Drawing On the Past

I cannot deny that I have found my time with Estragon, at his beach side cabin, a creatively stimulating place to be. I have enjoyed sitting with him, chatting under the awning, and I have basked in being able to trot down the path that leads down to the sea. It feels a bit like I am on the set of Death in Paradise. Estragon’s cabin is situated well away from day trippers, and is the kind of place celebrities, seeking quiet and peace, pay a fortune for at places like Byron Bay in NSW, Australia.

As we sat drinking champagne under the awning, I could literally feel myself shedding a snake skin of stress that I had been carrying. I was fascinated to hear more about Estragon’s work as a Cyber Security Manager for a well known film company. Perhaps it was the salt air but I was intrigued as he described the Pirates of Cyber Space who download and distribute copyrighted content. I could almost imagine them sailing into our quiet bay to pilfer our solitude.

“It so happens”, I said “that I found a mini Pirate Spread on the internet. How about you pour me another champagne and I will sling some cards for you”.

Estragon, who was now totally over my weirdness, agreed that this could be fun, especially because he planned to hang out here for awhile. It is no secret that he isn’t sure what he is supposed to do when he isn’t surfing or wandering the beach looking for treasure.

After ceremoniously waving my very magic raven wand, I shuffled the Gypsy Tarot Deck many times, impressing Estragon with my ability to riffle shuffle. Then I laid the cards out on the table.

Our eyes widened as we took in the cards that had emerged.

What Adventure Calls?

We simultaneously focused on the reddened sky in the background of the 7 of Pentacles and considered how this might be a sign to use the experience from his past to inform a new project and a micro adventure. We chuckled about the Pirates of the Caribbean and I snorted and suggested that since he had first hand experience and such good contacts in the film industry, he might write a script that featured some pirates of the seven cyber seas. Estragon gave me one of those WTF looks and I knew that he thought this might be a possibility.

Where must I travel?

It was pretty evident to both of us that the only travel Estragon planned to do was in his mind. As he took in the 2 of Swords he remarked that beyond that castle lay possibility. He reflected that he had been locked within a castle and that tackling a script would be one way of breaking out. As he was talking I thought of Stephen King who literally locked himself in the laundry and worked at a makeshift deck sandwiched between the washing machine and the dryer. It was in this laundry that he created Carrie, his first major hit novel. Estragon and I agreed that he did not need a fancy spot to write, that he had indeed, found a spot many would be envious of.

What buried treasure awaits? What am I going to do?

It was not lost on either of us that here, in this remote setting, Estragon could go within and pull out secrets, draw on the knowledge he has about those who ruthlessly pirate copyrighted materials. “I am going to do it” he said as we poured more champagne.

 

Estragon Restores His Equilibrium

Finding inner peace in the modern world is a significant challenge.
Few things are more disconcerting than living a life you weren’t meant to live.

When I met up with Estragon he said he had been couch surfing with a friend at the beach and admitted that he had been partying, drinking rather heavily and did not seem to be able to get even the most basic planning done.

I didn’t need a crystal ball to know that he had lost confidence again and as a result of the dramatic change in life, was actually freaking out. I figured that if he was going to make a fist of the creative quest he had embarked on, we needed to spend some serious time working to adjust his perspective.

I suggested we try out the ‘finding inner peace spread’ I’d found online. Like so many men I have worked with he looked decidedly skeptical about what Tarot cards would have to say. I smiled sweetly and suggested that he “amuse me and that we might actually be surprised by what the cards revealed”. I refrained from saying that the cards rarely lie simply because I didn’t want to overplay my hand.

Decide for yourself and live the life you were meant to live.

As I laid down the cards Estragon’s whole demeanour changed. I realised that he had actually been concerned about what would emerge from the Gypsy Palace deck. I reassured him that these cards were not going to predict his future but they might help us dialogue and untangle his ‘block’, help him get over the ‘anxiety attack’ which was crippling him.

What will stop me worrying about the things I have no control over?

As we examined the Ten of Pentacles and examined Nora’s little rough guide I reminded Estragon that he had not left his life because he had failed. Quite the contrary! He had finished a significant project that had demanded lots of skills and that he should not only be feeling satisfied with his achievements, but confident that he has the skills to tackle something else. Estragon brightened and agreed that he really could take what he had learned to another level, and hat he could focus on what he had some control over.

