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.

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