Pandemic Free Writing Zone

When Victoria went into its fifth lockdown last week, classes that I had offered in a couple of Library settings were cancelled. This is disappointing for everyone and adds to the cocktail of negative noise that we have all been dealing with. 

As Nitchke explains “the human brain has the capacity to imagine all the worst things that could happen. And the more uncertainty there is — especially if that uncertainty is coupled with gloomy hypotheticals — the more likely the brain is to conjure up and fixate on the worst-case scenarios.

I wish it were otherwise but we are going to be faced with uncertainty for quite some time! So I decided that one way of providing a tiny bit of certainty is to offer regular writing/art sessions in a Zoom setting. 

Participants will have a regular meeting time and projects (lockdown friendly if the need arises) to occupy themselves before meeting again.

The cost is $15 per a one and a half hour session.

If you are interested in joining a group of a maximum of 5 participants, for a block of 6 weeks, on a Tuesday evening at 8 pm AET simply email heatherblakey at fastmail dot fm. Other times can be made available depending on interest.

Writing for Wellness

Pens, crayons, pencils and IV tubes may not seem to have much in common but the arts are increasingly touted as a form of healing that can be as relevant to a patients wellbeing as medication. A developing body of research shows that expressive writing helps calm the mind and emotions, and increases feelings of happiness and wellbeing.

In this course we will use guided writing activities as a gentle approach to personal wellbeing. You will be offered tools which you can take away and use in your daily writing and art practice.

The enjoyable and easy-to-do activities will help you:

  • reunite with your most creative self
  • dip into Mnemosynes Well of Memory using simple lists as stepping stones
  • apply guided imageries and visual imagery as a kick starter to daily writing
  • alter your perspective by communicating with fragments of nature
  • experience the catharsis that comes with writing letters to past and future selves
  • create detailed portraitures
  • explore a range of emotions

About Heather Blakey

Heather Blakey has had over thirty years experience as a secondary school teacher in Melbourne’s Northern suburbs and she has recently graduated as a Master of Social Work at Monash University.

Between 2000 and 2010 she built and managed the critically acclaimed Soul Food Cafe a site which was acknowledged by Writers Digest and authors such as Sark and Jean Houston. While she no longer runs this labyrinthine website Soul Food informs how she works and has influenced writing courses that she runs regularly.

​Heather describes herself as a purveyor of stimuli and an artistic midwife. She has worked as a specialist teacher of writing with people of all ages and believes that the expressive arts, and writing in particular, not only promotes wellness in those who trust the process and engage but helps people identify and value their unique voice.

The Spirit of the Fungi

I pause to commune with the serene spirit of the Fungi. She may live in darkened places but her light shines brightly and she is full of wisdom. 

“For millennia, western thinking has been dominated by the idea that we are separate from, and superior to, the rest of nature. Plants and fungi are seen as dumb, mechanical processes that we can plunder for materials and chemicals without considering how we relate to them. Other cultures see other lifeforms as peers. They are viewed as creatures deserving of respect and from whom we might be able to learn something. 

From our human-centered perspective, fungi seem rather inert and unimpressive. They don’t move much and seem to be uninteresting passive objects rather than intelligent beings. Just because they don’t move, however, doesn’t mean they don’t have behavior”. 

Life as we know it would not exist without fungi. They are the critical link in the biological cycle of life and death. 

Fungi are the great recyclers. They play a major part, with prokaryotes such as bacteria, in breaking down organic matter. Without them we would soon be up to our ears in dead plant matter and animal carcasses. Worse still, we would be surrounded by mountains of dung that would not rot. 

Plants would soon run out of fresh nutrients. Animals in turn would go hungry. 

There would be no forests. Few people realize that trees rely on networks of fungi working in partnership with their roots. Without fungi to make nutrients available, trees would be unable to survive. Consider the many roles trees play in supporting life on earth and you’ll realize the importance of this union. 

Reference: The Fungus Amongst Us

A Fools Journey

Once upon a time, long before there was once upon a time, an old crone decided that she needed to make one final creative journey and add another star to the constellation in the skies that shone within her private universe. She was not in the least surprised when a Raven and a Donkey insisted on coming along, for they had travelled with her before.

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What did startle her was the arrival of a flamboyant, charismatic Sulphur Crested Cockatoo named Bonnie. She suspected that Bonnie was one of the flocks that had raided her beloved Ornamental Pistachio Tree each year because she was quite sure that she had seen and photographed a bird, with attitude, who looked just like her.

