Monday, February 22, 2016

The Lion in Winter

“And the lion walks close by his side, unwilling henceforth to part from him: he will always in future accompany him, eager to serve and protect him. He goes ahead until he scents in the wind upon his way some wild beasts feeding; then hunger and his nature prompt him to seek his prey and to secure his sustenance. It is his nature so to do.”  
         Yvain, the Knight of the Lion
         Chr├ętien de Troyes


Do they still teach these old-fashioned things in school? That March comes in like a lion? Our El Nino weather pattern is supposed to still have potential to bring storms to California but February has been showers with sunshine and warm weather this year. So the lion sleeps tonight as it has most of the month.

Lion imagery is generally something we like in Western culture. MGM’s lion may have been toothless but gave mighty roars before thrilling cinema goers were treated to the latest show for years. Lion lovers created an uproar at the death of one lion by a proud but reviled American dentist, pleased with his big game kill. Animal lovers mourned the death of the king of beasts as an individual as much as they mourned the loss of a symbol of the dwindling wildlife on our planet. While all my classmates seemed to be dazzled by horses in my primary school years, I was in love with cats of all sizes including Elsa the lioness. Instead of wanting to ride the wind, I wanted the ferocious thing to love me instead of eat me.
Art Postcard Tarot
(c) Copyright 2010 Marcia McCord

Later I went to a live production of the Lion King and marveled at the set, costuming, dance and song that celebrates life, even the difficult parts. Rather than portray all lions as good—or even all lions as man-eaters and bad—the theatre production showed that individuals may be good or bad, make good or bad choices, but in the larger scheme of things lions are necessary as part of the World.

The Strength card in Tarot shows the lion soothed by the lady, the urge to be a predator tamed by wisdom, patience, understanding and compassion. If the predator gives in to the lust for the kill, it may eat well for a day, but the excess will rot and eventually the predator will starve. If the predator has his teeth and claws removed, it may well starve as well, since lions are meant to eat meat, not grass and leaves. Strength, then, is more than the obvious momentary overpowering single effort. Long-term survival means exercising both immediate action and control at the same time. If you must destroy or consume, measure carefully. It speaks to our inner voices, the voice that says, “I want,” and the one that says, “Easy, there.”

The conservation of nature requires that same balance. As a dominant species, we must consume something to survive. We must leave a carbon footprint in order to be in the physical world. We’ve become over-achievers when it comes to consumption. We don’t always notice this; it feels like everyday life. We have to get to work and be able to work and be rewarded in some form of payment in order to afford food, shelter, safety, health and the care of our children. And we all want a little something extra on top for our souls: Music, art, cosplay, religion, leisure activities, or improvement of some kind.

And one of the phenomena of modern society—was it ever thus?—is that we’re having trouble distinguishing need from want. Chicken soup for the soul, yes, but must we have the cheesy artichoke dip and artisan bread appetizer with our prime rib for the soul with fries and the lava cake a la mode for dessert? What is necessity? What is luxury?

If the lion is appetite and urge, the tamer is the triumph of wisdom over urge, the soft voice of good sense in the ear of the beast that helps regulate the primitive power within. The lion is not shown as caged, shackled, defeated, declawed, shot and killed like a trophy as if killing the powerful thing somehow transfers the power to the killer. The lion is shown responding to gentleness, calming, beauty, kindness, good intent, understanding, compassion. These are effective over time, so the strength displayed is one of endurance.

I attended an event recently that focused not on big predators but on birds, the Flyway Festival. Many groups were represented, coming together to preserve wildlife and make sure that human appetite is gently reminded that if we eat the big blue cookie that is our planet, we don’t get another one. I’m older now. I don’t expect wild animals to be my friends just because I have friendly intentions. 

Instead I honor their wild nature and try to help, together with others, support efforts that will help provide places where wildlife can be wild for generations to come and not consumed by the out-of-control appetites of supposedly more intelligent beings. I hope that in the winter wind, the lion can hear the soft voice of wisdom encouraging it to endure for generations to come.

Best wishes.

Monday, February 1, 2016

The Devil You Know

I had both kids for the afternoon. Anna is 13 going on 30; Dylan is 15. I’m their favorite Gramma, at least that’s what they tell me. That’s good enough for me. I’m hoping they tell their real grandmothers the same thing.

They are just the age I wanted to teach, when I thought I was going to teach. My life took a different turn and at the point where I was on the Devil’s horns of my Career Decision That Would Set The Course For My Whole Life, I went for the bucks as a legal secretary instead of teaching. 

