Sunday, December 18, 2016

Light in the Darkness: The Star

Artwork by Thalia Took
And here is The Star. And the darkness. And the maiden. And the winged messenger sent down from above.

It's an old, old story, and we tell it once again during the time of the Winter Solstice. Every year, in the heart of the darkest night, we wait for the Child of Light. We open ourselves to the miracle. We gather in faith and truth and love, and we remember.

We have been here before and will be here again. Such is the way of our universe— nothing is lost and everything returns. And while we might have puzzled out a few equations in the scientific clockwork of it all, the unfolding whole remains a mystery.

I feel its turnings, though, its vast ancient circles within circles. This is Spirit to me, this movement, these rhythms. From my tiny finite standing place, the moon wanes, the sun waxes, and the stars move across the sky in their precise predictable courses.

These are illusions, of course, human perspectives that mark me as part of the cycle and not separate from it. For the moon does not grow or shrink, the sun blazes as steady now as it did at the height of Midsummer, and the stars remain still. It is Earth that tilts and whirls, the same earth that feels so steady beneath me. Another illusion, this steadiness, for the Earth and I are plummeting through space at 66,000 miles an hour. The stars are at the tumbling edge of the expanding universe, and as I gaze at the indigo horizon on this longest of nights, I offer thanksgiving, a wordless circle of gratitude that extends in rings around me.

This Solstice, may gratitude be a force for love in your world, and in all worlds. May your days be filled with wonder and your nights with enough light to guide you home.

Blessed be, y'all. See you in 2017!

Sunday, December 11, 2016

This Week's Writerly Tarot: The Chariot

Ah yes. Our ego comes a-rolling up in the yard yet again, ablaze with glory, brilliant with triumph. It's a four-cornered, starry-curtained, uber-gilded Chariot we see before us, exalted and ostentatious, practically dripping with satisfaction.

But let's not be too hasty in our judgment. There's a lot of substance beneath the fancy surface.

The ego has gotten an unfortunately negative rap in our current thinking. We must not let our egos get in our way, we are told. We must transcend them. After all, who wants to be ego-driven? Egotistical? An ego maniac?

I mean, look at that guy up there. He's practically carrying his own stage with him, demanding that we take a front row seat on his bedazzled victory lap.

But the sphinxes reveal a deeper truth. One does not enter into such company lightly. They are the keepers of mystery, after all. They offer initiation in the form of riddles, and unless you meet their challenge, you shall not pass beyond them. Our Charioteer has. He must have something valuable to offer us.

And this is it to succeed in any creative endeavor, one must develop a strong and healthy ego. The qualities we associate with an big ego bragging, boasting, strutting, and preening are actually signs of a weak ego, one that requires constant exterior fortification.

A strong ego is like a container. It isn't you (which is what those blustery types get wrong over-identifying with the container, not the contents). Like the chalices in the tarot that contain our emotions, our ego contains our sense of self. Our identity. As such, it must be both strong and fluid. Who we are is always changing. Our ego must be just as dynamic.

The Chariot is here to remind you that while you are on the sacred and soulful task of bringing a creative project into the world, be clear about your boundaries. There will always be rejections and acceptances, bad reviews and good. The second you place your work before an audience, you will receive both pans and praise. And yet you must, as Rudyard Kipling reminds us, "treat those two imposters just the same." You must separate you and your work from the swirling chaff of judgment if you want to get anywhere.

Remember who's holding the reins of this particular chariot. Hint: you are. Which means you are not the chariot.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

This Week's Writerly Tarot: The Five of Pentacles

Let's be honest — there's very little appealing about this card. Whenever I see it, I get a pang in my stomach and my chest constricts. It's a touchstone, the Five of Pentacles, and as such, it opens up a world of hurt for me. I remember every sad story I've ever heard, every lost puppy, every broken heart.

There are many interpretations for this card, and there's grief at the heart of every one. There are questions: who are these poor and needy people? Why are they in the cold when the lights of the church are lit and warm and right there? Is this a criticism of the church, rich in stained glass but poor in compassion? Or are we to question the down-trodden, ponder what leads them to prefer the snow over the sanctuary? Do they not recognize it? Have they sought and been rejected?

We do not know. Arthur Waite was clear in his interpretations that this card meant material trouble, although perhaps not as dire as depicted. So what are we to make of it, we who ask the tarot for guidance on creative matters?

I'll take a stab at that. Our creativity is a living thing, and as such, it must be nourished and nurtured, it needs care and tending. Ask yourself: in this season of bright lights and parties and shopping and indulgences, is your creativity being neglected? Are you giving your Muse the attention she deserves? Or have you spent your energy and attention in other areas? Closed the door on your art and left it in the cold?

