Winter solstice

In my post about my words for 2017, I mentioned that I wanted to tune in more with the seasons.  As part of that, I want to do a photography project where I take a photo of the same tree each point on the wheel of the year starting with Winter Solstice.

Well, today is Winter Solstice.  And it looked like I was going to be rained off.  I had already made peace with the fact that I probably won’t get all my photos taken on the actual day because of my health and not being able to go out on my own in the rain… (I can’t put my wheelchair waterproof on myself).  But then the clouds parted, a bit of blue shone through and I headed out for a brief trip to the park.

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In addition to photos, I sat and wrote for a (very short) while and I’m going to compile some of the words and pictures into a book I made as part of my 2016 tree project.

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What are your walls made of?

The eight of swords very much sums up where I am.  I have surrounded myself with walls to block out the pain until the walls themselves have caused me pain.

My unhelpful CPN (community psychiatric nurse) keeps telling me to just let myself feel.  And obviously if it was as easy as that I would do so.  I know numbing myself off from my feelings is bad for me.

Then I came across a more helpful question this week:

What are your walls made of?

For me, I think they are made from the fear of feeling worthless, depressed, emotional pain… I don’t think they are so much about keeping people out as they are about keeping stuff (feelings, memories, thoughts) out.  Keeping people out is a byproduct.

“I have a deep fear of being too much,

That one day I will find my someone, and they will realize that I am a hurricane.

That they will step back and be intimidated by my muchness.”

Michelle K

I think they are made from a fear of my power, my authentic full self. I guess the way in school, I always held back my intelligence because it wasn’t a good idea to show it and a part of me is always moderating myself to stop other people from getting hurt or embarrassed etc.  I make myself small to make other people more comfortable.  And the walls are one way that I do that.

Your playing small does not serve the world.

There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people will not feel insecure around you.

– Marianne Williamson

Time and time again, things return to the idea of reclaiming my personal power, even in unlikely places.

My word for 2017

The last few years I have chosen a word for each year, inspired by Susannah Conway.  If you’re interested in finding your own word, do check out her website.  She has a free, five day email course to help you.

Last year my word was peace, previous years I’ve had embrace and engage.

This year, I have taken my experiences with finding peace and honed that.  For 2017, I would like to pay more attention to the little things, notice everyday magic, find the beauty in the ordinary.

Everyday magic

What do I mean by magic?  Well, Jane Yolen (as quoted on Myth and Moor) answered this well when she was asked if she believed in magic:

“I believe there are prestidigitators who can do card tricks and saw-the-woman-in half tricks. I believe there are politicians who can make us believe up is down and wrong is right. I believe there are preachers who try to sell us a mess of pottage.

“And then I believe that an owl in flight, a hawk in stoop, an otter rising out of the duckweed, a triple rainbow over the Isle of May, the New Jersey skyline as seen from the Highline in Manhattan on a night of the full moon, the small greenings of spring, honeybees on a blossom, and a newborn’s finger curled around mine are small everyday miracles, another word for ordinary magic. And that I believe in.”

 

“The world is holy.  We are holy.  All life is holy.  Daily prayers are delivered on the lips of breaking waves, the whisperings of grasses, the shimmering of leaves.” – Terry Tempest Williams

(NB, the word holy is not one which resonates with me so in my head I have replaced it with sacred.  Similarly, prayers have a very strong and not very positive connection with organised religion for me so I’m thinking more of blessings/gratitude/thankfulness/ wishes etc.)

Charles de Lint also describes this nicely:

“I do believe in an everyday sort of magic — the inexplicable connectedness we sometimes experience with places, people, works of art and the like; the eerie appropriateness of moments of synchronicity; the whispered voice, the hidden presence, when we think we’re alone.”

As with last year, I have made a pinterest board to reflect my chosen phrase and as with last year, this may expand its scope as the year goes on.  I found this has helped to keep the word in the forefront of my mind.  Other ways I’ve done this include creating art with my word, having it spelled out in fridge magnets, embroidering it and put it on my wall and using it as part of my work password.

re-enchanting the everyday

I have already started to note everyday magic/beauty/things which make me smile etc in my diary.

I plan to start carrying a camera more often.  I used to take one everywhere but somewhere along the way I fell out of the habit.  Carrying a camera means I look at the world differently – I notice the way light is falling or the shadows or a flower growing through the pavement.

Bri Anasaussy talks about how the act of noticing can help to anchor you in the present moment and probably does a better job than I could right now.  Perhaps by the end of 2017 I will be better able to articulate what I mean.  She touches on the seasons and cycles of nature and tuning into and noticing them more.  In this line of thinking, I’m going to try following the wheel of the year, partly as a way of staying in touch with the seasons and also because I keep losing track of where in the year we are… I am also going to use this a change to stop and reflect and set intentions in much the same way I do for the new and full moon.

Vix from New Age Hipster explained this further in her recent newsletter:

“I love the wheel of the year, and not just because I enjoy bit of witchy earth based magic, but because I love stopping and taking stock of where I am.

