Sunday, December 27, 2015

The Changing Face of Christmas, with the Tea Tarot

Where do we get our perceptions of a perfect Christmas? Certainly from childhood memories. From returning to our parents' home after we've moved away. And from the years when our own children were small. And later years when they came back 'home' as adults, and possibly as parents themselves. Were those times, those years, as wonderful as we remember? Possibly not, but there they sit, entrenched, as the model for how things need to be to have a suitably heart-warming, fulfilling Christmas.

What happens when this amalgam in our head, the ideal, no longer holds, or is no longer true? Christmas can be a minefield of memories, a teetering pile of wishes and hopes, easily shaken, terrifying when toppled.

Then what?

Well, you can try to change how you view Christmas day, which is a bit like pushing your stubborn, tradition-bound mind, Sisyphus-like, up a slippery, snow-covered hill, (or a very tall ladder). It's tough, but doable.

And when accomplished, is a smile-making, joy-bringing bubbling up of magic!

  • Does Christmas need to be thronged with parents, kids, and grands to be a success? Maybe not.
  • Is it possible that friends old and new, unrelated to you, usually not a part of your Christmas day, might be a worthy substitute? Indeed it is!

  • Can Christmas be a self-indulgent alone-day, graced with books, delicacies, ciders and nogs, music, tree lights and glowing mantel? Why not? Doesn't everyone deserve a delicious pampered day? Am I by myself not worthy of a feast?

  • Is it possible that the day itself is not the entire deal?
    • What about the weeks leading up to the 25th - don't they count as part of the season?
    • What about the 26th? Does it have to be a let-down? Aren't there still albums to play, beloved movies to chuckle at and weep over? Aren't the cookies still tasty? The fruitcake even finer than the day before? The trifle boozey and rich? The meats cooked and ready?
    • The Twelve Days of Christmas begins on the 26th and runs right through January 6th. There's an entire new thwack of festivity, ready to go! Check out Caitlin Matthews' 2013 blog on the topic for an interesting historical look. Or this comical fountain-pen version of the song, from the friendly staff at Goulet Pens!
  • Or maybe it's just another day, and needn't be elevated beyond a plain old holiday from work, to do whatever pleases, whenever it pleases. Drive through a fast-food place, take a walk, while away time doing puzzles, shop online, make bread, hang a painting, read 'til 3:00am, dance to a Latin CD, repot a plant, polish your Gram's silver, sleep in crazy late.

Break out of the old, and begin some new traditions of your very own!
What in the world would you like to do with your Christmas?
(All images from Marcia McCord's Tea Tarot.)

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Poems of the Season

There is a wonderful used-book store in my city, Juniper Books, which lives in a little house crammed to the rafters with a wondrous variety of books. History and politics gather in the former living room, cookbooks mix it up in the kitchen, mysteries haunt the attic, children's tales frolic in the dining room. I hope that owners past are pleased with their home's current guise, and find it as charming as I do!

Last Saturday, in exchange for a bagful of books given, I came home with an armful of Christmas reads, among them a tiny tome called Christmas Poems. One selection in particular seemed to meld Solstice with Yuletide and Christmas.

So as we near the magical time that is Christmas Eve, I give you my three favourite stanzas from
Christmas Eve by Walter de la Mare.

Dark is the hour, long the night;
Hoarfrost sheds a shimmering light;
The wind in the naked woodland cries
A harplike music; the willow sighs.
But a marvellous quiet dwells in heaven -
Sirius, Markab, the faithful Seven -
For the Old Year's sands are well-nigh run;
This is the Birthday of the Sun.

No glint of dawn; but Chanticlere
Is crowing of Christmas, bugle clear.
In waxen hive, close-wintering,
Bees a slumbrous orison sing;
Roused from their lair in dales of the snow,
Light-foot deer in procession go;
Cattle and sheep in byre and pen
Kneel in the darkness, unseen of men:
For the Old Year's sands are well-nigh run;
This is the Birthday of the Sun.

Hesper is shining - rime on thatch;
Stag-borne Nicholas comes - unlatch!
Children stir in their dream and then
Drowsily sigh and turn over again.
Airs of the morn in the orchard flow;
Lo, in the apple boughs, mistletoe!
For the Old Year's sands are well-nigh run;
This is the Birthday of the Sun.

The New Year's card is the Hermit, shown here bedecked with holly in the Wildwood Tarot
His lantern could almost be an hour-glass, where the sands of the New Year will soon begin to run.

I wish you joy and peace, merry-making and serenity,
and sufficient nog and cookies to see you through the season. 

