Mercury is What?

I just realized that Mercury has begun transition to Retrograde and that Retrograde will be in effect through almost the entirety of April. Now I’m afraid to even start work on book four as my CampNaNo project. I know, I know. It’s all so silly, the idea that the position of Mercury in the space of the heavens relative to other heavenly bodies can possibly be problematic for us mere mortal humans down here on Earth going about our daily stuff. And you all know by now that I’m as skeptical as a girl on a first date when the guy tells her he has to leave because he’s a secret agent and would tell her where he’s going but then her life would be in danger. (Maybe that only happens to me?) But if there’s one thing I learned from five years of living in Mount Shasta, it’s that sometimes weird stuff happens. Weird. Stuff. Happens. (That’s a blog post all on its own!) 

If you don’t know what Mercury Retrograde is, Wikepedia has a great explanation of what physically happens when planets appear to be reversing their direction.  This is straight up astrophysics. What we perceive from earth to be a planet backtracking in the sky is actually the Earth’s rotation lapping a planet with a tighter orbit around the sun. That’s the astronomical definition of Mercury Retrograde. 

In astrological terms, here’s what happens during Mercury Retrograde. (And if you don’t believe me, Astrology Horoscope does a good job of defining it.) Communications go crazy; emails go missing, phone calls get missed, texts get misread, even face-to-face conversations can be more difficult. Transportation snarls; flights are canceled, trains are off-schedule, cars break down, road delays increase. Communications about even the most basic things, like “Are you picking up the kids after school today?” can blow up into misunderstandings of astronomical (excuse the term) proportions.   

The first time I really understood the implications of Mercury Retrograde was shortly after I’d moved to Mount Shasta. I’d always laughed a bit about astrology. Sure, right. Mercury is in retrograde. Don’t sign anything. Don’t negotiate anything. Don’t take transportation for granted. But there I was, sitting on the side of I-5, an extremely curt and gruff CHP officer writing me a speeding ticket. Now, the truth is that I was speeding,  but not out of line for Interstate 5 at 4:30 on  a Monday holiday afternoon. I’d managed to slow-mo my way through several speed traps already that day (It was a holiday, after all.) and so I was rather surprised to get caught out when  I thought I was free and clear. 

“Mercury Retrograde messes up all transportation,” my coworker said the next morning when I complained about my ticket. “I bet hundreds of people got ticketed yesterday, and things will only get worse from there.”

I laughed. Mercury Retrograde indeed. I wondered what would happen if we all turned up in court and claimed we were innocent of speeding on the grounds that it was Mercury Retrograde.  Instead of risking it, I wrote a check for my ticket, along with a nice note of apology to the court, and mailed it off, trying to forget about being so irresponsible as to be speeding. A week later it came back to me. Why? Because I apparently hadn’t completely sealed the envelope properly and my check, ticket copy, and note were all half-shredded in the post office equipment.  When I told my coworker about it, she once again shook her head. “Mercury Retrograde. Communications are a disaster.” 

  I took a half-day off work and drove to the courthouse to pay my ticket in person. The courthouse closes at 4:00. I arrived at 2:30 only to find them in the middle of an emergency services drill and closed for the rest of the day. It took yet another trip to finally pay my ticket.  Still, I was kind of chuckling about the whole Mercury Retrograde thing. It seemed like a silly way to excuse getting caught speeding and not sealing an envelope.  “Wait and see,” my coworker said.
A week later, a friend decided to come visit, but the Amtrak train broke down, leaving him stranded in the middle of nowhere and arriving in my town eight hours later than planned, at 3:30 in the morning. “Travel,” my coworker said. “Never travel during Retrograde.”  After that, I started paying attention. Really paying attention. 

What begins one retrograde period will likely not be finished or resolved until the next one. I hired an employee during one Mercury Retrograde and soon realized I’d made a terrible mistake that resulted in an event that required my firing him. When did that happen? The very next Mercury Retrograde.  Cleaning house one Mercury Retrograde, I found a check that had gone missing a year before. I checked the date on the check, just because, and sure enough, it had been written during a previous Mercury Retrograde. Another Retrograde, I entered and was a finalist in a contest run by an online sci-fi magazine. The prize was publication in their online edition and automatic entry into a contest being held for their print anthology. The very next Mercury Retrograde I got notice that the magazine was going out of business and all rights to my story were being returned to me. This is how it goes. Anything started one Retrograde will come back around in a future one.  

Now, the true skeptic is asking right now if these things are truly happening because Mercury is in Retrograde, or are they happening all of the time and we’re only more aware of them because we know that Mercury being in Retrograde supposedly affects them? My argument is that it really doesn’t matter. Shouldn’t we be paying attention to our communication abilities all of the time, always striving to improve how we express ourselves to the world? Shouldn’t we always have back-up plans and be flexible and prepared for change when we’re traveling? Always carry a Swiss Army knife and a spare protein bar? Whether Mercury is in Retrograde or not, shouldn’t we always be cautious with our hearts and forward with our minds? 

 Here we are with CampNaNo under way, with thousands of writers leaping in to write and work on creative projects. The possibilities for communications and technical issues abound! And if you start your project this CampNaNo, with Mercury sliding into Retrograde, is it going to be finished or is it doomed to sit in the “unfinished” file until the next Mercury Retrograde? If you manage to finish it, manage not to have your software crash, or your back-up mysteriously disappear, or your email to your beta-reader go astray, or your editor call you to say you need to resend the entire thing because when they tried to open it, their entire computer mysteriously crashed-if none of those things happen-are you free and clear? Or is what you wrote this CampNaNo going to be a mangled pile of words that will take multiple Retrogrades worth of edits and polish to untangle into a gleaming work of prose? 

There’s the possibility that all of those things will happen anyway. That first draft is always a tangled mess, back-ups often fail, and editor’s computers sometimes crash, and beta readers sometimes forget to check their spam folder for missing messages. All of those things happen all the time, and we only ever really notice them when we remember to look up into the sky and see that Mercury seems to be sliding backwards along its path.  And if all those things are going to happen anyway, why not just throw down some words and give this novel-writing thing a try! What’s the worst that can happen? (Just don’t forget to back-up your work…) 

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