Balcony gardening and breaking stories

Somewhere along the line I picked up the idea that I couldn’t grow things, that I was the opposite of a green thumb. I repeated it and joked about it and told people stories of the pot plants I’d somehow managed to kill. I forgot about the gardening I did for my parents as a kid—but that was their garden, so the responsibility wasn’t mine. I also forgot about the small section of the side garden that I convinced my parents to let me have. I filled it with succulents and cacti and ferns and pebbles, all laid out in a very careful design. I was so into it for about 3 days before I lost interest. But some of those plants remained there for years until mum redid the landscaping.

When I moved into an apartment by myself I decided to brighten up the bare, glaringly hot balcony with some pot plants. I bought a bunch, put them in big plastic pots and cared for them with dedication and love. But no matter what I did, they wilted and died. I didn’t work out why until I uprooted the dead stems to find soaking wet soil.

Turned out I’d loved them a bit too much.

That was the turning point, though. I pulled out the ones that were still mostly alive, dried out their roots a little and cut off the rotten parts. I invested in better quality terracotta pots and replanted everything. And I monitored carefully just how much I was watering. (So hard to stop because watering is love!)

Three golden cane palms and one Yesterday Today Tomorrow survived. I’m pretty proud of that. I stopped telling myself the story of how I couldn’t grow things. That wasn’t true anymore, if it ever had been.

Last year Gordon White piqued my interest around permaculture and growing your own food. I decided to give growing food a go and see what I could manage in the limited space I had. I went all out. Nothing was off limits and most of what I tried was from seed. I planted tomatoes, carrots, potatoes, lavender, rosemary, sage, mint, lettuce, rocket and even corn.

It wasn’t a perfect success. I got aphids and white mold. Things didn’t get enough water. Some got too much. I underestimated the amount of plant food I’d need to add to the relatively closed systems of the pots and stunted growth. It got too hot as summer came on and a few plants got burned. But I adjusted. I learned a bit more about listening to plants and actually hearing what they needed. I put up shade cloth on the balcony railing (great decision). I bought mini greenhouses which I then had to cover with netting because they got too hot. I bought chicken-wire in the middle of the city and put it up to keep out the possums.

One of the most effective things I did was a regular recitation of the Orphic hymn to Ceres, goddess of agriculture, crops and fertility. Apparently she approved of my little garden because my plants took off, blossoming and fruiting as soon as I started that.

In the end I managed to grow a salad lunch.

After that harvest, the weather and my north-facing balcony got way too hot and humid so most things died. I could have tried harder to save them but I decided it wasn’t a good investment, especially considering that I don’t currently need to grow my own food. The goal of the experiment was to see if I could—to break the false story I’d told about myself—and that was a success.

I actually managed to grow corn on a balcony in the middle of a city.

Dreams of beauty in the sky

Tonight is the conjunction of the Moon, Venus and Neptune in Pisces. I didn’t think I’d be able to see it with all the cloud around but as the sun set, the clouds dissolved and this beautiful moment shone out.

I like to take photos a lot. There’s something about capturing the perfect moment of light, shadow, shape and colour that is magical to me. I suspect some of the influence comes from my natal Neptune, which sextiles a lot of my chart. It’s interesting that this conjunction happened the day after my birthday when dad loaned me a new camera to try with a new lens I had bought as a present for myself. Pisces is my rising sign and my natal Neptune is in my 10th House. The connections just keep lining up.

Part of this may also have been my recent realisation about a talisman. I was lucky enough to get one of the Moon-Neptune in Pisces talismans from Sphere and Sundry, made by the talented Tony Mack. (Side note: Sphere and Sundry is AMAZING.)

This was the first astrological talisman I’ve ever owned. I still don’t know exactly why I had to have it so badly but I think it’s partly for deeper journey work and partly for photography. It’s as though the shadowy Neptune side is the deep diving guide of the unconscious and imaginal, and the bright shimmering Moon side is the inspiration for capturing the perfect light.

The talisman as a whole has a lovely dreamlike feel. Holding it I plunge into a warm blue and shining ocean, dissolving comfortably away. It has a truly magical energy. I just have to find out how to direct it and decide what to direct it at. Photography seems a good choice. Talismans and photographs capture and hold a moment in time. Both hold energy and power. I’m wondering if there’s such a thing as talismanic photography. Tonight’s photograph of the beautiful conjunction in a dreamlike sky isn’t a bad start.

When Venus meets Pluto and why learning CPR is important

A few months ago, transiting Venus in Libra conjoined my natal Libra Pluto and formed a square with transiting Pluto in Capricorn as it conjoined my natal Capricorn Venus. This was a fairly significant astrological moment and I’m sorry to say that I completely missed it. I wasn’t expecting anything at all.

Once you attune yourself to the planetary energies, however, they can get a bit shouty if you don’t pay attention.

It started with hearing birds and their alarm calls outside my apartment door. I noted it as something mildly odd, didn’t think more of it and continued to get ready for work.

Stepping out of my apartment door to head to the train, I was confronted with a man, slumped in a corner of the stairwell (which, while decoratively hidden from the street is actually open to the world) being bombarded by the local birds.