This week, consider your creative soul. Is it well cared for, warm and safe? Or is it right outside the circle of your everyday, hunched against a rising cold?

Only you know the answer. And only you have the power to open — or close — the door.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

This Week's Writerly Tarot The Eight of Wands

As one of the few cards in the Rider-Waite-Smith tarot that doesn't have a human figure in it, the Eight of Wands is...well, look at it. It's wands all the way down. Wands wands wands wands wands wands wands wands.

So it behooves us to remember what Wands are all about. They are the suit of passion and energy, enthusiasm and soul. Like the living wood that they are constructed of, wands are vital and dynamic and running with sap, and like the element of fire they represent, they are swift, total, and direct.

You can practically feel all these various components coming together in the Eight of Wands, practically hear the "whoosh!" as they fly. This is a card of the present tense, action and motion and now-now-now. But to truly understand what this card is trying to tell us, we must ponder the before and after.

Some previous action set these wands flying, and they will soon reach their eventual destination. Cause and effect Exhibit A.

Waite's own words illustrate these ideas of swiftness and delivery: "This card represents motion through the immovablea flight of wands through an open countrybut they draw to the term of their course. That which they signify is at hand; it may be even on the threshold."

This week, ponder the things reaching their natural culmination, especially those things fueled by your blood and sweat and tears. The things you have aligned your will with, put your energy into, and blessed with your attention. Watch for signs that a conclusion is coming. Listen. You can hear it it whistling your way.

*This reading is dedicated to all my NaNoWriMo buddies finishing up their November novelskeep those words coming! You can do it! 

Sunday, November 20, 2016

This Week's Writerly Tarot: The Six of Pentacles

Some of us, when confronted with an injustice, like to evoke Karma into a situation. Like if some jerk steals our parking space, we can rest easy knowing that Karma will key his door one night while he's sleeping.

This force of cosmic reckoning is a bit more complicated than that, of course. And also simpler. And also more paradoxical. And it's represented in the tarot by several cards, one of which is the Six of Pentacles (which last visited us over a year ago HERE).

We are governed in the universe by laws of giving and receiving. Even our breaths, except for our first one in and our last one out, occur in a pair. Matter can neither be created nor destroyed, only transformed. What goes up, must come down (that's not really true, astrophysically speaking, but it's a good short form, like a haiku).

On this card, we see what appears an act of charity, a generous man of some station in life doling out coins to two grateful beggars. But consider deeper, as this card asks you to do. Pentacles are the suit of resource management, how we use and protect what we haveour material possessions, our job, our body. Because in the same way that a dollar bill is only a pretty piece of paper with some consensus behind it, our resources are actually our time and energy made manifest. They are symbolic of what we have already put in and what we hope to one day get out.

Karma is simply consequence, actions leading to effects. And the Six of Pentacles is simply the engine of the universe, neatly summed up by computer programmers everywhere as GIGOGarbage In, Garbage Out.

This week, consider what you are putting into your creative engine. Are you giving it your best time, your high test premium? Or are you giving it the crumbs of your attention, the leftovers after the dishes and laundry are done? If you don't like the output, consider upping the quality of your input. You're certainly worth it, and so is your work.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

A Tarot Reading For All of Us

I lay in bed for a long time Wednesday morning. I lay awake in the darkness, not wanting to push back the covers and face a very dark dawn. It's like the opposite of Christmas morning, I thought, and I listened to the sound of my husband's breathing and the first birds stirring, just as I had the day before, and tried to find consolation in that.

I did get up. Eventually. And I cried. Not in stunned surprise. No shock and awe here. I had hoped that a different universe would be revealed, a better one, but that was not the case. The universe I'd hoped for, the one I'd aligned my will with, was fading into the past, atom by atom receding from possibility. It remained close enough to sense if not inhabit, tantalizingly near, almost reachable. Almost but never. That made the heartsickness worse.

So I went for a run in the park, a gray run by a gray lake under a gray sky. Running is a moment by moment activity, one foot in front of the other, repeat and repeat again. I usually love winter runs, the muted palette, the stark finely-wrought beauty of bare branches and textured clouds. And I eventually came to love this one, because it got me on my way, and because it got me home again.

I didn't ask the tarot for answers yesterday. I already knew those. Instead I asked it for a piece of hope, something to keep me moving forward, and not just for me. For my friends and family who woke up on this morning with tangible fear in their hearts. Yes, I said, I have seen The Tower. And I have seen The Devil. Show me something else, please. Pull back the curtain on what I can do with my own two hands, with my own heart, with my life.

And the tarot answered with the Ace of Cups.

