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The Difficult Work We Yearn For

A 2020 Moon Mars conjunction captured by my favorite amateur astronomer Andrew McCarthy, whom you should follow on Twitter

I moved to a small town without a lot of light pollution recently. And I was walking home Monday night and had a great view of an almost full Moon in the sky, working its way toward a bright pink pulse of light. And I stopped and stared for a long time because I realized that I was watching the Moon and Mars slowly and inexorably coming together in the sky, just in time for tonight’s full Moon, which will happen at 11:07 pm EST.

It was breathtaking.

Now, on a symbolic level, nobody likes the Moon hanging out with Mars because the Moon is about nurturing, motherhood, passively reflecting the light of the ones you love, or centering the will of the people. Mars about anger, leaping into action, and going to war. For that matter, full Moons are generally considered hostile because any time two planets are standing across from one another in the sky as the Sun and Moon do once a month, they’re in opposition to one another, and that’s not an agreeable place to be. Just to be thorough about the astrology of this evening, this Moon and Mars are meeting in the sign of Gemini, which symbolizes information, witnessing, curiosity, fast talking, and quick understanding. And Mars is backing into the Moon not quite halfway through a long period of retrograde movement. When Mars is retrograde, he happens to be closer to the Earth and therefore more intensely seen and felt. He’s also appearing to do the opposite of what he really wants. Mars is a doer! He wants to go forward and make progress, not scrub back and forth over one part of the sky for months. Tonight when the Sun in Sagittarius stands across the sky from the Moon, they will both be in close contact with a supremely pissed off Mars. And the Sun, Moon, and Mars will all be in a supportive relationship to the other planet that describes things we don’t like, negating old Saturn. Venus and Jupiter, the planets we like, will be in the conversation too! But tonight what is most likely to be revealed is an ugly, frustrated, but probably effective shove at something that’s been blocked a long time.

Astrologers stare at computer screens far more than they stare at the sky, so of course I came to this moment on a quiet little road with all this knowledge of the symbolism of what I was looking at, and if I am honest, a little bit of astrology dread. I was caught quite off guard by how beautiful it was to see this thing I was not looking forward to. And It struck me that most of the things I truly value and want in my life come with a significant cost, or were hard earned. I thought of how gruesome and beautiful it was to give birth. I thought of the relentlessness and the transcendent joy of parenting and the uncomfortable way these two very strong feelings co-exist all the time. How hard it is to make a work of art, or train the body, or meditate, or learn a subject deeply. I thought of the work of being in a loving and intimate marriage, and the way being in a marriage that lacks intimacy is so easy… until it transforms one day into a cage that you have to claw your way out of because we yearn for exactly the kind of work, even ugly work, that is described by this full Moon

Do I have practical advice for the full Moon? Yeah! Treat others and yourself with care today, and be mindful that the signal to noise ratio is going to be high. You would not want to waste the precious intensity of this moment on lashing out at someone in a customer service role or otherwise just acting like a random asshole, and that potential is real. But don’t hide from this moment either! Remember to take good care, make sure you are in the right fight before jumping in, and then I say do it! Lean into the meaningful and difficult work! Walk into the high stakes meeting. Have that hard work conversation. Get into a productive, intimacy enhancing fight with your spouse. Crush your final exams at all costs. Get your toddler out of the house or into bed on time, remembering of course that they are feeling this full Moon as much as or more than you are! The results might not be elegant, but they are likely to be effective, and you will feel better working with this moment instead of attempting to repress it.

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