The idea for this series came about last year when I spent my birthday at The Stone House. I was on a retreat called Soul Sanctuary for Artists, and as the leader of the retreat, Ellen O’Grady created space for eight very different, very excited people to find calm and quiet, happy productivity, laughter-filled meals, and deep rest.
Over dinner one night I remember asking everyone what their lives were like at my age, but I don’t remember Ellen saying much at the time. So I’m very happy that she decided to participate in this project now. In her own words:
When I tuned 28 I was living in the Jamaica Plain neighborhood of Boston, MA. I was going to art school and painting video store windows for money. This was 1997. Clinton began his second term as President. Scientists cloned dolly the sheep. Zaire changed into Congo. Ellen Degeneres came out publicly as a a lesbian. It’s perhaps this last newsworthy event that is the most vivid to me, as I also came out, to myself and to others in 1997, during my Saturn Return. And much of the newsworthy events of that year seem to come in contact with my experience as a baby queer person. On the night Degeneres’ character Ellen Morgan came out on national television (shortly after her own coming out), a friend hosted a coming out party for me, during which I was asked out on my first queer date and given the bumper sticker God Loves Ellen, which is now stuck to the front cover of a sketchbook that rests on a shelf in the livingroom. The night Princess Diana was killed I was at a women’s bar, dancing with my soon to become first grrlfriend. The night Allen GInsberg died was the first time I heard transgender activist and author Leslie Feinberg speak.
If I had any advice for someone going through their Saturn Return it would be this: Consider that change might best happen without a lot of thought. If there is something that needs to happen, some tumult that will rock your world or perhaps create a subtle but profound shift, it would be best to meet it with spaciousness, inner quiet and inner receptivity. When I was 28 I began going to art school and I began therapy, two places that gave me space to listen and allow doors to open. So do what you can to create space within yourself. Space for your aliveness to meet aliveness. Meditate, go on retreat, take long walks in nature, dance and allow the movement to originate from someplace inside, from your heart perhaps, or your belly, or your sacrum.
Ellen, thank you for all that you did to create that space when I was turning 28 – the memories of Soul Sanctuary have helped me all year in all kinds of ways. And thank you for being open to this now.
Photos: Me on a hammock at The Stone House one year ago; Ellen provided the photo of herself in her early 30s.