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As the solstice nears, an (astrological) look ahead

Breathe in, breathe out: Yes, there'll probably be disasters. But Portland therapist, astrologist, and Pushcart-nominated poet Dr. Mindy Netifee also says the "whole end of the year could be very sweet."


Dr. Mindy Nettifee at her desk, with her Old Grief Whirlwind hanging in the background.

Poet, somatic trauma therapist and astrologer Dr. Mindy Nettifee offers some tips for how to honor what we’ve learned in 2023 and prepare ourselves for the year ahead. 


In the River of What’s Happening Now is a newsletter by Portland’s Dr. Mindy Nettifee for “students of cosmic and earthly forces.” Sent during new and full moons, it’s an astrology-based reading of how the universe is aligning (or not), what this might mean for you personally, and how you can explore this moment, using creative prompts and rituals to help you navigate this period. 

Nettifee speaks to the human condition in a way that sometimes sounds like a therapist – because she is one. She is both a somatic trauma therapist and a depth psychologist researcher, which means she specializes in “the neurobiology of the unconscious mind.”  

She also writes with the elegance and empathy of a poet – because she’s one of those, too. She has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize three times, curated poetry events for The Getty Center, and co-founded the Write Now Poetry Society with actress Amber Tamblyn during her time in Los Angeles. 

“If the lead up to this full moon has been especially difficult; if you’ve heroically stretched yourself too thin over the disaster of the world; if you’ve been feeling the very real limits of your physical body and energy, and even the limits of your spiritual beliefs and practices, to guide you through this time in your life, or this time in the world, take a breath,” she writes in a recent newsletter. “Breathe in the permission you need to be in a process, and to change in the ways you want to and need to change. Breathe out the pressure you are putting on yourself to have it all figured out.” 

In a recent interview, Nettifee, a Des Moines, Iowa native who spent her formative years in California, talks about her background, her newsletter, and meaningful ways to mark the passing of another year. 


All Classical Radio James Depreist

Valarie Smith: In addition to being a poet, somatic trauma therapist, depth psychologist researcher and astrologer, you’re also the director of the Center for Artist Resilience and you lead group sessions for writing, plant medicine integration and individuation and vocational support. What led you to all of these things, and do you see them as interrelated? 

Mindy Nettifee: That’s a great question. In a social media post for the recent full moon in Gemini, I wrote, “Don’t be simple, be whole.” I have at times felt pressure to narrow my focus or try to simplify, but that’s just how it is. I’m a little bit vast.  

In the end, it all integrates; you can’t really leave yourself behind. There are times when you can turn your focus in another direction, but the movement of development is towards wholeness. Eventually, old parts of yourself show back up and need to be woven back in.  

How did astrology come into your life? 

Nettifee: This is similar to how poetry came into my life. I really thought that poetry was the one art form that I could practice with anonymity and secrecy. I never imagined that my poetry would be a public kind of art offering at all.   

I think sometimes when you don’t think something’s real, it’s not weighed down by all your hangups. I think the same thing happened with astrology, that it was just my own personal practice, and as the culture started to enter this deep descent in 2016, it felt like time to take that private practice public, just as an act of solidarity.  

When did you start going public with the newsletter? In 2016? 


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That’s when I started publishing these posts on Instagram. I’ve done it every single month since then. I started the Substack newsletter on the fall equinox last year, so 2022. 

Dr. Nettifee’s Emerald City of Neuroplasticity altar.

Where does the newsletter’s title [In the River of What’s Happening Now] come from?  

It comes from something I found myself saying repetitively to clients and students, which is, “Hey, let’s just let’s like get into the river of what’s happening now.” I think a lot of anxiety comes from trying to be in the future, trying to be 10 steps ahead, trying to be in the big picture, or perhaps dwelling on something that has happened and re-living it, instead of being here now. That’s also the message of somatic trauma work: that we’re trying to sort of rewire ourselves to be able to be present. Even though we’ve been through something awful in the past that didn’t maybe get fully recorded properly as a memory and so now every time it gets triggered it just floods us, it feels like it’s still happening or there’s a way in which, if it’s triggered often enough, it becomes a trait. The way out of that is by coming into just now.  

When it comes to my own practice with reading astrology and the energies of the moment, it’s not something I can do really far out ahead. I’m writing them as I’m feeling it in the moment. 

Each newsletter opens with an essay on what’s happening in the cosmos and what it might mean, but the paid version also offers a ritual or creative prompt at the end, as a way for readers to explore this moment in time. What advice can you offer for closing out the year and starting a new one? 

