What the Constellations Said About Me

Libra Zodiac Sign Horoscope Wheel From Astrology

A reader made a comment on an earlier post of mine about astrology asking what my college girlfriend had said about me based on my natal star chart. I’m sorry to say that the answers were not written down and I recall only a few bits of information.

A few things that did stick deeper in my memory:

I was born on a Tuesday, which means (according to an old nursery rhyme) that I am “full of grace.”

I was supposed to be good at motivating others – which sounded good at the time since I was studying to be an English teacher.

I was supposed to be open to new ideas – which seemed like Catherine might have injected that so that I would be open-minded about her many “new age” ( a term we did not use back then) interests.

She said that I could easily adapt to new situations and people – something I did not feel was true of me at all.

I would have a good sense of humor. I did. I do. Who doesn’t love a compliment?

I don’t really recall any negatives about me (selective memory) or predictions about my future that she told me except that she said my physical weaknesses would be my stomach and kidneys – and damned if I haven’t had kidney stones, an ulcer, and GERD.

I recall there were numbers she gave me – all of which are forgotten – but I suppose it included things like the celestial longitude interval assigned to Libra is 180° to 210° and that according to the numerology algorithm, the life path number for everybody born on my birthday is 3. I’m not sure what to do with that numerical information.

I knew back then just by reading the horoscopes in newspapers that Libras are governed by the Venus and the Seventh House. My mother had given me a ring with my sign’s stone, the Opal, and that the symbol for Libra is Scales.

I looked on a few pretty serious astrology websites to see if anything there triggered a memory of what Catherine said about me. I should note that she was doing a specific chart for my actual birth day (sidereal astrology) rather than those general descriptions of everyone born in that wide period of Libra in any year. Catherine laughed those away.

One site said that I should be: very energetic, taking the initiative, and preferring action rather than planning.  I don’t know about back in college, but all three are untrue of the 2020 me.

Libra people are most compatible with Aquarius, Gemini, Sagittarius and Leo. Catherine was a Taurus BUT it was a strange fact that her birthday May 5 (5/10) was exactly half of my Libra birthday (10/20). That had to mean something, right? Libra people are least compatible in love with Capricorn and Cancer. I married a Cancer.

Finally, according to everything-birthday.com, as of today I have slept for 8,072 days or 22 years. (I’d knock that number down. I’m a lousy sleeper.) But I have been alive for 581,040 hours. (It seems so short.) My birthday this year will again be on my birth weekday of Tuesday. Still full of grace.


Two Astrologies

zodiac clock

I noticed that Elvis, David Bowie, and Stephen Hawking all share January 8 as their birthdays. Had they lived to see 2020, Hawking would have been 78, Bowie 73, and Elvis would have been 85. That coincidence made me wonder if this simultaneity had any connection to their zodiac signs. But that would also depend on which of two astrologies you want to follow.

The horoscopes you commonly see use a system called tropical astrology which is the most popular system in the U.S. and Europe.

I learned this when I was back in college because of ​a college girlfriend who was deeply into astrology while I was into astronomy. She did not believe in the tropical astrological signs or the general horoscopes you find in newspapers and online. She told me about another system called sidereal astrology.

I have never been a believer in astrology and horoscopes, but this sidereal version seemed a bit more scientific, so it appealed to me. The popular tropical version doesn’t use the actual constellations in the sky on any day, including the positions of the stars at the time you were born. Tropical astrology is based on the seasons.

Sidereal and tropical are astrological terms used to describe two different definitions of a year.  A tropical year (also known as a solar year) is the time that the Sun takes to return to the same position in the cycle of seasons, as seen from Earth. For example, you could measure the time from the vernal equinox to the vernal equinox, or from the summer solstice to the next summer solstice.

On the other hand, if you measure the time it takes Earth to complete one full orbit around the Sun as measured with respect to the fixed stars, you have a sidereal year.

Ancient stargazers of 2000 years ago saw constellations that matched with the seasons. For them, the Sun was always entering Aries during the Spring Equinox. But the stars have slowly changed location relative to Earth’s seasons. By now, there is a difference of up to two zodiac signs between the popular horoscope system and the actual constellations up there now.

I found a lot of information about all this at masteringthezodiac.com  which is a site by Athen Chimenti who is a “sidereal astrologer.” (see video below)

Both systems divide the ecliptic into twelve “signs.” That divides the 360 degrees into 12 slices of 30 degrees.

That old girlfriend, Catherine, did my natal chart based on the stars at the time of my birth. (She wasn’t thrilled that I didn’t know the actual hour of my birth.)  I’m not surprised that technology can now do your chart much faster and easier than Catherine.

I don’t think Stephen Hawking would have had any belief in astrology, but if he did I think the sidereal approach would be his preference because it was more exact. I imagine that Elvis and Bowie (Starman) might have had some interest in their astrological horoscopes.

Using a calculator on masteringthezodiac.com, I generated this natal chart for my birth day. I don’t have that old one that Catherine did, and I don’t have her here to explain what it means. Back in college, she did explain it and a lot of things made sense. Of course, she knew me, so I always wondered if she was just telling me what she knew was true. I wish I remembered what else she said that didn’t make sense to me then. Maybe over the years, they came to be true too.

natal chart

Here are the sidereal signs which are based on the midpoint between constellations. If you are within three days of another sign you are supposed to be a blend of both.

