Sunday, January 29, 2017

This Week's Writerly Tarot: The Lovers

"At the touch of love, everyone becomes a poet."

It's the first time The Lovers have made an appearance in the Writerly Tarot. I am happy to see them. It's that time of year when the trees are bare, the wind keen, and the heart looks for warmth, especially in companionship. This card certainly fulfills that promise.

There is the angelic blessing that reminds us of Judgment and Temperance, the radiance and power of The Sun, and the romantic pair that we see in the Two of Cups, This is the higher octave of that card here, a love that is more than romantic, bigger than just two. The unconditional perfect love of the Universe.

So what does that have to do with our creative lives? It's a good question. And the answer is that even though this card is very hearts and flowers, it's less about the feeling and more about how we act on that feeling. The heart of The Lovers is choice, for like love itself, it requires commitment.

You see where I'm going with this, don't you?

Your creativity requires commitment as well. You must make the choice to put yourself in the seat, open the document, do the research. You must choose your art over your TV, or your Facebook, or that complete veg-out on the sofa. Such choices are not sexy. But then few things about being deliberate with our work hold up to our fantasies.

My imaginary writer life always included a mountain cabin, endless stretches of time, the silence broken only by songbirds and a babbling brook at my back door. My reality is typing with one finger while I eat breakfast. Sweatpants and bedhead and trying to finish a scene before I have to clean up the dog sick from the tummy-aching Maltese. Nothing sexy whatsoever.

And yet, these are moments hallowed by my choice. They glow as if caught in the light of the rising sun, as if blessed by a celestial presence. This week, be intentional as you come to your work. Choose it deliberately, as you would a lover. Honor it with your presence. I guarantee you it will return the favor.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

This Week's Writerly Tarot: The Hermit

I went on the Women's March this weekend, not in DC, but in one of the hundreds of sister marches that took place around the world. Now this might not be big news for an extrovert, but I am a confirmed, dyed-in-the-wool, unrepentant introvert. Silence nourishes me; solitude restores and recalibrates me. It's one of the reasons I love being a writerI get to spend massive quantities of time alone.

Not that I don't like people. I love specific people, some of them very extravagantly. But people in a general, crowd-y kind of way? Not so much.

Imagine my delight then to see the Hermit come up for this week's reading. If the concept of "alone time" could be personified, it would be with this card. It usually depicts a solitary figure shining a lantern into the darkness, and boy howdy, was I glad to see it. It was as if the Universe Herself were giving me permission to lock the doors and silence the phones and be blissfully, mercifully, righteously alone.

Well...yes and no.

The Hermit does indeed herald a solitary time, but it is an active time, not a passive one. It is not a hibernation. The key to understanding the Hermit is that light he carries, one that has nothing to do with looking outward and everything to do with looking inward. It is the light that can only be seen in darkness, a faint true light thatlike the still small voicecarries truth.

This week, heed the call of the Hermit. If you are a writer, you probably already spend a lot of time alone. The Hermit asks you to spend time with yourself, which is a different thing entirely. Devoting time to yourself requires you to disengage from the common distractionsthe phone, the Facebook, the crisis du jourand concentrate on...well, you.

No reading. No cleaning. No to-do list. Don't try to squeeze a few more words into the WIP or knock off a quick blog post. Court boredom and ennui; let the emptiness unfold.

The Steampunk Tarot describes it thusly: "To see the glow of your own light, go into the dark."

Sunday, January 15, 2017

This Week's Writerly Tarot: The Queen of Pentacles

Last week an Emperor, and this week, the Queen of Pentacles. We are in royal company.

This Queen did not come alone, however. This week I pulled three cards from the deck (who knows why, only that I felt the need to do solearning to heed that subtle prompt is the art of tarot). This Queen came escorted by the Five of Pentacles on her left and the Five of Cups on her right.

This is decidedly unpleasant company. I was reminded of the scene in Dickens' A Christmas Carol where the Ghost of Christmas Present opens his robes to reveal the two wretched children, Ignorance and Want. Only here we have Misery and Grief. What, then, are we to make of the woman between them?

Quite a bit, because she is the key to understanding the forces at work this week, and in doing so, ameliorate them. When I see a Queen of any suit, I remind myself that I am in the presence of a sovereign, a person complete unto herself who is able to be and act from that completeness. Queens lead not by subjugation or intimidation but through example. They are icons. Touchstones. Avatars. They channel their energy for you to embody, and as such, are the interiors to the more masculine King cards' exteriors. They are the beating hearts of the tarot.