We have a new moon coming in Sagittarius on December 12th, and that same day Mercury stations retrograde in Capricorn, which is the sign right after Sagittarius. A new moon in Sagittarius at the energy of that whole moment is like getting a spiritual or philosophical reset at the end of the year. With Sagittarius it usually comes with good feeling, confidence, courage. It might invite some more acute rethinking of what we want to be building with our lives. Capricorn is very much what we’re building in the world, this deep, deep manifestation sign.  

I think we’ve been through an extremely intense fall and we’re going to get a little bit of a breath. There’ll be a push to be thinking about: If we could influence our lives or influence these quantum potentials, what would we want to be calling in next?  


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Mercury retrogrades are little tricksters, so there will probably be some of the usual disasters happening this time of year. Then there will be two good moments for classic intention-setting manifestation, ritual work.  

That first moment will be on December 22nd, which is the winter solstice. That’s the day that the sun moves into Capricorn, and the winter begins in this system. That exact same day, this retrograding Mercury meets the sun, so they have a conjunction and 0 degrees of Capricorn on the winter solstice. There might be a contemplative energy moving up to that moment. There could be a real flash of intuition and insight that also accompanies good timing for symbolically planting a seed for this next cycle. It doesn’t mean we have to have a concrete, conscious goal. It’s more like, is there any healing I would like to call in, or any growth I want to move towards this next year?  

Then there’s a full moon in Cancer on December 26th. That whole end of the year could be very sweet. It could be full of compassion — self-compassion and compassion for others. Cancer is the sign of the parent or the mother. You know there could be a lot that comes up around either stuff with our family or our own journeys to re-parent ourselves — that stuff that comes up at the end of the year. But all of that will be a releasing energy.  

At the end of the year we’re just going to let it all go, and that’s good, too. Once you’ve planted a seed, your seed is not going to grow if you dig up the dirt to check on it. You just plant a seed, and you forget about it. 

If it’s too much to try to get it together [for intention setting] on the solstice this year, January 11th is really the next good moment because that’ll be the new moon in Capricorn. Mercury is going to station direct on January 1st, so that’ll be a slow start to the New Year. Really, if you have some time off, almost in the wake of that Cancer full moon, it’s a good time for really simple, beautiful water rituals, like decadent baths. It’s the holidays; self-care is strategic. Attend to what it is you need to rest and recharge and release some of what maybe has built up that we’re still carrying from this year. 

Mindy Nettifee’s Old Grief Whirlwind: “I have this spiral of blue glass bottles that I made after a particularly deep, arduous and long healing of old grief.”

And what about a creative prompt? 

I think it’s a good time to go in on family material. Whatever kind of artist you are, whatever kind of medium you practice, I think there’s going to be some feelings at the end of the year that have to do with our family of origin or our chosen our families. That material is going to be particularly available for artistic transmutation.  


All Classical Radio James Depreist

I think of creative practice as really open, messy, generative. What if there was something that I really learned from, something I’m taking with me from this year? Is there an epiphany, or an insight or some bit of hard-earned wisdom? What if I tried to really lock that in somehow, really make it real and make it more permanent? I don’t want to have to learn this lesson another 20 times, and I don’t want to forget this wisdom. One of the real ways we can lock something in like that is to make art from it, to make an artifact of it. If you’re a writer, you could tell the story of it and force yourself to articulate it. It could also very much involve an object, art or sculpture or collage, or something physical and symbolic that you know the meaning of. You know: “I remember I had learned this particular lesson when I made that tiger. Now, every time I look at that tiger, I’m like, ‘Oh yeah that’s the be honest tiger.’”  

I have this spiral of blue glass bottles that I made after a particularly deep, arduous and long healing of old grief. The artifacts we make with our art have a way of solidifying and making our healing, insight or our experience more concrete.  It could be a good time to honor something about what’s happened this year. 


To hear more of Mindy Nettifee’s astrological readings or learn about her upcoming events and workshops, subscribe to her newsletter “In the River of What’s Happening Now.” 

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Photo Joe Cantrell

Valarie Smith incurred enormous credit card debt during the ’90s when she lived in NYC and tried to see as many Broadway/ Off Broadway/ Off-Off Broadway plays as she could despite her pittance of a salary. She is a fervent believer in the Edward Albee quote, “If you’re willing to fail interestingly, you tend to succeed interestingly.” Her top five favorite productions (so far) are: True West (Circle in the Square Theatre, 2000), King Henry IV, Part One (Oregon Shakespeare Festival, 2017), We’re All Mad Here (Shaking the Tree, 2017), Six Degrees of Separation (Lincoln Center, 1991) and Richard II (BAM, 2016).


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