I shall live badly if I do not write, and I shall write badly if I do not live.’ Francoise Sagan

Thursday, 17 September 2015

The Rise of the Phoenix

The last few years have been a sterile period for my creative life – something akin to an Alaskan winter from which I am only slowly beginning to emerge. The story behind this is a long and complex one but the reason for my recent silence is that in March of this year, my mother finally lost her battle with cancer.

When she was first diagnosed, we were told in no uncertain terms that there was no cure for her particular variant of this disease but that the symptoms could be ‘managed’ for an ‘indeterminate’ period. Loosely translated, this meant that she would be given intensive chemotherapy but that how long she lived would depend on the progression of the cancer.  As a result of this devastating diagnosis, from April 2012 until March 2015, I experienced the strange and unsettling sensation of falling off a cliff backwards in slow motion; certain that I was going to hit the ground eventually, without being sure when. Throughout this time, I battled to prepare myself psychologically for her eventual departure from this world and our lives.  Perhaps not surprisingly, I also found myself unable to write with any consistency.

Now that the ice has begun to thaw around my battered heart, I hope that the words and stories that I want to share may start to flow freely again. Perhaps the time has come to cast aside the hard shell of my grief and rediscover those things that bring a smile to my lips and a spring to my step.

Over the last three years, acute instability and uncertainty have been the dominant themes. During this period, I have been fascinated by the striking synchronicity between events in my personal life and the powerful interplay between the planet of Saturn and my birth sign of Scorpio. I have always believed that interplanetary movements affect us mortals here on earth, so the apparent link between what has been going on for me personally and what has been occurring out there in the solar system comes as no surprise to me.

As it turns out, between October 2012 and September this year, Saturn has entered, exited and then re-entered the sign of Scorpio; bringing with it many tough lessons – particularly for those of us born under this sign. Saturn isn’t a warm, fuzzy planet at the best of times and it assumes a particularly cold countenance in Scorpio. Saturn’s job is to accelerate the processes of maturity and responsibility by forcing us to examine those aspects of ourselves that we would prefer to ignore. Under its influence we are given the opportunity to get our house in order, or continue to suffer the consequences! These things are forced on us, as most of us would naturally avoid them if we could.

Saturn’s most recent return to Scorpio is the last time this planet will pass through my birth sign for the next 29 years. From what I have read, this will offer Scorpios everywhere another opportunity to apply the wisdom acquired from the harsh lessons of the past few years: a chance to review and correct mistakes and wind up any unfinished business from the original transit. For me personally, Saturn’s last dance with Scorpio has resulted in the unrelenting disintegration of almost every aspect of my life - including work, money, family and marriage. During this period, the tectonic plates of my personal landscape have shifted dramatically. The end result is that all that seemed stable and secure has been dismantled and reconfigured.

In my quest to negotiate this turbulent period to the best of my ability, I have devoured all manner of articles from a wide range of sources. One such publication was an interview in Twine Magazine, in which Twine’s resident astrology writer discusses Saturn’s transit through Scorpio with professional astrologer, Dr Debra Silverman. What I liked most about Dr Silverman‘s observations is that they offer a fresh and profound perspective, both on the nature of Saturn and that of Scorpio. In fact, her words on this subject – quote to follow have given me some useful insights and a renewed sense of empowerment:

Saturn doesn’t have to be negative at all. He is the high-school principal that catches you in the hallway and asks you if you’ve done your homework. If you go against Saturn and try to cut corners and take shortcuts, Saturn will call you into his office. But if you do your homework, he will reward you with achievement and success. Those who seek excellence simply have to become friends with Saturn. It doesn’t mean you have to hate what you are working towards. It means you take what you find joy in doing and practice it regularly in order to find mastery over it. Saturn is Purpose. If you are aligned with your purpose and practice it regularly, Saturn says, “You’re with me.”

In this interview, Dr Silverman also challenges some of the commonly held misconceptions about the misunderstood and much maligned sign of Scorpio. In her words, Scorpio is “the sign that takes the darkness and brings it to the light.” I love this description as it reaffirms my sense that Scorpios possess something akin to x-ray vision. This enables us to see beneath the surface of things to expose the truth – no matter how dark or inconvenient it may be. In fact, this innate ability to uncover the shadow-self in both ourselves and others is no doubt why some people feel uncomfortable in our presence!

Towards the end of the interview, she goes on to explain that there are, in fact, three kinds of Scorpios– depending on how spiritually evolved the person in question may be. These are as follows:
·         The Snake/Scorpion: This is the Scorpio who dwells only in the darkness.
·         The Eagle (or “Blonde Scorpios”): Scorpios that dwell exclusively in the light. Often “goodie-goodies” because they fear and reject their own darkness without acknowledging it.
·         The Phoenix: This Scorpio is the most powerful sign in the Zodiac. Phoenixes have no fear of the darkness yet they are comfortable in the light. Where there is no fear, there is power.
What immediately struck me about this was that when I decided to name my blog, I actually had no idea that the phoenix is a symbol of my birth sign! I do love this kind of ‘coincidence’, which I think of as just another form of synchronicity. Either way, the fact is that for as long as I can remember, I have felt drawn to the striking images of this mythical creature rising from the flames of destruction to be born anew. By virtue of its innate capacity to transmute material reality, the phoenix is a powerful alchemist and an enduring symbol of hope and resilience.

During some of the most challenging periods of my life, the symbolic power of the phoenix has served as a reminder of my own strength and resilience. It has taught me that whatever life may throw my way, I too have the ability to raise myself up from the flames of adversity. This is never a comfortable process and I have rarely come through it unscathed but, despite the inevitable battle scars, I have always emerged stronger and wiser from the ashes of my former self. And for that I can only be grateful.