Monday, December 14, 2015

Decks that don't smile

Every once in a while a deck comes along with no smiles in any of its images. None. Zero. Not even on the traditionally cheerful cards shown below, like The Fool, Three of Cups, The Sun, or the Ten of Pentacles.
Siamese Tarot

The Fey Tarot
Chrysalis Tarot

Mind you, I didn't go through all my decks. Only the 135 or so (!) that I've scanned. And of those, I chose to ignore animal decks: Animal Wisdom and Badgers Forest, and cat decks: Bohemian Cats, Cat's Eye, Pagan Cats, and Mystical Cats.
And decks with few human faces like The Raven's Prophesy and The Voyager.

The Sun and Moon has no facial features, so that was out of the running.

Only three decks came up with nary a hint of a smile.
Does this mean that I don't like them? That they're all frown-ey? Heavens, no!
That they aren't any good as reading decks? That they send off dismal messages? Not at all!
Each is elegant, beautiful, and full of imagery. Just serious.

Byzantine Tarot ~ Ten of Coins

Efflorescent Tarot ~ Three of Cups

Four decks that I assumed would be entirely smile-less were not!

For comparison purposes, I checked out the RWS; it has only 11 cards that have smiles. That surprised me; I was sure there would be more. I counted even those with the barest hint of what might eventually become a smile, using a magnifying glass when in doubt. But I did not include the nasty smirking one on the Seven of Swords.
Only well-intentioned smiles were allowed. 

Enough of this seriousness. Cookie doughs await! Chocolate Shortbread recipe can be found here

Monday, December 07, 2015

This picture replaces 1,000 words

Meet Simon Henry, who was a mere four hours old when this was taken. Would that life would remain this secure and simple for him, always. He's my fifth grandchild, and the first boy for our family in this generation. Welcome, little Simon! You bring the spark of precious new life to us all!

Fantastic Menagerie

Gaian Tarot

Ain't life grand!

Monday, November 30, 2015

"We have ideas yet that we haven't tried."

Big Magic is the name of Elizabeth Gilbert's (of Eat, Pray, Love fame) latest book. And it is magic.

Here's a small sample.
     Are you considering becoming a creative person? Too late, you already are one. To even call somebody "a creative person" is almost laughably redundant; creativity is the hallmark of our species. We have the senses for it; we have the curiosity for it; we have the opposable thumbs for it; we have the rhythm for it; we have the language and the excitement and the innate connection to divinity for it.
     If you're alive, you're a creative person. You and I and everyone you know are descended from tens of thousands of years of makers. Decorators, tinkerers, storytellers, dancers, explorers, fiddlers, drummers, builders, growers, problem-solvers, and embellishers - they are our common ancestors.
Gaian Tarot

Almost one hundred years earlier, Robert Frost was writing about the exact same thing - creativity - in this little poem titled Riders.

The surest thing there is is we are riders,
And though none too successful at it, guiders,
Through everything presented, land and tide
And now the very air, of what we ride.

What is this talked-of mystery of birth
But being mounted bareback on the earth?
We can just see the infant up astride,
His small fist buried in the bushy hide.

There is our wildest mount - a headless horse.
But though it runs unbridled off its course,
And all our blandishments would seem defied,
We have ideas yet that we haven't tried.
Druidcraft Tarot

Here's to flinging some creativity around!

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Changing times and brushing teeth

In the Dark Ages, when I was little, 
and learning to brush my teeth, the routine went something like this.

Turn on the tap
     Pull toothbrush from holder and begin the process
          Hang up toothbrush
Turn off the tap

The water ran at a robust rate for 2-3 minutes (possibly more, if things weren't going smoothly).
Did anyone consider how much clean water was being used? Nope. No one gave it a thought.
Water was like air - abundant, clean, everpresent.

This is Emily, my granddaughter

Emily and I had two sleepovers last weekend, while her Mom and Dad were busy birthing and bringing home a new baby brother. I was struck by the difference in Emily's toothbrushing routine.

Turn on tap just a bit, to wet brush
     Put toothpaste onto brush
Turn off tap and continue
Turn on tap to rinse off toothbrush
     Rinse out mouth, but not too much because the toothpaste tastes like bubblegum
Turn off tap

Water running lightly for perhaps 30 seconds in all. Does this upcoming generation think about water as a precious resource? Definitely!

The times they are a-changin'!
The Fey Tarot

I hope all your playdates are fun, and none of your bubblegum sticks to your face.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Oh! The Places You'll Go!

Oh, the places you'll see!
If you shuffle some cards
And come trav'lling with me.

Those lines above are not, of course, by Dr. Seuss, that most sublime rhymer,
Who knew that the meter
Was king of the hill.
If a real word don't scan,
He'll make up one that will.

Here's a tidbit from his story Oh! The Places You'll Go!
You have brains in your head.
You have feet in your shoes.
You can steer yourself
any direction you choose.
You're on your own. And you know what you know.
And YOU are the guy who'll decide where to go.