Love. Inspire. Dream. Bless. And above all, keep my heart open for the giving and receiving of love.

There were other cards complementing this one, cautions and caveats. The Ten of Wands, a warning to avoid burnout and exhaustion of the spirit. The Five of Cups, a reminder of the necessity of grieving. But the heart of the reading, its crux and center, was Love. The big good kind. The kind that connects me to you, and you to me, and all of us to each other, and the whole of us to the Divine, however you perceive She/He/Them/It/All.

May it be so.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

This Week's Writerly Tarot: The Eight of Pentacles

Eventually, all creative work comes down to the moment where you either do it, or you don't. So it is with zero surprise whatsoever that I see the Eight of Pentacles coming up this week.

This is the first time this card has appeared as a part of the Writerly Tarot in an official sort of way, but it comes up for me regularly, especially when I am in need of a clear and unequivocal reminder that I need to put myself in front of the page and stay there until the words are on it.

The Eight of Pentacles is about putting in work, hard work. It is a card of commitment. It is no-nonsense and spare and detail-oriented. It is the work of final editing, the slog of the home stretch in a difficult race. The figure on the card is absorbed in his task -- there is only the chisel and the hammer and the disc before him. And the task is all there is. He and his work are one.

I am sometimes a lazy writer, preferring the day-dreamy freedom of the Seven of Cups or the exuberant optimism of The Sun to such a clear simple mandate. In those feel-good cards, it is easier to understand how our imagination connects us to the better angels of human nature. We soar in that energy, gliding effortlessly in clear blue skies. It is irresistible.

But there is joy in climbing too, in beating your wings hard, in pushing your muscles to make each downstroke count. The joy of exertion, of striving, of being in the moment so completely that you lose all sense of time. Psychologists call this state "flow," and it is literally brain-altering. And when you give yourself over to the creative process of Making Stuff Happen, when you strive for the painstaking perfection of the Eight of Pentacles, it will often reward you with such a state.

Sometimes. Not always. But when it is magic of the truest kind. And like all true magic, it begins with choice.

This week, let the Eight of Pentacles be your taskmaster. Find beauty in the nuts and bolts. Seek joy in the striving. This is not an easy card, but it is a richly rewarding one.

And now...back to work.


Monday, October 31, 2016

Happy Halloween and a Blessed Samhain!

And Happy New Year!

For those who follow the Wheel of the Year, tonight marks a particularly special turning--the ending of one and the beginning of another. Which makes The Fool a particularly apt companion.

As with all cards marking the moments between in the tarot, the Fool is paradox in action. Resplendent in motley, eyes looking up, The Fool is all about the beginning of the journey. The Fool's Journey, as played out through the Major Arcana, begins with this first step and ends with The World.

May your journey around the Wheel begin and end with love, and laughter, and all good things. May you find colorful characters on your doorstep, and may you have sweet surprises the whole year long.

Monday, October 24, 2016

This Week's Writerly Tarot: The Three of Cups

For me, the tarot is the Swiss Army knife of divination— I think that's one of the reasons I return to it again and again, finding new uses and meanings and purposes every time I do. Last week, I explained how divination wasn't fortune telling, for there is no locked and fixed future as long as we have free will. Our choices will always unfold new destinies for us.

This active, fertile tension between choice and fate is why I sometimes ask the Universe to choose a card for me (my usual practice here on the blog) and why I sometimes choose for myself, picking a card that resonates with an energy that I would like to explore or that I want to honor with my attention and intention.

This week's card—the Three of Cups—falls into the latter category. See, I just returned from UU Womenspirit, a gathering of women honoring the Feminine Divine through song and circles, workshops and worship. Arthur Waite's description of the Three of Cups describes this energy perfectly: "Maidens in a garden-ground with cups uplifted, as if pledging one another. Divinatory meanings: The conclusion of any matter in plenty, perfection and merriment; happy issue, victory, fulfillment, solace, healing."

Yes. Exactly that.

So I chose this card to honor my return home, my cup running over, my heart enriched with memory and connection and gratitude for these women who shared space with me, who held space for me, who opened up new vistas and viewpoints and revelations.

I returned home to community too, my fellow Mojito Literary Society members, writers and poets and creatives of all sorts who are always there to provide support and connection and juice. I previously wrote about the need for such writerly connection as expressed in the Three of Cups—you can find that here—but we all need reminding. As I wrote then:
"We humans raise our glasses for lots of reasons: to toast, to honor, but also to pledge. That's what the three women are doing in this card — pledging and promising to be there for each other, and to hold each other to that pact. To help each other remember. And re-member."
This week, re-member with your community, with the people who keep you sane and joyful in your work, who remind you of who you are, who toast your successes and console you on your losses. Who are your connection to what matters: your own circle of belonging.

