Once the dust had settled from my journey back to California and I was firmly nestled back in the very same apartment where I’d stayed for six months in 2009 (shortly after founding Ivy Style), I began work on a lengthy article. It quickly became clear it was the most important story of my life.
Not only did I wish to recap my 11-year adventure on the East Coast, I had come to learn that most of my errors in life — whenever I was lost, confused, and untrue to myself — could be traced back to the loss of my mother to cancer when I was 29. The resulting story ran on the cover of a couple of alt-weeklies I used to write for at that very time, and came out about five weeks ago.
I thought I’d share it with you gentlemen here on this Mother’s Day, especially for all those who lost their mothers prematurely. I was woefully unequipped to deal with the loss, as you’ll see:
According to Shakespeare, our faults lie not in our stars, but in ourselves. But when you’re raised by an astrologer, you learn that faults in ourselves are faults in our stars. And sometime around the age of 40 you’re forced to realize that playing to your strengths only gets you so far, and that conflicting tendencies, if not reconciled, will eventually unravel you.
The recession of 2008 exposed all my inner fault lines as, one by one, my clients slashed their budgets. I should have gathered my wits and taken action at the first sign. Instead, I decided to ignore what I didn’t like, and followed my sun even deeper into distracting hobbies. Soon the fragile moon, angry at being neglected, took her revenge in the form of anxiety, insomnia and a paralyzing sense of existential dread.
“I feel like the gods are judging me,” I remember saying. My mother would have understood. Before working as Elsie Allen High School’s career counselor, Carolyn Chensvold combined her master’s degree in Jungian psychology from San Francisco State with the ancient wisdom of astrology, mankind’s oldest science. She’d learned it from her mother and her aunt, and then taught classes and analyzed natal charts from our quiet home in Rincon Valley. I had a natural affinity for the family tradition, and found my mother’s wisdom both eerie and strangely logical. I knew my Moon in Virgo made me both imaginative and orderly, but it was only after her death that I discovered that its placement in the First House brings with it a deep connection to the mother. I’d always thought losing her would be the worst thing imaginable, and when her ovarian cancer was deemed terminal, suddenly the unimaginable became real.
When she died, it was as if my nervous system short-circuited and stopped carrying signals from my heart to my brain. Astrologically speaking, it was like my microcosm of a self could no longer properly reflect the microcosm that had stamped it with a unique energy pattern. I swept the grief under the rug of avoidance and forged onward into the world of the marketplace, bartering my skills for money and prestige, both of which were eventually revealed to be as fleeting as moonlight among clouds. In tandem with the rise of the internet, mobile phones and social media, my inner world went from a rich kingdom of the imagination to a ghost town sunken into desuetude, as my once-grounded sense of self was sucked into the digital vortex.
Until the end, my mother embodied both unconditional maternal love as well as the mythological figure of Sophia, the Greek personification of feminine wisdom in a man’s world. She was her father’s daughter, and raised me to handle bullies, court a lady, seek victory in sport and take my place among my peers. That is, she instilled in me the kind of knowledge that helps a storybook hero discover vital powers that lay hidden within him, and which are shunned by the world of the fathers and their rigid laws. As with Alexander the Great, it is the mother who helps the hero understand his true lineage; that he has not just an earthly father, but a “second father” beyond the stars, whose divine spark glows in his breast.
You can find the full story right here. In the photos I definitely look like a haunted man who’d just finished a gut-wrenching story 22 years in the making, as well as a man who’d survived 2020 alone on an island without a haircut, then spent four days crossing the country by train for a bittersweet return to his much-changed hometown. I’ve cleaned up a bit since then.
To the mothers no longer with us, we offer our eternal love and gratitude. — CHRISTIAN CHENSVOLD
Post script: Next week I’ll begin a regular column for the paper on spiritual matters. Check the right-side ad tower for a banner, or stop by Trad-Man.com.