Monday, December 28, 2009

From Rough Waters to Smooth

Coming back from vacation is sometimes the opposite of what you would think it should be. Vacation is supposed to be that time when you put your feet up and otherwise do things you want to do instead of what you must do the rest of the year to keep everything going. Sometimes, though, you have to go back to work just to get your rest.

I just returned to work from my Christmas Stay-cation and even though there wasn’t much in the way of travel involved, I would have to characterize my last two weeks as 6 of Swords time. If the 4 of Swords is taking a break, the 5 of Swords is fully engaged in battle, then win or lose, the 6 of Swords is travel, whether in triumph or disgrace, from the field of battle to that opposite shore. In the theory that all the people in the tarot are the sitter, the person being read for, then the 6 of Swords means you take your combative, busy, engaged, tense, passionate little self for a little trip from the crashing waves of your emotions whipped up by winds of year-end efforts and last minute thoughts to the relatively calmer cove of, well, whatever you do after battle. For some people, that’s the party boat, well stocked with sunshine and happy friends. For others, that’s the little family camping trip with nothing more frightening than a squirrel with bad manners. I suppose for some that smooth surface is lethe, the wine of forgetfulness drunk from one of the rivers of Hades. This year, for me, it was at least not going to the office, logging onto work email and systems or answering the work telephone. You know you’ve been on vacation when your passwords expire and when you call to get them reset, you find out it’s only due to inactivity and you do still have a job.

Based on that criteria, I had a great vacation. So why am I exhausted?

Well, for one thing, the 6 of Swords never promised you any sleep. True to form, I often stayed up past midnight questing after some embroidery pattern or watching one more episode of Law & Order SVU or all my True Blood reruns or even Harvey with delightful James Stewart. And, at least since it was stay-cation, I also slept in past 8 am several mornings. For another thing, the 6 of Swords didn’t promise you rest, as opposed to sleep. One week into my 2-week sloth-fest I landed my 4th upper respiratory carnival of surprises in the last 3 months. The people who make Kleenix are probably reaping bonuses this year.

Not that this condition kept me off the occasional party boat with the friends, no, no, not me! A get-together with co-workers from the mid-90’s (that’s the decade, children, not our ages, no matter how tired I look) was a treat and I got to have that super-thin crust pizza at Palomino’s in San Francisco. I was blessed with the opportunity to read cards for someone else’s holiday party and had a great time. I’m sure those nurses are all business when they are at work, really. And no I won’t say where they work. I have the utmost faith in them. After all, I read their cards, so I know now. Not the least of my happy party boat moments was the holiday celebration at the ARC Solano where we bade farewell to longtime pillar and program director Mick Woodson and where my husband received an all-Santana themed gift package for his work as music director for the ARC Solano choir. We all got a chance to see the ARC Solano choir perform Christmas carols that are now broadcast over Vallejo Community Access Television (VCAT). Pa-rum-pum-pum-pum and Three French Hens for everyone! The VCAT holiday party was a great time too with their own Christmas miracle story. A woman whose car had been stolen and stripped a while back had gotten a new car.

Further keeping me out of the office for something completely different was our Christmas itself, spent with friends Frank and Seiko and the boys. I cooked all day Christmas day. We sat down at the table at approximately the time I had determined would be dinner time. And, to my mild surprise, it was delicious! Frank and Seiko contributed an old and rare bottle of Bordeaux that was exquisite to my uncultured palate, complimenting both the roast and the chocolate cake. These staples were of course needed for stamina for Day-After-Christmas Shopping in San Francisco, a quest that is not for the meek. Seiko and I are sworn to secrecy about our purchases so I shall say no more. We reluctantly passed on the Italian leather handbag of timeless beauty and $375 price tag (about 10 times what I pay for my used purses on eBay, such a fashion flop I am) but scored on the Purchase Which Shall Not Be Named. Add iced chai and cappuccino and we were on smooth water for sure. Even the thunder and lightning, so very rare in San Francisco, could not ruin our dinner for 6 at the seafood restaurant in Fisherman’s Wharf. Six was a good number!

Add to that some sweet photos of the great-nieces and nephews with their Christmas fun and little Jacinda’s first birthday. Well, yesterday, by the time we determined we had to drive to Berkeley again to get more poppyseed Noah’s bagels, one last trip from rough waters to smooth, with a little side trip to Ancient Ways thrown in (and no tow-truck this time…yay, Larry!), I have to say,


Happy New Year and best wishes.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

The Old Goat

Just in case you missed it, the sun just moved into Capricorn. I know this at the very least because my husband’s birthday is coming up. He gives everyone fair warning starting in July that there are only six more shopping months until his birthday. Usually those born when the sun is in Capricorn are described as dour, somber, conservative, serious and concerned with material things. Those who know my husband would seldom associate these traits with him. If you stand back and squint, you can squeeze the goatish traits of a heart as big as all outdoors, the ability to eat practically anything, that knees thing he has going on and of course that cute beard. Perhaps I’m not standing back far enough.

When I think of goats, though, I go back to Sanibel Island, Florida. I never saw an actual goat there. While there is abundant wildlife in this bit of paradise, there are, as far as I know, no goats. But there was a fascinating character who was the owner and cook of Jack’s Place called Jack the Old Goat. He had the seafood staples essential to good living for me in the 1960’s, namely fried jumbo shrimp. He also served red snapper, swordfish steak and I think my father even ordered shark once.

Jack was a hunter. My father thought he was a hunter too, although as far as I can tell he was actually someone who purchased hunting equipment including plaid shirts, went out in the woods and had friends who shot and ate things. My father wanted to be one of those people. He thought Jack was the bee’s knees. Jack was the real deal, pith helmet and all.  One slow day at the restaurant, Jack showed us a small collection of things he had shot. One of them was a rattlesnake skin nailed to the inside door of his shed over five feet long. The snake wasn’t from Sanibel because there were no poisonous snakes on the island, so this was a timber rattler from the mainland.

In the 1960’s, Florida was not just a-buzz but veritably screaming with wildlife, including scary critters like snakes, alligators, stingrays, wild boar that would chase your Jeep as fast as it would go across a field and gar, a fresh-water barracuda-like fish that could grow as long as our boat. Watch your toesies. I never wanted to shoot any of those things although I was willing to make an exception for “palmetto bugs,” the cute name Floridians gave to cockroaches half as big as your foot. Well, half as big as my foot. I was little when we lived in Florida. Jack’s monster rattlesnake skin was impressive and was yet another lesson in just how much more like bait I was than like a predator. The snake, now flat and definitely dead, was scary and beautiful at the same time. While I was glad it wasn’t alive, at the same time I was sorry it was dead. It was matter of proximity. And I vowed silently to read Jack’s menu more closely.