Yes, I am that guy, and at 25,008 words into the 50,000 word NaNoWriMo challenge,
I am still following the adventures of this young woman.
AnnaK Tarot

Over the last week, she's wrenched this young girl and her parrot from the clutches of kidnappers in LA
StoryWorld, Legends of the Sea

with the help of this kick-ass lawyer,
Dark Goddess Tarot (trimmed)

 and is currently in Australia at this animal rescue sanctuary
The Enchanted Map Oracle Cards

wrestling with how to get this violent mutant trickster
The Heart of Faerie Oracle

to this woman, who can help.
Gaian Tarot

To quote more from Seuss, at this point I feel a bit like this:
You will come to a place where the streets are not marked.
Some windows are lighted. But mostly they're darked.
A place you could sprain both your elbow and chin!
Do you dare to stay out? Do you dare to go in?
How much can you lose? How much can you win?

And as for how these two are going to figure in the story?
Wild Kuan Yin Oracle
Victorian Fairy Tarot

Keeping my fingers crossed!
The Raven's Prophesy Tarot

Regardless of whether or not this sort-of-novel I'm writing this month has any merit at all, the experience of arriving at my computer desk every day to find so many mini works of art waiting for me is a joyous one!
As Brian Goulet would say: Write on!

Sunday, November 08, 2015

NaNoWriMo: it's in the cards!

For the first time ever, I'm registered for National Novel Writing Month. And I'm so excited!

There is an idea that I've been wanting to try for a long time, and NaNoWriMo seemed the perfect vehicle to drive it. The perfect rack to hang it on. The perfect framework get the idea.

Corrine Kenner has written an interesting book, Tarot for Writers, which explores not only using tarot cards as character and plot prompts, but also contains a treasury of writing how-to's, some of which were new to me, others vaguely remembered from high school English classes. It made a great jumping-off point.

When one owns as many tarot and oracle decks as I do, and has a tantalizing stack of Caitlin and John Matthews' StoryWorld cards just languishing on the shelves, waiting to be put to work, choosing THE one-and-only deck to help with a novel's characters and travels is...well, silly, really. Not to mention impossible.

My protagonist just jumped into my head one day. She is someone who will relish some interesting times. Who can handle a challenge and love it. She's the Ace of Rods, from the AnnaK, and has just the chutzpah I need. I named her Sophie. But other than knowing this one thing, I didn't pre-plan anything, because I wanted this to be an adventure for me, as well as for Sophie.

So on Halloween night, the eve before which I was to begin this adventure, I roamed around the house choosing decks that seemed right. (They're all listed below, don't worry!)

Sunday, November 1st arrives! I can finally begin!
For the tarot decks, I shuffled and chose the top card. With the oracle decks, I looked through and picked the very first one that clicked. No thinking allowed, no second guessing.
Then on to the big beautiful StoryWorld cards. I have eight sets and chose two of them for this first round. And once again selected the very first one that grabbed my innards.

Drum roll, please! The Cast and Crew, round 1!

As of this writing, at 12,285 words, all the people and landscapes above are a part of the story.
Next challenge: how to fit in these remaining three cards. 
I'll find out tomorrow!

Decks featured above, beginning with the Ancestors, L to R, top to bottom.
1. The Halloween Oracle
2. Earth Magic Oracle Cards
3. All Hallows Tarot
4. Dark Goddess Tarot
5. Tea Leaf Fortune Cards (round)
6. StoryWorld: Tales from the Haunted House
7. Wild KuanYin Oracle
8. AnnaK Tarot (Ace of Cups,  this deck is trimmed)
9. Gaian Tarot
10. The Halloween Tarot
11. StoryWorld, basic set
12. The Raven's Prophecy Tarot

And then it's on to the Cast and Crew, round 2.
This is such a blast! 

Saturday, October 31, 2015

A Halloween Nine-Patch, with the Halloween Tarot

In quilting, this is a nine-patch. Tic-tac-toe. 3x3. My eyes like these a lot, and I love the number 9.

This morning, Halloween morn, I dealt out a nine-patch with the Halloween Tarot and decided
to read it with the centre cards being the anchor from which the side cards took their cue.
And not to think about it too much - just go.
(This is the mini-deck that comes in a tin, trimmed. They're tiny - the size of a business card!)
Wouldn't this make a great placemat?

Row 1
A wise Priestess knows how to quell the agitation of Imps and move on to a calm new scenario.

Row 2
It's always a balancing act, trying to serve both your cut-and-dried know-it-all side
and your softer, fresher, less jaded self.

Row 3
You're strong. Keep that in mind when tormented by little night-worry bats with sharp claws.
And remember it, too, when the temptation to run more amok than is good for you comes a-dancing.

Pumpkins; such a satisfying shape.