CELESTIAL SNACKS: AN OCCASIONAL ASTROLOGER'S JOURNEY WITH FOOD AND FATE
CHIRON RETROGRADE AND HERITAGE FLAKES
It’s 6:54pm. I want cereal. I pour a bowl of Heritage Flakes. This is the kind of cereal you get at a greenwashed store like Whole Foods where everything looks like it came from nature, but it actually just came from a spam plant that dumps its chemical waste in the ocean. What the fuck are Heritage Flakes? Cereal that connects you to your ancestors? I’d pay for that. The name sounds appropriative. I finish them in exactly six minutes. I get up and pour myself another bowl. I add almond milk: another thing that feels like it’s good for you and the environment, but 50 billion dead bees and my calcium deficient teeth feel differently. I feel lost. The first three months of the pandemic felt like a sacred time to rest and figure out what I wanted from life. I discovered that I just want to live. I want to have friends and hug them. I want to experience the highs and lows of almost getting what I want. I finish the Heritage Flakes. Again, six minutes.
I feel like I don’t have a community. I know I do, but what does knowledge mean to someone locked in her apartment. Perhaps I feel this way because Chiron went retrograde a few days ago. Chiron is a little celestial fragment in our solar system between Saturn and Uranus. It’s been called many things, an asteroid, a comet, a minor planet…I like to think of it as a space boulder. In astrology, it rules all things wounded. It’s like a fragment of a cherished piece of pottery that you’ve held on to, hoping one day you’ll sit down and gorilla glue it back in place. There’s no telling where Chiron came from, but we know it’s far away from home. It doesn’t know where it belongs. I hold a spoonful of soggy Heritage Flake remnants up to the sky as an offering to Chiron. “This is how you can connect to your ancestors.”
When I was born, Chiron was in my 11th house of friends, social groups, and humanitarian causes. Ever since childhood, it’s been difficult for me to know my place in a group. Chiron marks my particular social wounding in this way. Chiron, however, isn’t currently transiting my 11th house, it’s smack in the middle of my 9th house of travel, cultural exchange, and higher thought. I scrape at my soggy Heritage Flake dregs. What a time for Chiron to both limit my ability to travel and emphasize my cultural castration. For context, I’m an ambiguous looking lady with a light-skinned black father and a light-skinned Mexican-ish mother. Mexican-ish because she was born in New Mexico and spoke Spanish before English was drilled into her by a very brutish schoolteacher. My parents did everything they could to give me a leg up, so they told me race didn’t matter and that all I had to do was go to school, work hard, and be the smartest person in the room. As I pour a third bowl of Heritage Flakes, I reflect on their advice, given with good intention, based on the world they grew up in where identity was an obstacle to overcome in the pursuit of happiness and not an asset to be cherished in the face of adversity. They both trained the accents out of their voices, one dying her hair the other wearing argyle, all in the hopes of creating a better future for themselves. What’s sad is that it worked. It worked well. And because it worked so well, they passed this way of life on to me. So here I am, 31 years old, a floating space boulder far away from her home, unidentifiable, somewhere between an asteroid and a minor planet.
But don’t break out the handkerchief. Chiron has a way of healing old wounds. It sees other little wounded wannabe planets in the distance and shouts hello (Chiron is wearing a mask, of course). Chiron asks us to gather around healing. It endows us with the ability to find other people who are wounded in the way we are, and from those scars we create community. So here I am, waving to other people who feel cut off from their cultural identity, offering a toast to Chiron with a bowl of Heritage Flakes and almond milk. Stop by and tell me your story.
BURRITOS AND BEAVERS: VENUS GOES DIRECT
Lately, I’ve been looking like an engorged beaver. Let me start again… I have become an engorged beaver. The other morning, I got up, did my Zoom exercise as I normally do, fed the cat, and that was the end of my day. I didn’t go back to sleep, but I might as well have. The rest of the day involved a lot of sitting on my beaver butt watch Youtube videos like “Signs you grew up with a Latina Mom”. I have to say, I thought I’d be a lot further along at 31 years old than quarantining in my mother’s house with my boyfriend and a stray cat.
I don’t consider myself a vain person; I take care of my hygiene and I wear makeup occasionally, but I prefer comfort to fashion, and I only get a haircut once a year. The problem with having so much time at home, however, is that you start to pay attention to your face. Over the past 5 weeks, I’ve watched my appearance morph from hopeful millennial to haggard mutant like some twisted Willy Wonka Dorian Gray portrait. Logic would tell me that hunching over your computer with a wrinkled brow, marathoning Netflix, and eating tortillas isn’t exactly a recipe for sex appeal, but I am shocked nevertheless. Perhaps in my 20s my body could have withstood the effects of political turmoil and a global pandemic, but 31 is proving to be a lot less elastic. After about 5 hours of scrolling through content, I started Googling things like “How to improve your complexion with Krispy Kreme” and “Butt botox on a budget”.
As in most moments of minor crisis in my life, I turned to astrology for a scapegoat. I was checking the stars for an answer, as I occasionally do and there it was! VENUS! Venus has been in retrograde since May 13th. It made complete sense. Venus was to blame for my sloppy appearance and sedentary lifestyle. Even in my most ambitious moments of Venus retrograde all I could manage was a quick brush through the hair and some lotion. Venus retrograde always wrecks my confidence. Usually it doesn’t matter because I have other things going on, but now you can't go for a stroll without contracting the plague. Everything is broken; it’s always been broken, but this time it’s shattered. And you can’t even find comfort in a person! You have to do it through a screen that probably has a unicorn filter. It’s a miracle we don’t all look like Ursula’s poor unfortunate souls in The Little Mermaid.
