Monday, February 22, 2016

Saying goodbye to BabyCat

It was a dark and stormy night. Rain thrummed against the panes and wind set the rocking chair to creaking. Dark shapes were just visible out on the front porch, weaving and twining themselves, seeking a way out of the discomfort.

That was fifteen years ago, and the dark shapes were two black cats that would soon be part of the household. We named them Zoe and Baby, and they joined (with much hissing, spitting, resistance, and eventually tolerance) our resident cat, Buster.

Both Buster and Zoe died in 2009, which left just BabyCat and I to carry on together. And so we companionably did, until this past Saturday morning.
Oh how I HATE having the power of life or death over another creature.

She ate a bit just now. Maybe she's rallying?
She can still jump up onto the loveseat as she always has - she might be fine after all.
She doesn't seem uncomfortable; maybe I should wait.
She looks so happy, sitting in her favourite sunny window. It can't be right to take her now, can it?

I miss her loud raucous meows, and how she tapped my arm with her paw when she wanted something.
I love how she let my granddaughter pet and brush her, even when Emily was very young and shrieking with excitement at the nearness of this black animal.
I miss the sound of her padding up and down the stairs to find me.
I expect her to come into the kitchen at the sound of a can opening or a bowl clattering onto the floor.

Now she's not there first thing in the morning, waiting for me to turn on the bathroom tap.

That black shadow visible from the corner of my eye is just that - a shadow. It's not my funny friendly BabyCat.

In her deck, The Cat's Eye Tarot, veterinarian Debra M. Givin calls them the "sweet black & whites". I agree.
BabyCat was about two years old when she came to us all those years ago, so I never saw her as a kitten. But I think she may have looked a bit like this. And I'm so glad we decided to take her in.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Words to live by, from Cinderella and the Art of Life Tarot

Have courage, and be kind.
These little instructions cover pretty much all life's challenging situations. And they are the recurring theme of the newest live version of Cinderella. I'm finding my life's philosophy from a Disney fairy tale. (At least it's not a cartoon.)

This also reminds me of that little book of essays, All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten.

First, courage.
Terrible things happening? Big bad things like death, car accident, cancer diagnosis, divorce.
Have courage.

Anger spewing out around you?
A large furious man accosts you at the holiday-frantic mall over ownership of a parking spot.
The troubled couple across the street begins swearing and threatening each other while you're over there helping them push their car out of a snow drift.
Your partner starts yelling at you and your kids.
Have courage.

Going outside your comfort zone?
Making a speech to 3,000 people, parachuting out of a plane, pitching your project to the board.
Have courage.

Then, kindness.
People driving you crazy?
The neighbours are lining up their garbage by your front-yard fence instead of storing it out of sight until pick-up day.
Some blankety-blank pedestrian strolls across the street in front of you, against a red light, then gives you the finger when you honk your horn at her.
You volunteer to go on a charity sing-a-long with the choir, hardly anyone else shows up, and the person in charge picks songs that no one knows and insists on singing all six verses of them.
Be kind.

Stressed and pressed for time?
You're racing to get to an appointment and just as you're getting into your car, an elderly neighbour pokes her head out her front door, calls 'hello' and starts to chat.
A stack of theory papers needs to be marked, the pasta pot is boiling over on the stove, your blog needs posting, the cat is barfing on the couch,  and your invalid cousin calls and asks for help.
Be kind.

Thinking mean and nasty thoughts?
If that idiot had just done this instead of that, everything would be fine. Duh!
Well, it wouldn't be such a mess is you'd taken my advice, you nincompoop.
Those people are so STUPID; how can they possibly believe that?
Be kind.

Sometimes, it takes courage just to get to the point where kindness is possible.
A loved one is estranged and there's nothing you can do about it but wait; the ball is not in your court at the moment. It hurts and bewilders. It's tempting to withdraw, pull back, push the beloved one far away, pretending that the relationship is not important. It takes courage to face up to the hurt, and kindness to wing loving thoughts his/her way.

A competitor is enjoying success, while you are not. Courage is needed to accept this fact, to look at why this might be so. Acknowledging her/his triumph with genuine warmth requires bigness of heart.

(All tarot images in this post are from Charlene Livingstone's Art of Life Tarot.)

Thanks, Cinderella! Bibbidi-bobbidi-boo.

Monday, February 08, 2016

Testing, Testing: The Raven's Prophecy Tarot

I love ravens. Smart, regal, and HUGE!

My first brush with them came in the summer of 1971, when my then-husband (a good ex) and I and our small black puppy camped the thousand-mile stretch from here in south-western Ontario all the way north and west almost to the Manitoba border. We were looking for lake property that we could afford; and eventually found, fell in love with, and bought, an island.
It was almost time for us to head south again, and the deal was not yet finalized (it would still be "Doris' Island" for a few more days), but our real estate agent sort of kind of implied that we might pitch our tent on the island without getting into trouble. We hitched a boat ride from the lodge owner on the mainland, who must've squealed on us, because we heard later that Doris was none too pleased that we dared stay overnight on her island.
It was an overgrown jungle, so we didn't get to see most of it that first summer. But we did hear odd clucking noises coming from the tops of the spruces and pines. Chickens? Roosting way up there, on an uninhabited island in a northern lake? No way! Then what was it?