What will help me relax?

As I looked at the charismatic Queen of Wands I refrained from suggesting that he had actually been relaxing quite a bit and decided that it would help if I reminded him that he was very creative, radiated a lot of energy and loved a challenge. I am not sure if he was smiling at what other delights the bare chested Queen had to offer. Whatever! He was certainly relaxing!

What will help me declutter my mind?

Some folk might not think that the Seven of Pentacles would help anyone declutter their mind but Estragon was very responsive to the imagery and agreed that he had been over thinking things and had cluttered his mind with too many options. He remembered how bad he had been feeling, the pressure he had been under and said that he really did not want to spend his life on a career that is impressive to others. He added that he had no interest in chasing after a fancy house and could decide what was really important to him. Couch surfing by night and surfing by day was helping him declutter his mind. He had enjoyed the companionship and he had felt good about exercising regularly.

Well I admit I was not totally surprised to hear that, like Vlad, what Estragon really needed was to fill the bank of energy again. I do know what it is like to be burned out and to be running on empty so I wasn’t about to criticise him or suggest that he might not want to be a beach bum at 60. Far better to let him have a break – a well earned sabbatical.

What will help me accept what is in the present moment? How can I practice patience?
What will help me practice mindfulness?

Accepting the present moment, being patient and practicing mindfulness no longer seemed to be an issue! We fell about laughing and agreed that a few nights sleeping on the sand, under the moon, listening to the waves crashing on the shore would do it for him. The very thought that it was okay to relax at the beach for awhile, knowing that there was a place waiting in the world for him to fill was all he had needed.

I left him, surf board in hand, running off to catch another wave.

 

An Important Decision

If you looked at my life last year compared to my life today, it’s almost unrecognizable. Last year, I had a growing interior design firm and had just purchased a starter home in Austin, Texas. My boyfriend and I were living in our house and planning a future together. From the outside, it looked like everything was going in the right direction. But I had a nagging feeling that something was off. I felt stuck and unfulfilled in my work and relationship, but I didn’t know why or what to do about it. I had no idea that the solution would be to donate most of my things and move into a campervan.

I met Vlad in the travellers inn that she has been staying in since leaving her job as a high flying corporate lawyer and wondered how she was adapting to more basic living conditions. She enlightened me that she was happy and that she had got excited after watching a YouTube video about about a woman travelling solo in a camper van and finding this article in Van Life.

While I knew that there had been a huge trend for ‘grey nomads’ to hitch up their caravans and head around Australia I confessed that this was relatively new to me and that it would not only be a very interesting way to live but that it would demand that she adapt and learn new skills.

The counsellor in me reminded Vlad that it was not a good idea to make hasty decisions after having made the major life choice to walk away from her well established life. I suggested pulling some cards to generate discussion and throw some light on the matter.

The appearance of the Hanged Man and the Ten of Rods was enough for Vlad. She didn’t need to dialogue about this. She resolutely laid down her keys as a symbol that the time had come to unburden herself and to see things from a fresh perspective. She had decided and was ready to join the swelling numbers of people abandoning the lives that society had encouraged them to believe would be fulfilling.

Vlad’s Past, Present, Future

This is a 9 card spread. It consists of a 3 x 3 matrix. The cards are placed face down one by one, starting from the top-left and moving from top to down, left to right. Then they are revealed (I let the person whose story is being told do it) one by one. There are, once again, different methods to read the spread. In my reading, the top line represents the past: events, people or conditions that are somehow the pre-conditions for the situation we are investigating. The middle part represents the situation at hand, with the central card having a special significance as the present time or “the protagonist” of the story. Of course, this is in a metaphorical sense: a quality or an attitude that somehow characterizes the person. The lower line represents possible future scenarios or consequences.
from the 
Carmideroni Blog

As we sailed with the Ferry Woman to an unknown destination Vlad and I took the time to do a 9 card spread for her. I intend to do one for myself for, as I travel with the two Fools it is clear that I am on a new creative journey too. Our reading of this spread will eventually appear here. Meanwhile we are taking in the salt air and enjoying sailing in the moonlight.

