An oak graveyard


There is a beautiful piece of land at the end of 290 just before you hit HWY 10. But for as long as I can remember, it was marred by miles and miles and miles of dead trees, miles of beautiful oaks devastated by oak wilt.

Passing this oak graveyard on the way to 10 used to make me sad.

Maybe it’s because I’m somewhat of a gardener, but I felt the pain of this spot keenly. I would imagine how lush and gorgeous these trees once were, how majestic this land used to be. Driving past these dead trees, seeing them droop there on rolling hills like piles of dried sticks, was a shock.

I used to try and imagine how expensive or complicated or impossible it would be for owners of this land to take some kind of action, to maybe cut down what must be thousands of trees, to somehow protect the remaining healthy ones? What would you do? Try to treat the remaining thousands left healthy with some sort of oak wilt medicine? Cut down the thousands of trees that have died?

For some reason, I always mentally obsessed each time I drove past this particular spot on my way to Marfa, or Big Bend, or Santa Fe, or California. But admittedly, it’s been a while.

So imagine my surprise this time, while driving west on 290 almost to 10– I couldn’t find the oak graveyard. I anticipated the spot like I always did, looking for the first dead oaks to signal the approach of the graveyard and preparing for the shock. But, I couldn’t find it.

I saw some dead, gnarled branches and stumps, some piles of cut wood, but I also found regrowth, a resurrection of sorts. I saw sprays of green from seemingly dead limbs. I saw new green tops on an old dead stump. It felt like I was witnessing a miracle, and I was. This was a visual representation of one of the most basic principles of life on our Earth: Death and rebirth.

In the classic Tarot card deck there is a card that scares most people when they see it misunderstanding it’s true, esoteric meaning—the ‘Death’ card. It rarely represents actual death, but really means the ‘ending of something as we know it’, and the beginning of a new cycle. Much like Dumbledore’s pet phoenix in Harry Potter, sometimes we have to accept endings (painful and dramatic) because new life needs to sprout from the old.

Yes, some of those trees never came back to life, some had to be cut down, some trees became hosts to parasite plants, cedars or wild grapes. Some stayed dead-looking, gnarled and brittle and lifeless. But for some of those oaks, their roots were strong enough to survive what must have felt like a death, only to come back to life a different shape, one leaf at a time. We need to remember this as we look around us at the world, and see endings.

Life will renew itself.

It’s a basic truth.

The Orbit of the Sublime

Recently my friend Carrie sent me something powerful, written by a nun, Sister Joan Chittister: “I have a parrot who does not sing. . . She screams for whatever she needs—But when I sing to her, or play music for her, she stands stark still and listens without making a sound. She just perches there. Almost breathless. Almost frozen. It’s totally out of character—and totally understandable—at the same time.

I watched her over and over again and then I got it: I do the same thing myself.

This felt like really beautiful and interesting timing.

While Pat and I were locked in together at home (because all his tours cancelled) we decided to make a record. We were just finishing what’s called ‘mastering’ and needed to check how the songs flowed together, so he would put the songs in different orders he thought might work and download the files to his phone. Then we’d go for a long drive through the hill country and listen to it on his car’s good speakers. Yesterday we did it twice, and the day before, twice.

Yesterday’s last drive back home happened to coincide with the setting sun and the most astounding orange sky. It felt like we were in a bubble, far removed from anything earthly or mundane.

Music. Exactly like Sister Chittister described it in her post: “It gives us balm. It touches our souls. It saves us from the straggle and cacophony of the world. It takes our noisy, crowded lives and quiets us in the orbit of the sublime.“

Quiets us in the orbit of the sublime—a poetic way to describe what happens to us when we listen to music.

Every living thing responds to music. I’ve seen photos of elephants rocking back and forth while a lone pianist serenades them, cows ambling across a meadow to a trio with violins playing Brahms next to their fence. I’ve seen excited macaques monkeys crawling all over a musician in a temple in Thailand.

There’s even a clear difference in the growth habits of plants having only silence in their environments or music. Plants prefer music, especially soft classical. The number of leaves increases, the number of flowers increases and seeds sprout faster.

Music is a true time machine—nothing can take you back to a moment in your life like a beloved piece of music. During this Covid shutdown, we have had no live music, no concerts, no jazz combos in dark clubs. But I know many, many musicians producing some stellar music in their quarantine, in their home studios.

This is why I know years from now, when we are looking at this virus thing in our rear view mirror, we will revel in the luscious abundance of music produced in 2020. This will be our silver lining. “Indeed, music is where the soul goes to put into notes what cannot be said in words.”