I raise my chalice to each and every one of you. Thank you for joining me on this tarot journey, however you come to it. I am glad to have you.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Why Tarot Isn't Fortune Telling (at least not for me anyway)

I'm away at a retreat this week (which explains why you're getting your weekly Writer's Tarot so late). Instead of doing a reading this week, I decided to reshare an older post explaining my own tarot philosophy. So perhaps you will get where I'm coming from in these weekly posts.

Back to the Writerly Tarot next week!


When I explain my tarot philosophy, one of the first things I tell people is that I don't practice fortune-telling. Perhaps this deserves a little more explanation.

When I use the phrase "fortune-telling," what I mean is that I don't use the cards to predict your future. Reading the cards isn't like pulling a piece of paper from a cookie. The "future" isn't a concrete static phenomena—-it isn't even singular. It is multiple. Our every action and reaction spins new universes into being—-and extinguishes others—-by the choices that we make. And there are so many universes to choose from, right at our fingertips!

This is what free will is-—the ability to choose. What tarot does is give you information about those choices-—what factors are influencing them, what consequences might lie ahead—-so that you can make decisions consciously, with smarts and awareness. So that you can create your future, not have it delivered to you at the end of your meal.

Tarot does this by providing a channel of communication for your brain, a pipeline between your rational conscious and intuitive subconscious minds. You know the kind of knowing that doesn't seem logical, the kind that comes from somewhere in your middle, the kind we often call "gut instinct?" That's your intuition. It knows stuff. Like a magpie, it collects facts and emotions and cause-and-effect situations and then in a non-linear and often mysterious fashion, delivers this knowledge to you.

That makes it hard to understand sometimes. Think of your subconscious as a vast library--lots of information on the shelves, more coming in every day, but unless you have a way to find what you need when you need it, pretty overwhelming. Tarot is like a very smart, very friendly librarian who brings you exactly what you ask for-—what you do with that information, however, is up to you.

By acting as a container for your inner wisdom, tarot allows you to distance yourself from your own knowing, which is the first step in being able to objectively look at any decision you must make. As your own responses to the images in the deck bubble up, you can examine your feelings, try out different scenarios, look at situations from a different perspective. The cards are symbols made tangible, the deeps of the human psyche literally right at our fingertips.

Some people accuse tarot of being woo-woo, spooky, supernatural. It's not—-brain science and psychology reveal its mechanisms in all their neurological transparency. All divination systems, including tarot, work perfectly well this way, as a scientifically explainable phenomena, as a clever hat trick forged by centuries of human evolution.

But does tarot also tap something mystical? Is it ever true divination in that it participates with an infinite universal knowing? Is tarot a way to connect with the Divine?

That's a personal decision between you and your spiritual conscience. Tarot works whether or not you invest it with any spiritual significance. Like any object—-cups and incense, water and wine—-it can be either sacred and mundane.

Of course, it can be also both. That's the land where I live. But you get to choose for yourself.

Monday, October 10, 2016

Tarot For All of Us: The Tower and the Sun

You might have heard that those of us on the lower East Coast had an unwelcome visitor last week -- Hurricane Matthew.

Like most tales full of sound and fury, Matthew left chaos and destruction in its wake. The death toll in the US was low compared to other regions, especially Haiti, but we did suffer losses -- the two communities I call home lost people to this storm, and it is somberly and with my gratitude that my family and I emerge back into the Sun.

But we did emerge. And life goes on pretty much as it was before those winds scoured our area, before the waters flooded in. The Tower has finally crumbled for us, and we are standing.

This is not so for many people, especially in Haiti. Trying to figure out how to help is hard, especially considering the problems last time this island suffered a hurricane hit. Charity Navigator is an excellent way to find qualified, verified, reputable organizations who can make a difference. Find that HERE.

Choose one. Send what you can. Do it with a heavy but grateful heart that you still have something to share.

Blessed be, everybody. May the Sun shine warmly on your shoulders, and may you share that warmth with all whose lives touch yours.

Monday, October 3, 2016

This Week's Writerly Tarot: The Four of Swords

It's been that kind of week here. One thing after another, deadline upon deadline, tedious detail work and odious clean-up work and work that's just...ugh. A week like this one puts paid to the old adage that what doesn't kill you makes you stronger. You might not have kicked the bucket, but you certainly don't feel stronger.

The tarot has a suggestion: play dead.

That's the advice from the Four of Swords, another one of those cards where the nature of the suit—in this case the active masculine properties of the Swords—is at odds with the number of the card. Fours are about stability and foundations—think squares—and as such, like to arrange all the ducks in a row.

