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

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.

Story Starter Using Raincoast Tarot

Writing has tremendous energy. If you find a reason for it, any reason, it seems that rather than negate the act of writing, it makes you burn deeper and glow clearer on the page. Ask yourself, “Why do I write?” or “Why do I want to write?” but don’t think about it. Take pen and paper and answer it with clear, assertive statements. Every statement doesn’t have to be one hundred percent true and each line can contradict the others. Even lie if you need to, to get going. If you don’t know why you write, answer it as though you do know why.

— Natalie Goldberg, Writing Down the Bones

When I am running writing classes I like to offer speed stream of consciousness writing activities to ‘warm the hand’.

This spread by @radiantunknown is the perfect spread to generate some writing, preferably on scrap paper. I encourage people to begin by sketching, posing some questions and making lists of things that come to mind.

Natalie Goldberg provides this idea which I have seen used by teachers training actors

I suggest that you place your primary character on a page and then make use of the following format to create your own character.

No cheating. Do not simply fill in the blanks by describing yourself or someone you know. Instead, fill in the blanks describing someone you’d find it interesting to know. Then, remembering that conflict is the essence of all dramatic writing, repeat the process by imagining a character whose value, attitudes, etc. would likely put them in opposition to the first character you invented.

Full Name:
Nicknames:
Sex:
Age:
Height:
Weight:
Hair:
Eyes:
Skin:
Posture:
Appearance:
Health:
Birthmark:
Abnormalities:
Heritage:
Where born:
Where live:
Favorite food:
Favorite subject in school:
Favorite game as child:
Best memory:
Worst memory:
Smoke/Drink/Drugs Profile:
Favorite section of newspaper:
Favorite type of music:
Last book read:
Last movie seen:
Morning or night person:
Introvert/Extrovert:
Indoor or outdoor person:
Greatest fear:
Closest friend:
Dearest possession:
Favorite season:
Class:
Occupation:
Education:
Family:
Home Life:
IQ:
Religion:
Community:
Political Affiliation:
Amusements/Hobbies:
Reading Interests:
Sex Life:
Morality:
Ambition:
Frustration:
Temperament:
Attitude:
Psychological Complexes:
Superstitions:
Imagination

Then we set a timer and write for twenty minutes without thinking or worrying about grammar.

As a follow on you can put your character in the centre of this spread and begin building on their story using the cards that emerge.

Memoir Work With Georgina

 Memoirists may be wary of putting their truth on the page. They may be concerned others will judge them. Or, they may feel guilt about revealing the harmful (or deceitful, immoral, or criminal) behaviors of someone close to them. They may even fear retribution from such a person.  By working with a fictional character we can explore and test run various ways of drawing out memories and writing memoir.

A photo of Georgina when she worked as the Popess in the Legrande Circus and Side Show

Georgina McClure, who is now retired and living quietly in a remote rural setting, lived and worked in the Circus World all her life. She was raised by an aunt, who preceded her as the Popess, after her mother, a famous sword swallower, affectionately known as the ‘Human Volcano’, died during a performance.

Georgie explained that there were many factors which contributed to the demise of the circus. Increased railroad costs, costly court battles with animal rights activists, which saw the end of the elephant acts, were just some of the things that killed the Circus as she had known it. “People didn’t want to see a show without elephants” she explains and “in an era of Pokemon Go, online role playing games and YouTube celebrities, the “Greatest Show on Earth” suddenly didn’t seem so great”.

Georgie, who retired as the Circus she had spent her life working in folded, met me in her home and agreed to talk about her future and test run some of my quirky ideas about writing memoir.

You will find our notes here.

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.