Tell it, Sister.

In the Orbit of the Sublime

Recently my friend Carrie sent me something powerful, written by a nun, Sister Joan Chittister: “I have a parrot who does not sing. . . She screams for whatever she needs—But when I sing to her, or play music for her, she stands stark still and listens without making a sound. She just perches there. Almost breathless. Almost frozen. It’s totally out of character—and totally understandable—at the same time.

I watched her over and over again and then I got it: I do the same thing myself.

This felt like really beautiful and interesting timing.
While Pat and I were locked in together at home (because all his tours cancelled) we decided to finish our record project. We were just finishing what’s called ‘mastering’ and we needed to check how the songs flowed together. Pat put the songs in different orders he thought might work and downloaded the files to his phone. Then we went for a long drive through the hill country and listened to it on his car’s good speakers. Yesterday we did it twice, and the day before, twice. Yesterday’s last drive back home happened to coincide with the setting sun and the most astounding orange sky. It felt like we were in a bubble, far removed from anything earthly or mundane.

Music.

Exactly like Sister Chittister described it in her post: “It gives us balm. It touches our souls. It saves us from the straggle and cacophony of the world. It takes our noisy, crowded lives and quiets us in the orbit of the sublime.“ Quiets us in the orbit of the sublime—a poetic way to describe what happens to us when we listen to music.

Every living thing responds to music.

I’ve seen photos of elephants rocking back and forth while a lone pianist serenades them, cows ambling across a meadow to a trio with violins playing Brahms next to their fence. I’ve seen excited macaques monkeys crawling all over a musician in a temple in Thailand.

There’s even a clear difference in the growth habits of plants having only silence in their environments versus music. Plants prefer music, especially soft classical. The number of leaves increases, the number of flowers increases and seeds sprout faster.

Music is a true time machine—nothing can take you back to a moment in your life like a beloved piece of music. During this Covid shutdown, we have had no opportunity to experience live music, no concerts, no jazz combos in dark clubs. But I know many, many musicians producing some stellar music in their quarantine, in their home studios. This is why I know years from now, when we are looking at this virus thing in our rear view mirror, we will revel in the luscious abundance of music produced in 2020. This will be our silver lining. “Indeed, music is where the soul goes to put into notes what cannot be said in words.”

Tell it, Sister.

The Great Affair is to Move . . .

“For my part, I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel’s sake. The great affair is to move; to feel the needs and hitches of our life more nearly; to come down off this feather-bed of civilization, and find the globe granite underfoot and strewn with cutting flints.“ ~ Robert Louis Stevenson

The whole world has been on lock down, locked out of our favorite places, locked in with the same people for months and now it appears there’s no end in sight.

Real Estate sales are high, because when you’re locked in your home for an extended period of time, you really learn what you love and don’t love about it. As my nephew explained why he and his girlfriend moved, “We’ve spent so much time cooking and eating at home, we found we just couldn’t bear to do it in an apartment any longer. We needed a yard, or a garden, more outdoor space to spread out.”  

Most of us are feeling claustrophobic and irritable—no summer vacations jetting off to foreign lands, no leaving the house to go to work, no evenings out to attend concerts or parties. If we don’t get out of the house, we’re staring at the walls, and each other.

Bike sales have gone through the roof, with more and more families taking to the open road together. Most bike stores can’t keep up the demand without a waiting list.

Airports and airplanes have become scary places for many of us but we can’t stay home, inside, forever. So there is an obvious solution, one we’ve been straying from in our quest to see the world—we need to see America first, and we need to drive while we’re doing it.

We recently got an RV and if you know my husband and I you know that we are not campers, except in the most esoteric sense. But it turns out we are not alone, by any means. Our sales person told us he sold more RV’s in the week we bought ours than in the entire year up to June. He said his lot was sold out and waiting to fill the orders coming in, just like bike shops.

A whole new world opens up when you can take your kitchen, bed and bathroom with you wherever you go.

For instance, did you know Texas boasts 80 state parks (with at least ten featuring some luscious water to keep things a bit cooler in the summer)? And, that’s just Texas–we’ve got so many other states and state parks, and it’s very easy to keep your ‘social distance’ in the Great Outdoors.

Then, there are the magical National parks, a gift to Americans from the Earth and Teddy Roosevelt.

