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Ten Years of Planet Waves: A Star Shines on the Hour of Our Meeting

Dear Friend and Reader:

Sunday, Dec. 21 marks 10 years since I posted the first edition of the Planet Waves website: on a cold winter solstice night in Ho-Ho-Kus, New Jersey, on a tiny little island near the turn of the millennium, with the Sun square the Aries Point. We have published every day since: as of Sunday, for 3,653 continuous days.

Planet Waves
Eric Francis in New Paltz, NY. Photo by Danielle Voirin.
I've lived them one at a time, working on Planet Waves on all but a very few. I am beginning to recognize that this represents devotion: to you; to an idea; to myself; and mostly to the possibility of making things better on our planet. From my perspective, I can see some truly beautiful potential, and also how frightening the world is for so many people right now. Part of that fear involves not external events but rather a dire necessity to face and know ourselves. In this, we typically have very little help or guidance, and my first vision for Planet Waves is that we hold up a beacon, accessible to everyone, pointing in a direction where it is safe to get to know yourself.

There have been nights along the way I've taken a little psychic distance from what we're doing and clicked through the pages like a new reader. I've noticed again and again: there is just nothing else like this on the Internet. There have been years on end where the people working on Planet Waves, and the readers writing to me, have been my only true community, and it's my favorite kind -- one with a creative mission. I'm a person who dearly needs to share a sense of purpose with my brothers and sisters; who needs to be creating every day -- and this, we have created together.

In the most difficult times of doing this work, it has been my relationships with my colleagues and my readers that have given me the motivation to keep going. Writing every day is one of the only ways I know of to stay grounded, to keep my sanity, to learn and to share what I am learning, all at once. I am grateful to have access to a structure that serves this need. To know that people are aware and listening has gradually helped me orient spiritually and develop a consistent sense of purpose in some strange times. There are moments where the roof that separates me from the atmosphere and the cosmos feels like a sheet of cellophane. That's when I know I can only take shelter in love.
This has taken practice, and along the way I have rarely felt like I actually belonged anywhere. I am a restless, relentlessly curious person. I've written the stuff you've read on Planet Waves while living in Germany, both coasts of the United States, Canada, England, France, and Belgium (in that order); and while visiting Egypt, Greece, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain and Poland. This has compelled me never to take my surroundings for granted, never to get lost in a sense of false familiarity about the world or about who I am and therefore to avoid getting stuck in one viewpoint. When I count up the number of countries the staff is from at any given time, it usually comes out to about 10. Planetary indeed.

More than at any other journalism project, I can feel my readers at Planet Waves. I share a deep empathy with you and often I feel like we are in the same place and time, going through many common (or perhaps uncommon) experiences of growth and self-discovery. I also know that I am writing to a lonely world where we are searching for meaning, for ourselves and for something at the core of our humanity that often eludes perception, much less tangible grasp. I assume that if you've come this far, if we are in this conversation, it's not by accident; and that your inner thirst for faith and awareness is more than an abstraction.

Planet Waves
Major General Chelsea Bottinelli in her office.
I would like to share a few stories, the first of which is from the middle of the journey: the day I drove to Olympia, Washington with my first full-time assistant, Chelsea Bottinelli, to incorporate the company. We were living on Vashon Island, Washington, where Chelsea had arrived less than a year earlier with her boyfriend TJ, their dog and his band. One detail that Chelsea remembers is how long I agonized over the astrology, wanting to incorporate the right day. This turned out to be in early July 2003, with the Moon conjunct Jupiter in Leo.

I woke up that morning from a dream giving me clear instructions to do something, which has never happened before or since. It was a voice speaking: "Find a copy of a book called The Powers That Be by David Halberstam and read it." I can still hear this voice, calm, clear and direct. I knew of the book. It had adorned my bookshelf several times, but I had never opened it. A couple of hours later, we got on the Tahlequah ferry, drove to Olympia in her old several shades of blue Subaru and filed the incorporation papers. This is a significant step in the life of a small business because it means you're taking the business aspect seriously. It is one thing to be a writer or have an idea for a publishing company and it's something else to consciously anchor it on the physical plane. An incorporated business is legally a kind of person; it becomes something apart from its founders; a relationship is defined.

I looked that day in Olympia for the book, which was too old to be in small bookstores (it came out in 1979, right before the personal computer changed everything). A special order copy finally arrived at the local bookshop, and I spent the summer and autumn reading the details of how The New York Times, The Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, CBS and Time Life came into being. Reading these stories from the history of the media was one thing. Meditating on what, if anything, that had to do with the birth of Planet Waves, Inc. was a kind of mental yoga; it's only starting to make sense now.

What I took away from that book is that it's actual people with a vision who start the things that become the institutions that shape society. Often they are families or husband and wife teams. They are people who started something interesting in their own garage (Readers' Digest). They work hard, they pay dues, they go through the usual trials and tribulations and some unusual ones. They make good and bad decisions, and gradually other people show up who share and can expand on the vision. After a while, if the saber tooth tiger doesn't eat the whole enterprise for lunch, something strong and perhaps meaningful exists that did not exist before. I think that all the media entities whose history Halberstam describes have served their purpose, and now it's time for something new, with a new purpose and a new worldview.

