I received my first rejection letter from a magazine for an article I’d felt pretty jazzed about, which was exceptionallyÂ disappointing because it was the kind of rare piece that just wrote itself. The cat died that same day. It wasn’t one of my better days. I had noticed the planets of Strife and Trouble hanging around my chart, Saturn and Mars respectively, sitting there smugly squaring the ruler of my sixth house (Neptune) of small animals, and work. But I didn’t blame them. I didn’t even want to. Instead I contemplated the cycle of life, how I didn’t expect Skippy to be recycled into the earth so quickly, but there it was, and there was nothing I or anyone could do about it. Her death became a profound teaching on being with the now. Compared to human deaths, where we tend to medicate, grasp, and fight against death thanks to the miracle of modern medicine, when the cat died, she was gone – literally. The vultures found her before we did. Likewise, I’ve been startlingly sane about this, my first official rejection letter (there have been others, but this is the first one in e-paper). I’ve decided this rejection joins me with the ranks of other artists. Real artists. Professional artists who once lined their office walls with tens of hundreds of rejection letters. I guess you could say my view of reality has changed and matured with age; I’ve become conditioned to rolling with the punches of life and seeing the reality of a situation through a more impersonal lens.
That’s Saturn for you. Saturn events with their tragedies and disappointments tend to be accompanied by a morose but cool headed understanding of the inevitability of our lot as human beings, and the utter impersonality of life. It’s a sort of stoney-cold wisdom reward for putting up with any of this. With Saturn, loss, rejection is somehow easier to stomach – than say with the other planets. Carolyn Casey ties the word cool with Saturn, the etyology of the word cool meaning responsible. Maybe we learn to keep cool by relying on our ability to respond to any situation with logical clarity, and a taste for practicality. That’s Saturn logic. When we’re seasoned by Saturn’s travails and his wisdom, we grow we learn to see that even the sharpest, thorniest situation yeilds an eventual rose, with the right attitude. A death? Ah, just keeping the cosmos in balance. Failure? Ask anyone, the pathway to success is lined with failures. The immutable laws of life, the ones you’re loathe to listen to but in the end turn out to be true truly provide a mature way of looking at things – and in a way it’s all I can handle.
This whole rejection thingÂ combined with the emotional impact of the untimely passing of the cat has got me thinking, about the notion that creativity comes easy, or that talent is an ace in the hole. I’ve read enough charts toÂ observe thatÂ talent, without effort,Â resembles fools gold. Here’s another notion worth busting: creativity gets easier, and better, over time. That’s not been my experience.Â The cold reality is, it takes work, and sometimes more than you want to put into it.Â Â Some days our stuff looks like crap; others it looks good. But a gift or a talent is like a child, and I’m including the real work of being a creative human beingÂ inÂ my definition of artistÂ here, needs gentle guidance, nurturance and reward. Sometimes she gets cranky, goes “unh unh” and doesn’t want to do anything else but play. Pushing ambition on our inner child be dangerous to everyone’s sanity, but it’s a real study in how well we parent our self (and our art). I think of the many artists and creators who have lost their mind, or turned into egomaniacs trying to re-create a masterpiece. If we insist on product, product, product and our inner creator insists on process, process, process there’s going to be a huge temper tantrum between the child and the adult. I’m thinking of one particular episode of “the Nanny” where the more unruly the child became, the more forceful the mother grew. As the child resisted, the mother grew more resolute and entrenched in “control and dominate” mode, I noticed a devious smile creep onto the child’s face amidst her tears. There was humor here, and sneakiness for sure. My artist-child understood: she is like this impish trickster, fickle, often. Sometimes she makes no sense to the adultÂ me that repeats the mantra: work, achieve, pay the bills. But my child self tells me, try and control me and you’re wasting your time,Â mama. Â Laugh with me. We may get nothing done but least we’ll get along. And we’ll have a far better time.
The mature adult in me sometimes needs the upper hand. Likewise, the child is delicate – and sometimes easily dominated. I’ve become very aware of this dynamic while learning the basic practice of putting one measured foot in front of the other amidst resistance this year. Since Saturn began squaring my Neptune, I’ve been confronting the fuzzy edges of my response, or non-response, to the disenchanting almighty “creative block.” Frankly, it’s cramping my flow. I’m again employing and using the time honored tools I know (but like an amnesiac, seem to temporarily forget in the moment) hoping to get that pump flowing again… because it’s all I can do. Sometimes priming doesn’t equal flow. My daily walks, and writing in my personal journal every morning has seemed to help, a little. To tell you the truth, being honest about my disenchantment around achieving a “great work” has helped more. (Can I say this? Even as I write, I imagine the Gods upon hearing this, dubiously taking note) This wasn’t an easy admittance for my ambitious Capricorn North node. Yet when I released my old, tired ambitions that seemed to run like an automatic generator, I finally felt clear and honest with myself, my integrity restored. Since then I’ve also discovered making space for doing nothing, and going much slower than I’m used to, is more important than I’d previous thought. Still there are many questions and strange, often frustrating answers pulling on mine, and others’ wisdom to discern. This transit, which seems like a profound lesson in not knowing… when to employ discipline, to diligently do the work even when you don’t want to, and when to head to the movies or call a friend instead…is ever so slowly proving several things a) that one can do work, relatively good work, even without inspiration. For a long period of time, even. and b) when the spirit moves you, fabulous. But even surfers spend a good amount of time just sitting around board atop water, waiting for the next wave. It may not come today. and c) Artists are always inspired when they work – I’m constantly reminded – is a myth. Working artists keep working.
I recognize making the choice to either go with the flow or push the river, whether to pursue or release, is not an easy lesson for anyone perhaps especially during this Capricorn Full Moon. But by exploring my own limits and my resistance, I’m learning to not only respect the limits of my self but also understand more about how this being works. It does seem there are certain rules about how to be my particular self, and they’re less like rules and more like unwritten codes. I tend to think they’re innate and a wistful hope is that in finally understanding those I’ll come to crack the code of this particular creative conundrum and move through things. I do know the creative block will eventually break like a huge wave, washing me to wet shores. Just as I understand the cat did her healing work with my family, and left perhaps to make room for the dog I’ve been wanting, there’s a greater force at play…and at work. I have a suspicion that when the wave breaks it will be at least in part due to the gentle, monastic care I’m tending to my current zen-like garden. Because even though it’s grown quite sparse maybe justÂ a rock and a mere trickle of water, the directive is very simple and clear: “chop wood, carry water. Rest when you’re tired, eat when you’re hungry. Be a diligent, kind parent. Eventually you’ll eke out the thing you most need.”
Oh, I’m also gonna buy a set of pastels and a notebook my inner kid.Â Cause, when all is said and done,Â I’d rather be playing.