“There’s something going on right now – in your line of work – in your life – it’s in the process of popping. Coming to fruition. What would that be?”
Sarah the Ojai astrologer leans in, waiting for the answer. One of the few people who recognize me from my work in tinseltown, she’d seen Counting For Thunder when Amazon recommended it after she watched John Heard in “A Trip to Bountiful.” She pushes a lock of silver hair over her shoulder, looking like a monarch in some medieval streaming drama – a queen who’s either delivering good news or demanding your head on a platter, perhaps both. “Something” – she digs again, leaning in further, like the answer would most certainly be on the tip of my tongue.
We are seated underneath a soapstone-hued tarp stretching from the lower boughs of a 450-year-old live oak tree hauling its way up through the deck behind the metaphysical store on one of the town’s backstreets where kids still play baseball with no worries of a car passing more than once an hour. A gorgeous feline, knowing I’m not a fan, collapses at my foot and glances up in my direction, hoping to change my mind.
“I’m not sure,” I tell her. I’d turned on my bedside light the night before after a dream where I had to dig ditches after the pandemic. I never turned it back off.
“You’re not sure if something is or isn’t in the process of popping?” she asks.
I sort of shake me head no – and yes – at the same time. It’s the way things have been for some time now. I don’t know if I’m coming or going. Long stretches of motivation and lack thereof, inspiration and hopelessness. A symptom of this interminable pandemic. We’re out of it, we’re not. We’re wearing masks, we’re not. Morning has broken, no it ain’t.
“Planets are lining up for you,” she says with a friendly smile. “It doesn’t even show you having to work that hard for it.”
I remember when it all started, the clear-headed TV anchor told me we were in for one helluva year. “Here we go, ready or not.” He actually said that. So we all girded out loins and hoped for the best.
Early on, the partner and I had gone to the beach with a dear friend who had recently been laid off work and decided, after one too many afternoons with Youtube, that Bill Gates was planning a vaccine so he could brand us. A couple months later one of the most well educated people I’ve ever known told me three months after the first bunch got poked we’d all die, six months later the second bunch would go. Both of these people I would trust, with one phone call, to break me out of a Turkish prison at midnight. I’d recently read a New York Times article on how hardcore evangelicals had become defined by anti-intellectualism, and how, to them, scientific authority is now viewed with skepticism, but these two folk are anything but holy rollers.
Yet here we are. Turn on the TV, the Republicans despise the Democrats and vice versa. A drought threatens to char us all to bits and global warming, whether or not you believe it, holds a gnarled hand over the whole map. Horrific levels of gun violence in the US makes me think of all those places I read about as a kid that made me glad I lived here and not there. Voting rights are being yanked out from under so many folks it feels like we’re back in the Dark Ages when I stood as a toddler trying to make sense of the Alabama police turning fire hoses on black folks just trying to be equal. It all feels like those poorly made reels they’d make us watch in Sunday School about the End Times and all that came with it.
But now we’re supposed to be coming out of it. All of it. Back to normal. Ish. And I’m doing my damndest to join the party.
“I have a cough,” I say.
I’d gone for my annual physical six months late and told my doctor I was dying of the same thing that had snatched my mother out of this world. I’m thinking if it’s true, there’s going to be hell to pay. Coming through all this, just to be handed a near-death sentence?
“How do you feel?” my longtime hot AF internist asks. “How’s your energy?”
“I’m fine, lots of energy, just – trying really hard to get back in the swing of things after all this. I think I’m probably dying. I think you need to scan everything.”
“I’m not scanning everything. Your blood work is terrific and I don’t hear anything scary when you breathe. We’re all a little crazy. Go hiking, see friends and forget about it. In fact, forget about everything.”
“Okay,” I say, “but you’re gonna be sorry when I turn up dead – and I don’t mean a little dead – I mean as a doornail.”
The next night, we went to dinner at the home of dear friends, drank way too much red wine and laughed about all the things we always laugh about when we drink too much red wine. They’d been through a crucible of family tragedy since all this began and it felt good not to talk about any of it. Or my inability to pull myself together.
I couldn’t believe how rested I felt the next morning – good enough to drive us to the charming town on Pacific Coast highways that promised smooth sailing the day before the holiday ended. A few hours later, I had talked myself out of the reading, until I decided, what’s the point of ejecting yourself out of a cold dark tunnel if you don’t try something different? “If you’re going to come out covey, come out of covey!” the partner said. I adore the fact that in his thick Veracruz accent he calls the virus by a name sounding like a beloved cousin who gives you a sip of their beer when your parents aren’t looking.
I am already walking away from Sarah the Ojai Astrologer when I remember something. It takes me a second to gather my wits. “Wait. There ARE two things,” I say, kneeling to pet the surprised cat below me.
“Oh?” she asks.
“About to pop,” I answer. “A couple projects. Maybe. Movie. Series. A house. I just forgot. All of them. Everything got so cloudy. It’s a lot to take in, you know. Getting back in the swing.”
She squints at my charts. “It’s truly extraordinary – the potential you’ve got during the next half year or so. I wish my charts looked like this. Check in with those things you’d forgotten. It’s time.”
She nods and stands with a reassuring smile. “It’s not going to happen overnight. It’s not like a light switch. It will come in bits and pieces, and we may be taking a couple steps back before we take a couple forward. “And,” she says, “it’s okay not to try so hard. Remember what I told you – planets lining up.” She pulls the tarp back down to separate us and the remnants of her voice ring through the boughs of the old oak and what’s left of the grey matter between my ears. “Not-Having-To-Try-Too-Hard Planets.”
I thought of the time when a friend and producer emailed me in the middle of the night to tell me my life was about to change drastically for the better. I’d not done anything particularly industrious to bring on that phone call. The universe just thought it was time.
Or when another pal hooked me up with some dating site despite my protestations for her to do anything but. Shortly thereafter, I was having a phone conversation with a thick Veracruz accent that changed everything for the better.
So I’m remembering that when I turn out my light tonight.
Bad times end. Miracles do happen. Planets line up.
Sometimes it’s because of some sort of energy we’ve already put out there.
Sometimes it’s not. They’re just miracles.
Here we go.
Ready or not.