A story about Goldilocks and redefining "home."
Plus, some astrology 101.
Editor’s Note: As someone who offers astrology readings (info HERE!) and wants to do more of them, I should probably write about astrology, shouldn’t I? I’ve resisted this for a while, for a variety of reasons. But then this essay happened! I’m curious to hear if and how it resonates with you. As always, my inbox is open, shares are appreciated, future essay theme requests are welcomed, etc. Thanks for reading.
December 14, 2020: First Monday in our new place. Friday was all moving, slogging, shoving things into U-Haul, and Saturday, into house, and ever since, unpacking, arranging. We divide and conquer; Lauren spends hours meticulously arranging the most exquisite bookshelf, while I make the kitchen make sense. This feels good to me, to click into the intuition of nesting, to unfurl trinkets from room to room, and to reconnect with long, candlelit dinner conversations over natural wine, both of us fizzing with the tipsy newness. And then we collapse into bed, crumble quickly into sleep. I’m content, just trying to process how I feel about being in this new city where I don’t quite belong, don’t feel wanted. But I’ll learn. I’m curious to see what shifts. And our apartment, I adore — its nooks, its angles, its hardwood floors and long storage areas and odd quirk.
The school around the corner is open again, or at least it was for a moment, before sending everyone back home for the summer. On morning walks with Tomato, I’d see kids sprint sloppily past me with their backpacks flopping around behind them, late for class; in the afternoons, they’d pile up outside and jab each other with jokes while they waited for their parents, their tiny masks sliding down their noses. Finally, the big brick building — eerily silent for so many months — thrummed with life like it was always meant to, all sticky fingers and sharing and shrieks of laughter, before settling into its summertime slumber.
Restaurants and bars are open, hair salons are open, movie theaters are open, if at limited capacity. Two weeks from now, on June 15th, these limits will be lifted in California; the only restriction left will be a continuing mask mandate. Lockdown is easing up. We are allowed, however hesitantly, to hug again.
A colleague just learned that he and his family have to move away from their current hometown. He knows exactly where they should go next, but his partner has her own conflicting knowing. Another, in the thick of home renovations, wants to spend the summer somewhere else, but her partner isn’t convinced.
After years of discussion about if and when and how to leave the neighborhood where I spent my entire childhood, my parents called last Monday to say that they’d found their dream home, a couple of hours away, and almost immediately put in an offer. One day later, they closed on this new house. It’s in a small port town on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, hugged by the river from three sides.
I got the phone call just a day after arriving home from a weekend away with Lauren in a different tiny riverside town on the opposite side of the country. We stayed at an airbnb that was all warm wood panels with cool blue accents — the walls, the mismatched ceramic mugs and glasses, the futon couch and marbled kitchen cabinets. Leafy vines of pothos plants stretched across every ceiling, and crystal sun-catcher prisms dangled in every window, scattering rainbows like confetti. The host had positioned stones and shells in windowsills, on shelves, along the top of the heater, anywhere that could have looked lonely — the same way I do. The whole yard was an edible eden of vegetables and herbs and fruit trees, and the river was a five-minute drive away.
When we walked in the door of the rental, lugging our bags of clothes and snacks and board games, grief slapped me so hard across the face that my eyes welled up. This, I thought. This is what home is supposed to feel like. The space and its surroundings reminded me a little bit of my Grandma’s old house in Virginia, and a little bit of Dan and Micha’s house on the farm in Oregon, and a little bit of…my heart’s multitude of rooms, made tactile? It reminded me of the past and also the future. This, this, this. I was like Goldilocks, stumbling temporarily into the just-right porridge, realizing exactly how hungry I was, and for exactly what.
Except, I wasn’t there alone. Lauren and I sat down in the chairs that were not ours, and we lit the candles that were not ours, and we sipped from the glasses that we had precisely selected from the collection of options that were not ours, and we talked until way too late at night about how good it felt to be there. It felt good because our nervous systems were soothed and softened, swaddled by the quiet and the hummingbirds and the natural dimming of sunlight. And a settled nervous system is the sort that can prioritize connection instead of survival. We talked about the kind of longterm home we want to build, about what home means to each of us. It was just a weekend, just a fairytale, but it was our fairytale, now etched into bodily memory: this, this, this.
ASTROLOGY LESSON #1: The basic building blocks of a birth chart.
Astrology is a language constructed of planets (what we do), signs (how we do those things), and houses (where we do those things in those ways). This metaphor is lazy, but it’s the easiest way to explain: a birth chart is a layered cake, across which the planets are strewn like sprinkles. Each slice of the cake, which aligns with a particular sign (depending on your birth date, time, and place), is a house.
There are 12 houses total — 12 realms in which a life dwells. There is a house for career and vocation, a house for community, a house for communication. The 4th house is the house of home, as well as family. It resides, of course, at the bottommost part of the circular chart, because it represents the roots, the foundations from which we build. It is the place of grounding.