I’m now a big fan of the ‘Chip and Johanna Gains’ of the RV camping world—Marc and Trish with their ‘Keep Your Daydream’ YouTube videos, newsletters and Amazon shopping page. They set out with three kids, two adults, and a dog to spend six months on the road visiting National parks.
Four years later they’re still at it and blogging about it.

They had the courage to ‘Come down off this feather bed of civilization’ and now, we have all discovered we need to do it as well.

Let’s travel for travel’s sake’.
Lets fall in love with America again–It feels glorious.

Welcome to ‘Musings on Tarot decks’ in AstroLogic Magazine: The Golden Tarot

That famous food guy Anthony Bourdain once said, “Anyone can be a good cook—the only thing you need is the desire to be a good cook.” I feel the same way about reading the Tarot—-if you want to learn to read the cards, you can learn to read the cards—it just takes the desire.

I believe we are all born intuitive—-it’s a survival mechanism built into all animals. Our problem as humans is, we spend the next 20 years or so learning not to use our intuition, to base our decisions and judgements on facts, not feelings. Then you receive a deck as a gift, or inherit one from a beloved relative and it has sentimental value, or you bought A deck because you thought it was pretty. You struggle, then give up, thinking you have no talent. You don’t  pause to think that it might be the actual Tarot deck you are using isn’t ‘speaking to you’.

Some students believe if they inherit a tarot deck it means they are required by some special, secret Tarot law to use that deck. Others believe you are never supposed to buy your own deck, that a tarot deck needs to be given to you to work. None of this is true. If you’re given a deck, it is absolutely a sign you are supposed to study the Tarot, but you are not under any obligation to use that particular deck.

Not all decks speak to all people. When I first began holding Tarot workshops, I limited my class to no more than fifteen students, and I suggested six or seven different decks. Eventually, I struck each deck off my list for one reason or another until I now only recommend one.

I own 80 decks, and I’m still buying them. I love tarot decks, that’s why I collect them. But, do you know how many decks I actually use on a regular basis? Four, and one deck I use almost exclusively if I work an event or party, because if I accidentally lose a card it’s not catastrophic–I can buy that same deck again, brand new. It’s still in print.

I’ve discovered it’s the easiest deck to learn from for beginning readers. It’s perfect because it’s pretty and each card is a compilation of easily understood images brains recognize immediately.

This is the first deck I’m reviewing today. It’s the one one I now recommend exclusively for my students. You can get it on Amazon.

The Golden Tarot

by Australian designer Kat Black

To create The Golden Tarot Kat Black compiles images taken from art work, the Middle Ages through the Renaissance, and layers them to achieve a perfect representation of each card’s meaning, with lots of detail.

The cards have gilt edges and are printed on shiny, high quality card stock and aren’t so oversized as to make them difficult to shuffle.

 

You know a Tarot deck is going to be a good one when the ‘Queen of Wands’ Court Card shows a beautiful redhead with a sly smile. You are in no doubt this queen is fiery and interesting, maybe even a flirt.

Other favorite cards in this deck are:

The Eight of Swords:

— a perfect visual for that cards meaning— ‘A prison of your own making’. Loose blindfold easily removed, loose chains easily dropped, and swords stuck in snow. All her obvious impediments are either mere figments of her imagination or easily overcome.

She thinks she’s stuck, but she’s not. Perfect.

I also really love ‘The Empress’ card from the Major Arcana (Greater Secrets):

Babies, bunnies, Cupid’s, fruit, and a pregnant queen, everything you need to see in a card describing the “Celebration of the feminine”. Creation, birth, fertility, abundance, security, peace.

There’s so much to love with this deck I had to search to find a negative, but nothings perfect—-I don’t like her ‘Wheel of Fortune’ card (from the Major Arcana.)

The Wheel is so small, barely visible in the upper left hand corner of the card. But look at it— what exactly is happening here? A woman with a baby in bed, a priest burning something under the bed, but what? its supposed to be a classic nativity scene, but this card feels like a stretch to represent the meaning of ‘Roll the dice, take a chance, there are no guarantees—-it’s a gamble’.

Even the meaning Black writes in the great little book she includes with the cards seems vague– “Life will always send you challenges to overcome”. This just feels like a strange description of the way I read that card’s meaning in my readings. Give me a ‘Wheel of Fortune’ card with a big wheel and little else, and I’m pretty happy.

Otherwise, a near-perfect deck.

Kat Black also included an interesting layout in her little book and one I’ve never used before.

It’s called The Horseshoe Spread:

This is my new, favorite spread when we have a question that needs answering.