Easy to do when the ducks are dead. But ah, there are depths to this particular dying, which of course isn't about physical death at all. There is tension in this card between action and passivity, and it is best resolved by remembering how the tarot looks at death (which you can read more about here).

The Four of Swords is about death, certainly. The swords it depicts are no longer put to martial use. They are now symbolic reminders, much like the effigy of the deceased on the tomb. In the tarot, death is always transitional. It is always active, even if it looks as still as...well, you know.

For busy folk, being still can feel like death. The Four of Swords understands. And yet, it asks us to be still anyway, to move through the discomfort, and to find ourselves whole and healed on the other side of our stillness. Creative work often feels like a 24/7 gig, and it often is. Even worse, it often comes with a terrible taskmaster of a boss, one who insists on squeezing the productivity out of every second.

Ignore that bossy boss this week, says the tarot. If you can take a nice long break, take it. But even if you can't, you can make time to sit with stillness. Breathe around the sharp discomfort. Unyoke yourself from the oxen of duty. 

Rest. Sleep. Perchance to dream. Who knows what dreams may come?

Sunday, September 25, 2016

This Week's Writerly Tarot: An Equinox Reading

Last Thursday, we celebrated the autumnal equinox here in the Northern hemisphere. Traditionally considered the beginning of the fall season, this day is also known as Harvest Home, the Feast of Ingathering, Mabon, Meán Fómhair, or Alban Elfed. It is celebrated as a time of harvest and balance when day and night are equal (though we must tack the modifier "almost" in front of that "equal"the equinox itself is a moment, specifically the moment when the solar terminator (the "edge" dividing night and day) is perpendicular to the equator.

That moment occurred on Thursday at 10:21 AM EDT. So I am a little late getting to my equinox reading this week. I've been busy-busy-busy. Not like the proverbial bee either. Bees never seem to be in much of a frantic rush. They move from flower to flower with mindful attention, each blossom encompassing the whole of their world for as long as they are there. They don't look at all the hundreds of other flowers and go, "Jeez, I'm gonna be here all day! How am I gonna get to all those flowers? It's already noon, and I've barely covered the roses, much less the ginger lilies and the frangipani."

No, bees do not do that. People do. And when they do, the Ten of Wands shows up in their lives. As it did in mine.

The Ten of Wands describes a burdensome situation. The figure in the card is striving to carry a massive bundle of wands. This does not look to be an easy task, and he is struggling. The Wands are the suit of passion, and as such, they can lead to over-enthusiasm, over-commitment, over-loading. All the over-things.

Luckily, there is much to learn in this card. Every wand in that bundle is there because we picked it up. We may regret some of those decisions (that Facebook party we signed up for); others we are happy to have made despite the hard work (like that workshop we taught or supportive e-mail we wrote to a struggling fellow writer). The wands we carry are the products of our choices. We can put some of them down. We can learn to be more discerning in what we pick up.

But how do we know a beneficial wand from an overwhelming one? How do we spot the tipping point before it's too late? The next two cards are the key: The Sun and the Ace of Pentacles.

The Sun is also a simple card (it last graced our presence only a few weeks ago, here, and also rose during the winter solstice, here). It brings illumination, enlightenment, optimism, and good cheer to our situation. Follow your bliss, Joseph Campbell instructed us. The Sun lights the path to it. Just turn your faceand your talentstoward that which warms you, that which energizes you, that which nurtures you.

Because the Ace of Pentacles is here to remind us that good productive work is one of the truest forms of bliss. It last showed up here, a smack-in-the-face reminder that I needed to get to work. But this week, it has a different message.

There is a saying attributed to Thomas Mann: A writer is a person for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people. As the suit of material concerns (think job and home and finances and health), the Pentacles describe how we integrate such practical needs into our spiritual practice, how we find joy in the mundane.

The Ace represents the energy of this suit in its clearest, most distilled, most potent form—pure potential. In the same way that all matter is really energy holding hands real tight, the Ace is both right-now and all-that-might-be. When you do good workand only you can know what that isyou are tapping that potential. Your potential. Where the finite meets infinite possibility. And there you are, surfing on the edge of the wildest of the wild waves.

This week, take a breath from all the busyness that you are surely caught up it. The equinox is a moment, and so is this reading, a snapshot of place and time. Remember your bliss. Connect to your joy. Do your best work right now. And in doing so, prepare for the next season.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

This Week's Writerly Tarot: The Four of Cups

It happens to the best of us. That sense of...not exactly boredom. Ennui perhaps. A jittery anxious nothing of an emotion that manages to feel both heavy and ungrounded at the same time. Quite the trick, that.

