Autumnal Equinox: Temperance

by April Elliott Kent

From the Big Sky Astrology archives

As a kid I thoroughly enjoyed summer vacation — until about the last three weeks, when I became whiney and impossible to please.  Which pretty well sums up my attitude in the final weeks before I started back to school last month: After five months with no externally imposed schedules, I had grown bored.  Boredom soon turned to crankiness, and before I knew it crankiness had segued into a black depression—a condition which the prospect of school and its schedules did little to alleviate.

Then classes began, and almost immediately my attitude was completely transformed.  Yes, it was scary starting classes at a new school (I transferred to university this semester), getting the hang of taking the bus, figuring out where my classes were, and getting into a routine.  But with a sense of order to my days, a feeling of working toward an important goal, I felt peaceful, happy, and at ease for the first time in a month.

Here’s a paradox of human nature:  We long for the unstructured languor of endless summer, but at the same time something inside us screams out for structure and obligation, an external focus for our energies, some daily irritant to galvanize us into making a contribution.  In short, we seek a reason to get out of bed in the morning.

The kid in us likes to have fun, play with finger paints, put on costumed plays in the back yard—but there comes a point when play ceases to engage us, and it’s time to parlay that creative energy into something useful.  Except…that sounds like so much work!

So at summer’s end we’re caught in a bit of a quandary; and that’s more or less the feeling represented by the quincunx aspect, symbolizing the natural relationship between the first and sixth houses of the horoscope, Aries and Virgo: two equally valid and compelling impulses pulling us in mutually exclusive directions. In this case, we crave the freedom and autonomy to do exactly as we please at all times, but at the same time wish for the discipline to get things done, so we can feel we’re making a productive contribution to the world.

It’s tempting to think if you won the lottery tomorrow and never had to work again, you’d do nothing but dance and jump for joy—and for awhile, you probably would.  But eventually the ghost of summer vacations past would return to haunt you, and you’d no doubt grow tired of endless revelry, like a child who has grown jaded from a diet of candy bars and suddenly craves vegetables.

Ask anyone who has left a nine-to-five job to name the toughest obstacle they faced in adjusting to their new lifestyle. You might expect an answer involving diminished income level, finding a personal health insurance plan, or having to buy their own post-it notes instead of swiping them from work.  More often than not, though, I think they’ll say the biggest challenge lay in learning to structure their days.  The ability to create meaningful structures is crucial to success—both in terms of getting things done, and feeling satisfied about it. 

Each year, autumn marks our return to the world of productivity, where we interact with others to negotiate goals and objectives (Libra), make the tough choices about what is essential to our true goals and what is only taking up space(Scorpio), and dedicate ourselves to a vision for the future (Sagittarius). Some days, we’ll grumble all the way to work, or school, or the home office computer.  We’ll stand around the water cooler and complain with our coworkers, or bitch to our fellow students about the professor.  And to some extent this is human nature;  but when complaining becomes the norm, we have to consider whether our obligations serve a larger purpose in our lives, or are merely habits we’re unwilling to break.  Routine without intention rapidly becomes tedium.

Perhaps the greatest gift of autumn is its tempering influence, its call to service.  By committing ourselves to routines and schedules that serve a larger purpose, and allowing ourselves to be forged in the fire of autumn’s disciplines, we can begin to feel sorted out and satisfied by our work and by our days, rather than enslaved by them.

© 2000 April Elliott Kent

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