Ask yourself a question and hold it in your mind. Choose one of the Court Cards (one of the queens, kings or knights you feel most resembles ‘The Querent’ (the person asking the question) and place it face up in position ‘0’. Cut the cards and shuffle the cards, cut, shuffle, cut. Do this three times, then take the cards from the top and place them face up in this order (see diagram):

1. Past. Factors in the past that are affecting the situation.

2.  Present situation. Current factors that are known now and obvious.

3.  Hidden influences. Factors currently at work that you are not aware of.

4.  Obstacles. Impediments, both obvious and hidden, in the way of the querent.

5.  House. Close friends and family and their influence.

6.  Action. The best path to take for a successful outcome.

7.  Outcome. The most important card in the layout—-The answer. If it’s a Court Card, the answer a person.

Read the cards linearly from left to right, repeat the key words for each card and allow them to paint a moving picture in your mind, much like a series of storyboards for a film.

If the answer isn’t clear to you, shuffle and do it again. Pay attention to any repeat cards. Those are the important cards for the answer to your question.

If you have any other questions, or just want another take on one of your own readings, contact me at pinkchronicity@gmail.com.

— Read on www.astrologicmagazine.com/welcome-to-the-tarot-primer-deck-review/

I stop writing the poem


“I stop writing the poem to fold the clothes. No matter who lives or who dies, I’m still a woman.

I’ll always have plenty to do.

I bring the arms of his shirt together. Nothing can stop our tenderness.

I’ll get back to the poem. I’ll get back to being a woman. But for now there’s a shirt, a giant shirt in my hands, and somewhere a small girl is a tanding next to her mother watching to see how it’s done.”

~ Tess Gallagher

Tess Gallagher wrote the poem above at what was probably the most fragile period of time in her life. Her life partner Raymond Carver just died six months after marrying. She was in the vortex of writing poems for the soon-to-be-iconic collection “Moon Crossing Bridge”, so the pause for reflection on the healing nature of mundane tasks, and the importance of continuing with the seemingly endless chores life demands of us was profound for her.

We can feel the grief behind her words.

She describes the ordinary yet necessary chore of folding clothes, and we get it.

Sometimes, when it comes to ‘being of service’, we can’t even manage to be of service to ourselves. We are forced by the worst circumstances to sort through closets we don’t even want to look at, clean up after an endless barrage of children-at-home days, and return a myriad of well meaning emails and phone calls, when our strongest need is to curl up under the blankets and never leave our bed.

But that’s exactly why it’s so important to make ourselves a cup of tea and do the laundry. It’s important to put one foot in front of the other, scrub a floor, make a pot of soup, fold a shirt.

“No matter who lives or who dies”, we always have laundry. We can either avoid these small, repetitive acts of mundane service or use them to ground us and remind us:

There will be a tomorrow and life goes on.

Water the Dirt

I think it’s obvious I’m a big fan of making the best of a situation. When my daughters were very small and I was a young, single mom struggling to create a career, I never had the funds for a highly polished and landscaped living situation. We always had to make due with a fixer-upper rent house, and I’d try to get the landlord to pay the water bill. I smile now as I remember standing in the dirt at the end of a very long work day, a citronella candle burning on the front porch and a watering hose in my hand.

Watering plants can be satisfying, almost like a meditation, but watering dirt requires a strong faith in, and hope for, the future. As I water, I visualize sprigs of grass where I’m sure a lawn once thrived, and flowering shrubs in the beds next to the house, planted by a previous tenant. I imagine they lay dormant under the dry earth, waiting for just a little encouragement.

It didn’t take long before I saw sprigs of grass sprouting in the once-barren dirt and I’d pay special attention to these. Often when I didn’t have time to do the whole yard, I’d just soak just those tiny, hopeful sprouts. And they spread. Eventually these would connect with other tiny, hopeful sprouts and we would have a green lawn of sorts, with holes. Then, I’d hand water the holes.

When I bought the property where my salon is now, we had to remove about five years of oak tree leaves to create a front yard and parking lot behind my new old farmhouse. The ground beneath the leaves was rich and black, but barren. So, when the leaves were finally gone I started watering the dirt. In about a year winter rye popped up in the back area and one side of my front yard had grass. As I watered the dirt in the other side, a client walked by. “What are you doing?” she asked me. “I’m watering my lawn”, I said. “Well, it looks like you’re watering dirt!” she said. I smiled, because that was exactly what I was doing.

