Why I Flew 4,000 Miles to Spend My ‘Solar Return’ in Alaska



I’m deep in an Alaskan forest midway by an 8K race once I discover myself alone. Above me, 100-foot spruces bend and bellow, set upon by wind so loud I mistake it for an airplane. Under me, a slushy, icy mess of a path.

Forward of me — nobody.

It’s a drizzly November morning. My garments are moist with rain and my fingers and toes damage from the chilly. I look down at my black trainers, prepared them to maneuver sooner. They don’t.

I can not see the 2 ladies I adopted for the primary half of the run, and I think about the hole widening. Then I image myself on a map: a speck some 4,000 miles away from my house in South Florida. I see my 7-year-old daughter’s chubby cheeks and soiled blond curls, my 5-year-old son together with his thumb in his mouth.

“I’m going to die right here, alone,” I feel. Up to now, I by no means had ideas like this. I used to be all swagger: Again once I lived in Jerusalem, I ran on remoted trails within the forest virtually each afternoon. However since submitting for divorce in August, I’ve develop into frightened of being alone. And being in Alaska — with its vastness, the way in which it dangles, lonely, on the fringe of the continent — has solely magnified these emotions.

I attempt to meet up with the ladies, however I’m tapped out, No. 12 in a area of a dozen. I fear: What if everybody finishes and goes house? I don’t have my cellphone; there will probably be no manner for me to name for assist.

After which I ask myself: Why did I come all the way in which to Alaska on the recommendation of a complete stranger, to chase one thing I’m not even certain I consider in — an astrological occasion known as a photo voltaic return?

A photo voltaic return takes place in the mean time when the solar returns to precisely the identical location within the sky the place it was on the time of your start, defined Julia Mihas, a San Francisco-based astrologer. This often takes place yearly on or close to your birthday.

The considering behind photo voltaic return journeys is that simply because the place the place you’re born has an affect in your start chart — which supposedly reveals main themes in your life story — so can the place the place you spend your photo voltaic return have an effect on the yr forward. In essence, an astrologer, utilizing your yearly chart, searches for the place the place the celebrities will probably be most auspicious in the mean time of your photo voltaic return, and then you definitely journey to that location. It’s like hacking your horoscope.

These journeys, generally known as aimed photo voltaic returns, or A.S.R.s, are central to an strategy known as energetic astrology, which holds that you would be able to intervene in your destiny.

Let me confess that I’m a bit of woo-woo. I not too long ago purchased a small piece of Libyan desert glass — which is meant to work with chakras or vibrations or no matter — and hung it over my desk. However photo voltaic return journeys — which I’d heard about from a pal — appeared on the market; I thought-about one solely after my marriage fell aside. That pal linked me to Katia Novikova, a Ukrainian astrologer who lives in Rome.

When Ms. Novikova, a pianist by coaching, took up astrology in 1995, she instantly started trying to find a strategy to train management over the celebrities. A couple of years later, she found energetic astrology. Ms. Novikova’s first foray into photo voltaic return journeys got here in 2011, after she did her chart for the yr forward and foresaw her personal loss of life. She recalled with fun how she used a mixture of software program and her intensive data of astrology to discover a photo voltaic return vacation spot — Barcelona — the place her stars provided a greater end result: “As an alternative of dying, I modified it for well being, for artwork and for cash. It was easy.”

The journey was additionally straightforward — a reasonable flight from Rome.

Upon returning, Ms. Novikova landed a daily gig as a pianist, and requests for personal classes poured in as properly.

So not solely did Ms. Novikova proceed doing A.S.R.s, she additionally provided free readings to associates. When phrase unfold and strangers started inquiring about readings, Ms. Novikova began charging.

A kind of strangers who discovered Ms. Novikova is the tv author Safia M. Dirie, who requested to not give her age.

On Ms. Novikova’s recommendation, Ms. Dirie, who lives in Los Angeles, made her first photo voltaic return journey in 2016 to the Cook dinner Islands, a small South Pacific nation, seeking to change her luck in love. Lower than a yr later, she met the person who’s now her husband.

The following yr, Ms. Novikova despatched Ms. Dirie to a tiny city known as Swink, inhabitants 667, on the southeastern plains of Colorado. As a result of there have been no motels in Swink and her photo voltaic return was going down in the course of the evening, Ms. Dirie and a pal white-knuckled it from Colorado Springs, a few hours away. In the dead of night, amid a twister warning, tumbleweeds stored rolling out in entrance of the automobile and he or she stored slamming on the brakes, considering they had been deer.

When Ms. Dirie and her pal arrived in Swink, they discovered it pitch black, the ability knocked out by the storm. They parked in entrance of a random home till her 2:08 a.m. photo voltaic return handed. Then the 2 “went over to the subsequent city and acquired a chunk of pie at an all-night diner.”

Ms. Dirie, who likened her personal photo voltaic return journeys to pilgrimages, stated that A.S.R.s are “fairly fashionable” in her Los Angeles circle, however photo voltaic return journeys aren’t a nationwide journey development, in response to the half-dozen journey advisers I spoke with.