But still. The temptation that I might set fire to young minds, especially those at the age when the watchwords are, “I’m bored!” Those words are like a red flag in front of the bull for me. A million thoughts run through my head when I hear them. Bored??? Think of the Library of Alexandria! Sorry, I didn’t mean to spit on you. But, there’s got to be something out there my darlings will find “not boring.”

“We want to watch horror movies!” was the cry from the chorus.

Good, I thought. I want to watch horror movies too. I want a good one, one that’s scary, not gory. Hack ‘em ups are nothing but kids with ketchup packets poised under their sneakers waiting for their all-too-suspecting victims, the viewers, for the chance at the Big Splash. Gore is not horror; it’s revulsion. They’re different, ok?

“OK,” I agreed, “and let’s find a good one. There are so many stupid ones and ones that are just ooky. I want something that’s scary, good and scary.”

A friend of mine had recently read an old blog entry and had said they liked what I said about things that were really scary. It wasn’t the people dressed up in silly suits. It was…

“Hey, you know what’s really scary?”

Well, that’s a question that can start a bunch of freaky stories. The kids’ eyes got big.

“OK, so you’ve seen Poltergeist, right? There’s a lot of scary stuff in there, or stuff that’s supposed to be scary. Like the ghosts from the graveyard or voices from the television. But the scariest scene in Poltergeist for me was the steak.”

Steak? Their eyes were question marks.

“Well, yeah, the steak. When the steak crawled across the counter, that moment was the scariest thing for me. What’s scary is when everything seems perfectly normal. And then something does something it isn’t supposed to do. Like a steak crawling across a kitchen counter by itself. That’s…that’s not OK. That’s not right. That’s the world taking a very weird tilt. It makes you question the entire basis of reality.”

Anna nodded, thoughtful.

“So, Dylan, don’t you have favorite monsters? People LOVE Dracula, Frankenstein, Godzilla. But, dude. That steak….”

The Shining, The Shining!” Dylan insisted as we scrolled through Netflix offerings.

“OK,” I agreed. “Stephen King knows what’s scary. At some point, if you want a scary story, I recommend Ghost Story, a great little revenge story, or Pan’s Labyrinth, a lesson on choosing the devil you know.” I think of the Devil card in the Tarot, how it shows myriad horrors and in our modern interpretation so often means addiction and loss of freedom that we might have avoided. Think cultural context.

I planted a seed. I could tell. So we watched The Shining and as we did, we talked about the movie just a bit, then after it was over, quite a bit more.

“She’s kinda dumb,” Anna pointed out about Wendy Torrance.

“She is, isn’t she? And isn’t that one of the scariest things you could think of, especially if you were 6 year old Danny Torrance? That the person who was supposed to be always on your side, a Super Hero who can fix anything, answer any question, make everything better, your mom is nearly useless when you really need her?”

Jack Torrance is typing in the high-ceilinged lobby. All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. We’ve watched him succumb to darkness slowly, and we’ve known it was coming. But suddenly, he swears at Wendy who has meekly interrupted him.

“There!” I pounce, startling the kids. “No, seriously, this is the first use of the F word you’ve heard in the movie, which is at least one reason it is rated R, right? This isn’t just cussing. This is creative use of cussing. It’s verbal violence that signals that things are rapidly going to go bad from here. This is a creative device, not just to imitate what you hear on the schoolyard from your foul-mouthed schoolmates. The use of this is meant to shock you, to focus your attention that things are not going to get better after this.”

“Huh,” they both mutter in unison. Creative cussing was not something they had thought of. The idea that the writer, the director, all the people involved in telling the story do all these things purposefully to affect the audience, them starts to creep into their awareness, a lot like a steak crawling across the counter. I can tell Anna likes the idea of control of the audience. She’s more likely to be the creative artist, affecting the crowd to her making. Dylan would do the special effects engineering.

When it’s over, I say, OK, let’s talk about the movie. Did you know that the actor Danny Lloyd thought of making his finger move when his “imaginary” friend Tony talked? That he never saw any of the scary parts during filming so he wouldn’t be really afraid? Having him have a nearly blank face was important because he should have looked more scared and didn’t. And that made the movie even scarier for us.

One of things about scary movies is that often we know what to be afraid of when the characters in the movie don’t. So we’re yelling, Danny, don’t go in room 237!! If Mr. Hallorann said not to go in there, and he knows about the Shining, don’t go in there. He does of course and he comes out scratched and drooling.