Top Line: Past events, people and conditions

Vlad had no hesitation in relating to the top line of this spread. She recognised that she had been lured by the belief that if she joined the Corporate Law firm money would come her way. She understood that in doing so she had lost sight of the fact that real wealth that lay elsewhere, didn’t comprehend what the burden working in such a competitive, toxic environment would be like.  She had spent years being busy, having a lot going on all at once and she freely admitted to having burned both ends of the candle.

Middle Line: Current events, people and conditions

As we looked at the middle line both Vlad and I drew in a deep breath of relief. Vlad felt that the cards vindicated her decision and that the cards were seeing her in a fresh light. Her eyes lit up at the prospect of sharing good times with like minded people who were not going to compete with her or stab her in the back over some deal. We both agreed that if the Magician and Hierophant archetypes were coming forward she really is ready and willing to make it happen.

Bottom Line: Future events, people and conditions

As we meditated on the Queen of Rods and the King of Cups who steadfastly met our gaze I looked at Vlad and said that this really is her time to shine. She is a charismatic woman who is very passionate about coming up with creative ideas and we both began to chat about potentiality and possibilities.

Checking in with Vlad

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth
Robert Frost

When I first met Vlad and Estragon in a cafe ‘on the road most travelled’ they were preparing to head off on their creative journeys. Possibly because they realised that they had so little in common they took quite different paths.

When I found Vlad she was sitting journalling after having pulled out the Temperance Card. She explained to me that she intended to draw cards to help decide what kind of day she would have. I smiled and told her that this sounded like a great idea and that I would try doing that myself.

Vlad showed me her journal in which she had spent time stocktaking and setting priorities. She said that she desperately needed some balance after burning both ends of the candle in her corporate job and showed me the list she had made of all the people who had wronged her or made life particularly difficult.

Upon seeing this list I suggested that she call on her Ghosts, Goddesses or Guides for some guidance and she agreed. Like Estragon she also agreed that she would heed any message which emerged, even if she didn’t like it.

We pulled a card from my Goddess Oracle and as I laid it down the look on Vlad’s face spoke more than any words. This card had clearly hit a very raw nerve and I decided to just sit quietly as she took it in. Then I began to read the poem in the guide book to her

“My fingers were cut off then
I was kicked
I was hurt
I was wounded
I was lied to
I was betrayed
I was abandoned”

It was at this point that we both agreed we would sit down and make lists of all the ways we had been hurt and then create a fire and burn our lists. As we were writing our lists I was reminded of Clarissa Pinkola Estes concept of the Scar Clan. I recalled devoting a significant part of a journal, an assessment task for a loss and grief course, to documenting my scars. No one will be surprised to hear that before the journal was filled I got over my negative narrative and began identifying all the ways in which I had been supported.

Within Just 24 Hours

Any of us who have decided to embark on the Fool’s Journey know all too well that it never goes quite as smoothly as we imagine. Estragon was puffed up with confidence and I knew, in my waters, that this euphoria about leaving his life as an IT nerd might not last for long.

Just 24 hours after talking to him he had hit the wall and taken a knock. It seems that there are plenty of others with his IT skills and it is not going to be quite so easy to pick up casual work to support his dream of being an artisan. Clearly he is going to have to adapt his thinking and accept that he doesn’t actually know everything, that he has much to learn, that everyone is not going to welcome a stranger with open arms.

Given that I profess to be an artistic midwife, with years of experience handling creative blocks, I decided I needed to act. I quietly took a deck of cards out of my creative medicine bag and suggested that we draw a card and see if that card would shed some light on the situation, and hopefully, provide an encouraging message. Before shuffling we agreed that whatever card came out, we would accept that this was the message we needed to hear.

The Chariot is such a wonderful card and Estragon was happy that it had appeared. The Chariot  is the perfect card in a situation like this because, it reminds us that life is a journey and that as we journey through life, life invariably confronts us with a mixture of experiences – not all good. Everyone has to learn to manage their energy and how best to express their power. Vlad stiffened when I asked him to consider which of his powers needed to be balanced and where he would like the Chariot to take him.

