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.