“Let’s look at the things in that movie that are the things that scare us. Stephen King is really good at honing in on what scares you. He makes the characters as real as possible to you, so that when the scary thing happens, it’s happening to you, too. So what’s scary in The Shining? Daddy turns into the monster, which maybe wasn’t much of a stretch from perhaps sleazy writer. Mommy is nearly helpless, so you don’t get rescued. You sense things other people don’t, making you feel even more alone. The Overlook is so remote and huge and increasingly your connection to the outside world gets farther and farther away by the snow, the telephone going out, the rooms being so many and so huge, people being in different rooms, the radio being disconnected and the snowcat being disabled. 

"Locked doors can’t protect you from a madman with an axe, the lady in the bathtub is the Thing Under the Bed, and the little girls, their father and Lloyd the bartender are seductive drawing you father into the Monster which is The Overlook itself. It’s dark. It’s cold. You get agoraphobia and claustrophobia in one movie! And the monster can kill strong people with Special Powers, like Mr. Hallorann who was supposed to rescue you. The window Mommy pushes you out of in the bathroom is too small for her to come through. You’re on your own against things that are too big and too awful. Any questions about what’s scary here? The blood coming out of the elevator ends up being just show, the ‘ick factor’.”

I’m in full Professor mode. At least they are still listening.

Now, think of the other kinds of scary movies. All the Alien and "Big Bug" movies are talking about fear of things that are completely different from you, xenophobia, “you aren’t from around here” and specifically things that may consider you food if they consider you at all, a theme so prevalent in H. P. Lovecraft's work. And look how monsters have changed from the 1950’s when we were all afraid of what a nuclear attack and radiation could do. From that fear we have Godzilla, supersized anything, The Fly, even heroes like SpiderMan, all born from the fear that our advances in science may have impacts we didn’t think about at the time. Drink me, Alice.

Fear of ignorance is another common theme, where people in their blind hatred become the real monsters destroying someone gentle who appears different. Fear of the dark or limited senses is a big theme. Parental monsters are a common theme, as in Snow White. How about inanimate objects becoming “alive” and hating you like Christine, the Terminator series? And there’s a whole religious horror category, the devil out to get you just because it's his job and he enjoys it.

Why do we enjoy these things? By watching them, we somehow hold dominion over them, conquer them and thereby little by little conquer our fears, shrinking them with the ray gun of our confidence, with the desensitization of familiarity. We get the thrill of adrenalin too and that thrill can be fun. Because what’s life without a little adventure?

Just don’t send in the clowns or cockroaches for me, OK? And keep an eye on that steak.

Best wishes.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015


Monday promised to be a hot day with only a little breeze. My set up for reading at the Antiques & Art Faire was quick and easy. I had remembered to bring my new patchwork quilt table cloth made by my friend Rosie, my box of tissues, even my sunscreen. Instead of dressing in antique costume, I had chosen one of my favorite tie-dye t-shirt dresses, something simple, cool and colorful for the day.

My husband disappeared in the crowd on a mission of breakfast mercy and returned with Peets coffee, a donut, a bag of ice, two bottles of water and some carrots. We agreed on an end time and he left to see his cousins who live in the same town.

I looked at the roofline of the museum under whose eaves I had set my table. I judged the unrelenting sun to encroach on my comfort at about noon. I was scheduled to read until 3 pm. I had a while to adjust for comfort. I shuffled my cards, Robert Place’s 4th edition of The Alchemical Tarot. They had seemed perfect for an outdoor antiques show when I had packed my things earlier in the morning. I spread them out into an arc and pulled a few out to show examples. I dug in my purse to get an old Carreras Dondorf Lenormand from 1926, part of my collection but also the deck I had determined to read with if Lenormand felt right. I remembered I still had a tiny crystal ball in my purse from BATS, one with an inclusion that would flash an inner rainbow in the right light at the right angle. I set it on its stand on my orange and purple patchwork. I sipped my coffee. I was ready.

It started slowly. One woman toyed with the idea, tracing the edge of the table with her eyes, at the edge of decision. She sat down casually, or tried to. There was nothing casual about it. Her reading was one of the most poignant of the year. I was riveted, understanding her question, including the unspoken one. On the surface, she asked casually, “What about work?”

It was not her question really, but some topics must be approached carefully. She wanted to give nothing away. So many clients are like that, smart people who do not want to be fools. I don’t mind. I see them do it. I understand. I read the cards. We talked about pulling in from giving so much energy away, the habit of teaching being so automatic, but the need now being to make the best use of resources. Of time. Time with family. I ached for her fears. I asked if they had suggested surgery; she would find out soon.