Ravens, keeping an eye on their turf from on high, using one of their many voices. The poultry one.

Then there was this book by the versatile* Candace Savage, bought several years ago when I was researching something un-tarot related. (Sorry, the 's' on Jays didn't fit into my scanner.)
I was already crazy about crows, those sassy squawky guardians of the park near my childhood home. After reading Bird Brains, a collection of well-researched tales about the brainy brassy birds of the Corvid family, my fondness grew to admiration!

*Another of Candace Savage's wide-ranging interests is the history of witches in our world.

Back to the Raven's Prophecy Tarot.
A deck with Raven in the title? For me, a no-brainer (pun intended).

As usual when interviewing a deck, I prepared questions that seemed necessary for this particular pack. Shuffled the heck out of it, cut it into as many piles as there were questions.
Look at the first question below, and the cards that appeared; this cracked me up!

1. Why are there so few Ravens pictured in this deck? I find that disappointing.
Three of Cups

Ha, I guess you told me! The Ravens only appear in the suit of Cups, and three of four cards that came out to talk to me are Cups!
There's definitely a message here. Hm.
Some ideas that come to mind:

  • This is a deck where the emotions expressed are filtered through the hearts and minds of the ravens themselves. So the ravens naturally 'live' in the suit of Cups, the Watery suit of our feelings.
  • Ravens are powerful birds. To have them strewn throughout the entire deck would be too much of a good thing, and might tend to weaken their impact.
  • The iridescence of the raven's plumage is used in the artwork throughout the deck, carrying a bit of raven-ness to each card.
  • The three ravens are rotating counter-clockwise. There may be something in this, but as of now I don't know what. (The direction of skaters at public rinks? Water circling drains?)   

2. I'm tempted to lop off your borders. Any thoughts?
The Star 17

I get the feeling that you're going to make me do all the work here. Am I right?
No answer. Just ancient wisdom standing by, waiting for me to think things through by myself. OK, I'll give it a go.

  • There's a peaceful symmetry flowing here, a pleasing balance between raven-black and colours. It's perfect just the way it is.
  • The borders are narrow, and their orange colour has been pulled from the card's drawings. Tastefully appropriate.
  • The bright borders are a frame for the artwork. To cut them off might make each card seem less important. As they are now, each is a small work of art.

I'm convinced. No border whacking for this deck.

3. Your images are quite simplistic. Would you put yourself into the same category as other sparely-illustrated decks like the Wild Unknown, to name just one?
Ace of Cups

I'm a young deck, a fledgling, unique in the vast world of tarot. Please don't lump me in with others, but let me find my own way to your heart.

Allow me to find my own voice, and stretch my wings, in my own time.

If you are patient, we can grow together, side by side.

Once we are better acquainted, and I have shown you what I can do, you may decide that I am similar to other decks. It will be a conclusion based on knowledge, not conjecture. and I will be accepting of that.

4. I have yet to peek into your accompanying book. Is that a travesty? Insulting?
Five of Cups

Neither of those, but a bit sad. Our book contains thoughts about our deck and its images that may enrich your perception of our cards. It is titled Illuminating the Prophecy.

Your view of what an image might be trying to say may be a bit dimmer, more illusive.
Although, we are so evocatively drawn that further words may be unnecessary.

Did you know that our creator has written many books? Among them a series called The Raven Cycle. You may like to investigate that one.

As a matter of fact, Book I of Maggie Stiefvater's Raven Cycle is in the stack of books waiting their turn on my bedroom floor. It will make for great reading on the train to Toronto for another bookbinding course later this month!

The back.

The end.

P.S. You may notice that both authors linked from this post feature photos of themselves being nuzzled or licked by large mammals.

Monday, February 01, 2016

What do tarot and bookbinding have in common?

Technically, nothing.
So why write about it, then? Well...

For the past two weekends I've been holed up with five other people in the basement of a local bookstore, learning how to build books.

We glued, cooked wheat paste, folded, sliced, pressed, squashed, stitched, stabbed, pierced, took notes, made diagrams, made mistakes (lots!), commiserated with each other. Our teacher was an accomplished binder and patient slave-driver, always ready to bail us out of some ghastly bookbinding blunder.
It was by turns exasperating, exhilarating, and exhausting.

Yesterday, day 6, at forty-two hours down, eight to go, it hit me:
We were learning methods of building books - binding, sewing, assembling - that were used several hundred years ago. When the first tarots were emerging.

We chose finely-crafted papers to cover our small hardcover books. Papers made in Italy, home of the earliest known tarot deck, the Visconti-Sforza, which dates from around 1450. Perhaps the artist took his drawings to a printer friend in Milan who bound books for a living, but agreed to produce this odd collection of picture cards on the side.

Then there are the more mundane connections - books and decks are both made of paper, with symbols printed on them, which people read.
And of course there's the steep learning curve one encounters when acquiring any new, complex, frustrating-but-satisfying new skill. Like bookbinding or tarot, for instance.

And that's it. I'm brain-dead from bookbinding.