Hey, Catherine – I don’t know where you are now, but it turns out I might be a Virgo instead of a Libra!

Aries (Apr 21 — May 12)
Taurus: (May 13 — Jun 19)
Gemini (Jun 20 — Jul 16)
Cancer (Jul 17 — Aug 6)
Leo (Aug 7 — Sep 14)
Virgo (Sep 15 — Nov 3)
Libra (Nov 4 — Nov 22)
Scorpio (Nov 23 — Dec 6)
Ophiuchus (Dec 7 — Dec 18)
Sagittarius (Dec 19 — Jan 19)
Capricorn (Jan 20 — Feb 13)
Aquarius (Feb 14 — Mar 9)
Pisces (Mar 10 — Apr 20)

Birthday Buddies

me in my Yankees uniform

Today is my birthday.

Like many of you, at some times in my life, I have looked up who else shares my birthday.

The names you find online are, of course, famous folks.  A part of me must have once believed that by some astrological magic we would share some characteristics.

Today is also the birthday of NY Yankee great Mickey Mantle.  I may have worn #7 as a young baseball player (everyone wanted that jersey but a kind-hearted coach let me have it because of the birthday connection) and I did usually get put into the outfield like Mickey, but I was no Bronx Bomber at the plate.  (More of a Phil “Scooter” Rizzuto.)

I do have a bad knee and back like Mickey, but luckily no drinking or liver problems.

NY Mets first baseman Keith Hernandez not only shares October 20 with me but was born the same year!

I was not a good first baseman, but my older son was a great one. Are there astrological genes? As a lifelong NY Yankees fan, it was impossible for me to be a Mets fan. Though they never posed a threat to the Yanks, they were in the local news and on TV all through my New Jersey childhood.

I did love Keith’s appearances on Seinfeld as himself. “I’m Keith Hernandez!” he declares after a moment of self-doubt.

Viggo as Aragorn

I don’t see myself as all that similar to Viggo Mortensen who is an actor, author, musician, photographer, poet, and painter. Although in my own small ways I do work in all those fields.

I’m certainly not like his Aragorn in The Lord of the Rings film trilogy. But I do like many of his films, most recently two that he got Academy Award nominations for in Captain Fantastic (2016) and Green Book (2018).

Viggo founded the Perceval Press to publish the works of little-known artists and authors. Maybe I should contact my birthday buddy about my poetry manuscript. Unfortunately, they are not accepting submissions right now. Okay, I’m patient. I do like the name of his press. Perceval was the original hero in the Grail quest tales, before being “replaced” in later English and French literature by Galahad.

Sir Christopher Wren, portrait c.1690 by John Closterman

As a young teen, I wanted to be an architect in the Frank Lloyd Wright style. I did some reading and came across Sir Christopher Wren who was born on October 20 way back in 1632.

He was an English anatomist, astronomer, geometer, and mathematician-physicist, but is best known as an architect.

He was responsible for rebuilding 52 churches in the City of London after the Great Fire in 1666. His masterpiece is  St. Paul’s Cathedral, on Ludgate Hill, completed in 1710. He caught a chill on a trip to London in February 1723 and died a few days later.

His remains were placed in the southeast corner of the crypt of St Paul’s. There is a plain stone plaque marking his resting place. But the inscription is also found on a circle of black marble on the main floor beneath the center of the dome. It reads:

I wouldn’t mind such a tribute after I am gone, though I’ll pass on it being the Latin. Wren’s translates as “Here in its foundations lies the architect of this church and city, Christopher Wren, who lived beyond ninety years, not for his own profit but for the public good. Reader, if you seek his monument – look around you. Died 25 Feb. 1723, age 91.”

In high school, I discovered that I shared a birthday with the composer Charles Ives. I had never heard of him and was not much of a classical music listener, but I borrowed a few records of his music from the library. His modernist compositions were not what I though of as being “classical” music. It was all a bit too challenging for a 15-year-old kid listening to rock music.

An easier musical connection was to Tom Petty. He was a great singer, songwriter, and guitarist who shares my birthday and was only a few years older than me. I do play guitar (though I often refer to myself as a “guitar owner” rather than as a “guitarist”) but not at a level anywhere near Tom. But I do like Tom Petty’s music.

I was pleased when I went off to college and got more serious about writing to discover that there were some poets who were birthday buddies.

Robert Pinsky was Poet Laureate of the U.S. (1997-2000) and is not only also a Jersey kid like me but also attended Rutgers as I did.

He’s a Jersey Shore kid (Long Branch) and I read his poetry before I knew that we shared a birthday. He is 13 years my senior, but I found some connections to my own life and work in his writing.

The first time I met him, I mentioned our shared birthday and he said, “And Mickey Mantle and Rimbaud!”

Rimbaud at 17

The French poet Arthur Rimbaud (who I later discovered is pronounced ram-bo)  was a libertine, restless soul, who had an at-times-violent romantic relationship with fellow poet Paul Verlaine.