My table was set near the steps to the restrooms and I was very good as informal ambassador, pointing the desperate up the stairs, smiling as they returned relieved, repeating the schedule for the antique appraisal booth and the museum, taking custody of a purple-cased smartphone left in the restroom. So soon the wide-eyed owner, breathless, came to find it and was overjoyed at the reunion.

Soon, several others stopped and business picked up. The sun rose high in the sky and I hugged the wall for the last bit of shade and read for several other people. My husband surprised me with a sandwich and I hadn’t realized he was still around—excellent timing!

Just after I downed my lunch, one of the men doing appraisals came to me with another phone, black rubberized case this time.

“A man’s,” I thought, then remembered that my own work phone had some commando-black case on it so perhaps not. I waited for the frantic owner, the glad reunion. The sun drove me to the edge of the wall. I would have to move soon or burn. I started to worry about the phone and its owner. I pressed the button, just to see if it had some way to identify the owner.

No password! The phone was completely unprotected. I was shocked. In this time of identity theft, here was an expensive new phone exposed to anyone who might pick it up. I looked for the information that might provide the name of the owner. Jackpot! In the contact list was the owner’s name. Not only that, but the owner had put his wife’s numbers, other relative’s numbers and astonishingly his bank account numbers. My jaw dropped. What if someone else had gotten this? I quickly dialed his wife’s cell number, ringing but no answer. 

I asked the organizers if they knew someone by that name. Enough time had passed that I was certain he had left the antique show. Surely he should notice by now. A few minutes later I looked down and saw his wife’s name light up on his phone. Contact! I was too late but called her right back and we connected.

“Hi, this is a little awkward but your husband left his phone at the antique show and I have it.”

She laughed and we had a good chat about lost phones and sudden realizations. He was on his way back to the fair, having left his lunch mid-bite at a nearby restaurant. I asked her permission to give him a good scolding for having his cell phone so completely unprotected and she eagerly agreed.

Moments later he arrived, grinning, sheepish, towed by my friend, the show organizer. It was clear he felt exposed to women in charge of his well-being and was ready to take his punishment.

“Sit down,” I said, using The Voice.

“Oh,” he said. “A Tarot reading?” He was clearly confused.

“No, we are going to sit here and password protect your phone. And your bank account numbers are in your contact list! You’ve worked hard for your money. Why would you want to lose it to carelessness at the hands of someone who isn’t honest like I am?”

We looked at his phone features and decided it was better if his wife set the password.

“When we finish lunch,” he said with pleading eyes, “I’ll have her come to get a reading from you.”

“I’m much more interested in your promise to secure your phone. Pinky swear?”

We crooked our fingers. He brought his wife back at the end of the show and I read her cards, the last of the day.

The Sun finally won and I moved to the shade of the tall sycamore in the parking lot. Some readers think the Sun in Tarot is always a good card, shining its light in the darkest places. But that shining light can represent the unvarnished truth that’s hard to face. It can expose secrets that should be secret and leave you unprotected and burned. The choice is yours.

Best wishes.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015


I knew Saturday was an unusual day but I couldn't put my finger on it. It's like having an itch you can't quite get to or trying to remember who played the blacksmith in the old Gunsmoke TV series (it was Burt Reynolds--I can't let this become a mindworm for you). For one thing, there have been some unusual noises around the house.

My old dresser, a beautiful cherry piece with smooth lines from around 1840, has been making noises. Naturally, I don't notice them until I go to bed because I don't spend that much time in the bedroom (hold your guffaws, please). But on nights when I'm especially agitated, it seems to sound especially loud with creaks and pops as if it too is settling in for a snooze after a long day. I might think it was cooling but it's on the northeast side of the house which tends to be cool anyway and there's seldom a ray of sunshine that hits it.

Then one evening last week, I was pretty sure I heard a whistle in the hallway. It's a very small hallway, about the size of a disappointing closet and right outside the bedroom door. All noses were accounted for, especially those prone to whistling snores and this seemed to just come out of the air. Well, no worries.

Friday night--technically Saturday morning, everyone woke up yelling because somehow the television in the bedroom had come on at 1:32 AM and everyone had been nicely asleep, even Louie. Saturday morning at a reasonable hour I found the TV remote on the headboard above my head and was pleased to conclude I had flung my arm up and unconsciously turned everything on. That was something of a relief.

Creaks, pops and whistles I'm OK with. The occasional phantom cat seen in the living room does not bother me. I'm quite sure that the late Normie, from whose estate we purchased the house, is happy we're here because we were kind to him while he was alive. But the TV thing. That was going to be a little too much like a Ghost Hunters all-nighter. I prefer to find the mundane solution first and I'm confident I did this time.