When I started to work as a teacher we were encouraged to reflect on every single lesson we taught. What went well? What will you do again? What did the kids respond to? What was kind of a disaster? It was never a time to judge or feel bad about yourself, it was an opportunity to just take some notes – yep, that’s working, keep doing that, change this, try something else here, never do this again.

If you never stop to reflect on what you’re doing you can find yourself doing the same thing over and over again and wondering why nothing is changing…”

I am hoping to do a photography project where I take a picture of the same tree at each point on the wheel.  I already have the tree in mind and am hoping, weather permitting, to start on Wednesday with Winter Solstice.

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dsc_0024-e-cthis is the tree I have in mind

I am hoping to do some check ins throughout the year as a chance to reflect on how I’m living my words, how its affecting me and what else I would like to do.

I’d love to know if you’re choosing a word for 2017!

Peace: a final note

Peace was my word for 2016.  I’ve written about it a few times in the past 12 months.

It has involved:

  • getting in touch with my inner self,
  • working towards acceptance of my circumstances and myself,
  • increasing my awareness of the little things
  • and living with intention.

I have a selection of tools which help me work towards a sense of peace; tarot, self check ins, art journalling, creating, writing etc. and I have a few things I aim to do at least once a week to help as well; creating, checking in with myself, resting, going outside and seeing people who aren’t my carers.

I have been following the moon cycles and trying to use the new and full moons to prompt my self reflection.

My life has changed significantly in the past 12 months and these changes have caused some stress but I think they have helped me move towards a more peaceful life. retirement and moving house have both made my everyday existence so much easier, considerably less exhausting and freed up my mental energy.

Tarot: The four suits

Week 2 of the Alternative Tarot Course looks at the four suits; Wands, Cups, Pentacles and Swords.

I’ve read a lot about the suits but I thought it would be helpful for me to brain dump, or free write, what the suits mean to me.  Partly as clarification for myself but also because being able to explain something to another person really helps you understand what you do and don’t know.

There is no one ‘good’ suit.  Like most things in life, it is about balance and moderation.  Too much of most things can be harmful.  It also depends on what else is around – the way the different suits and their corresponding elements interact.

Wands – Fire

This is the suit I have less of a handle on which I think is appropriate as it is about things which aren’t tangible.

It is a suit of energy, of passion, of ideas, of inspiration.  Things which aren’t yet real.  Beginnings.  It is what fuels us.  That spark of excitment when you get an idea.  And like fire, it can be creative or destructive.  It can fuel or it can burn out.

Cups – Water

This is the suit of emotion, love, relationships, the inner world. The depiction of the water or the cup can represent how you’re doing emotionally -is the water stuck, flowing freely etc?

For example, the five of cups is sometimes shown as someone upset looking at spilt cups but not seeing the river behind them. They are focussed on their pain so tightly that they miss the positives.  The mother of cups in the wild unknown deck has her wing above her cup. she is protecting her emotions but she isn’t stiffling them.

This suit is also associated with creativity and expression through arts, music etc.

Pentacles – Earth

The nitty gritty, day to day stuff.  The things you can actually grasp.  Like money, resources, jobs but also less tangibly, health and the body.

The eight of pentacles is all about craft and honing your skills and using your hands (whether that’s literal or not) to create real things.

Concerned with the material world, this is sometimes called the coin suit instead.

Swords – Air

Thoughts. Where the cups are the inner realm, swords are the mental realm. They are knowledge, truth, communication.

They are often linked to construction and destruction.

Interactions

Looking at how the suits play with each other has been a really helpful part of my readings over the last year.  I always look to see if a particular suit dominates and if so, what other cards are in the mix.  How do they interact?

As an example, you may have a wand and a cup, fire and water.  Now fire and water can interact in different ways; fire can heat the water or water can put out the fire.  In terms of the suits, this could be read as the wand adding energy and excitment to the emotional cups card, or is the cup too emotional and that’s causing the idea to fizzle out?  This was something that took a bit of thinking out for me and whilst it isn’t always relelvant to a reading, it is a useful tool.

You might also notice more than one element portrayed in a tarot card, if so, look at how they are interacting in the image.  This can tell you a lot about a card and its meaning.

A writers workout

Recently I did my second workshop with Sue Cooper.  The first was a few years ago and was writing inspired by artefacts in the Yorkshire Museum.  This one was called a writers workout and was about getting imaginations going and getting words down on paper.

She had a great selection of exercises to get us thinking and inspired.  I had a great time and was sad when I had to leave early because of pain (boo!).

The first exercise was to write for 60 seconds on a word she gave us which was a great way to start the day:

edited for spelling and grammar only

Stolen

He had stolen her dreams, her heart, her soul when he had left that day. She had always prided herself on being a strong independent woman who was more than her relationship to her man but that day, when he walked out, she realised she had succumb to him. She had let him steal her heart, her soul, her dreams, her hopes.

