Friday, September 2, 2016

The Chariot and the Queen of Swords

August 5, 2016:  The Chariot by Tania Pryputniewicz

Always the framing colors in this card call to me—cobalt blue of Chariot canopy with ice blue interior and shining red rims of wheels. This Chariot, though confined to a sphere, is somehow entirely believable and ready to roll thanks to Lady Frieda Harris and the sacred geometry she uses throughout the deck.

The golden armored charioteer holds a violet-rimmed chalice in lap so we are looking down into its interior. It forms a disk of spinning colors from violet to blue to the very center’s red which we can construe as blood or the Holy Grail in which our life stream spirals in a stilled view of the self in motion. Or an apt image of what we try to do as writers with our words, artificially portioning off stills from a life ever in flux. I’m thinking about that balance of vulnerability and shielding that we navigate always. And the strength it takes to survive the memory field, going in a second time after having lived through the events under scrutiny in order to write about them.

All month long I participated in a thirty-one day poetry challenge offered by Zoetic Press in the hopes of rounding out The Fool in the Corn (my manuscript in progress about an Illinois commune I lived on as a child). What came were a lighter, humor-based series of New Age misadventure poems. I wasn’t expecting to find humor, but there it was--and much welcome, as I considered spiritual tools, teachers, and fellow seekers I encountered after leaving the commune. With a steady habit of daily writing already firmly in place, the challenge was pushing from free-write to culled draft of poem.

Traditionally The Chariot calls on us to consider which vehicle we need in order to move forward, and to size up one’s terrain. Am I going into battle? Heading into a new career? New direction? What is the ordinary life-sized message in the soul metaphor of this card?

As I’m still immersed in child rearing, there’s no great career I’m trying to embark upon. The only battlefield is the one I traverse internally, as when I sat and waited for students to arrive for a poetry workshop I was teaching last month on the theme of Harvest. I waited with a swath of books and ideas about gardens; a deck of constellation and star cards from the boys’ room; my battered copy of a Child’s Garden of Verses still containing my little sister’s signature on the inside cover, with her tiny star dotting the “i” in Christy. I brushed dust off the spine of an old encyclopedia I’d grabbed on plants and fanned and re-fanned my worksheets.

Twenty minutes later when a student finally appeared, I put on the teacher armor and pretended not to doubt myself or be embarrassed no one else came. The class meets once a month; it’s the right speed for my life, and yet, here comes this feeling of not doing enough, being enough.

I place this internal seed of doubt in the chalice and offer it up, writing my way through it with Mary. How blessed I am to reflect on the Chariot card and realize that yes, that thirty-one day challenge was the perfect vehicle for hearing the next layer of the journey out of child’s view of the commune. Sure, the leader was one of the Fools in the Corn, as were perhaps my parents and other followers, initially duped, but what of my own adult self, who had to find her way out of “Fool-dom” and into reality, sorting the True from the Not True. I see now that structures of religion can give us a false sense of security—the answers laid out as if we can somehow magically forego the threshing and sorting of experiences that being human affords us by birthright. As if we won’t have to learn to use our internal compass, regardless of outer chariot.

Maybe that spinning chalice in the Charioteer’s lap is a centrifuge. I want, in my writing, to distill, arrive at, some sanguine insight, some life-giving idea that I haven’t wasted my life believing in false prophets.

When I look once more here at the card, I hone in on the placement of the chalice: middle of body, between heart and root, over the will center, where our free will blooms. Yes, the freedom to choose is a responsibility, but far more, it is a gift. At some point we have to give up our Leaders and listen within. 

And that is what I am doing, resting in process of this second book, still sitting in the Frieda Harris's Chariot and poised at the pale blue tunnel of the entrance to the Now—those blue nested background rings like so many contractions, as of a woman in labor.

August 5, 2016: The Queen of Swords by Mary Allen

This month I had one of those cards of the month where I know what I think the card generally means and I know it’s a good card for me in general, one that I identify with and get fairly often, but I have no idea what if anything it has to say about the particular month we just passed through:  The Queen of Swords.  I picked her while I was on vacation, throwing the cards with Tania at her house.

It was the next to the last day of a seven-day trip so I was in transit.  Nothing in that moment was particularly stable, and my trip home couldn’t have been more unstable, driving in the middle of the night from San Diego to LAX on those much-bigger-than-I’m-used-to highways, getting lost midway there, being terrified of the trucks and traffic and being late when we got closer to LA. 

Then flying into Iowa in the middle of a possible tornado, roiling clouds outside the window, turbulence like I’ve never experienced before.  The Queen of Swords sits high in the blue sky on top of a bank of blue-tinged clouds, and maybe the cards were talking about that trip home, making a sly little comment about it, when they gave me her as my card of the month.

She’s bare breasted, wielding a sword in one hand and grasping a gray old-man mask in the other hand; the idea is that she cut that mask off herself and isn’t afraid to let show her true face show.  And rising up above behind her head, staring toward heaven at the top of a large crystal many-pointed star, is a child’s face; the idea there is that she also sees the world, not through an old, worn-out, false perspective as in a mask, but from a child’s fresh, innocent, honest way of seeing things. 

And I guess I’m not too modest to say that’s true of me. I spend my days writing and engaging in other activities—thinking, meditating, going to twelve-step meetings—that involve seeking clarity, truth, and authenticity beyond roles, trying to take down my old worn preconceived notions and habits and fears and you name it and let my true self show through.  According to Angeles Arrien, the Queen of Swords is a kind of counselor and also seeks counseling for herself when she needs it, that people ask her for clarification when they have the need to get to the bottom of things, and I’m willing to say that that’s true about me too, as a writing coach, sponsor, long-time therapy-goer, twelve-step-meeting attender, and most of all writer who unceasingly tries to get to the bottom of things.

But when I look back on my month I can’t think of any particular instances where I was doing that any more than any other times.  In fact, I was probably doing it less.  There was that trip home, and then recovering from the vacation as well as three weeks of teaching and chronic insomnia before the trip.  I didn’t feel particularly connected to myself during the weeks after I got home and got back into my life; I was sleepy in the afternoons when I was coaching, I took lots of naps, I was grouchy. 

But I did kind of notice the absence of that Queen of Swords part of myself; she wasn’t entirely gone, but it was as if she had stepped aside for a little while, taken a vacation from my life when I did. Noticing that she was gone when I was on vacation made me aware of her in a way I’m usually not; I kind of missed her, though usually I take her for granted. 

Traveling, I felt a little disconnected, discombobulated, not quite myself, and it took a while for the Queen of Swords part of me to slowly and gradually come back to me.  She’s here now again, with me every day, as I write, and coach, and think, and go to meetings, and go for walks and try to observe what there is to see—observing, that was another word that I saw in the Angeles Arrien description of her.  I’m relieved to have her back, to feel that that part of me is back, at least more or less, though I’m still a little sleepy in the afternoons. 

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Calling all Lovers of Tarot: Are You Ready to Make Your Own Deck? starts on September 12, 2016