As I write this on January 18, 2011, I am reminded why I live in the Texas Hill Country. This afternoon the high was 78 degrees, the sky was blue, and I spent a couple hours outside in shirtsleeves working in the yard, preparing for spring planting while in other parts of our great country people were shivering against the cold as they dug themselves out from the latest snow storm.
One thing I've always liked about gardening is the fact that mindless work such as pulling weeds provides the perfect environment for pondering those things you don't take time to ponder otherwise. The Sun was relatively low in the sky, but its warmth was evident and felt good after being cooped up inside for a few months. Earlier in the week a welcome rain had soaked the earth, the first since September, leaving the ground moist and pliant. The majority of insects, some of which are large enough down here to consume a Ford F350, were largely dormant, other than a few harried spiders who scurried for cover with a nearly audible "WTF!" as my trowel disturbed their winter slumber. No scorching heat, no bugs, it doesn't get much better than that. Day after tomorrow the low is supposed to be in the 20s again with more rain on the way (hopefully), but that's okay. What happened last week or what happens tomorrow doesn't make today any less perfect.
Last July I totally yielded to grasshoppers and heat which teamed together effectively to destroy my efforts at gardening. They killed four newly planted blueberry bushes, a stand of pole beans that never so much as flowered, and entirely devoured a dozen or so corn stalks before I could even think about pulling the immature ears for sustenance. Triple-digit temperatures, bugs that had surely erupted from hell, and no rain in sight were enough for me to retreat to my air-conditioned home, grab a bottle of chilled Cost-co vitamin water, and quietly surrender. What had started out as green optimism for a larder full of home-grown veggies had evolved to cynical, overgrown defeat. My place was parched and battle-torn and as I watched the weeds take over, I never quite felt guilty enough to brave the heat and do anything about it. I lamented the mess to a seasoned neighbor who assured me that they would be no trouble to remove come spring. Too tired to argue, I let it be. Until today.
The weeds that had been so formidable five months ago were now not only dead but easy to pull from the ground, given the recent rain. They weren't nearly as intimidating and demonstrated no resistance to my efforts. Last summer some of them wouldn't have budged to a pull-chain attached to a 4-wheel drive pickup, but today they relented to a good yank. Beneath the dead vegetation, new growth had already begun in the mint, basil, oregano, catnip and lemon balm that had been so viciously ravaged last summer that I had thought they were completely dead. The blueberries showed no sign of life but I left them in place, nonetheless, just in case. As I cleared the debris suddenly I had a whole new appreciation for the Plutonian concept of death and rebirth. What I thought was dead wasn't and what I'd thought was utter destruction had yielded to the cycles of nature. It was a new year, a new season, and a new cycle. What had been insurmountable a few months before was now easily accomplished. The rhythm of nature had prevailed, giving both my herb garden and me another chance. What I couldn't face last summer had completed its lifecycle and granted me a ten-stroke handicap of sorts to get the jump on what was sure to come six months down the road. And such is life.
Astrological metaphors originated with nature and the seasons. The Tropical Zodiac itself is based on events that tie the Sun to the Earth and mark turning points of the seasons with the solstices and equinoxes. The character of the planets used for astrological interpretations hail from nature as well as evidenced by the traditional planetary rulers of the signs which give the Sun rulership over Leo in the heat of summer and cold and distant Saturn rulership over the winter signs of Capricorn and Aquarius. Now Aquarius is ruled by even more distant Uranus. Pluto is about death and regeneration, about finally facing those things that continue to fester regardless of the fact you've kept them hidden, ignored or buried. In due time and season it's time to deal with them, then go forward renewed and refreshed. Just like last summer's weeds aren't nearly as hard to confront the following spring. Everything cycles. This is most obvious from the lunar phases, followed by the four seasons as the Sun pursues different paths in the sky, some high some low. The days lengthen, shorten, then lengthen again.
Having just spent the last two years with Pluto bumping into my natal Sun, I have seen my entire life transformed. While it wasn't as bad as I expected, it likewise wasn't what I would call easy. A health crisis followed by Hurricane Ike got my attention and demanded that I assume a less stressful lifestyle. A year later I retired from a 22 year career at NASA, sold a home that I loved, and moved away from friends and family to what had been my vacation home in the Texas Hill Country where I tried to fit 2100 square feet worth of "stuff" into 1000 square feet of space. The remodeling and upgrades have only just begun, but the transition accomplished what it was supposed to. I'm 150 yards from Lake Buchanan, 15 miles from a grocery store, 25 miles from a Wal*Mart and 256 miles from the stress that tried to kill me. Life is good. And at this point I would even go so far as to say that Pluto is my friend, a realization that came in its fullness as I conquered last summer's weeds on a warm January day.
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