After a few moments he put his head in his hands and acknowledged that he really didn’t know.

“Well now we have something to work with” I told him and, quite suddenly he brightened.

On the other hand Vlad, who has been spending quiet time recuperating after leaving her high flying, demanding job, has been infused with inspiration and has already met up with some likeminded folk who are actively encouraging her to realise her dream.

It will be interesting to see how this goes for her, especially given the environment she has come from.

Checking In With E and V

Estragon and Vlad haven’t gone anywhere yet so I thought I would check in to see what they are thinking at this stage. Estragon is extremely confident that he is making independent choices and is quite focused, intent on achieving his goal. Not surprisingly he is unable to give me any details about just what that goal is. So while he has given up on Godot he is clearly still waiting for some light to be switched on by some unknown force.

Vlad on the other hand has decided to rest and withdraw for awhile. She is determined to go but tells me that she is waiting for the right moment. She still needs to clear her thoughts. Given that she has burned both ends of the candle in her work as a Corporate Lawyer I cannot say I am surprised and I am encouraging her to take her own sweet time. “There are no creative journey police that I know of” I told her.

“Well that is comforting” she replied. “Will make a nice change after the scrutiny I was subjected to in my working world!”

All I said was that I ‘heard her’ and did understand.

Narrating Two Creative Journeys

One day you finally knew
What you had to do, and began,
Though the voices around you
Kept shouting

Their bad advice‚
Though the whole house
Began to tremble
And you felt the old tug
At your ankles.
“Mend my life!”
Mary Oliver The Journey

Over a cup of Tiny Tea I met with Vlad and Estragon and agreed that I would try to be an objective observer and help preserve their journey.

As we sat sipping our tea, laced with something strong enough to get them talking, I enquired about what was driving them, why they were prepared to throw in their seemingly successful lives to wander for an indefinite period.

Estragon quite confidently declared that his inner Emperor felt stable enough to help him reach his latent artistic goals and announced that he would be the first to present something tangible, something that would revolutionise thinking at this time. On the other hand Vlad shared that she was well aware of karma and she believed that in order to achieve her dream she needed to give something up. She has decided to walk away from her highly paid, high flying position as a Corporate Lawyer.

I simply listened, smiled and made supportive, encouraging noises. This is going to be VERY interesting!

Given Up Waiting for Godot

Waiting for Godot is a play by Samuel Beckett in which two characters, Vladimir (Didi) and Estragon (Gogo), engage in a variety of discussions and encounters while awaiting Godot, who never arrives.

Two Fools, Estragon from the Gypsy Palace Tarot and Vlad from the Sakki Sakki Tarot have decided to give up sitting around Waiting for Godot to shed some light on what they are supposed to be doing at this point in their lives. Inspired by Mary Oliver’s The Journey,  they have both decided to head off on a creative journey. I am following them, writing up brief biography fragments for them. I will be posting what I glean from these travellers but you can also follow the permanent links on this page to track their progress and see what they end up doing.

Writing Portraiture

“The portrait is generally a form of description, and like all descriptions it is a particularly enjoyable device to reread. Anais Nin is the master of descriptive portrait in the diary. Nin made an effort to be fair and free of malice in her word-portraits of friends and acquaintances, though she was aware of weaknesses as well as talents of those she described. In writing portraits she tried to include as many details as possible about herself and the other person”.
Tristine Rainer The New Diary.

‘The Hand’ is a device I have repeatedly used in writing classes. I have people place their hand on their notebook and draw around their fingers. Then I suggest that they lay down some cards. The card for the thumb is the primary figure for this word-portrait. The other four fingers represent people and events that have impacted on this persons life.

  • Carefully look at the pictures. Make sure to take in as much detail as possible. It is important to look very closely. 
  • 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 remembering that you are not in a writing competition.

“Remember that a portrait done like this is never really finished. You can always recolour it, revise it, contradict it, add to it. The mobile,  evolving quality of the portrait makes it a useful tool in recognizing the psychological process of projection. Rather than just seeing the person on his or her terms you are likely to see a mirror reflection of yourself and gain insights about yourself. By writing portraits you begin to see if the face you are describing is your own”. Tristine Rainer The New Diary