But such paradoxes are the heart of the Four of Cups (which visited us before here, almost exactly a year ago). To understand it, you need to develop what Keats called the negative capabilitythe ability to be in uncertainty, mystery, and doubt without any irritable reaching after fact and reason.

The tension comes from the pairing of a Four, a number associated with stability, with the suit of Cups, the suit of flux and emotion. So yes. Tension. Writers and other creative folk are familiar with this feeling, which strangely enough comes most often after some kind of success, especially a long-running one.

The key to resolving that tension is to first of all acknowledge it. That can be harder that you think, as our gentleman on the card illustrates. He knows something is off. He's puzzled why he's feeling so disenchanted—he's got three shiny golden chalices, after all. He's so consumed in his confusion that he can't even acknowledge the cup coming straight from the freaking Hand of the Universe. That is a Cup of Destiny, right there. And he can't see it.

This week, you may be feeling a touch of divine discontent, which is like regular discontent, except deeper and more tied to destiny and existential purpose and a whole lot of other Big Things. Fortunately, divine discontent comes with its own solution.

First, sit with the discomfort. Be itchy and restless. Fold your arms and whine if you need to. Second, look hard for the glimmer of gold. It will be close to you, perhaps as the memory of an achievement or a literal reward of some kind. Be grateful for that glimmer. It is a real accomplishment. Give thanks for it...and then look away.

Because the third step is the hardest. Unfold your arms. Let go of plans and worries and efforts. Sit for a moment exactly as you are, in present time and space. Let your mind wander. Ponder. Dream. Make way for the potential to come.

You'll feel the spark when it does. You'll know. And all you have to do at that point is wrap your hand around it.


Sunday, September 11, 2016

This Week's Writerly Tarot: The Seven of Pentacles

And here we have the Seven of Pentacles, a card that showed up almost exactly at this same time last year (you can read about that here). And I suspect I know why our Constant Gardner has revisited us.

We are a culture enraptured by forward motion. Our language reflects this attitude, our glorification of multi-tasking and milestone charts and the whole notion of progress.

We writers are especially susceptible to this idea. How many words per day? How many pages per week? A page a day is three-hundred and sixty-five pages a yeara whole book!and a book a year is...

And so the math goes. Staying in the same place feels like the opposite of progress. And I suppose technically it is, if we're going to be tedious about it. But the Seven of Pentacles asks us to reconsider the meaning of progress, and it asks us to do that by stepping off the fast and frenetic Highway of Accomplishment for just a minute.

Really, a single minute. You can time me if you wish.

The Seven of Pentacles is about assessment, an activity best done in a state of unhurried contemplation. You will be asked to act soon enough, for assessment is not an end unto itself. But for now, you must put your brain to the grindstone. There might be note-taking, perhaps even a dash of predictive analysis. We won't be going anywhere for a little while, but that doesn't mean we're not being active.

And receptive, especially to information. The Seven of Pentacles requires a certain pragmatism as well (the Pentacles are the suit of foundation and stability, after all). Close examination of your work in progress might reveal the necessity of a difficult sacrifice. You might have pruning to do. Some ideas might be best cut off and chucked into the compost bin.

Only you can decide. So decide. And honor that decision by making it in a space that is clean and clear and grounded. A still space. A silent space. A solitary space.

Trust me, the Wheel of Fortune will still be there when you start moving again. It may even show up next week.

Sunday, September 4, 2016

This Week's Writerly Tarot: The Sun

In case you missed it, we had a hurricane this weekend. Hermine cut across Florida and then swooped upward to thrash her way up the East Coast. She caught us in the tail end of her tantrum, knocking down a few trees and popping a few transformers. There was noise and wind...and then suddenly it was over. Five inches of rain were still gurgling in the drainage ditches when the clouds parted.

And the Sun came out.

And so here it is (it also rose for us back in December, which you can read about here). In a natural sense, the sun is the engine of our universe. Without it, Earth would be a lifeless hunk of rock, spinning and sterile in a cold empty sky. But with it, we have life. A brilliantly simple equation.

Such it is with the Sun card in the tarot. If you were looking for a yes, the Sun is about as yes as it can get. If you needed a jolt of optimism or vitality, turn your face toward it like a flower. If you've been feeling sluggish or out of sorts, let the heart of our very own personal star, our own solar combustion machine, energize you.

And if you've become disconnected from your playful, innocent, hopeful self, then The Sun has a special message for you. As creative folk, we appreciate the importance of joy in our lives and in our work. Those are hard to cultivate sometimes in the world of the one-star review and the hateful e-mail and the snarky blog post. Everybody's got a criticism, it seems, and some weeks, every single piece of it seems to be coming right at you.