Jack also had a great collection of seashells. He had a huge albino King’s Crown and the restaurant’s tables were set up as shadow boxes with angel wings, Florida conchs, lightning whelks, horse conchs, sunrise tellins, apple murexes, pen shells, buttercups, bubble shells, limpets, Scotch bonnets and alphabet cones. Then the shells lay in drifts, feet deep, on the beaches, brought up by hurricanes and lesser storms. The live ones slimed away in the mud flats on the mangrove tree lined bay side of the island. It was a collector’s haven and drew notable scientists like conchologist and malacologist R. Tucker Abbott. My mother, brother and I were fortunate enough to be invited to attend a field trip with Dr. Abbott, not realizing he was **OMG** famous because, well, the letters O, M and G hadn’t actually been brought together yet. And Dr. Abbott was famous if you had oversized seashell books on your coffee table. In the 1960’s, we were ignorant about the effect of collecting live shells. Collecting live shells is illegal now to preserve them from eager shell collectors killing every shell on earth.  So I still have our family’s collection from our several trips to this beautiful place, although now I know enough to feel guilty about having them. I'm a mollusk murderer.  I enjoyed it but I didn't mean it.  Well, you know what I mean.  Obviously, Dr. Abbott wasn’t around all the time, so Jack the Old Goat was our resident authority on island wildlife of all kinds.

Sanibel Island is a barrier island in the Gulf of Mexico just next to Florida’s “knees.” It is remarkable for being a rare sandbar barrier island that is perpendicular to the mainland, a product of the Caloosahatchee River flow that mixes Florida’s usually plentiful freshwater with the salty waters of the Gulf in San Carlos Bay. The flow of the river pushed the natural sandbar formation pattern so that Sanibel curls around the bottom of the estuary. This protective arm, plus the shallow depths of the water, warm temperatures and, in the 1960’s, relatively unknown destination made the perfect cradle of primordial ooze for the huge variety of wildlife. Today, the Ding Darling Wildlife Preserve holds just a snapshot of what I knew as wild Florida. If you’re a bird-lover, you’ve probably already heard of it. When we were there in the 1960’s, Ding had the land set aside as a preserve, but back then that meant preserved as in people were not allowed on the property.

While there weren’t any poisonous snakes on the island, that didn’t mean there wasn’t danger. We stayed out of the water on the lighthouse end of the island where the undertow was swift. One day, walking around that end of the island, I watched my brother throw beached pen shells out into the bay. I noticed something pretty behind him in the sand near his Converse lowtop sneaker and bent low for closer inspection. It was beautiful, pale, nearly white, and long with rust and brown ringed spots down its long back. As I poked my nose closer, my little friend opened its mouth and showed me all its great big long sharp teeth and hissed! I shrieked, my brother broke the most recent sand-speed record and we left “Alien” to inspire science fiction in the future. When we told Jack our story, the Old Goat’s eyes grew large. He said we were lucky we didn’t get any closer, saying we had encountered a leopard eel. Jack said it was one of the few poisonous things at the island. I was and still am unwilling to verify this.

This startling incident is remarkable for its rarity. Usually, we lived by the tides. Low tide, we shelled. High tide, we fished. Low tide, we shelled. High tide, we slept. And somewhere in there, we visited Jack the Old Goat, Bailey’s General Store, Timmy’s Nook and the Captiva Chapel-by-the-Sea. We spent a Christmas there once and helped decorate the motel’s Christmas tree with sand dollars and sea shells.

Sometimes you find a place on this earth that speaks to your soul. Sanibel is that place for me. One morning when I was 7 or so, while my family slept, I left our room at the Reef Motel and walked the sands of the Gulf towards the sunrise. In the colors of my favorite calico scallops and baby horse conchs, the sun rose from across the water and behind Ft. Myers. The warm, shallow waves washed over my bare feet and sloshed on my nightgown as I watched the coquina clams also in their pink, orange, yellow and purple sunrise colors dig eagerly into the newly laid sand. All of a sudden, I had one of my earliest spiritual awakenings. I knew at once I was attuned to the rhythm of the earth and yet profoundly connected to something so much more than sand or water. I was at peace. In my child’s way of thinking, I knew I would be OK. I would always be OK as long as I remembered I was connected to both the earth and spirit. It was one of my first steps in spiritual awakening, something like my own winter solstice.

I returned to the motel, got in trouble with my mother for “running away” and didn’t mind so much. I knew I was going to be OK.

I have returned to Sanibel several times since my family left Florida. The first time, I was afraid. After all, places only stay the same in memory. Blind Pass has filled in, many houses have been built on what was undeveloped land or not even land at all and Jack the Old Goat is gone. Even forays to the historical society have not turned up an “old-timer” who knew Sanibel in the 1960’s like I did. In a way, that’s satisfying. That Sanibel, the sunrise Sanibel, is mine.

To say thank you to the Universe and Jack and Mom and Dad and my brother and the Bailey family and Dr. Abbott and all the people who were kind to answer a little girl’s questions, I purchased a brick which now graces the garden in front of the Bailey-Matthews Shell Museum, the only museum in the world devoted to seashells. My name is there, along with actor Raymond Burr and the couple hundred or so others who found the energy of the universe and spirit on a sandbar at the bottom of an estuary. Thanks, Old Goat.

If you go to Sanibel Island, please don't collect live shells.  And don't feed the alligators.

Best wishes.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

O Christmas Tree

It had to happen sometime. I was bound to put the Christmas tree up again someday and today was the day. My husband found the artificial tree in the garage and brought it in, full of doubt about the whole project.

Now, remember, I like Christmas. I like the music especially. I'm not much for Grandma getting run over by a reindeer but I enjoy the fun carols, the sacred carols, folk carols, instrumental and vocal. One of my favorites is in Latin, O Magnum Mysterium. I live under the delusion that I'm musical, that it's part of our family. A brother plays guitar and sings, a sister the cello, another sister the oboe, guitar and who knows how many other instruments, and Dad played the oboe. It's a family thing. My sisters and our sister-in-law have actually cut (personally produced) albums of their music which I just love. I sing.  I sing all the time, whether out loud or in my head.  I used to worry about it.  Now I figure it's my own personal elevator music.

I sang in school choir, in church choir and in Sweet Adelines. I was part of a quartet called Jigsaw Jazz (as if we were famous) and sang at a county fair. Little old guys wanted my autograph! That's when I was pretty sure I wasn't cut out to be famous. Still, one of the things I love best about the season is singing the songs. Finally, the soundtrack that is my constant companion in my head is appropriate to sing out loud this time of year and people don't mind so much if you sing along.

