As Robert Burns once wrote in his Scots dialect, “The best laid schemes o’ Mice an’ Men / Gang aft agley” — or, as you might be more used to hearing it, “The best laid plans of mice and men oft go awry.”

A purple vetch tendril peeks through Swiss chard stalks in the Portland, Maine, community gardens last September. Photo by Amanda Painter.

This is the saying that tumbled through my head Saturday evening as my partner and I parked a “healthy” walk from what turned out to be the wrong square in Portland for a free movie screening…then ended up paying a silly amount of money for a decent but not exceptional meal, thinking we did not have much time…and then sat in hard, plastic chairs for about an hour while a small team of dogged people tried (in vain, I presume?) to get the movie equipment going properly. We gave up before they did.

It was, I realized shortly after, a perfectly apropos opening salvo by Mercury, which had earlier that day entered the degree in which it stations retrograde today, Aug. 23, at 3:59 pm EDT. It does so closely conjunct the asteroid Pallas (strategy, problem solving, diplomacy) and not far from Mars (action, motivation, frustration), in the last third of the sign Virgo.

Could it be that Mercury’s brief rewind for the next three or so weeks is asking us to pay a little more attention to all the key details needed to put a plan into action — and to troubleshooting in a methodical, grounded, analytical way when things don’t go as expected?

Is it also possible that the mutable-sign nature of Virgo is both an indication to strive for even greater flexibility in such situations, and a warning that persisting in criticism of mishaps and pickiness in workarounds could undermine whatever beneficial lessons we might learn during the next three weeks?

And that being careful, logical, and precise is not the same thing as fussing over inconsequential details? That how a problem is solved is not always as important as getting it solved (as long as the method is clear, ethical, and in service of the highest good)?

Yes, I think all of those things are entirely likely.

I also think it’s worth noting that Mercury stations retrograde only about eleven hours after the Sun left Leo and entered Virgo, at 5:01 am EDT this morning. And that Mercury’s retrograde overlaps with the continuing Venus retrograde in Leo for eleven days.

I’m not a numerologist, so I’m not going to muse on the “11” coincidence (but feel free to comment on it below!). I’m more interested in how the Sun and Venus color the overall tone of things.

Solar Virgo is the last sign of Northern Hemisphere summer. The season is loosening its grip, and we start to notice more palpably the shift in daylight hours. In one month we arrive at the (autumn) equinox, when day and night are equal. But not so fast! It’s still technically summer, even if our attention begins to turn toward harvesting the literal and metaphorical fruits of the last two months (and indeed, of the last two seasons).

There is so much natural resonance with the themes of Virgo and starting school in our culture. It’s not surprising when those of us who have not been in school for decades (and are not a parent or teacher) still feel the impulse to gather our material resources and shift our efforts away from “fun in the sun” and toward certain more grounded responsibilities, toward leaning into the next level of learning — while still cherishing the last joys of summer.  

Against that backdrop, Mercury appears poised to guide us into a mental and physical review of how we’ve been doing with practical problem-solving, organized thinking, and systematical (step-by-step) implementation of solutions. Have you been trying to skip steps lately? Alternately, have you been assuming that something must be done or figured out first, when actually that is simply creating an obstacle to getting a plan in motion?

What does it mean to truly analyze a problem or situation to solve it, rather than just complain, criticize, or discuss it? How do you come up with a workable method and a clear order of operations if you can’t see the forest for the trees to know where you’re actually starting from?

As much as Mercury may be looking backward, Mars — the action planet — is cruising along in forward motion in Virgo. It’s a good reminder that as daunting as the phrase “Mercury retrograde” has become in popular understanding, we can’t stop living life for three weeks. We can, however, do our best to stay conscious of when (and why!) our focus slips, and course-correct as gently as possible.

Even when we’re immersed in a phase of review or revision, it serves the purpose of moving us forward down the path. Think of it as glancing in the review mirror while driving: what you see there still informs how you navigate the road ahead in a dynamically shifting environment. Even when objects are closer than they appear, you have options in how you respond.

Right now, you may be evaluating those options from a similarly oriented viewpoint: that of your heart — the emotional understanding described by Venus in Leo as it continues its apparent retrograde motion. Venus is still looking (and feeling) backward, revisiting and reconsidering past passions, values, affections, and loyalties. (In the sky, it has recently reappeared above the eastern horizon — suggesting its messages for you may be coming into clearer view as well.)

Mercury, Mars, Pallas — even the Sun — are all camped out in the rational, common sense, and service-ruled viewpoint of Virgo. But most people the world over make the bulk of their decisions based on emotions, biases, intuition, and self-interest. Your heart’s desire — as symbolized by Venus in Leo — doesn’t need to be logical to be powerful; it doesn’t need to be understood by others to be of value to you. The trick, it seems, is to allow the heart to balance reason without getting into conflict with yourself.

Entire novels, films, and probably a few wars have been concocted based on that very conundrum. So don’t be too hard on yourself if you get a little twisted up in it now and then. There will always be a way through. Usually it involves a healthy dose of compassion, empathy, and forgiveness for yourself (along with offloading some baggage once handed to you by family or society).

Speaking of such grace: Venus happens to be in contact with Jupiter in Taurus (a sign Venus rules). Whenever you can this week, show — don’t just tell– your generosity and gratitude to those around you (and to yourself, especially if your road has been a rocky one lately). Watch out for material extravagance (it is the season of gathering in of resources, after all), but otherwise share your good vibes!

Venus stations direct on Sept. 3; Mercury stations direct on Sept. 15. Keep noticing your thoughts and feelings, and remember that you have more choice in both than you may realize. Retrogrades can be amazing for looking back at past reactions to learn this lesson.

With love,


P.S. If you’d like to book a session to explore along these lines, send me a message.

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