One of my best friends, Elizabeth, has been studying astrology for years. I think she’s made it her personal mission to educate me on the subject, and to that end she is always sending me links to astrology websites and excerpts from monthly astrological forecasts. Now, I’m not a stranger to the concept of astrology – in fact I’m a pretty strong believer. After all, any emergency room worker will tell you that they have more and weirder cases whenever the moon is full. If the full moon can make people go crazy as well as affect the tides, it’s not much of a stretch for me to believe that all the planets affect us in some way. So, like a million other people in the world, I always read my horoscope in the paper. Heck, I’ll even admit that I actually paid good, cash money once (OK, maybe twice ‘er, maybe three times) to have my astrological chart done for the moment of my birth.
My problem is that when Elizabeth sends me these links and articles, they are not simply a horoscope for the day. They are about the positions of the planets and the arc of their intersecting points across the heavens and this transit and that house and something called Mercury Retrograde. OK, let’s get something straight; my brain is not puny. I’ve got fairly strong cognitive and language skills and I’m no slouch in the business world. But this astrology stuff puts me down for the count. I read it, then read it again, and STILL I can’t figure out what it is saying.
The only thing I have come to understand is that three times a year, for about three weeks each time, the planet Mercury goes retrograde, meaning that it appears to move backward in the sky. The operative word here is APPEARS. Of course, none of the planets ever move backward. But any astronomer will tell you that at certain times of the year Mercury appears to be traveling backward in the heavens. The best analogy I can offer is when you pull into a parking space and put your foot on the brake to stop, then glance at the car on your right and are startled to think that you are sliding backward. You immediately check your right foot to make sure it is still on the brake and it is. You realize that you are standing still, but the guy next to you was backing out. Your feeling of backward motion was an optical illusion, similar to the illusory backward movement of Mercury in the sky.
Elizabeth always informs me about these retrograde periods, because they are ostensibly times when communications will get screwed up, equipment fails, travel plans are impacted, mail will be lost, the Internet turns to gibberish, negotiations are thrown into a dither, and contracts fall apart. So it was no surprise when, a couple of days before I left for Key West, she casually mentioned that Mercury would be going retrograde on October 28th. I don’t know what made me do it, but before I left town I surfed the Web to find out more about this particular retrograde. The only kernels of information I remember from that search are: 1) this retrograde instance occurred in the house of Scorpio, which rules communication; 2) a retrograde event starts on the day that the planet appears to go ‘stationary’ in the sky, prior to appearing to travel backwards; 3) the retrograde period technically ends on the day that the planet goes ‘stationary’ again, prior to recommencing forward movement; 4) the effects of the retrograde continue to be felt until the planet crosses the point in the sky where it first went ‘stationary;’ and, 5) the most powerful periods in any retrograde event are the two stationary days.
Steel trap that my mind is, I digested all this minutiae then promptly forgot about it – that is, until I was driving back to the Outer Banks from Key West late last night. At dusk, I started to see patches of purple hanging along the side of the road. Driving is always more difficult during that half hour between day and night and I figured it was just an optical illusion brought on by the dusk. Then night fell and I turned off I-95 and headed east on US64 for the final leg of the journey to the Outer Banks. Anyone who has made this drive knows that the last three hours take you through swamps with little civilization and less light. On US64, in the deep dark, that vivid purple mist took over. It lay along the shoulders of the highway and hugged the guard rails. Soon, it blanketed the roadway and crept up the trees and bushes at the side of the road, enveloping them with long purple tendrils. It was the most beautiful color purple I have ever seen. I tried to name it. It wasn’t exactly violet, nor was it the royal purple of the monarchy, which tends to have a reddish tint. It was somewhere between those two colors, a pure, holy purple. It never stopped until I reached the bridge to go from the mainland over to the Outer Banks. There is no question in my mind that it was spiritual in nature, because it imbued in me an incredible sense of peace and calm. When I was surrounded by that purple mist, I just knew everything was going to be OK.
When I woke up this morning, that purple was still in my head. I couldn’t stop thinking about it. For some reason, the whole Mercury retrograde thing suddenly popped into my head and sent me scrambling for the computer. I checked the Internet and found that the 18th was indeed the day that Mercury went stationery before beginning its forward movement again, supposedly one of the two most powerful days during the retrograde. Then I checked the calendar: yes, yesterday was the 18th. I can’t help but believe the two are related. I may just have to start paying more attention to that astrology gibberish my friend Elizabeth sends me!