Well, they don't mind so much, I found, if they approve of your singing. My husband was blessed with many things, but a singing voice wasn't one of them. People have a hard time believing that, thinking he must be an Irish tenor. After all, he has sparkly blue eyes, and smile as big as County Cork and stories that last forever. How can a guy like that not sing? Well, he does sing. But people ask him to stop. He's so far from perfect pitch that people wish he were just in the ballpark.

My favorite Christmas story of his is sad but true. One midnight mass he enthusiastically joined the congregation in singing Christmas carols. After a couple of looks and suggestions, one brave (or brash) soul asked him to go outside the church if he was going to continue to sing because he was throwing the choir off! Some Christmas spirit!  Bah and humbug.  At least the story gets funnier each time he tells it.

So, without children and and with only a song in our hearts or running through our heads, we usually don't put a tree up. We've done a few tree substitutes. Usually I will hang the Christmas cards we get in a tree shape on the Venetian blinds, easy up, easy down. One year I put presents under the television.  Hey, it has lights.  What do you want?  And generally if we're really in the spirit, we will move a wreath we keep up year 'round from the hutch to an oscillating fan on a tall stand that we've consistently failed to put away after summer is over. After we decorate the Christmas fan, we put the presents under it and wait for the cats to steal all the bows from the presents and hide them under the couch.  You have your traditions, I'm sure.

This year, though, good heavens we will have guests! With children! Frank is from France, his wife Seiko is from Japan and their two sons are definitely from Orange County. The older boy is going to support his parents in their old age with a career in professional tennis. Well, maybe. And the younger one has learned to surf. Very California! Frank's parents are gone and since we don't have children and he doesn't have parents, he's adopted us. He felt it was time the children spent more time with their "grandparents." This is cause for celebration for us, followed quickly by panic. At least, that was my experience. Naturally part of that panic is the, "OMIGOSH we've got to find the Christmas tree!"  I was pretty sure we still had one.  It's not like we've thrown anything else away.

The hubs came through with the tree, pulled from who knows where in the garage, along with two boxes of perfectly hideous Christmas ornaments. Now, I am proud that we are an all-rescue family. The cats love the dog. The dog loves at least one of the cats (the neighborhood inter-species scandal but at least it's just the animal version of courtly love, a lot of singing and poetry and goo-goo eyes between our otherwise ferocious little calico cat and our otherwise mild-mannered cocker spaniel.  Think Jeeves, not Bertie.). But I have to say that rescue Christmas ornaments are pretty pitiful. After we figured out how to put the tree up, a sort of tab A-slot B trial and error effort, we dug out strings of lights. One string is multi-color and steady. The rest are blinky and blue. Some of the ornaments are made out of painted pastry, some out of shredding polyester thread over styrofoam balls, some crocheted and some the usual store-bought glass balls. I remember getting them back in 1988 when I lived alone and was determined to have a Christmas tree, no matter what. Well-meaning friends have gifted me with the occasional spectacular single ornament like Friends Forever 2000 and a few Frog Princes.  This year I got some rather nice seashell ornaments from an exchange package.  Plus, there is a sparkly blue garland and a china angel-doll tree topper with lights that still work after 20 years. Score. Add this hideous jumble to our fake Charlie Brown Christmas tree and it's a rescue Christmas special! But we plugged in the tree lights and turned off the living room lights and, you know what? It's Christmas!

Sometimes the message of love and light goes out and misses the mark. When people are starving or hurt or crazed with grief or anger, singing a jolly carol or repeating a worn phrase can be like an insult. But sometimes, with bits of felt and glue and glitter and paint, with cards and music, with a plastic tree and blinky lights, sometimes the message gets through. It's not whether your tree wins a beauty contest. It's not whether your singing gets you on American Idol. It's not whether the family that comes to you for a holiday of love has DNA, language or sports in common. It's that we can gather around our rescue tree and sing, with all our voices, big and small, flat, sharp or outside the building and transform ourselves and our lives into the spirit of love. Suddenly, that tree is the most beautiful tree in the world. That Christmas carol brings a tear to your eye. And our hearts are full of the wonder of the season.

No matter what you celebrate at this time of year, may your hearts be full of love. May they be decorated with the gifts of the season. May your family, whether they are the family you choose or the family you came with, be a little closer. May your white Christmas not be dandruff. May all your presents fit and flatter you except the pink sweater that your aunt loves and you hate. And, may the cats not discover the joys of tree-tipping until after the guests leave next week. Please.

Best wishes!

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Can You Say Happy Holidays?

In addition to my urge to work on projects during this holiday season this is also the time of year I start to notice that not everyone is cheerful at this time of year. I don’t mean those people who have suffered a personal tragedy, whether recently or with this season as its annual reminder. To you, I send my heartfelt glow of love in your time of need.

No, I’m talking about the people who are angry about saying “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas.” Personally, I celebrate Christmas, Christmas eve, Christmas day, “little Christmas” on January 6 and even Christmas holiday events during the whole month of December.

Just today, I volunteered for kitchen duty at a local inter-denominational International Holiday Fair, an annual charity event. There were five of us for our shift and we set it up like zone defense. It tends to work better that way. Otherwise, we’re stomping on each other’s toes and risk up-ending a hot bowl of soup or chili. We had our senior team member at the stove, a lithe junior member at the back of the kitchen with the soft drinks and back up to her friend who was the Mistress of The Chili, the lumpia and banana fritter volunteer and me. I had the veggie lumpia, the coffee, tea and front window coordination. It worked pretty well. No one got trampled. Nothing spilled. We remembered to wear our gloves and practiced good food handling.

One thing I’ve noticed about volunteering for events like this is that people tend to want to be in charge. All of them. This causes confusion, hesitation, sometimes hard feelings and, in the best of times, laughing it off and deference to whatever makes it flow better. Our zone defense system in the meeting hall kitchen plays to this human territorial trait without stomping on toes. We’re each in charge of our little corner of the kitchen so no one gets bent out of shape by someone trying to be in charge of the whole thing. We served a lot of chili dogs, turkey soup and lumpia today. It all looked and smelled delicious.

It’s natural for people to want control, especially of scarce and precious resources. The Four of Pentacles is often portrayed as the miser sitting on and grasping his coins. Meanings traditionally range from the 2-year-old’s cry, “Mine! Mine! Mine!” to merely a prudent use of resources. When I look at the Four of Pentacles, I keep thinking that the miser is going to get an itchy nose any minute now and what will he do if he needs to set one of those coins down to resolve that problem? Will he just sit there and itch? He’s the ultimate, “You can’t take it with you” guy.