Still, it left me with a feeling Saturday of not-quite-unease. It was more like expectation, like waiting for a spoon to be nudged off a counter. Nothing big, just...something.

I had a reading with a repeat client midday and hoped that what I said was something they could make good use of. I'd purchased a cup of coffee and drank perhaps a third of it, tossing it on the way to the fabric store to look for something. I wasn't sure what, inspiration maybe. I did find a lovely bargain that was just the thing I had been thinking of for a couple of weeks.

"Do you have your Hancocks card?" the tiny service clerk asked. No, alas, I had lost my keys more than a year ago that had my little shoppers card on it. I gave her my telephone number and returned home with my purchase.

I hung out online a while and was inspired to write something funny, about what an automated answering system would sound like if you called heaven (local call from Ireland, of course).

"Hello, you've reached Heaven. Our options have changed recently so please listen carefully and choose one of the following. For St Anthony Miracles or Lost and Found, please dial 1 and have your credit or debit card ready. For Parking or Barbecue with St Laurence, please dial 2. For hopeless cases and/or casino assistance with St Jude, please dial 3. Cats, dogs and other small animal issues with St Francis or St Martin de Porres, please dial 4. Travelers, please be advised that St Christopher is no longer taking referrals. Please dial 5 and a saint will help you. Wait times maybe up to 30 minutes, so reservations and donations are recommended. If you just need someone to talk to, St Joan of Arc and Mother Theresa have limited hours. For more information, please dial 6...just one 6, please. All other questions, please dial 0. Have a wonderful life."

A couple of chats and a quick reading for a friend later, and I was still trying to figure out what the unease was. I made dinner plans for Sunday night, checked messages in email and social media.

What?? What was it? Had I forgotten something? In Lenormand, the Book represents a secret or mystery if not a literal book. One end is closed and can't be opened. The other end might be opened but in Lenormand is usually closed because it represents information not yet available, something hidden. For me, I couldn't even tell what was hidden, let alone where it was.

I paused in my marathon of Midsomer Murders, sent a note to Mary K. Greer about an episode with a Tarot reading in it since Mary "collects" representations of Tarot in art, film, etc. At least it was a Swiss 1JJ deck in a Celtic Cross, even if (bring up strains of "Danse Macabre") the final outcome card was Death. I groaned at the cliche. It's a murder mystery, after all. And I decided to change into my "soft clothes" for the evening and went to the bedroom with the sometimes-noisy dresser to root for a t-shirt and sweats.

Something fell on the floor with a crash. I looked down and saw keys. At first they didn't make sense to me. These weren't my everyday keys I use with a red and blue Snoopy-on-his-doghouse housekey and a couple of dangling plastic seashells, something big and obnoxious enough to find in the deep bucket of my purse. No, these were Other Keys. Those keys. I bent to pick them up, filled with curiosity and the culmination of the strangeness of the day.

These were my keys from a year and a half ago, finally slipped from the pocket of a blue denim jacket where they had slept all this time. I picked them up as if they were a baby bird. Were they even real? There was the Hancocks tag and a couple others, the leather tab with The Hanged Man tooled into it, the keys, the electronic fobs I was afraid were in someone else's hands or smashed in a landfill.

"My keys," I said stupidly. What was lost was found. Well, no need to call Heaven after all, I thought.

Book + Key is the Answered Question, the Solved Mystery, the Secret Revealed.

Now I have to figure out if they went through the wash and ruined the electronic fobs. I think in Lenormand as well as physics, everything has to be somewhere.

Best wishes.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

BATS Post BATS 2015

Perhaps my favorite SF BATS yet, this past weekend was a blast of fun, Tarot, Lenormand, scholarship, collecting and meeting new and old friends! SF BATS is the San Francisco Bay Area Tarot Symposium, the annual event organized and executed by one-woman show Thalassa Therese and her scurrying minions of the Daughters of Divination.

Some of my dear favorites were not able to attend this year (You Know Who You Are) but those who attended were richly rewarded with serious scholarship in the art of cartomancy and serious fun in the off hours. And I have to say that my loudly-voiced complaint is still my lasting impression: There were just too many good programs to choose from. I was SO annoyed with my inability to be in three places at once to see all of the presenters' classes. If anyone out there has a spell for multiple instances of the same person in three classrooms, I'm looking for it!

