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The new year and Great Conjunction

This past Monday marked the winter solstice, the first day of winter in the Northern Hemisphere and the shortest day of the year.

Monday also marked a rare astrological event: from our view here on Earth, Jupiter and Saturn appeared aligned in the night sky in an event called the Great Conjunction.

Although the two planets appear near each other in the sky every 20 years or so, the last time they appeared this close in our view was March 4, 1226, according to Rice University astronomer Patrick Hartigan.

This year’s conjunction was also notable as the two planets met in the air sign Aquarius. Over the past 200 years, the planets have only met in the earth signs of Taurus, Virgo, and Capricorn. Air signs, compared to earth signs, are typically associated with the realm of the mind, including action, ideas, and motion.

The winds of change.

According to astrologers, the Great Conjunction between Jupiter, associated with luck and abundance, and Saturn, the planet of authority and hierarchy, is set to bring about social, political, and ideological change as they meet in Aquarius.

Regardless of whether you check your horoscope every day or whether you think astrology bears no merit, couldn’t we all go for a period of change?

After this last year, can’t we all find hope in the promise of a new era that is about to be ushered in?

The events of this year, from the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic to the killing of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd, have shed light on the problems our society faces. The inequity between people based on the color of their skin. The widening gap of wealth, of who has access to health care, housing, and opportunity. The fragility of our safety nets for those being laid off, facing evictions, and dealing with food insecurity.

The events of this year have revealed we have a lot of work to do.

For many of us, this year has also illuminated what we value and what we took for granted. Gathering with friends and family. Eating out at a restaurant. Traveling. Attending community events and festivals. Going to a crowded concert or theater. Going to school in person. For some, being able to go to work or not worrying about what the next paycheck may be.

This year has revealed both the problems we face and the things we value. This year has also shown how easily the things we value and depend upon — from our basic needs to our small businesses — can falter without the proper support and safety net.

The change we seek is not brought on by the movement of the stars, nor the alignment of the planets, nor the change of the calendar year.

As I reflect on this year, I am thankful for those who continue to bring about the change we wish — and so desperately need — to see in the world.

For those who fight for systemic equity so that all have opportunity. For those who fight to enable access to basic needs such as food, health care, and housing. For those who show kindness to others in their daily actions.

“Fight for the things that you care about, but do it in a way that will lead others to join you,” said the late Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

As we enter this new year, I hope we can all be inspired by those who are already at work to fix the problems we face using the tools that we have — and bring about the change we wish to see.

Anne Gentry graduated from Brown University with a degree in comparative literature and has studied in Italy and South Australia. She is currently executive director of the Alpena Downtown Development Authority.

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