Planet Waves
Neal McDonough's property on an island along the Saddle River in Ho-Ho-Kus, New Jersey where the first Planet Waves website was posted, photographed by Neal, who you can reach via his website.
My last gig before studying and writing about astrology was as an investigative reporter covering corporate environmental fraud involving chlorine-based supertoxins. At the end of nearly three years on that project, I began to recognize that my articles, no matter how good or how well respected by scientists, seemed to lack personal relevance to the people reading them. I could do nothing about Monsanto except get into every library and article database the fact that they knew they were poisoning the planet with their PCBs, out to "the very remote parts of the world," as they described it in a 1969 memo.

I needed a new approach to journalism. I needed a new approach to life. After considering the subject for years, one winter I dove into the mystery of astrology headlong, then began writing about it continuously, and eventually discovered that it was much more meaningful to most people than even my best investigative articles. True, some people thought I had gone soft. I don't think that my editor at Sierra ever talked to me again.

I started with Chiron and understood that I was investigating new territory. This gave me a good reason to start with no presumptions about how astrology works or what it can do. Reading other writers, I recognized that most astrology writing was relevant only to people with prior knowledge of the subject. With rare exceptions, astrology never seemed to stop looking in its own direction. Astrology was also ignoring the developments in its own field: for example, the part about 99% of astrologers pretending that newly discovered planets don't exist. Most astrologers are still not trained to use any planet discovered after Pluto, which was catalogued in 1930. Since then, there have been more than 200,000 discoveries in our solar system alone. You could read The Mountain Astrologer for years and not find a real article about this fact; much less something honest about sex or the environment or how to handle challenging situations in counseling.

Planet Waves
Long light on a spring afternoon in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, where lots of Planet Waves research, reporting and writing have been conducted. Photo by Eric Francis. More photos from this era are located here.
Planet Waves became a meeting point for these subjects, and a community began to gather. The writing developed into a way to see and illustrate the correspondences between astrology and world events, between astrology and human growth, and finally between human growth and developments in the world. It became clear to me that life on our planet is changing fast, and that we needed new ways to think of our existence. I learned what is important to people from working with nearly 2,000 astrology clients over these years, which brought my readers close enough to understand something about their lives, thoughts and feelings.

Everything presented in Planet Waves is designed to be relevant to you who are reading. Difficult-to-understand events are shown in the context of their personal and collective meaning, when possible, through the lens of astrology. There are times when it's necessary to let go of the astrological framework and bear witness directly. Artificial divisions of life are reconciled, and the terrible rent between above and below, within and without, what happens to "us" and what happens to "them," are gradually healed.

These divisions are the very thing that is killing us as a species. It's one thing to put blues and jazz in different bins in the record store. To separate us from our sense of existence, or to divide sex from cosmology, is pretty close to a psychic deathblow. The fact that our media networks are stuffed with such incredible garbage, propaganda and advertising has devalued one of the most precious things that we need right now -- life-giving information. Most people don't think it actually exists. Real information helps us grow out of humanity's terrible amnesia of how powerful and how beautiful we are. It will always leave us with choices. Writing for Planet Waves I have aspired to never strand my readers feeling helpless at the end of an article. Every horoscope entry is designed to show you your options, or to remind you that you have them.

Planet Waves
Breaking News: Breakdancing below Les Halles in central Paris in 2005, where many Planet Waves editions have been published. The cop is not actually checking out the woman's ass; itís an optical illusion. Photo by Eric Francis. More photos from this era are located here.
This is not the way of the world. Curious what was on TV this afternoon, I flipped the thing on for a brief moment and was met with the words BREAKING NEWS and the vision of a crime scene being broadcast from a news chopper: white-gloved detectives in a mobile FBI lab digging up the remains of a little girl. On the screen, the stock ticker informed me that the Dow was up 100 points.

I wanted to scream and very nearly did. Does this mean anything to anyone? Does it influence your choices, your perspective on life, your sense of who you are, in any positive way? Can you use the information? Or does it merely make us sick? It should drive you insane, and it may be doing so. This kind of "news reporting" is designed specifically to create a feeling of disempowerment in viewers. It is not inadvertent or accidental; it's intentional and it's genuinely frightening to think how many people have this pumped into their minds nearly around the clock, along with lots and lots of advertising for all kinds of crap you don't need.

Every rare now and then the light shines through. I was once watching a weather report and the meteorologist, inspired by a point she was describing in that night's forecast, went off on a tangent about climate change. It was stunning. Then with a kind of a naughty wink, she said, "Okay, enough about climate change for now, let's get back to the weather." And I thought: this is what the weather report is missing. Think of Planet Waves as the weather lady who mentions the big picture.

How can we notice that human relevance is missing from nearly everything on television, in newspapers and most of the Internet? Many of us want to change the world, but not only are we too overwhelmed; we usually lack the tools and the sense of possibility to take that desire seriously. We don't know enough. Most people meet resistance from their partner, parents and even their friends when they want to change themselves; when we want to express who we actually are; when we dare to learn and grow. It takes strength to keep going. Planet Waves is here to offer you strength, and to create a community of people who share their strength and awareness.