Any planets in your 4th house are the energies deeply seeded amongst close kin and domestic concerns. The sign that overlaps with your 4th house can help you examine this soil on which your family tree is planted — the ingredients, the nutrients, the texture. Traditionally, the 4th house is ruled by the sign of Cancer, the divine mother and sensitive caretaker. And so, ultimately, the 4th house is where you look to understand the nurturing, both given and received, that secures you to the earth.
December 31, 2020: I don’t love it here. Hate is too strong a word, but I don’t love. I don’t love the cold cave of the house — all the nooks and cozy decor can’t make up for the fact that most of its windows face walls, and the sunlight can never actually spill to the floor. I’m perpetually tensed with my toes frozen. I don’t love the neighborhood — cute, colorful, quirky houses, but I can’t feel warmth billowing from them. I don’t love the lake, don’t find it beautiful, don’t like negotiating for space with so many strangers whose masks hang around their chins (or are nowhere to be seen). Don’t love the stoplights that force pauses into my runs. This is the grumpy answer that is true in its persnicketiness. I don’t love it. I feel stuck without a sense of place or purpose or belonging.
I’ve been thinking about how houses (or apartments) and homes might have gotten tangled up over the course of the pandemic. About how, astrologically speaking, “home” is not the only house that our bodies and identities are built to ground in and grow from.
An outfit can be a home. A friend’s wry jokes can be a home. An airplane can be a home, or a school yard, or the supermarket aisle where they stock the good olives. A tent, a van, or a sidewalk can be a home for houseless folks.
Maybe home is one corner within the house — the kitchen, the couch. Maybe it’s the neighbors’ place.
Some houses and shelters are not really homes at all.
But in pandemic times, when everywhere and everyone out there was a risk, “home” was mostly all there was for many of us. Suddenly, “home” meant too much. The konmari method did not prepare us for this, and Apartment Therapy did not prepare us for this, and Bobby Berk did not prepare us for this, because they never told us that a home isn’t all that home is meant to be, in a way that only an isolating crisis can reveal. The painstakingly selected paint color can become insufferable when you can’t escape the walls. The shelves stacked with books, meticulously coordinated by theme or genre but still left unread, can begin to appear punishing.
It was probably impossible to feel at home in the homes we were not allowed to leave. At home means at ease, and we were very, very far from ease. We were stuck but not grounded. We were settled but in fight, flight, or freeze. No matter how many loaves of sourdough we baked to try to call ourselves homemakers, we were captives of quarantine, and still supposed to not only fold the towels and floss our teeth and apologize and keep up with the news but also do capitalism, just over Zoom, even when we couldn’t so much as buy toilet paper at the grocery store.
Capitalism, of course, is also why America is careening full-steam ahead towards a summer of concerts and restaurant dining and baseball games, all of us getting back out there. America bought its way into loads of vaccine doses, the way America buys its way into (or out of) everything, while countries around the world are still waiting, trapped in the worst of this plague. It’s how we got our renewed freedom, but also why: the economy. must. bounce. back.
Here is a fun etymological fact: the “eco” in the word “economy” comes from the Greek oikos, which translates to “home.” “Economy” means “the management of home.” As a culture, we manage home by way of capitalism, which is to say, Home Depot’s website is the first result when I Google the word “home,” and the Instagram hashtag for #home brings up a dizzying slew of aspirational photographs in which not one coaster is out of place. Which is to say, we tend to twist our relationship with home to one of worth and wanting, one anchored in what we can afford besides the basic roofs over our heads.
You do not want to know how much money (and time and effort) Lauren and I spent on picture frames and candlesticks and potted plants when we moved in together here. But it was not about how we wanted it to look. Not really. It was about how we wanted it to feel. We wanted it to feel like ours, or like an expression of us, like a safe haven, and fun and whimsical but also smart and practical and spacious but cozy and — everything at once. But mostly the first thing: ours. Oftentimes, home is really about the yearning for a mine to become an ours. It’s about separate branches growing from shared roots, or roots knotting together as they grow down, side by side.
ASTROLOGY LESSON #2: Eclipses.
Last week, on May 26th, there was a lunar eclipse at 5 degrees in Sagittarius. Sagittarius is not about home — if anything, it’s about the not-home. Sagittarius wants travel and exploration in pursuit of truths it’s certain exist in the elsewhere. It is the forever student, the self-studied philosopher, always after more, more, more, out there, beyond the visible horizon. It wants to seek and search, not stay (unless it’s certain what staying means, or unless there’s fun to be had here).
And so, a lunar eclipse in Sagittarius exposes the want for broader perspectives and juicier life experiences. It marks a fated shift in ideals and beliefs, and a reevaluation of the edges of our thirst for understanding. It shakes the collective compass. Which way’s north, really? Now that we’re no longer so trapped, is it right to stay or to go?
