“Verticality is the move from the passive
(fear & violence) to the active.”
- Louise Bourgeois (Capricorn Sun, Aquarius Moon)
“Love is lack de sea. It’s uh movin’ thing, but still and all, it takes its shape from de shore it meets, and it’s different with every shore.”
– Zora Neale Hurston (Capricorn Sun, Sagittarius Moon), from Their Eyes Were Watching God
The year is 2007. And darling band of the indie scene, Rilo Kiley is about to release what they don’t know yet– well, yes they do actually know, but they’re not telling the press– will be their final album: Under The Blacklight.
The album opens with lead singer, Jenny Lewis, about to fully embrace the sea of her own resplendent solo career, sings:
And I’m not going back
Into rags or in the hole
And our bruises are coming
But we will never fold
And I was your silver lining
As the story goes
I was your silver lining
But now I’m gold.
The year is 1995. “Former” “child” “stars,” Blake Sennett (Salute Your Shorts!) & Jenny Lewis (Troop Beverly Hills) meet and start writing music together. Sixty songs later, Jenny self-admittedly “falls off the face of the earth for a year or so,” and when she surfaces, she gets a call from Blake. Blake is getting a real band together. Blake asks Jenny if she’ll sing background vocals.
Jenny says, “No, I want to sing lead too.”
(“Look she was a flake!” “No, I was your creative equal and you tried to screw me.”)
Blake agrees. Jenny sings lead too. It’s her voice that separates Rilo Kiley’s method from the general indie-folk madness. Her voice isn’t just a monotony of melancholy.
I’m a modern girl but I fold in half so easily
When I put myself in the picture of success
I could learn world trade
Or try to map the ocean
The lyrics are colloquial poetry, but what separates Jenny is that she’s got soul.
Blake and Jenny start dating shortly after the band’s formation (touring & writing & hanging all day can you know, plant some feels), but they break up before Takeoffs and Landings gets a solidly disappointing 4.0 from Pitchfork.
Around this time, Jenny meets poet/musician/Aquarius/bad man, Conor Oberst who loves Rilo Kiley. With help from his swooshy hair, the band gets signed to Saddle Creek. With the cool kids. Early on, Conor Oberst says to Jenny, “I think you should make your own record.”
Jenny says, “I am making my own record with Rilo Kiley!”
“But, Jenny. You’re the voice.
Conor’s words hit Jenny, but they don’t quite reverberate. It takes years, but it’s 2005ish, Rilo Kiley’s More Adventurous is a hit. Warner Brothers is distributing, “Portions for Foxes” is named sexiest song of all time, and Jenny finally sees what Conor means. She makes her own record. That record is Rabbit Fur Coat. And though it sells modestly at best, it solidifies Jenny’s star. She’s the propulsive force. She’s the rock, and the world is her sea.
The year is 2007. Rilo Kiley is about to release their breakthrough record, assuring mainstream success. And, they are also assuredly “Breakin’ Up.” For Blake Sennett, who hasn’t achieved much with several solo albums under the moniker, The Elected, Jenny’s rise is humiliating. Privately, he confides, “She’s meteoric, and I’m…mediocre?” Libra Blake wants to simmer in the brilliant demise of Rilo Kiley, but Jenny Lewis is a Capricorn.
And this lost isn’t good enough
For sorrow or inspiration
It’s such a loss for the good guys
Afraid of this life
That it just is
Because everybody dies
For a Capricorn, there are only two options, to swim at the bottom,
or to take her shoes off, throw them in the lake, and keep running up that hill.
(Kate Bush was quite possibly a Capricorn moon)
People love to drag Capricorns. But the joke’s on them. I’d like to see anyone who drags a Capricorn get ANYTHING accomplished in their life. I’d like to see anyone who drags a Capricorn rise above the languishing mediocrity of Blake Sennett (you won’t).
Capricorns are knowledge-keepers. They’re professors. They often seem very old when they are very young, and very young when they are very old. Capricorns are ancient souls. They have plans for the week, plans for the month, plans for the next 40 years, tbh. Some climb, and some stew. Either way, it’s intimidating. It can summon the feeling of an eye roll. But don’t make it so easy, a Capricorn’s dedication should be admired.
David Bowie, produced an album on his death bed, timing it so his final music video would be released just after his death.
Eva Hesse–pioneer of latex, fiberglass, and the post-minimal art movement– had a vision of a sculpture in the hospital after having a tumor removed (in a series of surgeries to remove tumors before her untimely death at age 34). She made a sketch in her hospital bed, and her assistants would later craft this sketch into one of her final masterworks, Untitled (7 Poles).
Zora Neale Hurston lied about her age, often saying she was 10 or even 20 years younger than she was. This was not for vanity, but for dignity. The public couldn’t know a literary genius like herself started high school at age 26.
Ana Ros– chef of Slovenia’s Hisa Franko– taught herself to cook after her husband’s family left them the restaurant. She had no formal training. “I spent a lot of time experimenting because I was convinced I had to learn everything.” Ana essentially invented new Nordic cuisine, again. What Magnus Nillsson and Rene Ridzepi made through decades of study, Ana Ros created over a few years of passion for work, and admiration of her surroundings. She created it because she had to. What else was there to do.
This isn’t to say that Capricorns are always right. A Capricorn lost trekking too high of an elevation (work-a-holic), or stuck underwater at the bottom of the hill (succumbed to laziness) will be miserable. This Capricorn can be shrewd, totalitarian. They know in their heart that the journey is the thing, but they get lost in what they’ve already accomplished. This Capricorn feels they’ve paid their dues, wants absolution. But there’s no such thing as absolution. Everything contains what has come before.
Despite this, for pessimists, Capricorns are pretty optimistic.
Louise Bourgeois, who was known mostly for her sculptures, especially of the large spiders representing her mother, lived to be 98 years old. And she was working the entire time, like the entire time– to the goddamn bitter end, buddy. Throughout her life, but particularly toward the end, Bourgeois made work documenting fictional, but palpably emotionally real women, who were extremely dissatisfied at the end of their lives. In this motif, these characters appeared both as figures and as absent diarists who had made notes around the shapes in her drawings. These were women who when asked to reflect on their lives come up with a list of chores. It’s unclear if these are representations of Bourgeois’ own feelings. She made so many beautiful things, but were any of them good enough?
At the very end of her life, Bourgeois could barely see. She couldn’t make the sculptures anymore, nor anything very detailed at all so she returned (as she had before again and again) to a different practice, making etchings and prints.There were no more monograms, no more anthropomorphized windows. But inside that abstraction, those broad strokes, the work still contained the entire shape of what had come before.
Perhaps Capricorn never stops working because she knows reinvention is a fallacy, there is no greater me, just greater perspective. That’s why it is so important to take note of all that we can, and to make every step forward, a step outward.
At our best, we remember that we are strongest not when we are climbing the ladder, but when we are tiny rocks embracing the sea.
Originally published in moon missives: winter.