Planet Waves
View from inside the Grotto of Heracles or Cave of Cynthos on Delos, Greece. Planet Waves' version of the story of Delos is told here, and the tarot spread is interpreted here. Photo by Eric Francis. More photos from this era are located here.
I am not optimistic that the world has grown more open minded in the 10 years that I have been writing Planet Waves. I just think that some of us have become more determined. I never set out to found the next CBS, but I have worked consciously to create a new kind of journalism: something useful that helps raise awareness rather than shut us down. I have aspired to create a peaceful, sane environment when you read, someplace free of advertising, where beauty is welcome; where you are welcome. We provide a warm space where it is possible to offer your creative gifts, something I've noticed, in my many travels, is rare to find on this planet.
It's daring doing this on a subscription-based business model, though I think this is an important step for information providers to take. You do get what you pay for; you and not Stoli are personally supporting what you get. But if I had to change one thing about my job, it would be having to write fewer marketing letters, the ones that say things like, "Cheaper than a parking ticket and lots more fun!"
This is true. Happy decade on the planet, Planet Waves. We love you.
Yours & truly,
Eric Francis
A visual retrospective of Planet Waves

From the beginning, Planet Waves was created as a visual project. A few weeks after we went online, an artist named Via Keller with a project called Psycherotica got in contact, and began contributing her work. I am sure it was Via’s artwork that drew in readers as much as any other factor. She set the tone for the site’s atmosphere. Here is a gallery with a retrospective of Planet Waves covers, annual editions and articles going back to our first days on the Internet. We also host photo galleries with cover pictures dating back to 2005, which are at this link.

And about the purple script at the top of the page

Planet Waves
Tengwar is the script developed for Middle Earth by J.R.R. Tolkien for The Silmarillion and The Lord of the Rings. Planet Waves' original artist, Via Keller, was at one time in her life reasonably fluent in Elvish. The font is available; she made a page decoration for Planet Waves early in our history, to which our new page motif, created by Via this week, is a reference. Here is its origin, from page 90 of The Fellowship of the Ring, on the first night that the hobbits left the Shire -- and they miraculously encounter a few elves who save them from the Black Riders of Mordor.

"O fair folk! This is good fortune beyond my hope!" said Pippin. Sam was speechless. "I thank you indeed, Gildor Inglorion," said Frodo bowing. "Elen sila lumenn' omentielvo, a star shines on the hour of our meeting," he added, in the high-elven speech.

"Be careful, friends!" cried Gildor laughing. "Speak no secrets! Here is a scholar of the Ancient Tongue. Bilbo was a good master. Hail, Elf-friend!" he said, bowing to Frodo. "Come now with your friends and join our company. You had best walk in the middle so you may not stray. You may be very weary before we halt."

Building the Vision: Three Key Elements

Dear Friend and Reader:

Your subscriptions have made it possible to build Planet Waves into what it is today. Referrals and gifts from current subscribers remain our single most important source of new subscribers -- thank you.

Planet Waves
Photo by Danielle Voirin.
On the occasion of our 10th anniversary, I have three components of our vision that would benefit from additional funding, and I am putting this out to our readers. Your gifts toward these goals, small or large, are welcome. I am aware that there are readers in the audience with the means to help for whom this would be the opportunity. Your contribution, combined with our tenacity and creative energy, will make a big difference.

This effort is for three specific fundraising goals for projects that have been slightly out of reach. We intend to raise $15,000 for each of them. One relates to journalism content, the next to infrastructure and the last to our public profile. This $45,000 special project budget would match a portion of the consulting fees I have donated to the company for the past two years.

1. We are creating a fund for investigative reporting on one specific issue: how chlorine-based pollutants are damaging reproductive and hormonal health. This is one of the most under-reported issues in the media, and one that affects us the most. Chlorine compounds (from dioxin to plastic to pesticides) are all hormonally active. It's time for some talented journalists to start putting the pieces together, with Planet Waves as the publisher. This would build on 17 years of my work covering corporate scientific fraud, applying it specifically to health concerns such as endometriosis, falling sperm counts, birth defects and childhood sexual cancers -- and what we can do to help ourselves, including alternative health resources.

2. We need to complete our client database and content interface so that readers have individual log-in, can access their account online, and see a custom page when they sign in. All readers -- paying or not -- would have an account, which would provide an easy upgrade path to being a subscriber. We are two years into this project and it's going beautifully. This would be the last major component.

3. Finally, it's time for a sustained public relations push to raise the profile of Planet Waves on the Internet, in print media and elsewhere. In many ways, we are still below the radar. This includes a budget for creating audio and video podcasts. If more people know what we're doing, more people will find us. The more people find us, the more we can do for you.

You may specify where your contribution is directed. These contributions are not tax deductable. Thank you for making an investment in our work. Here are three options for gifting to us by credit or debit card; or you may call Chelsea directly at (877) 453-8265. If you would like to speak to me directly, she will put you in contact.

Yours & truly,
Eric Francis

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