Duncan the Donkey made it clear that he was getting too old to carry heavy loads and while the Crone agreed that it would be good to travel lightly she did ask Duncan to carry some of her art supplies and made sure to tuck a few of her Tarot and Oracle cards into her bag. She had relied on them during the long ‘lockdowns’ and wasn’t about to go anywhere without her most trusted ones.

Bonnie’s sharp eye caught a glimpse of these boxed treasures and, because she is such an inquisitive bird, wanted to know more about them. The Crone began to explain the Major Arcana to her and was surprised to discover that Bonnie was more fascinated than any of her human friends had been.

“Perhaps you will teach me about these Majors as we travel” said Bonnie.

“What a good idea” said the Crone. “There is so much that I am yet to learn and we could always learn together”.

A Fools Journey

Brand Bonnie

From the Crone’s Diary

Other material of interest

Interested in Mythic Journey’s? Check out the work of Christopher Vogler and his book The Writers Journey

Tarot Play Time – Play Theatre

I think I am not the only one intrigued by the picturesque of early Tarot cards. What do they really represent? Who drew them? Who put all these icons together?

Then I saw Dario Fo, the great Italian comedian of Comedia dell Arte, play writer and Nobel Prize winner, acting on stage playing the hilarious figure of a barbarous Pope (I cannot recall who). and I thought that something of the medieval feasts, mysteries and banquets were radiating from the stage… from Origins of the Tarot Cards from Medieval Mystery Plays

I spied with my little eye the Magnetic Play Theatre that I obviously kept, which belonged to my daughter when she was little.

It only took a moment to find out about the connection between Tarot and Medieval Playhouses and for my inner child to point out that this would be a fun way to play with Tarot and write all at the same time.

So I set up my Rose and Swan Playhouse and called upon the Fiddler on the Roof Matchmaker to make me a match. The Lions Gateway Tarot by Jessica Henry was the obvious choice and I have to say it was love at first sight. These two may have quite the romance as they bounce off one another.

As I laid down the card that emerged from Henry’s beautiful deck I thought of fairy stories and the Canterbury Tales.  Given Tarots power to teach about morality, I might even be happy to  write a scene for a morality play.

Aperture Stories

“Everyone has a story,” renowned anthropologist Barbara Myerhoff stated, and these stories “told to oneself and others can transform the world.” The name Story Aperture is inspired by Barbara Myerhoff, who described the way a personal story can provide an opening to understand not only one person’s life, but larger truths about the human experience.

Aperture stories are stories which come when we put the light on symbols to be found within Tarot, Oracle, Lenormand or Playing cards.  When we focus like on what the symbol is telling us, we are find deeper meanings which enable us to adapt and adjust our narrative. When we work with an aperture we see well beyond overt meanings and tap into important healing structures.

When we work intuitively with Lenormand, Tarot and Oracle cards we hold micro art galleries in our hand and we have access to insights that have been drawn from the collective unconsious.

When we use a camera it is the depth of field that will determine:

  1. where your viewer’s eye is drawn in a photograph, and
  2. whether or not the photograph is telling a story.

If we keep the camera lens in mind as we examine the cards that have emerged more light is shone on particular features. Often it is the understructure which reveals an entirely fresh model for telling a story. When we work intensively with an image it can help us  face a difficult situation or deal with and heal trauma.  

I have found it inspirational to sit with another person, over a Devonshire tea (Coffee), to sling cards, work intuitively and to listen to the stories that rise up. In the process of working out what the understructure is telling us, at a particular moment in time, we are telling aperture stories.

Telling Tarot Stories

Great Tarot readers, like writers, know how to weave the story between the Tarot cards to create highly engaging and meaningful Tarot readings for their clients. They see patterns between the cards and combine these intuitive messages into a beautiful story that is unique to the client and their situation. This exercise is good for writers looking to warm their hand by practicing on a daily basis. It is also a good practice for a tarot reader to strengthen their spontaneous story telling skills

Every Tarot card contains its own unique story and each story can be expanded by using more than one card. Every card in a Tarot deck is connected by an invisible thread.

As writers looking to maintain a daily practice Tarot cards are a wonderful source of inspiration.

Over a cup of tea or coffee one way to start the day is to quietly shuffle a pictorial deck and draw some cards. In this instance I chose the Tarot of the Durer which is an art deck compiled by taking scenes from some of Durer’s famous work. I opted to choose just two cards.

Lay out your cards as I have done here.

