How Venus and Mercury Retrograde Raise Us

As readers of this blog are well-aware, I’ve been felled by a UTI that bloomed into my kidneys and retriggered intergenerational trauma. While I’ve been trying to heal, I’ve been laying low in terms of my “business.”

Until recently most of us used social media to promote our businesses or a version of our selves–so much so that I’ve been privately advised I should keep discussions of my illness to a minimum.

It all boiled down to the same thing: our brand, even if we didn’t admit it.

But somewhere between Covid-19 and our country’s substandard response to it, between the righteous rising of the Black Lives Movement and an institutionalized white supremacist rebellion, “brands” stopped being an appropriate presentation. Because this moment is not about ego, the “I.” It is about the “superego”—the collective conscience.

So what’s the connection between my inflamed urinary tract and the greater unrest in our country? The shared reality that we can only filter so many toxins before we break down. Just consider how health and justice has been disrupted by generations of institutionalized harm. If you are, as I am, the descendent of Polish Jewish immigrants, that impact is powerful. If you are a BIPOC person in America, it is legion. And it’s no coincidence that this massive dis-ease has been happening during Venus Retrograde.

This period demands we examine how love and care is disrupted. The good news? We needed the recalibration. And I’ve come to believe that healing is not about getting “better” so much as positive transformation. Consider the dual definitions of “utopia”—“no place” and “perfect place.” The point is to continue striving.

We may never achieve perfectly equitable, institutionalized care in our economy, courts, streets, schools, and whole selves. But we must always perfectly try.

Today Mercury Retrograde begins in caretaker Cancer, and it will help us continue to express our support for each other. So let your words be love spells and shape-shifters—assents and ascents. Because healing is not linear. It is a spiral staircase on which we revisit blocks from an ever-higher frequency.

In the 1960s, great upheaval ushered great changes. Now we may rise again by re-raising ourselves and each other.

(To those who’ve kindly inquired, Ruby Intuition sessions can be booked again starting in July.)

Split at the Root, Part II

This is the second installment of my tale about Ute. You can find the first here.

By 1998, I was finally on my own after a decade of living off men after leaving my parents’ house—frying pan, meet fire. I was living alone in a ridiculously affordable Prospect Heights floor-through with a backyard, rotating through a series of lovers, free-lancing as a copy editor, working out at least once a day, and writing the occasional magazine article about holistic health. Back then you could make grownup money as a journalist but working full-time in a magazine would’ve cramped my yoga girl lifestyle so I resigned myself to pitching articles that would earn me coin while I learned about something that already interested me. Getting paid a buck a word to take a vacation where anorexic me could manage the food always felt like a good call.

The magazines I wrote for were mostly the kind of rich-people vanity projects that were long dead by the time everything crashed in 2008, and their editors were usually inexpert enough that they were desperate for my “boho girl” ideas. So when I pitched a raw foods spa I’d read about, they bit though back then nobody ate raw; my friends thought it meant I’d be eating steak tartare by a pool.

I don’t exactly know what I was expecting—spa treatments and beautifully arranged greens and fruit, probably–but it wasn’t what I encountered. The Hippocrates Health Institute was located in West Palm Beach, which is a lot grittier than Palm Beach. Think gravel and gutted strip malls instead of white sand and perfect vistas. Founded in the 1950s by raw foods advocate Ann Wigmore, it was in definitive decline by the time I showed up—all peeling pink stucco, diseased palm trees, unfilled pools, moldy wall-to-wall carpeting; pale people with insipid smiles and desperate eyes.

Shit was bleak.

At the orientation meeting, laminated folders were passed around and my heart sank. Our diet was to consist solely of raw cabbage, spinach, pea shoots, watercress, wheatgrass and cucumber juice, and sprouted grains. In between meals we would be learning about the diseases we’d apparently already incurred from eating cooked food, and submitting to regular fasts, enemas, rigorous tests of our organ function, and electromagnetic and infrared therapy to draw out the many toxins impeding our body’s “natural processes.”

There wasn’t so much as a massage table on the premises.

As our guide—40ish and clad in 70s cult whites—droned on about the benefits of eating raw I gazed around the circle sitting cross-legged on the dirty floor. These were the people with whom I’d be spending the next month of my life, and everyone looked lumpy and wan. The only other person under 40 was a blond woman with angry eyes wearing a long-sleeved floor-length dress though it was 90 degrees in the meeting room, air conditioning apparently counter-indicated for cleanses.

This woman of course was Ute, and though I could usually take people in without them noticing, she looked up and met my gaze hawkishly before I got a chance to register more than a general dislike for her. Continue Reading →

Split at the Root: Part I

untitled by Chantal Joffe

If you have taken this rubble for my past
raking through for fragments you could sell
know that I long ago moved on
deeper into the heart of the matter

If you think you can grasp me, think again:
my story flows in more than one direction
a delta springing from the river bed
with its five fingers spread
–Adrienne Rich

This is a story I began writing when I was 34, the last age of Ute, whose story this really is. I am 49 now, and what were cracks in our country’s landscape then have become continental divides. But deep in the soil of this stolen land, the rot was always there, threatening to poison us all.

I knew Ute in 1998. The temperatures were already climbing. Justice as always was only truly available to those deemed human by the Founding Fathers (such a small percentage of us). Rodney King was not so far in the rear view mirror, but had already been obscured in White America’s memory by OJ in his white Bronco,  launching the whole of reality TV culture in that one uber-televised police chase leading finally to Donald Trump’s White House.

As I write this, there is no stable ground—only lethal virus, lethal white supremacy and capitalism. Righteous fury in the streets, dangerous dybbuks in the spreadsheets. I have been sick too—not with COVID but a urinary tract infection that has bloomed into my kidneys and triggered every trigger I didn’t know I still had.

My ability to filter toxins is completely maxed out.

The first day I experienced these symptoms, a first draft of Ute’s story fell onto my desk. It had been securely pinned to my bulletin board for more than a decade but on that overly warm May day, the printout suddenly dropped onto my desk.

I felt sicker.

The summer she and I knew each other, I was 27– the age when you either step into the path of adult life or die. Back then the curse of 27 wasn’t discussed as it is today. Nothing was. The Internet was still in its infancy. When I needed information I went to the library or called up a smarter friend. When I needed companionship, I showed up in people’s bedrooms. When I needed help, I prettily cried Uncle. Continue Reading →

"All, everything I understand, I understand only because I love."
― Leo Tolstoy