2003: Over, and Not a Moment Too Soon


When I woke up the morning of January 1, 2003, I had an intuitive flash of how my entire year would unfold.

I will spare you the gorily self-indulgent details of what I sensed then, and what subsequently transpired—for even the most gorily self-indulgent writers like to keep some things for themselves—but, suffice it to say, I knew it wouldn't be fun.

Looking back from here, I see a past yearful of personal breakthroughs, uncomfortable stretches of growth, and more moments of quiet solitary reflection than I've had in a while, a combination from which I've benefited tremendously and for which I'm immensely thankful. (And leave it to a Mary Sunshine astrologer like me to spin a challenging year with such 'smiles everyone' panache.) In the end, 2003 was a great year for me, though not one which will go down in the annals of my most fun-filled.

Each year, as December pulls to a close, we media-hungry overeaters are treated to a cavalcade of year-in-review top-ten lists, which frankly I look forward to and enjoy. Reflecting back on recent events is an important part of the process of fully incorporating them into our lived experience and synthesizing the knowledge they produce. So, naturally, the end of the year invites us to recap, to reconsider, to remember whether it was Clay or Ruben who actually won the mediocre second season of American Idol (as if cable outlets won't remind us once early-'00s nostalgia programming starts to hit in 2005-6), to remark on how accurate our Jan 1, 2003, resolutions or revelations proved themselves to be.

This year, thanks to the current astrological scene, our personal late-December reflections are likely to be more thoughtful or serious, rich with revision and ripe with a heavy breath of relief. 2003: Over, and not a moment too soon.

Back on Jan 1, 2003, the Capricorn Sun fell into an exact conjunction with Chiron, the wounded-healer planetoid of our solar system. Let's just say that no astrologer would ever mistake a Sun-Chiron conjunction with 'fun'. Chiron teaches us that our greatest bridge to a higher consciousness comes through the very real and mundane bodily experience of our deepest pains, such that we come to accept all parts of ourselves, in whatever wounded state they are, as being just as they should be.

And so 2003 began with this Chironic energy imprinting its birth—and consequently the year in its entirety—to grant those conscious among us access to the bridge connecting our pain with our previously dormant and now-ready-to-open gifts (and to those less conscious… maybe just pain or the intentional avoidance of it). In retrospect, it's also quite interesting that this year marked my first usage of Chiron as a symbol in my writings and my practice, as an indirect result of its primary significance to the understanding of Nov. 8's Harmonic Concordance eclipse.

Now, nearly a year later, just in time for the holidays, Mercury has turned retrograde (Dec 17-Jan 6), its apparent backwards motion the ideal time for all that reviewing and revising and reconsidering. Of all the seasons for Mercury retrograde, I believe that holidaytime may be one of the least disruptive times of year, for so many of us will have some sort of vacation and are less likely to make important decisions or expect perfectly efficient transmissions or travels (typical areas where Mercury wreaks its retrograde havoc) until a few days into next year. Obvious exceptions already noted: disruption of Christmas shopping in San Francisco (huge power failure!), extra security hassles at airports (heightened terrorism advisory!). Perhaps the best approach to adopt toward the holidays this year is to take it easy, don't stress if the turkey isn't done on time or the Christmas cards get detoured in the mail, expect the unexpected, and enjoy your family and friends, whichever ones actually show up for the festivities.

What's even more interesting about Mercury's current retrogradation is that, on the occasion of the Winter Solstice on Dec. 21-22 (or Summer Solstice in the Southern Hemisphere), Mercury returns to the exact position of last Jan. 1's Sun-Chiron conjunction at 11 degrees Capricorn. In other words, the very intellectual issues (Mercury) that are coming back to be rethought and reworked are those we utilized to communicate this year's experiences of pain, new or just recently unearthed, and their inextricable link to healing once they've been fully felt (Chiron). With Capricorn as the sign, we might want to spend these few weeks dismantling the support beams we've mentally constructed to describe the experiences, so that we can reconstruct them sometime in mid-January for a more solid structure upon which strategic plans for future success can rest.

And with Saturn in Cancer opposing Mercury, we must face the limitations of our minds to wrap all the way around the emotions involved—for emotions aren't always intelligible, and needn't necessarily be. Can we simply accept these limitations and feel the feelings without doing anything with them, and at the same time not criticize ourselves for 'having known better' over these last twelve months (or however long)?

The problem with all this rethinking—or should I rephrase it as a 'challenge'?—is that we may be sick and tired of rethinking, restless with the need to do something else entirely, bored with what seems like inactivity. We are ready to move. Indeed we are already moving. See, Mars finally crossed the threshold into its ruling sign Aries last week after six full months in Pisces (usually it's only in a sign for about a month and a half), including two spent in retrograde. Mars regulates physical activity, forward motion, drive, assertiveness, aggression. It's like the motor underneath our hood. And for a big fat chunk of 2003, it was lolling around in the Piscean fog, taking steps, undoing them, retracing, circling. Let's be honest—so often in 2003, it felt like we weren't getting anywhere, or at least we weren't exactly sure where we were getting. War or not war? Married or not? Healthy or unhealthy? Who's the governor? Where's the threat? Huh?

Well, I'm pleased to report that this holding-pattern state of affairs is no more, with Mars in Aries, an active match of planet and ruling sign that ensures movement and freshness. For the next several weeks at least, the New Year will be greeted with newness galore. Not only does Mars in Aries assert its pioneering leadership and tireless physical urges to get the ball rolling. It also makes a positive sextile (flowing 60-degree aspect) to Venus in Aquarius, a synergistic combination that draws pleasantly unorthodox influences into our lives to help push the newness toward a progressive end. Stay open to chance encounters and unexpected conversations with individuals out of your normal circle of being—perhaps that weirdo your sister invited to Christmas dinner has an important message for you—and you might be looking back a year from now and seeing how the direction of your future was irreversibly affected by those seemingly trivial words and meetings.

Of course, staying open also involves getting out of your brain and your serious reflective mood a bit. And difficult aspects, with Mars squaring both Mercury and Saturn in initiatory cardinal signs, create some rub between the excitedly restless relief-filled desire for something new and the mental and emotional need to finishing processing the old crap first (and then to finally let it go). To best pull of the transition into the new year, you must allow yourself framed-off moments in which to dwell in the past—but only with some higher goal in mind, a final conclusion to hit and then file away—and, with the rest of your time, stop holding back and start living in a new freer way than you have in months. It's the holding back that will cause unnecessary anxiety or dis-ease. Mars in Aries in such dynamic aspect to his planetary pals simply cannot be stopped.

Have a happy holiday season and a sparklingly smooth New Year's, and I will return in 2004 with more astro-insight and quirkily indulgent self-narratives to sprinkle into it. Yes, my momentary flash of insight on January 1, 2003, was proven spot-on correct… and I'm already getting my glimpses of the upcoming year… but I'm keeping them to myself… for now.

Please note: Astrobarry will be on vacation next week. The next update will be on Jan. 5, 2004.