Obviously, sometimes it’s right to say, “Mine.” And the prudent use of resources does seem like a good idea. Our world looks so huge to just one person. I flew for a business trip this week and our flight path followed the California San Andreas Fault, that huge rip in the seam of the earth where one tectonic plate is scraping along another causing wrinkles that are mountains and earthquakes that are both feared and taken too lightly. That’s just part of one state and our earth is so enormous. And yet, it is limited in its resources. If we use them poorly, we will hurt ourselves.

Even more fleeting than the riches of the earth is our time. We have these few moments. It seems reasonable to spend them well. And because of that, while I can’t spend too much time on it, I am sad for the people who are cranky when they hear “Happy Holidays.” After all, someone did just wish you well. The words you are searching for are, “Thanks! You too!” But some people are “tired” of saying Happy Holidays and want to say Merry Christmas. To those people, I also say, “Thanks! You too!” The complaint that people are tired of being “pc” means to me they are tired of being kind, considerate and polite. Many places aren’t as diverse in their population as the place where I live. So perhaps people are tired at the thought that they should feel that moment’s hesitation to wonder if saying Merry Christmas is inappropriate to someone who isn’t Christian when the chance of them being anything except a Christian is rare. However, just think about it for minute.  Wouldn’t you feel nice if someone took a moment to care what you thought or how you felt? What a nice holiday gift that would be! For a moment, you were special to someone who took the time to wish you well. That’s holiday spirit.

So to everyone in this holiday season, I wish peace on all the enormous but limited earth and good will to everyone, men, women, children, cats, trees, birds and even chili dogs including the vegan chili and the vegan chili dogs scrupulously kept separate from the non-vegan dishes in respect to those who prefer vegan. I hope you all have a wonderful December, whatever your faith, diet or disposition. If you’re cranky about saying Happy Holidays, please don’t waste your time or mine grousing about it. Just smile, wave and say Merry Christmas. I’ll say, “Thanks! You too!”

Happy Holidays! And that’s something you can take with you.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Hard at Work in the Toy Shop

This starts the time of year when I combine my own High Priestess with the Eight of Pentacles. OK, so what does THAT mean?

Every year since junior high, in the dark of the winter solstice I retreat to my cave and tackle a project. I have ceased wondering why I do this other than to classify it as the possible good effect of some variation of seasonal affective disorder syndrome. I think it started when the teachers began assigning me research projects. I was that kid who actually didn’t hate research projects. Footnotes, yes. Somewhere there’s a formatting god who points his superscript at me and laughs without mercy. But the project and especially the bibliography that were the results of my efforts, no. I love research in winter.

One early year the subject was astrology. I dug out all my books, including my trigonometry text (yes, sweetums, this was BEFORE there were personal computers) and cranked away with the A to Z Horoscope Maker and Delineator. The result that remains to this day is a pair of bell-bottoms with my chart stitched in colorful embroidery on the leg. Of course they don't fit!  They're a valuable piece of folk art.  Or something.  Mercury rising. Gemini Moon. She talks, fer goodness’ sake!

Another year, later, after personal computers were available to the masses, I created a database from my latest Wilds of Missouri catalog and data collected the whole thing so I could find the daylilies that were open in the evenings (after I got home from work), very fragrant and reblooming. I gained an appreciation of data collection and the transient nature of floral inventory. I still like to order from Wilds, though.  I’m usually a rose nut but it all started with daylilies. I wish they’d bring back “Date Book” but I guess it wasn’t that popular.

Another year it was soups, another cookies, another postage stamps, another it was memorizing the price list from the latest antiques price books and another genealogy. Several years my topic was American Brilliant Cut Glass.

I have to confess most of my history classes left me cold. After all, in days of olde when knights were bold-e, I probably wouldn’t have been some guy sitting around the decision making table fighting or writing a writ or insulting my betters or peers or worsers. (Is that a word?? I’ll have to look it up to see). I would have been some merchant or teacher’s daughter with a little too much learning for practical purposes, a little too much of an opinion for good health and length of days. But I really love studying the artifacts of people’s lives.

So, by accident of the study of antique glass, I learned a little about labor relations and good and bad management. For instance, while cut glass was being produced in the eastern US in the late 1800’s, some of the bosses were not as considerate of their workers’ situation as they might have been. Think of the burns from molten glass, the early deaths from lung disease from glass dust, the cut hands from a slip of the grinding wheel or explosion of glass that resulted in devastation and poverty. One glass cutting shop decided to go on strike because their boss was a jerk and wanted another shop’s workers to go on strike with them. The other shop considered the proposal and rejected it because their boss was a nice guy and didn’t cause the hard feelings the first shop had for their boss. That’s something to be said for good management. The working conditions were nearly identical but the boss in one shop treated his workers with genuine kindness.

That’s genuine kindness, not fake kindness. There are some things you can’t make in a workshop.

Many years, my learning retreat has centered on antique samplers and embroidery, the techniques, the materials, the process and evolution of styles of stitching, the availability of materials to certain economic classes and the social impact of educating girls. Schoolgirl samplers in the early to mid-1800’s were something more like, “My kid made the honor roll” instead of a reference book of pretty patterns for future clothing and linen décor as they were in, say, 1700. Check out Betty Ring’s wonderful books Girlhood Embroideries and American Needlework Treasures at your nearest library or old book store.

And many years my learning retreat has taken me into some aspect of the tarot, a deeper dive into symbolism and cultural archetypes. Even I tell people to put down the books and just read cards when they ask the best way to start reading. But I have some goodies saved up for my solstice reading this year, nice thick ones with meaty topics that challenge my thinking and enhance my feeling for the tarot. Last year, for instance, one of my retreat activities was to read The Encyclopedia of Tarot (vols. 1-4) cover to cover. Good stuff. Also fuels the urge to buy old decks. (Mr. Kaplan, I’m sure that’s not what you meant it to do, right? =)

This year, since we have determined to have a merry little Christmas, my solstice retreat will take a familiar theme of making handmade gifts. First I made a list of who gets what. This year the "whats" are ornaments all hand made.  Then I figured out if I could actually make that many “whats” in time for Christmas, sorting by earliest mail-away date and taking my planned stay-cation into account. You’re bored with this, I can tell. But, that’s my Eight of Pentacles pounding away at the workbench, planning, selecting symbols and cloth and thread and beads and up at all hours.

