Tuesday, 21 October 2014

In the belly of the beast

I promised friends and family from both sides of the Atlantic that I would write about what I was doing and post lots of photos. The photos part was easy thanks to Facebook but the writing part was a bit harder to fit in thanks to simply being so happily busy. I have always kept a handwritten journal but transferring it to the keyboard isn't something I enjoy doing (mainly because I often can't read my own handwriting). But yesterday I visited the Margaret Mitchell House here in Atlanta and was a bit shamed out when I saw what Margaret had to type on!
Yes, I am sitting in the place where Margaret Mitchell wrote "Gone With the Wind"!
I do consider myself to be a writer above everything else I might get up to--but writing, like a few other bad habits, is a solitary activity and I have been blessed to be surrounded by friends, friends of friends and strangers who became friends these past few weeks. In fact, as I got on the Greyhound to travel to New Orleans Saturday evening, it suddenly dawned on me that it was the first time I have been on my own since I arrived in Phoenix. As I waved goodbye to Austin and suddenly became a woman on her own nearly 5,000 miles away from her home, I was struck by the familiarity of the feeling: after all I had done that very thing when I had packed my suitcase and got on that plane to London twenty-four years ago. Or, if you like, two Jupiter returns ago when I was nearly 24 years old. I am now just starting my 5th Jupiter return so I find myself doing an awful lot of comparing.
Returns give us a chance to compare one period of time to another. When we return to a place we have visited before, the dominant feeling can be one of reflecting on what has changed or what has remained the same. I very much liked how my new friend Samuel Reynolds described a 4th Jupiter return as "being in the belly of the beast". What's in the belly has only two options for continued survival: either through one end or the other. It's often not our choice which end gets the privilege of doing the eliminating. But what is MOST important it what the body absorbs and nourishes.
I left the US because of the fucking stupid gun laws and yet I never gave myself the chance, never having travelled West of the Mississippi, to see and experience the beautiful people and surroundings of America. Instead, I adapted as quickly as I possibly could to life in the UK by having a family and at my third Jupiter return beginning a new career in teaching. It bothered me somewhat that I was never regarded as being fully British even though I called the UK my home and often stated I had no intention of returning to the US. I often scoffed at other Americans, preferring to side with a lot of my British family (I assumed) in the opinion that The USA was seriously fucked up on junk food, gun laws, 4 rounds of Bush administration, thinly veiled segregation, conservative religious views, greed and blind patriotism. I didn't give the US a chance to show me what she was really like. So these past few weeks, I've been processing and getting rid of 24 years of anger, prejudice and assumptions toward and about my Homeland. I've reached out--and will continue to reach out--to friends I haven't seen since I left the US. I've visited cities I never thought I was interested in and even sampled American wines (cheers Tim!!). And yet at the same time, I have tried to be loving and forgiving to myself--because I also realised being angry at my roots has made the tree weak and unproductive. 
So I'm absorbing the beauty of the US, appreciating the kindness and generosity of old friends, new friends and complete strangers who have gone out of their way to make sure I had enough tea to function--the manager of the hotel I am staying at in Atlanta personally delivered a handful of English Breakfast teabags yesterday morning when I arrived exhausted from a second consecutive night on a Greyhound (that is not a complaint by the way), way too early to check in and in need of a shower and a few hours of uninterrupted sleep (they kindly let me check in at 9am!!!). In the past few weeks, I have walked where Janis Joplin, John Steinbeck and Margaret Mitchell--three of my favourite American heroes--walked. I went swimming in the Pacific for the first time in my life and bawled my eyes out at the edge of the Grand Canyon, so awed was I at the presence of such beauty and majesty. I heard real jazz on Bourbon Street (God it was so hard to tear myself away), walked along the Mighty Mississippi and rode on a paddleboat in homage to Mark Twain.
And to think I used speaking at a few conferences as an excuse to visit!!!
Tomorrow I fly out to New York to the State of the Art Astrology conference, then to family and friends in Michigan, back to New York to see the Statue of Liberty and all the other East Coast delights I never thought I'd actually look forward to seeing.
At the ISAR banquet, I saw an astrologer from Austin and blurted out to her that I was travelling to Austin to see an old friend. Without even thinking twice, she invited me to her home so I could speak to her astrology group. In Austin, we had a chance to talk astrology and she pointed out my Solar Part of Self was at 16 Aries--currently being transited by Uranus! No wonder I'm not in any sort of mood

to listen to anyone's bullshit on how I should work, play or live my life. She let me talk to her cats like the Crazy Cat Lady I am (how lucky I am that the folks I have been staying with are cat lovers too--I think it really staved off homesickness!!), gave me much needed affirmation and advice and told me what I have always known deep inside: I am not a person who conforms easily. I think my third Jupiter return was based on conformity and doing what I was "supposed" to do (it all even went so far as to deny myself the right to be called by the name I preferred to referred to!!). It explains why I became so ground down, frustrated, unhealthy and unhappy as well as why I really needed a time out to think about my next move and clear space for this new cycle of Jupiter. This is NOT to say I have any regrets about the past Jupiter return because I understand so much more about myself, the kind of people I like to have around me and the experiences I need to truly honour who I am. But I can see I am now in a process of re-claiming my life. . .and that's going to take a lot of work.

So I guess I am a changed person, having given myself the chance to see myself and the world around me from a new perspective. Jupiter returns do that. I will certainly have a lot to write and talk about when I return to London.