  • Carefully look at the pictures. Make sure to take in as much detail as possible. It is important to look very closely. For example, did you notice that the eagle is chained and that there is an ominous raven shaped cloud above the old man in the 10 of Pentacles? What is your impression of Temperance’s mood? How is she relating to the cow? What is her connection to the elderly man in the 10 of Pentacles?
  • What are the different elements? Plants? Buildings? Flowers? Animals? What is the landscape? Are there people in the card? What is the person in the picture doing? What objects do you see? Why do you think they are there? What’s in the background? What’s in the foreground? How do all of these different elements come together into a coherent story?
  • Notice every small and large detail and make a note of it. Absorb the entire card into your mind.
  • Now set your timer for 20 minutes. And start writing and sketching, remembering that you are not in a writing or art competition.
  • Make up a story as you go along. Use the elements from the picture in your story. You can be as creative as you like – just let yourself go wild. Write down a story in the 20 minutes you’ve set aside.

Warming the Hand – Honing One’s Knowledge of Pentacles

I keep to this routine every day without variation. The repetition itself becomes the important thing; it’s a form of mesmerism. I mesmerize myself to reach a deeper state of mind.
Haruki Murakami

Write freely and as rapidly as possible and throw the whole thing on paper. Never correct or rewrite until the whole thing is down. Rewrite in process is usually found to be an excuse for not going on. It also interferes with flow and rhythm which can only come from a kind of unconscious association with the material.
Steinbeck

When I run writing classes I always promote the benefit of writing on a daily basis to keep the ‘hand warm’ so to speak.

In this instance I have chosen a character, the Hermit, from the Major Arcana and placed him alongside the court cards of the suit of Pentacles. Then I laid out the 10 cards to represent his journey back into the outside world.

To begin I have decided that the Hermit has been living in isolation in Cappadocia for many years. Word has reached him about the dramatic changes that have taken in the outside world and he has decided to venture out again.

I will make notes about his journey as he moves through this suit.

Of course, working in this way is also a good way to sharpen your knowledge of the cards in a new deck and refine your readings.

Everything Has A Story

Like Sleeping Beauty I am waking up – woken by the voices of all the things I have never thought to stop and listen to, that are eager for me to tell their story. As I listen I have some Tarot Cards with me because they help ‘translate’ the message from an item like a traffic sign or the windmill that has stood out in the weather for decades
The Tarot Midwife November 9 2020

My loyal companion, Archie, a Finnish Lappie, and I headed out to the Muckleford Railway Station armed with a copy of the Little Red Engine. We had been there the day before and decided that we would go back and read this story to the carriages that are lined up on the side tracks.

We found a place to sit and began reading this delightful old children’s book, that once belonged to my children, to the old railway carriages. We didn’t get right through the story because we were both suddenly aware that these so called inanimate carriages and Aunty Jack, the old engine that pulled them on long hauls, were getting quite emotional.

To check what had upset everyone I pulled a card from the Tarot of the Sweet Twilight and out popped the Three of Swords.

It all became very obvious. These loyal, hardworking, heavy duty carriages were devastated to have found themselves abandoned on side tracks here, while Betsy, a light weight steam train blew its whistle and gloated as it skipped past, filled with passengers, city slickers, enjoying a journey down memory lane.

When things calmed they said that they did appreciate hearing the story and that if I would come back they would tell me of some of the places they passed when they were carrying goods and animals back in the day when the railway was the main means of transport.

Aunty Jack the old engine who pulled huge loads through Central Victoria.

Aunty Jack, the Empress, the powerful engine who pulled these carriages for years, brightened at the prospect of having someone listen. I told her about my Great Grandfather who worked as an engineer and oversaw the laying of rails in the 1860’s and she was delighted to hear about his foresight and passion for rails. She suggested that when I come back I tell her more about his days building the railway that bought such change to colony.

Footnote: A delightful mechanic/engineer, who I sat enjoying a cup of coffee with at Dig in nearby Newstead, told me that railway men always give engines female names. He said that in his younger days the really strong ones, with a ton of personality, were invariably known as Aunty Jack. It was he who shared that some were known as Betsy and Val. I decided that the old Steam Train that travels between Castlemaine and Maldon, through the Muckleford Station, is known here as Betsy.

Tarot Based Memoir

Choose a pictorial deck and lay out a complete minor arcana. You might, for example lay out a suit that is alignment with your zodiac sign. For example, I am a Virgo and I might choose to use the earth based pentacles.

Use the cards to tell write a narrative about your life. Think of the first 3 cards being the beginning of the story, the second set of three cards being the middle of the story and the last three cards being the end.