The Sun shines on the crazy and the cruel too, even if they can't feel it. Pity them that. But this does not diminish the radiance being bestowed on you. The Sun is an impartial and generous lover. And it loves you very much. Smile for it, won't you?

This week, may every cloud reveal a golden lining. And may all your endeavors be warmed and nourished to their full fruition.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

This Week's Writerly Tarot: The Hermit

I must confess a special affinity for the Hermit (who last visited us almost a year agoyou can read about that here). Each card in the major arcana has specific zodiacal associations, and this one resonates with the energy of Virgo. We Virgos have a (somewhat earned) reputation as the sign of  the Ultra-Mega Introvert. Our mascot is the porcupine in full prickle, and our motto is, "I vant to be alone."

The Hermit spies us in our solitariness, acknowledges us with a dip of his lantern. I see you over there all by yourself. Carry on, my solitary child.

Virgos and Hermits get along well because they both understand the concept of sovereigntyto be beholden only to oneself. Independent. Contained. Self-sustaining. These are key to understanding the nature of both Hermits and Virgos. Like the virgin forest untouched by chainsaws and bulldozers, those of us who fall under the sign of the astrological virgin know how to be complete and solitary at the same time.

The Hermit understands too. That's probably why he's shown up. Have you been too much of a social butterfly recently? You should probably stop flapping your pretty wings and ponder for a second. How is your relationship with your art going? I don't mean sales and reviews; I mean the deep soul work. Are you tapping new springs in your psyche? Making time for the subconscious to bubble up some new inspiration? Has there been any solitary daydreaming in your life? Any at all?

This week, remember that everything needs a little dark, deep, down time, especially seeds. Especially you. There's a time for connection, and a time to be alone. The Hermit says that at least for this week, your own company is the best company.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

This Week's Writerly Tarot: The Moon

And the moon never beams
Without bringing me dreams....

from "Annabel Lee" by Edgar Allan Poe

Ah, yes. The Moon. We have been in this place before, very recently in fact, during our Summer Solstice three-card reading when The Moon came up as one of the supporting cards.

But that is the nature of the moon. Unlike the still and steady Sun, the Moon is a creature of motion and flux. Its appearance changes ever-so-slightly from moment to moment, moving through its phases: dark, crescent, full. Waxing and waning, waning and waxing, sometimes its face is invisible to the eye, hidden in the shadow of the Earth. Sometimes it shines in full illumination.

But regardless of whether or not we can see it, it is always there. And it will always return. Its approximately 28-day cycle moves it in correspondence to the female menstrual cycle, tying it to the process of creation itself. Birth and death and rebirth, chaos and order, dissolution and coagulation. These are the energies of the moon, and as such, The Moon.

This passage from The Druidcraft Tarot explains this card very well:

As we enter the realm of the moon, we come to a source of creativity: the world of the imagination and dreams—a mysterious and intriguing realm that can ensnare us in delusion as well as inspire us with visions. It is the realm of enchantment, which can be both positive and negative. It is here that we must use our powers of discrimination. The challenge offered by the Moon is to...separate truth from illusion, while at the same time allowing yourself to be open to the realm of the imagination and psychic vision.
This week, take a step into the moonlight. Ask one of your pet fears to sit with you in that pearly glow. There will be shadows. There always are. But just remember: a shadow is simply substance plus light.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

This Week's Writerly Tarot: The Empress

And if last week's woman power trilogy wasn't enough, this week we have the Empress, the ultimate in fertile, fecund, wild female energy. She's the essence of creation, and here she is, right now. Just for you.

And me, of course. All of us. The Empress is a card of abundance, and as such, does not parcel out her favors in bits and pieces. They come like the spring tides, and they come for everyone willing to open to them. Heady stuff, this. It can be a little overwhelming. But trust her; she's done this before. Many many times, as many times as the Earth has circled the Sun.

This week, be prepared to get caught up in the rush of creation. And I mean that literally. Sharpen your pencils. Make some tea or coffee or mojitos, whatever fuel best revs your engine. Clean up your desk so that the sunlight can catch it slantwise. Perfume your wrists. Play whatever music lights the fires of creation, or if music isn't your thing, really tune in to the ambient sounds around you, the tick of the clock and whirr of the fan. Turn off the phone (or take it off the hook for those of you who still practice the ancient art of landlines). The Empress is a creature of the senses, and she responds to the sensuous.

Make time. Make space. She will come. And she will bring you a special gift, just for you, because you are her special one. Shhh. Don't tell the others; just enjoy the attention.


