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.

 

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.

Fiction Inspired by Tarot

For something so universally recognizable, most people know little about the tarot outside of its supposed ability, with the help of a skilled reader, to foretell the future. Tarot cards are very rich in symbolism and occult significance. With their mysterious illustrations and buried meanings so open to interpretation, it’s hardly surprising that a number of sci-fi and fantasy books have incorporated the Tarot into their world building. If anything, it’s surprising there aren’t more of them: staring into the Tarot is like staring into a ominous mirror-world.
Source: Barnes and Noble

A review of the Creative Tarot by Two Sides Tarot.

A cursory glance online reveals that figures in the literary world are recognising, what many of us know. Tarot can make a significant contribution to the craft of writing.

“The Creative Tarot: A Modern Guide to an Inspired Life” by Jesse Crispin is a manual intended to show that the tarot deck, primarily regarded as belonging to the domain of the esoteric, can be useful for anyone engaged in creative pursuits.

Like Crispin, at the risk of being deemed a “weirdo mystic”, I am prepared to publicly come out of the spiritual closet and promote the benefits of turning to a deck of cards for inspiration for fiction and art. Aside from the fact that I have seen the benefit of using cards in writing classes, I am in esteemed company. Many respected writers have made use of the tarot: Yeats, Italo Calvino, Salvador Dali, and even Charles Williams, a novelist and theologian who belonged to the Inklings literary circle, have drawn on the cards for inspiration.

Given that many Tarot cards actually depicted imagery of Medieval Dramas that took place in Italy it is not surprising that the cards, which feature characters from those plays, offer a springboard for aspiring wordsmiths.  In a post entitled Tarot Fairy Stories I presented a case for using the Cosmic Tarot to help generate a fairy story set in a fantasy world. Needless to say there is a lot more that can be done.

When I found Tribu Arcane, a set of playing cards, in a second hand book shop I couldn’t help adding it to my collection. This deck features a different, traditional image on each card. 

In a writing session I laid out the suit of hearts and we spent time considering what story is being revealed. We discussed what ideas might be researched and to kick start discussion I suggested that we could write something about a vibrant dancing troupe who travel, presenting spontaneous performances under sprawling Marula Trees. It is always inspiring to hear other ideas that come forward from the group.

Pull out a deck and experiment! Feel free to share any ideas in the comment section!