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I had all good intentions of writing starting on the first day of 2011, but instead I cooked and cleaned all day for family, so I just completed my entry for January 2 and am now backtracking one day. If I am now to face eternal writing damnation for not stealing away from the pots and pans into my basement, so be it. Barring unforeseen circumstances, I'll be sticking with this. Just selected my first Tarot card as an inspiration, the Knight of cups, and I'll continue selecting a card a day this month. Let's see what the cards inspire.
The man in the helmet with silver wings told Lily that that he was the Knight of Cups. From what she remembered about that particular Tarot card, he was likely to sweep her off her feet or save her from a catastrophe. He did appear to wear armor of some sort, and he carried a golden goblet in one hand. Most of the men who hung out at O'Reilly's tended to wear T-shirts and drink beer out of the bottle. Maybe he was just an actor from the dinner theatre. Still, she had to look inside that golden cup.
Edna saw her do it. She saw her daughter-in-law take the Queen of Cups card and reverse it on the mahogany dining room table with one manicured nail, then wink at Eddie. What's worse, Eddie winked back. Edna froze behind their chairs with the freshly baked blueberry pie held before her in her oven mitts. Was she meddlesome? Hardly. Did she only have their best interests at heart? Certainly. At least she had Eddie's best interests at heart. Jasmine, well, not so much. Edna elbowed her way between the two of them. "Vanilla ice cream with your pie?"
Ace of Swords. Gwen had sharpened the pencil stub to a pinpoint, fine as a surgical instrument. No more than three inches, probably used to write down bowling scores, that pencil was her ace in the hole. She had taken it from Big Fat Oaf's shirt pocket as he hung over her, breathing cigarette breath into her hair. She had run her hands over the front of his shirt, kneading the loose flesh, whispering into his neck the same words he had demanded every night since he had taken her, and worked the pencil out of his pocket slowly, soundlessly.
Six of Swords. Esther Mary could not continue to live, to farm and to raise her young son, on the same earth in which her husband had been buried. She could not help picturing him in the wooden casket, once a big man, decaying as she had seen the flesh on their dead cattle waste away. In dreams, she planted rows of beans and corn, only to see his fingers and toes sprout from the ground. Surely, she thought, there would be need for her special skills where the ferryman could take her, that blue land across the Saginaw River.
Eight of swords. I don't mind so much the blindfold, or the water that puddles at my feet. With my eyes covered, I no longer see the red roof of my house high above in the distance. The pebbly earth beneath my feet is softened by the water. The cloths that bind my arms to my body sometimes feel like swaddling. I know they keep my arms from brushing the swords thrust into the ground, the blade-bodied sentinels with hilts for heads. Once, my leg was sliced when I tried to escape between them. My blood mingled with water.
The Hanged Man, reversed. He wouldn't acknowledge that he had died. He seemed stuck, as if a sleeve had caught on a branch, and he had gotten hung up in a tree. Light pulled at the hair on his head. A strap meant to suspend him dangled from a foot. Instead of hanging down, he hovered, a strange balloon tethered to a tree wrist. It was tempting to cut that strap, just to see if the light would suck him out of the world. John Gunn had been a mean cuss, and no doubt, his ghost would do no good.
A little late on this one, since I'm visiting my daughter and family near Syracuse. So, since I'm away from my usual props, I'll have to make up a Tarot card. This Tarot card will be an old woman wearing a fluffy white hotel robe. In one hand, she holds a box of Crayola crayons. In the other, she holds a piece of paper. Her grandson, who happens to be sitting here beside me, says that crayons and paper go together, like Bionicles and Patrick. Snow whirls around them always, but they bask in the warmth of Domino pizza boxes.
Still away in the land of ice and snow and late in my writing. Will have to make up another Tarot card. This one will be a woman standing on a precipice. Below here are choppy waters and fins. Her arms are extended at her sides, her knees are bent, and her head is tucked in. She appears ready to dive, but somewhat hesitant; her toes grip the edge. Above her is a blue sky with a cartoon sun. The waters below, although ominous, seem more realistic than life above her. She will have to dive to find real life.
Back in Baltimore, but the cards are on another floor. My imaginary Tarot card for today: A man with a silver ball in one hand and a gold ball in the other. His head is turned toward the gold ball, but in and around the silver ball, whole worlds with infinite possibilities are apparent. There are moons, and comets with long tails. There are women with cloud hair and tapered fingers that play music, that beckon, that soothe and arouse. Those fingers carry worlds of wisdom. But the man's gaze is toward gold, and that side scorches with its heat.
I'm kind of liking creating my own Tarot cards. There is about two inches of snow outside now. It inspires. I see a woman with bare feet in the snow on this card. She holds a braided rug over her head, and there are a few flakes still falling from the sky. Behind her, on a hill, there is a house with lit windows. Smoke rises from a chimney. With those bare feet, I can't help feeling that a trek up that hill will be almost impossible. But she grips the blanket tightly, and I think she will make it.
Late. Going on midnight. Tonight's card: A woman holding a clock face in her hand. It melts, like a Dali painting. Time has gotten away from her. She wears the clothes of a younger woman, puffed sleeves, a dirndl skirt, ruffles down her front, patent leather shoes with bows, a bow in her gray hair. Her face is wrinkled. Above her, stained glass windows. Below her are scattered toys. Balls, dolls, blocks, a jack-in-the-box. To her left is a hand pointing right. To her right is a hand pointing right, off the card into an unknown future.
The ten of Wands, reversed. The man is shifting his burdens off himself, just away. I see a man a man who has decided that he will no longer be responsible for anything at all, and this is enormously freeing. He will also not create burdens of any type. Children, of course, would be a burden, so he won't have any. Any relationships would entail some sort of burden, so he won't have them. Property would also entail responsibility, burden, so he has decided not to own things. He makes of use of the things the world has to offer.
