I have known for a long time that the Mercury retrograde phenomenon occurs when Mercury is closest to Earth, but the obvious implications of this escaped me until I read this interesting article by John Townley:
The retrograde period occurs when we are the closest in our orbit to a planet, when we are speeding past them (or for Mercury and Venus, they are speeding past us) so fast that they look like they’re going backwards (and from their point of view, we look the same way). So, if anything, it’s a period of more active engagement, gravitationally and by sheer proximity. A retrograde planet is literally in our face, as much as it can get, with all that implies. It demands our attention, and it only becomes a problem if we ignore it or avoid it (which has been our first inclination, traditionally).
Mercury is the planet of communication and short travel, and when Mercury is retrograde our attention to detail is somewhat inhibited so we tend to miss the larger cues which creates the famous snafus and glitches of these periods. I have found that this is especially true in the week before Mercury turns retrograde. At that time its motion slows to a virtual standstill and demands our attention. The initial phases of a planetary cycle are usually the most intense, as we must integrate a new dynamic of consciousness that has previously not been present.
From John Townley:
[W]hat you should be doing during a retro – paying close attention to needed fixes and readjustments and not just taking time off until it’s over. Those who spend the time with their eyes and minds open profit from the effort, those who don’t miss the boat, if not right away then down the line when that period’s inevitable developments begin to unfold.
Astrology provides us with a map to navigate these cycles and use their energies instead of having to react to them. For a monthly report on the planetary energies at work, sign up for my free Planetary Illuminations report in the sidebar!