Like a journey adviser, Ms. Novikova tries to grasp what motivates a shopper. After I contacted her through e mail — only a month after I’d filed for divorce — and paid 100 euros, about $110, she had me reply questions on my hopes for the approaching yr. Then she did her magic and we acquired on a Whatsapp video chat to debate the outcomes.

Ms. Novikova began with the chart for my earlier birthday. “Depressing,” she stated. It was all there — the rise in bills, the undesirable transfer to a cramped condo, the countless arguments with my husband.

My forecast for 2023 could be greatest, Ms. Novikova stated, if I went to Prince Rupert, British Columbia, at 5:12 a.m. native time on Nov. 13. I Googled the place: Stunning however distant; the logistics had been daunting.

Second: Juneau, Alaska. My abdomen turned. Far-off. Chilly. A darkish, foreboding panorama that might swallow me up. There’s the Alaska triangle, an enormous space of wilderness bounded by the cities of Juneau, Anchorage and Utqiagvik (previously Barrow), the place many individuals have gone lacking. The state can also be surprisingly harmful, with one of many highest violent crime charges within the nation.

No, thanks.

Third place: Brazil. Sure! Solar, seashores, nice meals. However Ms. Novikova frowned. “There are some issues I don’t like on this horoscope,” she stated. And that was that.

We settled on Juneau, and Ms. Novikova gave me an in depth forecast for the yr primarily based on that vacation spot. Not solely would I look good bodily, I’d have extra skilled visibility. I’d have luck promoting my new e book. Ms. Novikova stated she noticed an editor and a college.

Oh, and love. A dream job, too.

As a result of it was the low season in Alaska, I discovered a round-trip ticket from Palm Seashore to Juneau for beneath $500 and an affordable price — $100 an evening — for a room on the historic Alaskan Lodge, which is reportedly haunted. If I’m dabbling within the woo-woo, I figured, I would as properly go all out.

Then I regarded for a run, an effective way to get a exercise and a distinct view of a spot from that of most vacationers. I used to be in luck — the Juneau Path and Street Runners’ Veterans Day 8K would happen the day earlier than my photo voltaic return.

Arriving in downtown Juneau a number of days early, I labored remotely and explored what little was open within the low season. On the Rookery Cafe, I loved spiced avocado toast, and on the Alaska Native-owned Sacred Grounds Café, I had a scrumptious however stomachache-inducing reindeer sausage. I discovered wonderful beer and phenomenal charred carrot hummus at Satan’s Membership Brewing Firm. And Amalga Distillery provided spruce tip gin and a clean, sippable whiskey.

I settled right into a routine — working, working, consuming — and two days in, I didn’t want Google maps anymore.

On the day of the race, I took a bus to a car parking zone 10 miles outdoors city. As a small group of runners gathered, I requested two ladies in the event that they minded me tagging alongside. However they had been youthful, leaner and fitter they usually had been dressed appropriately — one had snow grips hooked up to her footwear — and I misplaced the ladies halfway by the run.

Alone within the woods, despairing, I heard somebody push by the timber and step onto the path. Earlier than me was a person I didn’t acknowledge. He was dressed like a runner, however I didn’t see the yellow bib all of the racers wore. He fell into step beside me, explaining that he had stopped to go to the lavatory and determined to attend for me.

Earlier than, I used to be scared to be out right here alone; now, I used to be frightened by this stranger’s sudden look. Attempting to push my concern apart, I made small discuss. We arrived at a fork within the snowy path and, as a result of the race was so casual, not the entire course was marked. Each instructions had been equally lined with slushy footprints and, with out something or anybody to information us, we puzzled over which strategy to go.

“Proper,” he stated.

“Are you certain?” I requested, anxious that he was making an attempt to steer me deeper into the woods.

However separating would have been equally harmful, so I adopted him. After which, all of a sudden, we had been on the shoulder of Glacier Freeway, and I used to be striding towards the end line as greatest as I may with numb toes.

“There they’re!” exclaimed the opposite runners; they cheered us on as the person and I pushed to the tip. Not solely had they not forgotten about me, they had been ready. A single thought spooled by my head — I’m not alone on this world — and I choked again tears of gratitude.

That evening, at 4 a.m., I awoke — sans alarm — just some minutes forward of my photo voltaic return. Mendacity there at the hours of darkness, I listened for, then heard, the raven’s name, which I’d grown to like whereas in Juneau. I regarded on the cellphone once more, and the time had handed. My photo voltaic return was over.

After returning to Florida, I framed and hung the yellow race bib on the wall as a talisman, just like the Libyan desert stone I’d purchased earlier than the journey, as a reminder of how far I’d traveled and the way far I’d come. And three weeks later, identical to that, my divorce was ultimate. I had confronted my concern of being alone.

Oh, and a few months after that, an editor — from a college press — made me a proposal for my e book.

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