The approach of the winter solstice or the “Dark Days of Christmas” as an Irish friend of mine used to call them always signals this Santa’s Workshop Elfin frenzy in me. Somehow the bright colors, the warm smells of good cooking (or bad, depending on the experiment), the planning and execution all serve my inner High Priestess well. She studies from a quiet distance the Inner Child hard at work on the Spirograph or Slinky of the season and smiles. There is inner work going on here too, the kind you can’t reach with needles or patterns or light or a color wheel. It is all preparation for the spring of life but it is also celebration along the way.

Best wishes.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Thanksgiving Cups

Today gratitude fills our cup and turkey or other delights fill our tummies and football reaches one if its “max out” moments for me. I don’t mind so much though because it is a time of relaxation after overindulgence, a little break from the breakneck pace of work, a time of snoozing through the best memories of our family lives and a time of reflection. For instance, since I snore like a freight train myself, I never complain about my husband’s snoring. It’s the white noise I hear that lets me know that everything is OK.

So, since my cup runneth over, or tippeth over with help of furry friends or sudden gestures, I reflect on the tarot cups and being thankful. Oh, and we don’t have to go around the table and say what we’re thankful for. I watched Dexter on Showtime recently and I want to make sure that there’s no need to evaluate gratitude for its quality and completeness.

• I’m thankful for the love in my life and for having never given up on finding it. (Ace of Cups)

• I’m thankful that I looked for love for myself personally, sometimes in the wrong places and sometimes in the right ones. I took chances. I took breaks. I tried and failed, more than once. It took a while, but I finally found my true love. Surprisingly enough he isn’t feline or made of chocolate, but is a real human being! (Two of Cups)

• I’m thankful for my friends, some of whom have slipped away without me, some of whom have stayed for appetizers, drinks, entrée and dessert with a fantastic decaf mocha with extra whipped cream. You know who you are. (Three of Cups)

• I’m thankful that I didn’t get caught up in the trap of being bored that seems so fashionable. How can I be bored with all this going on? And I’m thankful that I can pause from time to time and revel just enough in what I have without needing more more more. (Four of Cups)

• I’m thankful that I’ve been able to pull out of the depths of remorse for things that didn’t work, that might have been. We all have sorrows and we all have joys. It is up to us to face them both and decide which to make closest to our hearts. So, even if it irritates half of humanity, I’m thankful that I’m an optimist. My cup isn’t half full; it’s filling up all the time. (Five of Cups)

• I’m thankful for the memories. Memories are such wonderful things. They can be polished and refinished so they shine with the best parts. They can be hosed off, dusted, blow dried, and put in favorable lighting to show off their good sides. They are a gift you give yourself. I’m thankful that my memories are still in easy access and pray for those whose memories are fugitives in the storm of illness. I’m thankful for my Inner Child and her heroes like Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Mighty Mouse and Fiona from both Shrek and Burn Notice. (Six of Cups)

• I’m thankful for the many choices I’ve had and made, some good, some not so. I’m thankful for some of those unanswered prayers too. They have made me what I am today. And I still have more choices! (Seven of Cups)

• I’m thankful that my life has led me through many side roads and thankful for those things and people that I loved and left because it was my path to move on. I miss my mom, my step-mom and my dad, those wonderful, talented, spirited, imperfect people who tried their best. May those who think of me when I am gone forgive my imperfections too. They are many. I always wondered why I had to leave my grade-school paradise in Florida. Well, of course! It was for this great adventure. (Eight of Cups)

• I’m thankful for the things that give me joy: My husband, my pets, my house, my tarot cards, my needlework, my books, my friends, my work. My joy surrounds me like my bed full of stuffed toys and teddy bears. I’m personally thankful for the invention of pumpkin pie. Okra, Dr Pepper, root beer, watermelon not so much, but pumpkin pie is a big thumbs up. (Nine of Cups)

• I’m thankful for my family, here and beyond, by blood, by marriage, by choice. Basically, I’m happy to be here with them. It is not a famous life. It is not a wealthy life. Those things don’t matter to me. I am happiest to see my family happy, to bring a little joy or laughter or new thought or solace into their lives. It is a life of thanksgiving. (Ten of Cups)

Best wishes.

Monday, November 23, 2009

The High Priestess and the Fruit of Mystery

Late last night I had a cup of my favorite tea. I had just picked up most of the hundreds of seed beads spilled on the floor by my bad child known most often as “NO NO BAD CAT” who, in a fit of uncharacteristic sentimentality and affection, sought to sit on my lap upending my project, my beads and my attention. Since Larry the car, the replacement washer and dryer, and the replacement television have all assured that we will have a very merry LITTLE Christmas this year, I have been plugging away at handmade projects for gifts. Secretly, I like them better anyway. They are fun to make, fun to give and the stunned silence in which they are received is at least entertaining. Over that cup of tea and the late hour, I immersed myself in the comfort of the pomegranate.

Pomegranate is my favorite tea. The pomegranate fruit was a popular motif in 17th century English needlework and has made its appearances in mythology and symbolism. Persephone ate a few pomegranate seeds and depending on the Greek weather patterns, the number of seeds she ate corresponds to the length of winter. Pomegranates signaled fertility and good luck. Jewish tradition has the crown of the pomegranate as the model for Solomon’s crown. As a Christian symbol, it points to resurrection. In Ayurvedic medicine, per Wikipedia (, pomegranates are good for many things including “nose bleeds and gum bleeds, toning skin, (after blending with mustard oil) firming-up sagging breasts and treating hemorrhoids.” So if this works, I’ve got something really good to share with some of my friends in the pom-pom department. Lately, pomegranates have scored high on the anti-oxidant team for all of us who would just as soon not fall apart at the cellular level.

In tarot pomegranates are part of the RWS High Priestess card. The HP has always been a favorite of mine. Those of you who know me personally as a raving extravert may roll your eyes in wonder at my affinity to this quiet researcher who retreats from the hubbub of the outside world to bury herself in the coolest library in the universe. But my closest friends will recognize that, chatter on as I do, I love research, learning, libraries, reading, and digging through obscure sources for something both old and new at the same time. I think of it as the process of rediscovery and even more the process of receiving a message in a bottle, book, scroll, cipher or, in the case of old needlework, embroidery. Pomegranate is my favorite color, not the usual “librarian” color. The pomegranate has its red, beautiful, smooth and crowned exterior but the real mystery is inside.

And that, in a pomegranate skin, is what the High Priestess is about. Many tarot lovers identify themselves with the High Priestess. They see her as the keeper of mysteries, the holder of the scroll, enthroned within the pillars of learning. They focus on the power of her having the answer, somewhere. The rest of us are on the merry chase after her through the maze of learning that is intuition.

