so it seems. But so long as you maintain empathy for those not blessed with your ruling planet Jupiter's benevolence and optimism, you'll be less likely to speak or act reactively, just to prove that you are free. You're gifted with a certain fearlessness that allows you to make riskier choices, as you inherently realize that there are no sacred cows, and somehow you'll still end up on your feet. A greater gift to yourself is another Sagittarian quality, the integrity to recognize that, though you really can do whatever you want and be okay, you're also responsible for the welfare of others. No one likes a stifled Sag, so you must always find ways to synthesize the two.


CAPRICORN (December 22-January 19): The secret shame (or is it joy?) of your malcontented mindset is that you wouldn't have it any other way. The rest of them, they all have it too easy. What could they possibly know? While you produce a couple quick laughs from your wry declarations (think Bob Newhart or Janeane Garofalo) about how much simpler life could be if only you weren't so [thoughtful / serious / perfect / high-maintenance], you don't really buy it. Underneath the moping and the withheld feelings and the prickly exterior, you actually like yourself. (Don't worry, I won't tell anyone.) Never being satisfied, feeling both superior and inadequate, the endlessly running loop of unfinished plans—fun, fun., fun. They keep life dynamic, and they give you innumerable reasons to get up in the morning (even if they also gave you innumerable reasons to stay up late obsessing). Your high expectations are a great gift to yourself, since you are more likely to live up to them than if you didn't have any at all. A greater gift is to remain compassionate and patient with yourself, as you continually strive for these ever-greater realizations of your expectations. As long as you keep taking one step, however small, after the other, you'll continue to benefit from aiming high, even if it takes years to ultimately reap the wisdom and benefits. And screw (compassionately) those pesky always-happy simpletons.


AQUARIUS (January 20-February 18): As a holiday treat, I'm offering you one of my favorite poems in the world—"Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird" by Wallace Stevens. I could read it over and over and still find something new to enjoy, marvelous in its simplicity. Please give it a read so that the rest of my words make sense to you. I've brought you this poem, Aquarius, to draw your attention to one of the greatest gifts you possess. At any given time, you are able to recognize at least eleven or twelve of these different ways of seeing, while the rest of us are lucky if we get eight or nine. Always remember to look at the world as a poet would, or else you are squandering your special vision.


PISCES (February 19-March 20): I had the most idyllic dream about these three children, two boys and a girl. (I was one of them, or all of them, I couldn't tell which.) They couldn't have been more than six or seven. Each of them had experienced some degree of trauma or difficulty very early in life, resulting in their inability to become properly socialized. Together, the three of them ran away and escaped to this magical world that existed behind these tall dense hedges that lined the side of the expressway. They didn't really speak to each other, but rather communicated non-verbally. They survived on mandarin orange wedges and pomegranate seeds they picked from surrounding trees. There was always some crazy adventure they faced in the border-world, where the hedges opened up into the space of the adjacent expressway—scary criminals with their own unsavory motivations, rule-abiding adults who wanted to return them to their old homes, other runaway children trying to claim the hedges as their own domain. Still, through their unified efforts, they always triumphed. Eventually, some militaristic truant officer discovered two of the three children and forced them back to school. As they sat in the office, waiting to be assigned to classes, other kids at the school passed by and stared at them, certain that they didn't belong and ready to make fun of these outcasts. In the end, the pressure to contain their wild urges proved too great, and the two children escaped again and met up with their other companion, back behind the hedges. The reunion was ecstatic. And waking was extraordinarily painful, happy as I was to live on fruit, undifferentiated from the other children, in a world where socialization was avoidable. Pisces, your gift is that you can lead a waking life not unlike these renegade kids, so long as you find a way to continually adjust to the transition between the hedge-world and the outside world and adapt to life in both.