This past fall, when Los Angeles burst once again into flames, I couldn’t sleep. My husband and I kept our children inside, away from the smoke, while the guilt and fear chipped away at my love for the city. I started to question: Are we supposed to live here? Is there anywhere else we could be happy, safe, productive? My husband helpfully reminded me that the East Coast has snowstorms and hurricanes. We can’t escape climate change — but can we feel more secure?
For an outside opinion, I turned to Pati Carlson, an astrocartographer. Ms. Carlson uses a series of mapping techniques, designed by the astrologer Jim Lewis in the late 1970s, to create a mesmerizing crisscross of sine waves or curves, each representing a planet — plus the sun and moon — sprouting from one’s birthplace. Each line also signifies a specific energy: The intersections of various curves on a standard world map indicate which locations might be best energetically for the client, both for vacations and a permanent dwelling.
Much has been made of the spread of astrology on the East and West coasts, but Ms. Carlson operates out of her home in Youngstown, Ohio, speaking with clients by phone and over email. She charges $85 for an astrocartography map, or three relocation charts, with a one-hour reading; those seeking advice on where to live or spend time walk away with a custom PDF map.
Before I called, I stared at Ms. Carlson’s number on my laptop for days, feeling ridiculous. Decisions are made with common sense and lists and consensus, right? My mother, who was born and raised in India, reminded me that even though every person in my extended family is some kind of scientist or engineer, all major logical decisions, from wedding dates to move-in dates, have traditionally been made only when cross-referenced against an Indian guru’s star chart. She said that astrology, while not determinate, might provide some peace of mind.
Location astrology has never been Ms. Carlson’s day job — she laughs, “of course not” — but it’s what she loves to do. At the age of 13, she developed an interest in yoga, meditation and Eastern philosophies, for which her mother bought books that she devoured. Later in life, she and her husband built a series of small software and tech-based companies in San Francisco, where they were happy until they retired and moved to Ohio to be closer to her son’s family. Ohio is “comfortable,” she said, and she’s happy she can be with family, but a lifetime of major moves, from Belgium to Santa Barbara, have taught her there are places that can make her “soul sing.”
Where would I live best? Her task was not a straightforward one, I thought. I was born in Kashmir, had a stint in England, and then from five to 14 attended an international school in Saudi Arabia. I moved to America as a high school freshman and was thrust into a situation in which I felt foreign for the first time in my life. Finally, I moved to California, where I found my people and made my home.
“If you follow your Venus line, that shows you where your heart is a little happier,” said Ms. Carlson.
She shared an undulating web of lines, every which way, that crossed over Europe and barely touched down in the United States, except for on the West Coast. She noted that my sun, Jupiter and Venus lines all intersect near where I already live.
“Fires or not, L.A. is a good place for you to be,” she said.
The only other place in the United States she would recommend is Seattle, but options in Europe included Stockholm, the Costa Brava of Spain and southern Switzerland. (Now, there’s a retirement plan!)
It was soothing to hear about places I might have lived, or could live, and to feel analyzed, in an emotional sense, by Ms. Carlson.
She interpreted, from her charts, that I was friendless, silent and observant. That I flourished academically, but not creatively, in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. That I became a miserable, rebellious valedictorian in New York, and found peace and friends in Michigan. Los Angeles has been where love, career and creative expression have personally flourished.
I wanted to know what Aditi Ohri, a Canadian astrologer of Indian origin based in Austin, Tex., might think. (Ms. Ohri does not practice Vedic astrology, saying that she finds Western astrology to be a more welcoming space for the self-taught.) She laughed when I asked her why, if most Indian families I know have had an astrologer back home for time immemorial, are all of the astrologers I’m finding … not Indian?
Western astrology differs both in practice and process from anything else done by the gurus “back home,” as my mother might say. If you want to become an astrologer in India, the path can feel narrow and complex, involving an apprenticeship in a dogmatic and seemingly impenetrable system. Vedic astrology, or the Hindu system, is used to determine careers, love matches and important dates; I’ve never heard of anyone asking a guru to help them determine a happy place.
Ms. Ohri said it can often feel that traditional Vedic gurus are telling clients who they are and how things have to be, directing people and establishing social norms. The kind of astrology that is popular in the West lays out the elements a person is working with, with a focus on teaching clients how to use them.
“I can’t tell you why this works,” says Ms. Carlson, “But it works. It speaks to people.” Whatever it is, her clients seem to find comfort in talking about one’s physical place in an increasingly scary world. But I was still curious about another opinion.
Jessica Lanyadoo, a popular astrologer in Oakland and the author of the upcoming book “Astrology for Real Relationships,” said the information she gleaned from my charts matched Ms. Carlson’s own analysis perfectly. The charts are the charts, she said, no matter who’s doing them; it’s like math. Whatever math may govern astrocartography, having my maps and charts in hand felt grounding and reassuring. Especially since Ms. Lanyadoo and Ms. Carlson came to the same conclusion: L.A. it is. For now, forever.