But I have a different take. I don’t think she is so much the mystery herself as leading the charge to chase down the mystery. She is not self-consciously powerful, full of the grade-school taunt, “I know something and you don’t!” I don’t think she thinks much about herself at all. Her focus is on the real mystery, not just the thoughts and actions that may be set down in the scrolls, grimoires, recipe books, newspaper clippings, love letters, chants, rituals, prayers, or even Elizabethan needlework. Those are just the skin of the pomegranate. She is completely absorbed with what is inside and underneath, that essence, that intangible spark of both consciousness and sub-consciousness that is the wonder of life.

She would be embarrassed to be considered the mystery herself. She would dismiss the notion as quickly as she turns away from the distraction of the outside world, all so much noise and bother. She ponders the secret of the seed.

Best wishes.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

9 of Wands, the Flu, the Spider Bite, and Soup

Maybe I'm just a big baby, but when those several days ambush me all at once while I'm just trying to take one at a time, my Inner Child starts to whine. I like a little inspiration and the 9 of Wands helps. In the RWS (that's Rider-Waite-Smith) tradition, Pamela Colman Smith's depiction of the guy who's really been through the wringer but is bandaged and still going helps me whine AND get through it all.

My husband and I have followed the latest California fashion and have had at least two kinds of flu viruses, 2 flu shots and all the fun that goes with that. A few years ago, that would mean everyone was buying stock in tissues and cold remedies and the market would soar. Now, with everyone just getting by (or not), we're just looking for those tissues and cold remedies, period. We're both sadly getting used to making noises with our throats and noses we didn't think we could make. The train whistle thing has been especially entertaining. Inner Child: [sniffs]

To make matters worse, some sneaky spider had a quarrel with my foot on Halloween and scuttled off, leaving me with the trick instead of the treat. I'm still fighting that infection with an arsenal of traditional and not so traditional means. Inner Child whines: I even kind of LIKE spiders as long as they aren't on my face, so why me??

Rather than post photos of the mountain of tissues or my really ooky foot (Inner Child does NOT win this one), I thought I would post a 9 of Wands "hang in there, kids, you're going to make it after all" soup recipe that I created from things we had in the freezer and cupboards. My husband likes to call these "rareback" recipes because you "'rare' back and toss things in." It's a little more than that but not much.

Chicken Doodle Soup

My husband said there was nothing to eat in the house. I took this as a personal challenge and created this soup from what we had on hand. Because it was the “soup without a plan,” I called it Chicken “Doodle” for its spontaneous ingestion and because Mr. 9 of Wands looks a little like Yankee Doodle Dandy!

2 frozen boneless chicken breasts
2 14 oz. cans chopped stewed tomatoes
½ small bag frozen corn kernals
2 cups dry small pasta (I used tiny shells but use what you have)
5 small cans chicken broth, Italian seasoning (if you just have plain broth, add a little Italian seasoning)
½ red onion, chopped fine
2 Tbl olive oil
2 Tbl kalonji (from your local Indian or Asian food store)
Mrs Dash Garlic and Herb
Dash of salt
Dash of pepper
Dash of Jamaica Me Crazy
1 tsp dry mustard
1 tsp celery seed

Thaw chicken breasts (I used the microwave) until frosty instead of frozen (it’s easier to cut when still frosty), cube and cover generously with Mrs Dash Garlic and Herb and a dash of salt and pepper. Let sit for just a minute or so while you heat the oil (but no longer than that; please observe safe food handling practices).

In a large pot, heat oil, add kalonji, and heat until the seeds begin to sizzle. Add the seasoned chicken and onion. Brown until the chicken is cooked and the onion has started to carmelize. This is really important because the carmelized onion makes it just a little sweet.

Add broth, tomatoes, corn, dash of Jamaica, dry mustard, celery seed and pasta. (This is the "raring back" part.) Bring to a boil, then let simmer for at least 10 minutes or longer. Just don't let all the liquid boil off or it isn't soup.

Easy to freeze in freezer bags and reheat for lunch. Good with crackers or a sourdough roll. And, it is “good for what ails you.”

Note: The kalonji is the only unusual ingredient here and strictly speaking could be optional or substituted with dry onion. I happen to love kalonji as a companion with browning chicken, though, so try to find it, either in a small packet or by bulk. It is very inexpensive.

It is often called “black onion seed” and sometimes confused with black sesame seed. It is neither; instead, it is actually the seed of a lovely flower called Nigella or “Love in a Mist.”

Kalonji has a long history of being a healing agent:

Nigella sativa has been used for medicinal purposes for centuries, both as a herb and pressed into oil, in Asia, Middle East, and Africa. It has been traditionally used for a variety of conditions and treatments related to respiratory health, stomach and intestinal health, kidney and liver function, circulatory and immune system support, and for general well-being.

“In Islam, it is regarded as one of the greatest forms of healing medicine available.”

For further information on this quote and nigella seed, visit:
Best wishes and best dishes!

Monday, November 16, 2009

BATS Trip Report October 3-4 2009 San Francisco CA

Of course I had to shop before classes started. It was the only thing to do. But I also had to meet new people because this was my very first BATS! Thalassa and all the DOD (Daughers of Divination), what a wonderful event! Limited edition decks, rare decks, Baba Studios bags, the Millard Fillmore yard sale, jewelry, books, books, books (did I mention the books?) and striped socks…what a world, what a world! My buddy Kristine Gorman (Visionary Woman, excellent reader in Sonoma) and I were blown away by the excellence of this symposium.

The first program was Joseph Martin’s fun spread that wove cards together, back sides up. When you pick it up gently by the corner, you pick up all the cards at once. The new spread was bit of flash for parties and a fun way to start the 2 days. But my favorite part wasn’t the spread at all. It was a statement of how to distinguish between “good psychics” and “bad psychics”. “Bad psychics” try to take the sitter’s power away with statements like, “You have a curse on [you, your money, your family, etc] and you are unable to resolve this without my help.” This help includes often large fees for curse removal services, be it magic candle or ceremony. “Good psychics” just charge their reading fee and may assist the sitter but the sitter makes his or her own choices, under their own power.

Mary Greer’s The Secret Tradition focused on the Major Arcana. Mary talked about the distinction between secret tradition and secret doctrine, what’s been passed down to us as opposed to the principles themselves. It was full of information and shed just a little more light on the Golden Dawn tradition.

Holley Voley gave a very informative slide show that I hope she will turn into published work, not only on the many variations of the RWS and their timelines, but also a great little segment on the various editions of the Aquarian (orange backs, oroborus, plain blue, blue and white). Thanks to Holley, I’m a little poorer but the happy owner of most but not all of these variations now.

