I am committed to writing a book over the next several months. To help keep me on track and accountable, I am publicly committing to posting content chunks here on the blog each Friday. These chunks of writing won’t be perfect and they will go through further editing before the book is ready for publication. Your constructive comments and feedback are always welcome!
We stayed in the Dominican Republic for about a year. I loved the sunshine and the fresh tropical fruit sold by a man who drove a cart pulled by a donkey with one ear. He came through our neighborhood about once a week, selling all sorts of ripe, juicy produce. There were fruits that we had never seen in the U.S., like small, delicately flavored “apple bananas” that we would get by the entire bunch, hanging the whole cluster from a hook in our living room. Sometimes we would go to the beach where I loved to collect beautiful shells, especially cowrie shells that I called “monkey shells” because, to me, the underside with the opening looked like a monkey’s mouth.
One time I helped my dad sort the bones of a real human skeleton that he had bought through “informal channels” to help him in his medical studies. We laid out the leg bones, arm bones, ribs and so on, in the shade of the carport outside our little house. He wanted to make sure he hadn’t been ripped off, and had gotten a full, complete skeleton! It was a little creepy but also interesting. My dad kept the skull on a shelf in his study room. I admit I was a little afraid to go into that room, because of the skull.
At some point during that year my mom became pregnant again. It was decided that it would be safer for mom and baby to return home where they would have access to first world hospitals and health care. Of course my siblings and I returned back home with my mom.
The details of the next few years are a bit complex, and I honestly don’t remember everything. We lived with my grandparents again for a while. My brother was born, and at some point my father came home from the D.R. having dropped out of medical school after running out of funding. This was a serious blow for our family, and completely changed the trajectory of our lives.
Student loan debt is never something to take lightly. Dealing with student loan debt, without the anticipated medical degree that was supposed to help my father pay off the loans and make it all worthwhile, and having a wife and four young children to feed was a crushing and overwhelming reality for my father to come home to. My mother and father faced their responsibilities head-on and bravely, but in some ways, I’m not sure they ever completely got over this life-changing disappointment. Looking back from my perspective now, I realize that this happened as part of my parents’ first Saturn Return* [see below for more info]
During the first two or three years after returning to the United States, my family moved quite a few times as we lived with a couple of different relatives and then a rental home. I attended three different schools, but with the frequent moves and stress at home, I was very shy and found it difficult to make friends. I liked to read instead, losing myself in novels about distant lands and times.
Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn were favorites. I remember a character in Huckleberry Finn was described as having a “hare lip”, but I didn’t know what that meant. My dad explained that it was what people in that day called a cleft lip–a fairly common birth defect that happens in about 1 in 700 births. I remember thinking, “I could have a baby like that. It would be ok. I could handle it.” That was a strange thought to have for a nine year old, but it would turn out to be prescient.
* A Saturn Return is an astrological term meaning the time period when the planet Saturn returns to the place in the sky where he was at the time of your birth. Saturn is a slow moving planet from Earth’s perspective and takes about 28.5 years to complete his trip around the zodiac. This means that all of us who are lucky enough to live that long, experience our first Saturn Return sometime around age 28 – 29 years old.
Saturn is the task-master of the planetary pantheon and when he shows up, especially in a Saturn Return, it is often to nudge or knock us back on course, and hold us to account for our actions. If we are “on path” then a Saturn aspect is not necessarily harsh. It can even be rewarding. But for most of us the first Saturn Return is a time when we learn important lessons that help set the course for the rest of our lives. This is a common time for marriage, divorce, having children, career changes, new responsibilities, and suddenly becoming serious about adult decisions.
Many astrologers, in fact, don’t consider someone fully grown until they have passed through their first Saturn Return. It is often the point in time when people stop living to please their parents, and stop making decisions out of a need to fulfill external, societal expectations. Instead, after successfully coming through their first Saturn Return, people are much more likely to understand their own perspective as an independent adult, better equipped to face their own personal karma.
For those over age 30 – Think back to the years 28 – 30. What major events happened for you during this time period? What lessons did you learn? How have these events affected the years since then?
For those under age 30 – Consult an astrologer or do your own research to determine what sign your native Saturn is in. Find out what your Saturn lessons might be about. What can you do now to pre-emptively course course-correct or to make sure you are staying on path?