Sunday, August 7, 2016

This Week's Writerly Tarot: Judgment, Strength, and Justice

Judgment. It comes up a lot around here. And I'm not talking about judgey-judge judgment, or even the more polite judgment of discernment. Like Death, Judgment is one of those cards whose meaning is more nuanced and archetypal than the dictionary definition.

To paraphrase Inigo Montoya, it doesn't mean exactly what you might think it means.

Judgment is often called Rebirth in the tarot, and yes, that is exactly what you think it means. And as I noted before, this cards turns up a lot for me (and for you, dear reader, since you're here and all). It turned up most recently in June, in my big Three-Card Summer Solstice reading, and also here and here. Judgment and I have some history, which is fine—I understand that rebirth is often a multi-step process—so I asked for some further classification this time around.

Dear Judgment, I said, care to elaborate on what exactly you are illuminating?

And the answer was even bigger than the question. For corresponding factors, I got Strength and Justice (you can click on the links to read my take the last time those cards showed up). It's like old home week around here, all these familiar faces. So what does it mean, all of them showing up again, this time in each other's company.

My thinking? For one, there is something BIG on the horizon. These are all major arcana cards, which means this next step in our rebirthing is going to be a doozy.

And for two, it's got the presence of the Divine Feminine written all over it.

Just look at those cards. There's Justice with her sword and scales, severity and mercy all in one swift impersonal stroke. And there's Strength, with her hand in the lion's mouth, the very emblem of soft, yet powerful, control.

So what's up for us creative folk this week? I'd say that whatever you have been working on over the past few monthsor the past lifetimeis going to reach an interesting stage in its gestation. You might need a midwife to help you along. And by that, I mean all the fierceness of the female way of thinking and knowing and being in the world.

This might be in the form of an actual woman you know, a friend or sister or daughter, a mother or mother figure, a mentor or maven or minister. If this is this case, she will have advice. There will be wisdom on her lips and she will offer it freely. It would be oh-so-smart to heed those words this week.

But She Herself might show up, usually veiled and in your peripheral vision. In that case, get in touch with the part of you that connects to others even as it remains sovereign unto itself. Open your heart and mind simultaneously. Listen for the whisper that comes from just over your shoulder, the nudge and the pull, the feeling in your gut. Let your feet take a spiraling path instead of the straight and narrow. Stand in your truth. Walk in it too. Speak it as clearly as you can. And know that forgiveness and compassion and empathy are not weaknesses. No, they are actually quite muscular. As is She.

What has all of this got to do with writing? I don't know. But I am certain, absolutely certain, that I will know, in a very little while. And so will you.

Sunday, July 31, 2016

This Week's Writerly Tarot: The Nine of Cups

Today the Wheel of the Year turns, ushering in the Gaelic feast day of Lughnasadh, the first of the mid- to late-summer harvest festivals celebrated through Ireland, Scotland and the Isle of Man. Also known as Lammas, or "loaf-mass," in English-speaking countries, this holiday is a celebration of the first wheat harvest, and all the goodness that derives from that grain, especially bread.

Bread is more than physical sustenance—it is also a symbol of our connection to the cycles of life, and to each other. It is no coincidence that the word "companion" come from the Old French compaignon, literally "one who shares bread" (the Latin com which means "together" and panis which means "bread").

I was thinking about these themes when I turned over the card for this week's reading, so I was not a bit surprised to see the Nine of Cups shining there. What a bountiful card this is, and what an appropriate day for it to grace our presence. It does come with one warning, though—in abundance, we must also be generous. This card is often called the "wish" card, but as those old stories about genies illustrate, we must be careful what we wish for. We must never confuse abundance with a static state, a have or have-not duality. Generosity is an energy, less about the bread than the active breaking of it.

This week, ponder the nature of your resources both creative and otherwise. Who do you break bread with, both literally and figuratively? Who shares the abundance of your table? Who invites you to share in theirs? Think about these people this week, both past and present. Connect to them in your thoughts, and if possible, in your words. Perhaps even bake some actual, honest-to-goodness bread to share with them, a tangible symbol of your gratitude for their presence in your life. Here is a very simple, and very good, recipe. Don't let your resources stagnate with you.

For this is the truth all creative folk understand—we are not islands unto ourselves. Our art connects us to each other, and to the Universe. Not a word we write exists in isolation for we are using the same ancient tools—in the case of us English speakers, twenty-six of them—that have been used for thousands of years. We are artisans and architects, keepers of a sacred well, tenders of an old old fire. When we sit down to the page, we are always in good company. And as such, we should always be grateful. We should always raise our metaphorical cups in salute.

Have a blessed Loaf Day! May it be fruitful now and throughout your harvest season!