Roadkill

Her eyes flicked involuntarily to the corpse by the side of the motorway, a badger possibly, she couldn’t let herself look long enough to identify the rotting flesh. Her stomach heaved but she kept driving, eyes straight ahead, heart blocking out the pain.

A Vietnamese hat

A Vietnamese hat hung in the corner of the room, a reminder of a previous life, a time of travel and adventure, a time of excitement now sitting, getting dusty.  A relic of another life, a part of her that she couldn’t bring herself to get rid of yet every time she spotted it, she felt her heart sink. She would never again know the unfettered joy of discovering a new place, a new culture, new people, new food, the delight of turning a corner and finding a temple or a beautiful sandy shore. The Vietnamese hat would forever be bittersweet.

We then did an exercise where we wrote down a list of nouns and a list of adjectives and swapped them with someone else (so you have your list of nouns and someone else’s adjectives).  We then used the pairs to spark ideas.  Some were really interesting; bitter keyhole, skinny bollard, pallid wheelchair… The one I used to write about wasn’t actually that strange:

The yellow pencil

Nostalgia is a remarkable thing, triggered by the most insignificant of things. The yellow pencil that she turned over in her hands rushed her back to primary school, the smell of the electric pencil sharpener grinding the stick to a point. The simple joy of writing on a clean sheet of paper in your best handwriting with the sharpest possible pencil. She remembered sitting there, thinking as hard as a six year old can, she knew that it was important to write something really good on the first page of her new notebook.  In the end, she had given in to the pressure and simply put down her name and the date in her finest joined up lettering.

Holding it to her nose, she inhaled the strange smell of graphite and wood shavings and sighed.  How many words had it written, this pencil which was now little more than a stump?  Perhaps if she had followed her dream of becoming an author, it would have scribbled down notes for a bestseller or ideas for a children’s book.  Instead, this particular pencil, had probably scratched out shopping lists, reminders to herself and parents evening dates in her diary.

We did a range of other exercises and talked about what we’d written. all in all an excellent day!

Alternative Tarot Course: Take 2

At the beginning of the year I completed the wonderful Alternative Tarot Course from Beth over at Little Red Tarot.

As I mentioned back then, it’s a great course which Beth provides at a very accessible price.  I got a discount through her newsletter so only paid $20 but full price it’s only $25.  It’s designed to cover 8 weeks but as a learn at your own pace course, it’s obviously very flexible.  And you get possibly life long access.  At least I can still access it now!

So, it’s been one hell of a year.  My life looked so incredibly different when I first started the course back in January.  It was my first venture into learning about tarot in detail.

And I feel like it would be interesting to work through the materials again, in this new permutation of my life and with the tarot knowledge I have developed throughout the year.

I had intended, the first time round, to blog about the course but time and life meant I didn’t really do this, or at least not as much as I’d have liked.  Perhaps this time will be different.

Week One: What kind of tarot reader do you want to be?

I answered this in part in my 10 questions every tarot reader should answer post.

The main answer is that I use tarot as a psychological tool and a way of communicating with myself.

Beth provides a number of prompts and questions to help us explore our journey with tarot, our thoughts around the possibilities etc.  How did you find out about tarot, what is the purpose of tarot etc.

The reason I want to learn tarot is… as a tool for connecting with myself, as a method of self care, as a way of meditating and being mindful, as a way of listening to myself and of caring for my mental health.

I wrote that in January and to be honest, my reason for wanting to read tarot hasn’t changed.  I still use it to connect with myself, to check out if my needs are being met, as a way of listening to myself and a way of carving out a space and time for my emotions.

In learning tarot, I hope to… find a way of listening to myself, and of hearing myself, a way for me to validate myself and acknowledge and act on my needs

I do think I have found a way of listening and hearing myself through tarot. However, I know that I often listen and then don’t act on what I’ve heard.  So I might realise I need to get out the house more but then I willfully forget that discovery and not actually get out the house more.  That’s a rubbish example but I hope it illustrates the point!  I also know I need to look at ways of using the cards to validate my feelings and experiences.

I think my main challenges will be… maintaining a routine, reading and putting in the effort on bad days when my depression is worse, physical challenges because of my hands.

But I will try to overcome them by… keeping the cards nearby, working through this course, signing up for newsletters etc about tarot so that there are lots of reminders and reading isn’t a hard thing, letting other people handle the cards whilst I read them for myself.

Having retired, some of the physical challenges have lessened as I am no longer using my hands all day at work.  I have been reasonably good at using the moon cycles as a way of maintaining a tarot routine.  I do read at other times but I almost always do a reading on a new or full moon.  I have also recently started drawing a card a week, a sort of riff on the Memento Mori that Carrie Mallon is doing.  My tarot cards are in my eye line when I’m in my living room chair and given that I spend most of my time there, this works as a helpful reminder.  It also means I don’t have to put much effort in to getting cards out etc.  I have subscribed to a number of newsletters and as well as the Alternative Tarot Course, I have done Susannah Conway’s 78 Mirrors this year.