Venus retrograde makes us less sociable, less concerned with beauty, less focused on details, and less focused on love. As I tracked Venus and the other retrograde planets, it occurred to me that this may be just the thing we need right now. While I’m fretting about my appearance, a revolution is happening. We’re in a new wave of Civil Rights protests and this moment could have sweeping implications for policy and police structure. My thought was “why does reform have to stop at policy”? Why can’t it extend to pop culture. I can’t remember a time when beauty wasn’t at the center of pop culture. Not just beauty, but white beauty: whiteness as a standard for beauty. Skin lightening creams, plastic surgery, hair straighteners, skinny jeans, hair removal kits… The beauty industry is a $532 billion industry that capitalizes on everyone’s desire to appear rich and white. Yep. Men and women who don’t fit the standard have to shell out money to look like plucked swans while people who fit the standard profit. Women spend on average 55 minutes a day getting ready and spend $3657 on beauty products. That means if you’re a single parent with two jobs working for minimum wage, you can’t afford to be beautiful. You don’t have the time and you don’t have the money. Beauty as we currently interact with it is a luxury you can purchase, but perhaps it’s time to change that. Maybe it’s ok that Venus has been retrograde for a bit. Maybe we don’t look that bad. Maybe our beauty routines were shitty bias-reinforcing aspects of our lives that need to die with the past. Maybe we’ve been given an opportunity to redefine beauty.
Venus went direct this morning (June 25th), so today I looked in the mirror. I saw two bushy eyebrows, some new wrinkles, a crooked smile and a cowlick. My butt was a little plump from eating well and sitting around with my family. My arms were large and strong from doing pushups every morning with my friends on Zoom. I had tan lines on my shoulders from the New Mexican sun and my stomach had a little happy trail. I was brown and short and I looked a little like an engorged beaver, but I decided that this was the new beautiful…and I ate a burrito.
LEMON CAKE AND THE LAND OF ENCHANTMENT
My grandmother used to make lemon buttercream frosting from scratch. I remember what she looked like whisking the butter with a fork, her hand charred from flipping tortillas on the wood-burning stove. She lived in an old adobe house in a little town called Torreon in New Mexico. Over a month ago, my partner and I decided to move our social distancing party from Providence to Albuquerque. My mother was quarantining alone and we had absolutely nothing keeping us in Rhode Island besides the fear of contracting COVID-19 from a sloppy airplane passenger on the flight over, so we packed our bags, faced our fears, and headed out. I’m a true Sagittarius: always ready for a change of pace and place. New Mexico welcomed us with 95-degree weather and a jaded Uber driver; I didn’t mind either. When the pandemic first started, I felt like a superhero. I took classes online, started Insanity Max 30, learned how to make bread…but mid-May, as I sat in the back of the car, tuning out the screamo music and making small talk with the driver who referred to my home as the Land of Entrapment, a sense of aimlessness set in. For the first time, I felt adrift, at home! You’re not supposed to feel adrift at home. Perhaps it was seeing the Sandia Mountains through the fresh eyes of my partner, or maybe it was the driver’s questionable taste in ambient music, but everything seemed foreign to me.
Our quarantine period was a little brighter. I had never been in my childhood home without my mom for any longer than a day, and suddenly I found myself in her room, caring for her plants, and obsessing over the exact time at which to open and close the windows, as she always had. Mom was staying in my late grandmother’s house, the very place I first learned to make tortillas and lemon buttercream frosting. My grandmother died in that house, and though my mom denies it, I think grandma’s ghost ambling the halls was to blame for my mom’s sleepless nights.
In my mom’s house, I occupied my time as any western-educated sucker would: I made schedules and goals, worked on projects no one would ever see, and created a social life on Zoom. Occasionally, I’d go for walks and marvel at the landscape I had taken for granted in my youth. Silly Sagittarius, falling out of love with every place I go. For me the grass is always greener somewhere else, and New Mexico is a desert, so… I had seen that landscape so many times in my life, but there was something about not having anywhere to go or anything to do that made me appreciate it for the first time. Slowly, day-by-day, I began to fall in love with my home again.
After the quarantine period, my mom, my partner, and I set out on small adventures. Our car danced in the low valleys and alongside the red rock. We sat on pine needles and posed against natural springs. We walked along the Rio Grande and spent evenings in the backyard brushing el gatito and listening to crickets. As I write this, I can feel myself beginning to mourn. We leave in less than a week. My stars have doomed me to wander, but my heart wants to bury itself in the brown earth near my grandmother’s porch.
Last night, my family and I decided to have an impromptu birthday party. None of us has a birthdays in June, but it didn’t matter, we had been born dammit, and we were going to celebrate. I made spaghetti and coerced my partner into making a lemon cake. Of course I made lemon buttercream frosting, but it wasn’t as good as grandma’s. I started 2020 expecting to jump from place to place, hoping the momentum of my career would land me gigs all over the country. 2020 turned out to be a lemon, but when life gives you lemons, you make lemon cake…and you come home.