Rachel Pollack’s moving discourse on the nature of The Hanged Man described its being the initiation card of direct experience, that moment of direct life truth instead of acceptance of the status quo. It reminded me of one of my own heart-wrenching experiences when, as a manager in a major corporation, I was pressured to fire a good employee as part of a political move. Rather than fire that person, whose performance did not deserve this action, I put myself in jeopardy. Luckily I “landed on my feet” at another company. The Hanged Man is a sacrifice either way: You take the consequences of following your conscience or forfeit your values to fit in with the mob. Rachel made The Hanged Man come alive and kept his halo on straight, too. Percival, whom does the Grail serve?

The small room was packed for the William Butler Yeats lecture. From his topsy turvy love life, to his friendship with Pamela Colman Smith, we got a glimpse of the man and his life as a “lightning struck tower.” It definitely made me want to go back to Ireland!

My husband joined me for the cocktail hour where we were entertained by LILAC. The players were well dressed, well spoken and well into character for our pleasure.

Sunday brought more of RWS expert Holly Voley’s knowledge of the small but important differences that distinguish the Roses & Lillies from Dried Mud and Pam A, Pam B, Pam C from each other. I don’t think I will ever be able to look at The Sun without looking for a crack in the printing plate now.

Mary Greer’s more in depth discussion of the Secret Tradition regarding the Minor Arcana brought us into the heart of the RWS deck and why we commemorate its 100th anniversary this year. Masonic influences and the pageant of each suit in order were laid out using Swords as the “story line.” Check out Mary’s blog and wonderful books for more terrific and scholarly information. Nothing minor about these Minors!

Melinda Boyd Parsons made “Pixie” or Pamela Colman Smith come alive for us with information about her family, her friends, her artistic career and the mysteries in all of those. Was she high society or from more exotic origins? What was the extent of her use of feminist implicit coding? What was the influence of Roman Catholicism on her mysticism and music influenced trance art? Her friendships with famous names of the time like Edith Craig, Ellen Terry and Rosa Bonheur and their influences on her art, especially the RWS were a revelation, comparing photos to her work. There is still so much to know about her.

We dissolved into Q&A, photo ops and last minute purchases, like the totally cool decks I found at Tarot Garden and my lovely flying owl necklace. Yes, another bird. And then, we were done. This is absolutely a MUST for next year! To all of you tempted to attend BATS next year, be aware that this fun event will not be in October in 2010 due to scheduling conflicts with other events in San Francisco. Check for more information about the 2010 BATS.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Gli Amanti

The girl was young, not yet 20. She fancied the boy, his blond curly hair, his blue eyes. He was not the first she fancied, nor the last. But he seemed to have possibilities.

She liked his taste in music. She could tell he wanted to be taken seriously by the other DJ’s at the college radio station. And yet she could tell that this job was not his final dream. He was, of course, going to be an engineer like all the others. He was older and would graduate soon.

But it was November and soon seemed far away to her.

She laughed and talked with all the radio station DJ’s. She put together the newscasts and read them during the breaks. She reviewed the station’s small selection of radio theatre for broadcast once a week.

She dated too, watching the engineering students play drinking games, first cringing then laughing at their coarse talk.

One boy had been a swimmer from her brother’s fraternity. One boy confessed he was gay on their third date but wanted to marry to seem more stable and employable. One boy who made her laugh held her attention for a while, then discarded her after realizing he did not love her.

As the weather grew colder than she had ever known, for she had never lived so far north before, she wore boots with her bell-bottomed hip-huggers and bodysuit shirts. They showed her curves but perhaps not her best assets. And she wore a warm coat.

She joked with the blond boy and wondered why he did not ask her out. Perhaps, she thought, since he is blond he prefers brunettes. She knew he looked and kept his distance. Until one day.

It was cold, the season firmly set in with snow on the ground. She realized they were the only two people in the radio station. He had put on a long album cut. He stepped out of the control room.

And he finally spoke words that were not just teasing the surface. She watched his face, now fond of the ever so slight movement of his lip. It was not a lisp but an endearing vulnerability.
“I’m going to graduate in the spring.”

“I know,” she said, smiling, waiting for more.

“So if I were to buy you jewelry and other nice things, would you sleep with me until then?”

The album covers, grey transmitter cabinet, FCC certificates and rock posters swirled for a moment.

“What?” she said softly, slowly.

“My family has money so I could buy you nice things. But it would only be until I graduate. No strings attached.”

She stared at his blue eyes, so sincere in their negotiation, so earnest in their purpose. She swallowed although her mouth had gone dry.

“Oh,” she said, so many things still spinning in her mind. She looked out the window at the falling snow.

“Oh.” She looked down, her eyes beginning to cloud. She looked up again.

“Oh, Paul.” She forced a smile. “If only you had lied to me.”

And thus the spell was broken and they were both freed.


“Path 17, Sephiroth: Tiphares (6) – Binah (3), Zain (sword). VI Lovers. From Beauty to Intelligence. Faith. Love. Temptation. Testing. Perfection.” From Tarot Classic, Stuart R. Kaplan. New York: Grosset & Dunlap, 1975.


To Paul, wherever he went.

Best wishes.

Monday, November 9, 2009

The Chariot Ride

We named our car “Larry” partly due to a dear departed friend, partly echoing a dear departed relative and finally because my husband contends that St Lawrence is the patron saint of good parking places.

Yesterday was such a lovely bright blue day, the “Chamber of Commerce” weather that Northern California enjoys so often. We determined to take a drive. The hubs drove because Larry is a manual shift car.

While I’m confident of my abilities in many areas, driving with a stick shift and clutch is not among them. The last time I tried this feat was in the 70’s with my first (now ex) husband’s sports car. I’m short so I had to grip the steering wheel tightly to stay in contact with the pedals. Every time I shifted gears, I had to pull on the steering wheel to get my foot to the clutch. So each time, I crossed into oncoming traffic. Both the sports car and I survived the ordeal but only barely. Oh, and, of course, the ex got the car in the settlement.

“Where do you want to go?” Did I tell you I have the BEST husband?? He is. So a false start or two happened in my life but he is Mr COMPLETELY RIGHT (except politics, of course, but that’s right for me too).

“Ancient Ways in Oakland!” Ancient Ways is a great little metaphysical shop on Telegraph in Oakland with an extensive variety of cool stuff and a hub of readings and learning. Check it out This was my first time going there. I expected it to be wonderful since Thalassa, founder of BATS and Daughters of Divination, holds classes there. I wasn’t disappointed.