Eclipses are not singular events. Each one occurs in longer series, threading through time, linking one change with another months later. Eclipses bounce between opposite houses and signs of a chart, revealing the duality that exists in all transformation, in all becoming.
This eclipse on May 26th echoed the solar eclipse at 24 degrees of Sagittarius on December 14th, 2020. This was the day that the electoral college officially confirmed Biden’s win, a couple of weeks before that coup attempt at the Capitol. It was also the day that I wrote that first journal entry, on that first Monday in the new house. Now, we’re halfway through our lease.
January 2, 2021: Weather dreary, heart weary, aching for something — anchoring, connection to place, delight. I feel too internal, like I’ve been layered under 12 blankets, and my skin needs to feel sun, to touch earth, to be touched by the world. I have to learn to live with this, this tiny crevice of sky from the window above my desk, this wall of ivy outside that I just realized is plastic. With feeling blocked in, locked in. It’s my body that’s upset. I just want my body to have what it wants, which is sun, sweat, birdsong, movement.
I’m extra curious lately about selfishness, a quality I’ve certainly shoved into the part of my psyche that Jung would call the shadow. “Have you ever been called selfish?” my therapist asks. I pause. No, I don’t think so. I’d be horrified if someone called me selfish to my face. I have been praised for my giving, because that’s what culture does to women and femmes: it puts us in the roles of nurturers, asking us to embody that 4th house. And I have angled myself towards the praise, even if and when it has corroded my insides.
But the selfishness — the wanting for what’s mine, however much it grates against what it means to be good — still seeps out anyway. I procrastinate the work I don’t really want to do; I get possessive about the best way to cook the broccoli. The shadow is still part of the self, and selflessness is not an honest option. (In When the Body Says No, Dr. Gabor Mate argues that an over-abundance of selflessness can literally make us ill.)
Also, to be a white American is to be inherently selfish, I think, whether we examine that or not. To be American now, as people everywhere else are still sick and dying at terrifying rates and we’re itching to get back to brunch, is necessarily selfish.
But isn’t the wanting what makes us human? In the wanting is the story is the making of meaning. Doesn’t everyone deserve a big, true life of their own? A few weeks ago, a coaching client of mine was wrestling with the concept of gratitude — she was unhappy in her home and in her current family structure, but she felt like she should be happy with what she had. Here is what I know for sure, I said: the answer is not to be happy with being unhappy. Gratitude ought to feel generative.
“What’s the wiser word for selfish?” I ask my therapist. Where does selfishness integrate with gratitude? What’s the selfishness that doesn’t disintegrate relationship? She tells me she thinks maybe it’s self-love. When I ask Lauren, she suggests self-ownership. Is it maybe self-nurturing?
Anyway, Goldilocks and the Three Bears is supposed to be a cautionary tale about selfishness, and one that certainly uplifts capitalist values, i.e. property ownership. But I’m wondering whether maybe Goldilocks is just a little lost in the weedy woods, looking for a home that feels like it can hold her. Without a compass, she lets her body lead the way. Is it so wrong to yearn for the porridge that is neither too hot nor too cold, but just right? To crave a nap in a bed comfortable enough for earnest rest? She borrows from what is available to her. We’re all just borrowing.
Eventually, the bears return home, and Goldilocks has to run from what comes for us all eventually: the wildness of life that always interrupts the cozy quotidian stuff, and sometimes with teeth; that returns to disturb our settling. And she is off. The grand adventure through the woods begins again. The seeking — for belonging, for grounding — never ends.
The question is, does your house, your home, belong to you or the bears? Or can it be both?
ASTROLOGY LESSON #3: How to interpret astrological transits.
I don’t use astrology to imply causation of earthly events. But I do find it to be a helpful tool for revealing what we already know is true (or, as my friend Amy says, what we’re pretending not to know). When we hold our lived experiences up against astrological interpretations, it all starts to make sense — the hunger, the missteps, the precise temperature at which we prefer our porridge. Astrology says, you are built to want what you want. It doesn’t say you get to be cruel or greedy about it; instead, it anchors the wanting somewhere deeper, asking you to ground in what’s truest for you if you want to live your life and not somebody else’s.
That eclipse in Sagittarius on May 26th and the previous one on December 14th happened in my 8th house — the house of intimacy and shared resources. The 8th house is the place of merging with the other. This is also what home means, isn’t it? Home is what we share with those who came before us and those who will come after; it’s the meeting in the middle. It is the constant interchanging of energy, the circuitousness of it, required in the collaborative growing of sustainable roots.
For me, these eclipses aren’t about home through the traditional 4th house lens. The house just symbolizes the steady walls built around an intimate bond. It shows me how my own selfish wants and needs — “sun, sweat, birdsong, movement” — might have to be reconciled with the walls’ essential boundaries. The house insists that I stay where I am, in with-ness, neither abandoning what’s within me and only me (scribbled into each personal journal entry to reflect the truth that is not the whole truth) nor what’s right here, being built by both of us. Right here. This this.