Some (not all, by any means) highlights:

  • Carole Pierce's study of Virginia Woolf's surreal story "The Watchtower" and how many of the images feel much like a spread of Tarot cards. I have not studied Woolf closely in the past, so this was just like a welcome home to my original college degree in literature.
  • Newcomer Benebel Wen broke down just a few of the Asian written words for Fortune Telling and Divination with a look to the origins of those words as clues to their differences in meaning in Eastern culture. How wonderful to have this fresh look from a knowledgeable source! Catch her book on Amazon if you have not already.
  • The always intriguing Carrie Paris shared her new project which will become the Relative Oracle, sharing old family photos for an audience participation exercise in psychometry. It was a mesmerizing exercise, stimulating for the class participants and validating for Carrie. I couldn't help but catch up with Carrie after class to talk about the photo I had randomly selected from the pile. "Carrie, I had the most interesting experience! My photo was a man standing next to a little girl who was riding a mule. I couldn't get anything at all from the girl, but had all sorts of information about the man, including the message that he wished he hadn't smoked so much." Carrie laughed and told me that she wondered who would get that picture. Our instructions were to get impressions of people from the Other Side. My photo, as it turns out, was of Carrie's own grandfather (now deceased) and of her mother who is still alive. I passed the test! I can't wait for more from the delightful Carrie!
  • Mary K. Greer's discussion of Jung was great fun with slides from ancient alchemical texts juxtaposed with Tarot cards and Myers-Briggs personality typing tying in. Mary's work is always fascinating to me. When she earlier presented a choice to the SF BATS attendees between the Jung presentation and a dissection of the historical meanings of the Lovers card I was sorely torn! Why not both?? But of course, there was so little time and there are so many interesting topics. I'm holding out for a future class on the Lovers in History.
  • Rana George had a fun audience-participation Lenormand game to make us stay with that all-important question that is asked when answering using three cards. Her jumbo-size cards are from her new deck coming soon, so stay tuned! Rana threatened to be "mean" to us, but that quickly went by the wayside since "mean" is just not Rana's wheelhouse!
  • My own class on the Lenormand Grand Tableau was well-attended (so grateful for that!) and was a hands-on exercise with the participants setting out their cards and looking for the major landmarks in their own spread. Naturally the worst part for me was keeping the class to an hour because...well...I talk! Class members were asked to work through their readings with the tools they had (handouts handy) in a safe space. I was at least able to reassure good friends Don and Sue that the kids had not burned the house down while they were away since the clouds and scythe were nowhere near the house.
  • With all the follow up questions from my own class in the hallway, I barely made it to the very end of Kristine Gorman's class on a new spread Shaking the Tree. I was so disappointed! Lucky for me that we carpooled on the way home and she kept me entertained and awake by going through her class with my very own personalized class in the car. It's an insightful spread, great for a Tarot reader who gets "stuck" when reading for themselves. Happily all my A-HA!! moments were from the spread and Bay Area traffic conditions were ideal.
  • Vendor Market: I was on a budget this time or I think I would have bought at least one of everything. The vendors were excellent this year: my friend Beth Seilonen with her handcrafted decks and boards, plus: vendors of jewelry, tea, spices, crystals, pillowcases, books, decks, tiaras, boxes and the Millard Fillmore Memorial Garage Sale where bargains galore are snatched up by the clever early birds (that's Birds+Sun+Fox for you Lenormand students).
  • Donations throughout the conference went to worthy causes including the SF BATS traditional donation to bat conservancy in nature and finding a cure to white nose disease. Bats are key pollinators and bug-eaters around the world and do not get tangled in your hair! But another important cause was also highlighted this year. Tarot's bright light, Rachel Pollack, is now in remission from Hodgkins' lymphoma and while still taking treatments has a GoFundMe site to help keep her going through this ordeal. The generosity of the Tarot community was evident in the huge number of delicious drawing prizes. Rachel, get well soon and come back to SF BATS!
  • Finally, one of my favorite activities at SF BATS is something not specifically on the program. It's meeting with all of the brilliant attendees and vendors, veterans and newbies, where we can sit down and laugh and talk seriously about readings, decks, spooky experiences, projects, family and plans. I love my SF BATS family! And this year I had the pleasure of meeting Marieke, Benebel, Richard, Nora and Yolanda for a little extra conversation and connection. I was thrilled to see Bonnie Cehovet at SF BATS for the first time, a respected name in the Tarot community and valued reviewer of books and decks. I was gratified at the partnership between SF BATS and NWTS organizers Jay and Jadzia DeForest of Devera Publishing. From my "old-Bies" and "newbies", I felt the love and I send it right back atcha with big Aunt Marplot hugs and a reading from an obscure Sacred Text from 1971, Ace of Cups style, spilling all over your good outfit, drowning your snackplate and dripping on your shoes! Let's do it again--soon! Now, where's that cup of tea?

Best wishes!