I jumped and made a very manly sound of surprise, called out to him and dithered for a second wondering what to do. I vaguely remembered my CPR training, did the checks you’re supposed to do in these situations and called the emergency services. He wasn’t breathing so I started CPR.

Fortunately, the paramedics appeared within a couple of minutes and were able to bring him around. When they finally got him to open his clenched fist, it turned out he was clutching an engagement ring and a gold, heart-shaped padlock charm.

Symbolism much?

Within a couple of hours of the perfection of a major Venus/Pluto aspect (that doubled its energy for me personally) a man holding precious tokens of love collapsed outside my apartment and nearly died. In fact, if I hadn’t gone to work that day, he wouldn’t have been found for hours and would have died. I’m the only one who uses that part of the stairwell in the mornings and where he slumped in the corner, he was completely hidden from anyone else.

I didn’t think of the astrology at the time. I put it down to an unusual event and something to tell my friends about.

Then, a couple of weeks later when the Moon activated that aspect again, I heard the birds.

This time, I immediately stuck my head out the door in my pyjamas to see what was happening. A few steps below where the man had been was a dead kingfisher, its body being picked at by the raucous local birds.

Not knowing what else to do and never having seen a kingfisher in my area before, I grabbed a towel, shooed the birds away and gently picked up the body. Luckily I was holding it very daintily (being not at all squeamish) because as I carried it into my apartment, it suddenly jumped up zoomed off.

Guess I won’t become a veterinarian anytime soon.

This was enough to get my attention so I googled around to see what I could find about the mythology of kingfishers. Turns out there’s a Greek legend about Alcyone and Ceyx, a very loving couple, who died/were killed and the gods turned into kingfishers. Alcyone is also the name of the brightest star in the Pleiades, although the mythology is unrelated.

Guess which constellation was rising at the moment I found the kingfisher?

That was enough to send me scrambling for my ephemeris (read: astrology app) to see what else matched up and that’s when the whole thing with the man and the ring and the death and the bird and Pluto and Venus all crashed into me.

Obviously the stars were going to extreme lengths to get my attention.

The message? Don’t die alone in someone else’s stairwell. It is very definitely and urgently time to let go of the walls and barriers keeping other people out. Or you’ll die. Alone. Emphasis on the dying part. Dead.

Message received.

First magic

“Do you want to do a magic spell?” he asked. “We can try making it rain. We’ll be summoning the Horned God. But don’t worry; he’s nothing to do with the devil.”

I was excited. It felt transgressive and a little scary but I’d always wanted ‘real magic’ and dreamed my fantasy dreams. The shadowy, wild Horned God of the forest with his deer antlers and ragged skins and danger grabbed me by the throat and heart and mind. I was so in.

And that was my first introduction to practical enchantment. We did a Wiccan-esque ritual calling on the Horned God to bring rain. Wicca was basically the only thing we knew back in my mid-teens. It was powerful and transformative in a way I hadn’t expected and didn’t comprehend until years later. I could feel the energy of the magic circle we cast and the call to the Watchtowers that totally wasn’t stolen from The Craft movie at all. There was a rich early summer, golden and green energy to it. I think Beltane wasn’t too far off on this warm, sunny afternoon. The world of the unseen and mind-seen opened up for me in that moment. The walls of my reality dropped away, revealing vistas of green fields and slumbering forests and towering mountains. There were secrets lying waiting in places that had once been explained and rendered boring. And now I could see where they were and try to reach them.

Once our ritual was done and we had closed our amateur circle, cast clandestinely in the lounge room of my childhood home while my parents were out shopping, we raced outside to see what had happened. The sunny summer afternoon greeted us, white puffy clouds drifting across a clear blue sky. I was looking for what I thought were tangible real-world effects but I noticed in passing the feeling I had of wider senses, clearer sight, a richness and depth to the world that I hadn’t experienced before. Disappointment began to creep in. Our spell hadn’t worked. Nothing had happened.

“It might take a while for the spell to work,” he said, fueling my disappointment.

I could tell he was trying to explain away the lack of effect for himself as much as for me. Now I just felt like an idiot for standing in front of him in the lounge room chanting nonsense with my arms above my head. Obviously he had been the leader of the ritual and showed me what to do but my self-esteem wasn’t very robust at that stage of my life.

A lone cloud floated above a forested hill to the north of the house and suddenly it was raining. This one cloud rained a shower down on the trees below it five minutes after we called on a forest God to bring rain. It was so localised and so brief that probably no one else saw it, but we did.

It doesn’t seem real. It did at the time and we were amazed and elated. The gods had listened to us and we had brought rain. It quickly faded from realness, decaying into that materialist mental space of ‘did I really see that?’, ‘did I just make it up?’, ‘have I mis-remembered what happened?’, ‘was it an optical illusion or a coincidence?’, ‘was it just what I wanted to see?’

But I know it happened. The Horned God listened and fulfilled our non-specific petition for rain. The rain was real. The magic was real. I made it happen.