I think about this frequently while looking at our new reality, the social distancing life style, the radical changes in our once-secure jobs and finances, the cavernous divide in relationships because of idealogical differences. How interesting it is that so many people rebel against the most basic of the changes in our daily lives. They want things back the way they were. They want their green lawn, now. But now is the time for us to look for the sprouts, the tiny signs of possible growth in a scorched earth.

I have a friend whose college professor told him to “Look at who is still working through this pandemic—Those professions are the future”. So we could do the same thing with our lives. Where is the spark of inspiration, the movement (no matter how tiny), the sprig of green? Pay attention and water it. You never know what kind of lush green new possibility will grow from it and it just might make you happy. Happier, possibly, than your old reality.

Soon you won’t be watering dirt anymore.

Mentally . . . adrift

I recently read something profound, on Facebook no less. It was a letter from a trauma specialist.

The headline:

“I want to acknowledge that living through this pandemic is a trauma.”

That stopped me. I know so many of us are beating ourselves up for not being more productive—I hear it all the time now. “Every morning I wake up with big plans for the day and wind up sitting and staring into space. Then guilt trip myself.” This from an someone who is usually an active and prolific writer. Another writer friend wrote, “Such a strange feeling of being physically confined but mentally . . .adrift.”

Yes, mentally adrift. That’s how I feel.
I have a whiteboard full of to-do’s, things I meant to do if I had the time. Well, now that I have time, that we have the time, I/we can’t. I wander, room to room, outside, inside. I sit on my front porch and stare at my roses and listen to the birds for hours. I get nothing done. I start reading a real book instead of listening to an audiobook. I can’t multitask. I clean out a drawer. Then I get nothing else done.

We can’t go out so I prepare a lovely meal every night around six, and my husband and I sit down to eat together; cloth napkins, candles and all. Sometimes wine, sometimes Campari and soda, most times Pelegríno and bitters on the rocks.

I’m craving deep peace, and I search for moments of it through my day. I resist hurrying, I have an unusually low tolerance for stress, and now I know it’s natural and I am not alone.

With trauma, parts of our brain shut down as a defense mechanism for survival. Our ability to fully process what is going on is limited, and feeling numb and out of touch is normal. Everyone manifests trauma differently: Some get anxious, while others get depressed. I sit on my front porch in my rocking chair, staring at my roses.

In-depth processing of trauma happens years later, long after the trauma-producing event, when we feel emotionally safe to deal with it.

When it’s over.

But not now. Now I refuse to feel guilty about being non productive. When we are experiencing trauma, if we can just get by emotionally, if we can just function, that’s okay.

We need to be kind even to, especially to, ourselves.

The Law of Unintended Consequences


I was going to call this column “Isolation in the Land of Plenty”, but something changed during my self-quarantine—I started to enjoy it. This is brave to say, given the current climate of fear and panic buying, but I have begun to welcome the enforced pause in our frantic, frenetic lives. It’s as if someone pushed the ‘restart’ button on the world—“just turn it off and turn it on again.”

I know most of you have just begun and are probably going mad, so I’m in a unique position to give you this advice because I’ve been in self quarantine for about three weeks.

My husbands entire tour of China and Japan was cancelled (China first, then Japan) but before that, ever since that first piece of news from Wuhan in January (just one quick high-speed bullet train ride to his show in Shanghai) I’ve kept my eye on its advance.

When my husband strolled through San Francisco customs back from his cancelled shows in Japan on the first day of March, he saw no health screening security measures at the airport. He told me about it when I picked him up and I knew we had to self-quarantine.

So, when I tell you that this close time I’m spending with my husband is sacred and precious, and I appreciate it because it may never come again, I know. He travels a lot, or did. I worked a lot, or did. But lately we have been each other’s only source of entertainment outside of the internet. He can’t get away and I can’t get away, so here we are, together. Of course I wish we had our children here, too, but that would be a different experience than this timeless, intimate day to day existence.

It feels like a dream, like we somehow stepped out of an action film and now we are sitting in the audience, in comfy reclining chairs, watching the rest of the movie.

Parents are locked in their houses with their children and at first it feels insane, but once you snap to the fact that there is literally nowhere to go you can finally relax and stop running. As one young mother put it, “Today, I found myself very grateful. We made huge messes and watched way too much TV and didn’t get out of our pajamas until 4:00 p.m. Like just about every other parent in the world, i’ve had a difficult week, but the less I try to control our days, the more enjoyable they’re becoming.”

So, in this insane time, isn’t that the silver lining?