A pleasant ride, a couple of Mary Greer books and the latest edition of Mountain Astrologer later, I was in line for checkout when my husband called my cell phone from the car. Larry would not start.

Like our cats and dog, Larry is a “rescue” car. We like to say we’re an all rescue family. We bought Larry from a priest friend of ours. With that kind of background, it seemed only fitting to name the car for a saint. And now was the time we could use a little divine intervention.

Purchases in hand, I ran to the car, hoping the hubs had not blown his own gasket. The tow truck was there thanks to the miracle of AAA along with our angel, Rafael. OK, strictly speaking, he was the tow truck driver Rafael. But he was our miracle of the moment.

Rafael, as it turns out, is a “foodie” along with being a tow truck driver, cute as a bug and very upbeat. Once Larry was firmly lashed to the truck and we were underway, Rafael pointed out the vegan restaurant where his friend is a chef who is most assuredly NOT vegan. We traded secret ingredients in recipes where I cited a truly inspired Oaxacan seasoning for chicken we found in Chino one afternoon a few years back. We discussed in depth the accidental discovery of penicillin and its effect on World History.

Hardly a triumphal return home, our ride nonetheless reminded me of the Chariot.

We could have focused on the inconvenience and bad timing of Larry’s breakdown on a lovely Sunday afternoon or the anticipation of the unexpected expense of repair. But instead, the energy of the Chariot prevailed. Our “horsepower” could have run in opposite directions, dissolving into chaos, anger, fear, blame and quarrels. I imagine our angel Rafael has the opportunity to listen to a lot of that.

Our Golden Chariot rolled into our town with its three chatty passengers and one wounded late model used car named for the patron saint of good parking places. We parted in good company and wished each other well.

The message of the Chariot is that we can choose happiness in the face of adversity just as easily as we can choose to let life’s unexpected moments defeat us. Today, we chose victory, to keep the day sunny and enjoyed the ride.

Best wishes!

Monday, November 2, 2009

Judgment, Reversed

“I’ll get back to this card in just a few minutes, but I want to focus on this one here in the position of ‘home’." I tapped on the second card. "This is a weird question, I know, but… have you ever lived in a haunted house?”

The young man beside me was quiet, calm, and perfectly normal. He was casually dressed in a white shirt and blue jeans. I had no idea who he was and still don’t. Sometimes tarot readings work better for me that way.

My friend had asked me to read tarot at his party as part of the entertainment for his law firm’s anniversary party. I had broken the ice with tarot readings for some of the waiters who then took excellent care of me the rest of the evening. It had started as a slow evening, but I soon had a steady stream of people wanting their cards read. And now this quiet, pleasant young man sat next to me. And I had to ask him a strange question.

There was Judgment, in the RWS tradition portrayed as the resurrected dead rising up towards the arms of the angel, having let go of earthly cares, both positive and negative, ready for what came next. But it was reversed and in the ‘home’ spot. It was like a bell had rung: People who have died but not completely passed on are there with him at home.

I was afraid he would think I was crazy. But of course I had to remind myself that I was, after all, reading tarot cards and that in itself is usually thought of as a bit of a side trip on the road of life. Especially at a party for attorneys. I hoped, since the readings were all freebies for the party-goers, that he wouldn’t judge me. But I braced myself for the laughter, derision or tongue-in-cheek comments with knowing looks. I blushed and was glad it was dark in my corner of the restaurant.

“Yes,“ he said. I continued with the reading. Oh, but there was more.

Since I value the privacy of my clients, I won’t say what more there was. However, it turns out that I had no reason to think he would judge me for asking the question I had to ask. And it turns out, that I needn’t have judged him either as someone who would take that question badly. Judgment was reversed, all right. For both of us. We hung in there for this reading for greater understanding, stayed just a little longer than necessary for affirmation.

It was a wonderful lesson for me as a professional reader to stay true to what I read and take the risk of being judged. There are plenty of people who don’t want a tarot reading, who don’t want to know, who want to be surprised. I take this as a wonderful compliment. They think I would be right but they don’t want to know. There are also plenty of people who range from skeptical to outraged at the thought of tarot readings. I have to respect them too. I would never want to offend anyone by doing this. And I need to remember that there are also plenty of people out there who have had experiences, maybe not as startling as this young man’s, but experiences of their own. Those people may also be afraid of being judged. Everyone finds his or her path in a unique way, lets go of the past or holds onto it, moves on to another plane or stays.

Most important, we have the chance to change our path, change our minds, and change our futures through our own choices. We have the chance to let go of our own Judgments about ourselves and others and grow to the next step.

I meet the most interesting people. And I think it is for a good reason. This is All Souls’ Day. For me, that means all of us, whether here or passed on, so many interesting people.

Best wishes.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Hello and welcome!

When you were a kid, did you ever hang by your toes from the jungle gym just to see what the world looks like from that point of view? (Children, do NOT try this at home or anywhere else! And adults, well, I hope you have good sense and better medical coverage.) Well, I was that kid. Despite all warnings, I figured out how to hang by the tops of my feet.
Initially, I thought I was preparing for my career as a circus acrobat, one that didn't pan out. But once I got there, it was the view that held me.
It may have seemed like dare-devil foolishness, but for me it was just a means to an end. I wanted to see things a different way for the experience and understanding. It was the learning that fascinated me, the way that different view made things clearer in some ways. The different point of view removed the template of habit and expectations and allowed me to study the flight of a bird, the curve of the cat's tail, the feel of the breeze. Oh, and I studied the sound of my mother's voice at high pitch and volume telling me to get down before I hurt myself. But I persisted and hung upside down by my feet whenever possible. I was lucky and strong and, for a child, careful, so I never fell.
I told my mother I was practicing to be an acrobat but secretly I just liked the refuge that looking at things a different way provided me. In the hubbub of childhood, it was a kind of separate peace, a spiritual "bubble bath" that I now recognize was part of my training as a Tarot reader.
Rachel Pollack recently spoke at the 2009 BATS in San Francisco about the nature of The Hanged Man, the guy who in our modern Tarot decks hangs upside down, often with a glow around his head as in RWS and most often with a sense of peace. How can he be at peace when he's hanging from his foot and upside down? Yet Rachel told us that he is the person who recognizes and embraces his differences and similarities, who resists the kindly urges of others to put him "back on his feet" to a mode of conventional thinking. He values both his own point of view and others.
That's the way I think of my reading. I am an otherwise ordinary person who embraces my and others' differences and seeks to look at the universe from more than one point of view. And, because ultimately I was a good, if exasperating, child, I have the urge to share.
Best wishes!