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Fresh Ink

I took the plunge Sunday and got a tattoo, fresh ink. I was nervous about it, I'll admit. I couldn't tell The Hubs about it until after I had come home. I don't know why. I didn't want to talk about it before I had it.

It reminds me of more than 10 years ago when I was a manager of programmers in San Francisco. I had a great team of programmers, most of whom had come to the USA from the former Soviet Union. They had tested me in the first few weeks, passed me then told me that they wanted to find out if their new boss was fair. I was honored to have passed. I wanted to be a fair boss, not one of those dreadful nightmare managers who get some workplace equivalent of a Darwin Award for Boss Awfulness. I've had those bosses and knew I didn't want to be one. I couldn't make up for all those dreadful bosses, but I could try to be a good one.

One of my programmers was a tall young man who spoke very little, very precisely and was known to be an excellent technician. There was some speculation that he was arrogant, but I thought he was a combination of self-confident, truly talented and introverted, making him something of a cipher to the chatty managers and administrative staff. I learned quickly that he was reliable and quick, things a manager grows to like in computer programmers. I trusted him and perhaps more importantly I learned to let him be an introvert and not to try to bombard him with my extroverted chit-chat that other extroverts know means, "I LOVE talking to you and being your friend!!" but introverts tolerate, barely, with polite scorn.

One day The Strong Silent Type came into my office and said he wanted to talk. Very uncharacteristic, I marveled, and cleared my desk and mind to prepare for his message.

He told me that he was going to need to take a couple of weeks of vacation very soon but he did not know the exact dates. I checked the schedules for the team and while I was checking, he went on to say that he must have this time off.

I looked at him a moment and said, "Well, yes, of course." And I waited.

He shifted uncomfortably in his chair and made the rare eye contact.

"My wife," he started and stopped. "My...we are having a baby." He smiled a rare smile.

"Oh, wow! This is fantastic! This is fabulous!" I bubbled. "It's our first team baby! Can we have a baby shower for you? What do you need? Do you know if it's a boy or a girl? Do you have names? This is so exciting."

He drew back, horrified, blanched and set his jaw.


"No?" I stopped short and resumed being a "safe" extrovert.

"No. My wife...," he studied the top of my desk for inspiration in the wood grain. "We do not talk about the baby before it is born."

"No?" I repeated, sure I was in too deep culturally or something.

"No," he sighed. "It is...what? Bad luck to talk about baby before it is born."

"Oh." Well, of course. I mean it was their first baby, my first team baby, a tense situation and all. My Aunt Manager visions of fashionable baby clothes and adorable stuffed toys started to fade in the distance.

"Well, then," Marcia Manager resumed her dignity, "you'll tell me when you need to go?"

"Yes. Thank you."

The baby was born and we had a shower after the happy event when everyone was comfortable talking about the Little Darling, safe arrival assured. I checked with my female team members to find out if this were a common thing, not talking about the baby before it's born.

"Oh, no!" They laughed out loud, their teammate safely on Daddy leave. "His wife is just nervous."

I thought of that time when I was about to get my tattoo and realized I was nervous like my programmer's wife. I didn't want to talk about the tattoo until it was "born." The tattoo represents a lot of things, the way we cling to life and fight with it at the same time, the nature of love-hate relationships with just about anything or anyone, my DNA recently confirmed by a well-known genealogy website, and even the 2 of Wands. The 2 of Wands is the comparison between what we have and what may be. It is the process of learning and the need to embrace new things in addition to what we already have. It's a forward-looking card that expects that the future has possibilities, the past has lessons and the present is a tender moment that may tilt the universe one way or another depending on our choices.

I want to thank my tattoo artist Shotsie Gorman, who is a famous tattoo artist (and I admit I am ignorant of such things). I want to thank my dear friend Kristine Gorman, his wife and excellent Tarot reader for talking to me while I was mid-tat. Together, they have the T.A.T. Gallery in Sonoma, California, with beautiful works of art to sell besides Fresh Ink. Check it out, seriously.

And there are just two--two--places left available for you to make a last-minute decision to attend this year's SF BATS, the San Francisco Bay Area Tarot Symposium, where the 2 of Wands will be very busy. Kristine will be teaching a class on Tarot and I will be teaching a class on Lenormand. Click on the link and expand your world!

Best wishes!

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

The Pen

I’ve seen talk lately (I interrupt this moment to reflect that my synesthesia is apparently in play). Starting again, I’ve seen talk lately that schools are considering bringing back handwriting as a subject for students. How remarkable, I think, my wonder betraying my age, again. I’m in favor of it. 

