So nature adjusts. Too little rain is followed by too much. Just what you’d expect in a Water Dragon year. Followed by a heat wave. Followed by more rain. And today the slugs are at my sunflowers.
At the railway station I try to buy a ticket from the ticket machine. It’s attached to a South-facing wall. Right into the sun. The sun is so low and its glare so fierce even at 7am, that I can see nothing and could as easily be buying a ticket to EuroDisney or Glasgow as to Waterloo which is my intention.
The train is full of commuters. These are neither the driven ones of the 5:32 nor the expansive broadsheet readers of the 8:53.
Dysfunctional weather for dysfunctional times; one day monsoon, the next it’s the Gobi desert.
Sometimes I’m asked to summarise feng shui in a sentence and I may respond that if you plant tomatoes against a North-facing wall, you’re likely to be disappointed. A similar principle applies to ticket-machines and South-facing walls. ATMs on the other hand are a study in themselves.
In London I am surveying an interior design showroom. What impacts the feng shui of any building is at least 70% external, so first I inspect the streets. There are knots of energy where the traffic loops and dead spots where streets end suddenly. Cutting through an alley, I come across what to my unsophisticated eye, appears to be a new Banksy: high up on a wall a black and white image of a shopper and trolley plummeting to the pavement. The shopper’s legs outstretched behind her are realistic enough to make me wince.
The toilet of the showroom is at the geometrical centre or tai chi. This is generally not a great indicator; consider the metaphor. Intuitively I flag that it suggests theft. This is borne out by the events of the following week which I’m not going to go into here.
On my way home I’m thinking about a young girl born in 1998 in the Monkey month of August. That makes her a Tiger of course. Tiger plus Monkey plus Snake brings what is called the “Fire Penalty”. I have it cyclically in my own ba zi; can mean sickness, can mean interference, can mean withdrawal. From where I’m sitting, there’s little difference between these as life choices. This Tiger was mysteriously ill in 2006. Like her mother, she’s a busy and gifted girl with a lot going on in her life and it’s the easiest thing in the world to attribute mystery illnesses to fatigue or cussedness.
“She’s run down,” you might say or “Rest.”
Not really good enough.
Back then I could tell from the ba zi when she’d recover and I was proved right. I also predicted some sort of minor relapse early in 2012 as what is called her “Big Fate” or “Luck Pillar” changed. Right again. The ba zi shows a further occurrence in a decade or so which is why I’m thinking about her now. Sometimes I can do without being right about these things. The house had a nasty spot in the South East, the realm of the Snake, that didn’t show up in any of the Chinese calculations. That wasn’t good enough then and it’s not good enough now.
Across London on the Overground, then Waterloo back to Godalming.
From Godalming station I take a shortcut. It’s off-road, mostly dirt track, some of it narrow path. The smell of wild garlic is in the air. Although the rails are only yards away, it feels remote. The path is not wide enough for vehicles and there are only a couple of cottages along the way. The heat even at six in the evening, shimmers.
As I turn a corner, something on the rough gravel catches my eye. It’s a sloe worm or an adder (aka viper): brown and about a foot long. Could be either. The viper and the grass snake (green but otherwise similar) are the only wild snakes in the United Kingdom. And the sloe worm, as I recall, is strictly speaking a lizard. As a boy in Cornwall, I was taught that such beasts only come out when it’s very dry and it’s years since I saw any.
Some Masters call the Snake the “seeker after truth”. The other side of this, the yin to the yang, is that truth is often the Snake’s issue. What you see is often not what you get. As an example perhaps, the Snake rules 1953, 1965, 1977 and 1989 and so on, the (Chinese) month of May, between 9 and 7 am, and days you’d need a Chinese Calendar to identify but also any ba zi that includes both Tiger and Monkey; this is the “Fire Penalty”. Tricky as hell.
The snake -or lizard- slithers. It appears to be whole but that could be deceptive. So often the only reason a wild animal breaks cover is because it’s a goner. This one is pretty lively. Furious actually. It’s exposed to the late glare of the sun and it’s not keen on public sunbathing.
The study of snakes is called “herpetology”. This word appears connected to those for shingles and cold sores, the ailments of the run down. I don’t know enough to know how these facts are connected. What I do know is that the Tiger’s symptoms could be what used to be called “scrofula” for which there are standard TCM prescriptions. It’s reckoned to be related to a weakening of the yin in liver and kidney.
The snake – or lizard- sort of hisses up at me but it’s only little, its complaint more “s” than “sssss”.
It’s a bit crucial to know which is which, as sloe worm and grass snake are harmless while the adder’s bite can be fatal and this one is in the middle of the track where it might be squished. That is er….run down. Hmmm. The way is quiet but nowhere within the GU postcode is ever truly lonely. I look down. On the beast’s forehead is the distinctive “v” that identifies the viper. With some care, I pick up a stick and encourage it into the hedgerow.
The Tiger’s symptoms are in her neck. In 2006 I couldn’t get a fix on the problem other than to suggest they move. They did. She got better. This time again she has recovered without any real clue as to what went wrong. In point of fact, her mother developed the same symptoms – which is love indeed – and they convalesced together. I tell the Tiger’s mother about liver and kidney yin.
What you see is not what you get.
I must have been seven the last time I saw a snake in the wild; an August afternoon during the endless summer break from school. It was above the cliff path from Mullion to Poldhu, the heathland where Marconi sent that first radio message across the Atlantic. On that peninsula between the Lizard Head and Lands End, there’s nothing but water from the gorse of the cliff to Newfoundland. Now that’s what I call remote. I was taught how to listen for adders on summer afternoons. They rub against dry bracken and make a rustling sound. When you hear that, it’s time to get out of the undergrowth and be sure you’re wearing shoes.
I shrug off the snake and the Tiger. As a diviner, the message I’m receiving from the divine is that the snake is pissy but harmless. Still not quite good enough.
I’m a healer before I’m anything else. I end up dealing with money because that’s what’s expected of the feng shui man. But it’s got very little to do with why I get up in the morning. To be whole, that is alive, alert and open to the world, is to be abundant. Healing is a spectrum that ranges from physical change at one extreme to performance enhancement and closeness to God at the other. But all good fortune is a function of wholeness. When we heal we are fortunate.
The thing about Snake, Tiger and Monkey is that when they coincide they pick a fight. It’ll show up differently, not always physically, not always even negatively but the Tiger is a er…sitting duck for the Snake and Monkey.
For the time being at least the snake – if not the Snake – however is safe in the undergrowth.
Also excitingly my 2007 book The Feng Shui Diaries is available as a download now (click here). It’s got some good jokes.