This Queen rules the suit of Pentacles, the suit of material concerns and physical foundations. What is she asking of you this week in your creative life? Don't transcend, she says. You are not above any of this. Instead, transform. Feel it all, even the painful unpleasant parts, and claim their power. Take care of yourself in this endeavor. Root yourself in that which nourishes and let that which does not serve return to source to be transmuted.

I cannot help thinking of another famous female royal, a princess and a general, and the woman who breathed life into her on the movie screen. What to do this week? Do what Carrie Fisher said to do: Take your broken heart, and make it into art.


Sunday, January 8, 2017

This Week's Writerly Tarot: The Emperor

The Emperor and I have, shall we say, a complicated relationship.

Back when I was working on a series of tarot pilgrimages to explore the energy of each major arcana card, I got hung up on The Emperor. All that seriousness and squareness, rules and order. The Emperor is the card of systems and structures, all that is constrained and solid and masculine. So very masculine. Uber-masculine. Not a curve on him.

I couldn't think of a single pilgrimage I wanted to take that explored such energy, so I asked my husband, the ever-logical engineer, for his advice. He suggested that we drive down to Cape Canaveral and watch the space shuttle take off. "It is the finest machine made by man," he said, meaning made by humankind, of course, but by man also. The space cowboys. Chuck Yeager and company.

And so we went. The drive was long, the procedures precise and rigid. We stayed up all night, fingers crossed the cloud cover would dissipate enough for the shuttle to take off. But it didn't. And so at T minus fifteen seconds, they cancelled liftoff. Because of clouds. Not rain. Not lightning. Clouds.

I fumed all the way home. "Clouds! Not even cumulus ones! Wispy spiderweb trails of misty not-quite clouds!"

Later the next night, back home in Savannah, we all went as a family to Tybee Beach and watched the shuttle from there. We sat on one of the wooden swings just past the dunes, all wrapped up in a giant quilt with mugs of hot chocolate warming our hands. That moonless night, the sky inky and fathomless, my husband and daughter and I watched the launch. We tracked that spark of human endeavor across the horizon for several minutes. Silent. Bright. A clockwork arc of fire and precision.

I chafe against rules. Still do. But the same rules that thwarted my pilgrimage plans were the same rules that built the roads and bridges we'd traveled and the car we'd traveled them on. Rules of math and science, physics and engineering. The Emperor had seen us safely on our way, and seen us safely home. Such is his duty, and he takes it very seriously.

This week, as you contemplate your work, remember the Emperor. He is the keeper of word counts and spellcheck. He likes clean margins and proper headings. If your own practice has become frustrating and wishy-washy, use the Emperor's energy to sharpen it. Get a timer and try the Pomodoro Technique. Put your metaphoric shoulder to the wheel and your nose to the grindstone. Set goals, small ones, and keep them. Makes lists and check off items one by one. Use a nice indelible pen when you do.

 And say thank you too, okay? Even Emperors appreciate a little gratitude now and then.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Tarot for the New Year: The Fool

Look at us, fresh on our first day of 2017! Last night we had champagne on our lips and confetti in our hair as the countdown took us to midnight, three-two-one and then that sliver of a second that is past and present and future all at once. It's as if a new world shimmered itself into being right before our eyes.

And now here we are on that proverbial edge, dazzled with adventure, a little breathless, once again in the land of the Fool. Haven't we been here before? Yes. And we will be here again. Such is the nature of the Foolalways setting out even as we are always returning home. Always seasoned and always naive. We are making a leap of faith. Is it blind faith? I would argue that all faith is necessarily blindto require evidence pulls the feathers out of its wings.

So...yes. Blissfully blind. To be Foolish is to court disaster. To be Unfoolish, however, is to climb into the box and close the lid after oneself. Safety as slow suicide. The new year requires us to wear motley and dance on the airy edge of extinction. We have been here before. We will be here again. We are, as Miss Dickinson so aptly phrased it, "zero at the bone." Betwixt and between. And as Schrodinger's Cat reminds us, neither/nor is sometimes a necessary state. A prelude.

It is my wish for you this January 1st that the New Year reveals a fresh slate for you. May you carry only what you need (or what you treasure) and leave the rest behind. May your horizons offer promise. And may your steps always land safe and true.

Happy 2017!

*This image of The Fool comes from Thalia Took, whose A-Musing Grace Gallery is full of tarot artwork and spreads and insight aplenty. Give her a visit at