I would hate to see such an intimate form of expression become lost among the ashes of the Library of Alexandria. No matter how much healthy self-esteem we want to instill in our youngsters, sadly not all of them can or should become doctors whose handwriting cannot be read.

As wedded to the concept of crayons as I was with their 64 or more colors, writing was always the skill of power when I was a child. Could you? Your name first, then other words appeared. Did your d’s point the right way or were they b’s instead? Did you run out of room on the line? And you learn to judge space rather than have a machine automagically pop the last word over to the next line. Did you stay within the lines, the two solid lines for the biggest letters and the dotted line in the middle for the shorter letters? Did you hold your pencil correctly, the extension of the point of your dominant hand, meant to be the focus of your conscious self, the mind within?

I went to Catholic school starting my second grade year. We used pens and learned cursive writing years before our public school friends. We had Sheaffer cartridge pens to learn to write correctly. My brother became fond of Peacock Blue ink and even dyed a strip of my long blonde hair with it one afternoon while I nattered on unawares, far ahead of fashion. My brother struggled with left-handedness. I had the scribe’s ink-stained callus on my middle finger. We followed the guides and practiced curling letters over and over.

Mom offered encouragement, showing us antique pens, explaining the “Palmer Method” she had learned, an artistry of loops and whorls that, practiced over and over, became the exquisite “perfect handwriting” I identify with her generation. Her signature was perfectly readable, stopping just short of calligraphy with no extra flourishes but possessing an authority, dignity, femininity, artistic motion and unassailable finality and gravity that putting one’s signature to a document was supposed to have. I was awestruck by her handwriting.

My father’s showed the vestiges of the Palmer Method, but with the architect’s angular precision and confident ego, much like an artist’s signature in red at the bottom of an important painting. His signature betrayed his personality as much as my mother’s, attention-getting, bravado, bragging, essential, aggressive, visionary, the signature of the View of the World As It Should Be.

I began to realize that signatures and writing were such an intimate expression of personality as to be like a fingerprint of the soul, the revelation of the mind of the one who wrote it, as much as we see those signatures on the Declaration of Independence.

What would my signature be? Who was the soul within? These are weighty topics, especially by the time I reached third grade. That year, I decided to explore my inner self in my handwriting and especially signature. I went experimental. This was frowned on by my teacher, young Miss O’Brien, the “lay teacher” with bouncy black hair and blue eyes who wore sneakers to work in spite of the strict dress code. I received the only C on my report card ever. It was clear that artistic experimentation with expressing my identity was something I needed to do on my own time. I gave up and returned to conformity, so often the result when the values of achievement and responsibility dominate.

By junior high school, handwriting was no longer a subject taught and I began to find my own voice in a signature, readable at least but neither my mother’s perfection nor my father’s ego. One weekend around the kitchen table, we were looking at my parents’ high school yearbook. They were in the same high school class in Kansas, my grandfather was on the School Board, my father looking like he should wear a beanie and have tea with the faculty, my mother looking like she would have been Goth if Goth were a thing in 1929. I marveled at the lovely awkwardness, how they all looked older somehow than teens in the 70’s and yet more innocent of the world at the same time.

I saw a signature on the margin of the yearbook and showed it to my mother saying, “I don’t remember seeing this yearbook before, but look! I’ve written Daddy’s name here in the margin.” It was the most curious thing.

She leaned toward me at the large round table and adjusted the glasses on her nose, then smiled.

“You didn’t write that. That’s your grandfather’s signature.”

I was stunned. I had posited that signatures expressed the personality of the person. Now I had mistaken the signature of the grandfather I never knew for my own. A million possibilities flooded my head. This was Hal, Sr. not my dad. And would that mean that his personality was more like my own? He had committed suicide just a few years later, a family mystery full of shame and scandal. Was that…me? My life? My possibility? Did we inherit the signature patterns of our ancestors the same way a grandchild will have his grandfather’s walk or laugh or gesture?

The Ace of Wands in Tarot is the new project, the inspiration, the intuition, the fire in the belly, the life force. It is also commonly interpreted as the pen for writers, for who would pick up a stick and poke it into a dark and wet substance, then guide that pigment to form the translation of human thought? Who would contrive such a wonder but humanity?

That signature in the yearbook started many things for me. I was inspired to know my relatives, including the ones long dead, as people. I was struck by the connection, beyond the boundaries of physical space and across time, between people who never knew each other in life. It was not long after that that I experienced a ghostly visitation from my grandfather with his love, sadness, and assurance that while we had much in common, I need not choose the path he took. For all our commonalities, we were individuals, as unique as life itself.

Best wishes.