As a poet, he was known as a Symbolist. His most famous work is A Season in Hell, which I bought and read, but didn’t really connect with as a young poet.

I read recently that Rimbaud has become the “Jim Morrison of poets” due to fans visiting his grave in a little cemetery in northern France and making it a kind of shrine (as fans have done with rock singer/poet Morrison in Paris).

Sadly, what appealed to me more about Rimbaud in those college days was that he seemed to be alone and unhappy, which was a periodic state for me back then. Unfortunately, I misunderstood that as being literary and Romantic states of being.

I’m sure it would really piss off Arthur to know that near his grave you can buy Rimbaud plates, mugs, Rimbaud’s terrine, honey and confit, Arthur’s vintage craft beer cider, juice, lemonade or cola. You can even stay at the Best Western Hôtel Littéraire Arthur Rimbaud and get a room with a framed poem in your room. Truly a season in Hell.

Rimbaud’s affair with Verlaine ended after Paul left his wife and child for Rimbaud and then shot Arthur (not fatally) when he tried to end their affair. Rimbaud left for Paris then traveled the world, fought as a mercenary on Java (now Indonesia), worked as an explorer and trader in Ethiopia and Yemen, and finally returned to France when he was struck by cancer that took his left leg and his life. He died at the age of 37 with only his sister at his side.

If you do a search for October 20 or your birthday on Wikipedia, you will turn up a long list of people that share your birthday and also events in history. Unless you are a believer in astrology, I don’t think you’ll find answers to your life’s mission by finding out who shares your birthday. I hand-picked ones from the long list that I felt some kinship with, but there are many more that I feel no connection to via our shared day of birth. Still, it was a fun journey.

This Dewdrop World


Yesterday was the birthday of Japanese poet Kobayashi Issa. He was  born in Kashiwabara, Japan in 1763. He is one of the masters of haiku.

Haiku packs so much into 17 Japanese characters in three distinct units.

Here is one by Issa that seems appropriate for Father’s Day this weekend.

if my father were here –
dawn colors
over green fields

What do the green fields of dawn have to do with is father? How would you fill in that unfinished thought “if my father were here” for your own life? The empty spaces in haiku often hold the meaning.

Issa spent most of his adult life traveling around Japan, writing haiku, keeping a travel diary, and visiting shrines and temples across the country. He was a lay Buddhist priest of the Jōdo Shinshū sect. He is known as simply Issa which was his pen name meaning Cup-of-tea.

Where there are humans
you will find flies
and Buddhas

Along with Bashō, Buson and Shiki, his poetry helped popularize the haiku form in Japan and later to the world.

O snail
Climb Mount Fuji,
But slowly, slowly!

He was no slacker. By the end of his life, he had written more than 20,000 haiku.

In this world we walk
on the roof of hell
gazing at flowers

Issa liked writing about the commonplace. He wrote 54 haiku on the snail, 15 on the toad, nearly 200 on frogs and about 230 on the firefly.

Everything I touch
with tenderness, alas,
pricks like a bramble.

I like Bashō’s haiku too, but he only wrote about 2000 in all

Kobayashi Issa died on January 5, 1828, in his native village.

This dewdrop world –
is a dewdrop world,
and yet, and yet…


The Kobayashi Issa Museum:Issakan in Nagano, Japan

Issa’s Haiku

Issa’s Birthday


It’s the birthday of Japanese poet Kobayashi Issa born in Kashiwabara, Japan June 15, 1763.

He is one of the masters of the Japanese form of poetry called haiku, which uses 17 Japanese characters each representing a sound and broken into three distinct lines.  Japanese haiku does not follow the 5-7-5 syllables that we are often taught in America.

He spent most of his adult life traveling around Japan, writing haiku, keeping a travel diary, and visiting shrines and temples across the country. By the end of his life, he had written more than 20,000 haiku celebrating the small wonders of everyday life.


Here are some of his poems for this season.

summer moon –
this river beach crowd
gone tomorrow

even the little girl
poses like a saint –
new summer robe

one and all
in white summer kimonos –

shaking her body
in the summer rain –
maiden flower

going outside
plum blossoms dive in –
my lucky tea

drinking tea alone –
every day the butterfly
stops by

softly floating
in the teacup

green willow
jointly owned by neighbors
a tea-drinker’s bridge

eating my rice
by lamplight –
the geese depart

little straw mat –
in the middle of a field
eating herb cakes

though made of paper
a mulberry leaf poem
for the festival

More haiku by Issa from The Essential Haiku: Versions of Basho, Buson, and Issa, edited by Robert Hass



Don’t worry, spiders,
I keep house

New Year’s Day—
everything is in blossom!
I feel about average.

The snow is melting
and the village is flooded
with children.

Goes out,
comes back—
the love life of a cat.

Mosquito at my ear—
does he think
I’m deaf?

Under the evening moon
the snail
is stripped to the waist.

Even with insects—
some can sing,
some can’t.

All the time I pray to Buddha
I keep on
killing mosquitoes.

Napped half the day;
no one
punished me!