Why do we find myths and archetypes so appealing? Why do we trust a Tarot card or tea leaves? Why do we want to hear the same fairy tale or myth over and over? Why do we delight in recognition, even when what we recognize is an archetype of a fool or a trickster or the emblem of evil? I think we want to have our universe mapped out to us down to the last action and reaction, to each and every highway and dirt path. As myth is replaced by fact, myth becomes unnecessary. Its skills are then obselete.
Five of Swords. He won, but at what cost. Were the spoils sweet? Swords in hand, swords askew on the ground. Men who were once friends now slinking away. Storm clouds gathered above him. He thinks, yeah, but I'm right. Important questions: Who are they? What did they fight about? What did he gain, and what did the other two lose? This is a small victory, I think, in a larger war. What is the war, and what is the battle? I get the sense of tragic figure who will drag this victory behind him like a ball and chain.
Two of pentacles. How many juggling acts do we perform in a life? Which are interesting to write and read about? How fascinated we are with love and deception, with sex and suspicion, with wagering on a character's happiness, redemption, penance, How we enjoy the vicarious titillation. With a woman juggling two men, we know things have to come to a head. The situation couldn't possibly go on forever. Could a woman juggle two men forever? Interesting. I'm thinking Katherine Hepburn's comment about how men and women should live in separate houses and visit each other from time to time.
The Magician. Arnold the Astounding wasn't sure exactly when the change occurred. At first, he was only able to do the simple tricks. Card tricks, coins that appeared from behind an ear, things like that. He progressed to tricks with live animals and elaborate contraptions. Tanks of water and trapdoors. Ladies sawed in half. A Pontiac that leapt from the stage to the street in front of the theatre. Finally, he made his audience believe that he could step from a skyscraper balcony and survive. But one day, there were no mind tricks. It was suddenly, intoxicatingly real. Truly magic.
Five of Pentacles. Two beggars stand outside the church window, but they should know that there is a world of warmth inside. They can't know that there is a whole world of warmth just beyond a thin sheet of stained glass. For each pentacle, there is the fulfillment of a dream. All they have to to is touch it. Which one of them will do this? Can one of them overcome the misery of poverty to rap knuckles upon a star? Beyond the pentacles, someone waits who can offer much more than warmth, more than shoes to cover those feet.
The High Priestess is intimidating. She holds all knowledge. Open her, and you open the door to God. Is she a gate, a gatekeeper, the entrance itself? How and why was so much wisdom given to her? What did she do to earn it? Or was all knowledge born of her? Is she the mother of God? Now there's a story. How can one give birth to God, not the Son of God, but God? How to raise God? How do you know when God is ready to be God and when you should step aside and let Him reign?
The Lovers. Doomed relationship. She married a magician who was determined to make her disappear. He tried covering her with a cup and quickly moving three cups around in circles on his table, then lifting one of the cups, but she was alway there, cowering, a little apologetic. He tried binding her wrists and ankles in chains and dropping her into a water tank, but she freed herself and swam to the pocket of air at the top. Even sawing her in half didn't work. Both halves slipped through the trapdoor then emerged as one woman in a spangled gown.
Lily was born in moon light. When she turned sixteen, so the oracle said, she would die in moon light. If the oracle said this, it was true. All the residents of Lunacy believed this, including Lily, and since Lily accepted this completely, she thought she may as well make the most of her sixteen years. She knew how to make the most of what she had. After the midwife delivered her in moon light, she told everyone that Lily's skin had an exceptional glow. Even as a baby swaddled in a blanket, everyone knew when she entered a room.
The Tower. A bolt out of the blue. What fun it would be to take the classic idea of alien visitors and find ways to make it fresh. (Still fresh off my high of getting a story accepted for Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine. It's good to try new genres, and genres that actually pay money.) Fantasy and science fiction always delighted me. There's nothing wrong with wanting to escape, especially when those escapes involve shaking up our circumscribed worlds and stopping to consider alternatives. I'm really feeling inclined to bust things up idea-wise, to make worn story structures new.
King of Swords. Edward demands justice and fairness in every aspect of his life. Although he accepts the fact that he cannot control the weather, natural disasters, acts of terrorism, and such, he believes that it is imperative for him to effect and maintain an equilibrium, a sense of propriety, an even keel, in his relationships. He doesn't like surprises. He also believes there is a correct answer to every question. He analyzes situations others might find perplexing with an array of tools: calculators, flow charts, algebraic equations, deductive and inductive reasoning, various quantitative methodologies--qualitative methodologies, not so much.
Death card. I'm struck by the guide archetype. I see a Law and Order detective and the tall brunette hostess from a cooking show ushering a twenty-something woman into the afterlife. Why these guides? Because the woman creates her own guides from the needs of her soul. She peoples her own heaven. If this can be called heaven. For a while, this manipulation of her life in death is intriguing and results in some surprises, but after a while she will need life that comes from outside her. This is too much like being an avatar in a videogame.
Eight of Swords. Willing victim. I can't stand the idea of someone who would be a victim willingly. If someone is comfortable in the victim role, what would that person do if freed, or if the captor were to die or be imprisoned. I understand the idea of someone who learns to survive by playing the victim role, who is brainwashed, but what about the victim who is given as escape route and doesn't use it, who is incapacitated by victimhood. What would someone do if accustomed to passivity, to not having to choose, if that person is cut loose.
The Hanged Man. An alternate reality. Each morning presents a new possibility. An old idea. Used in many stories and movies. So how about a woman who wakes up in a bed in a house she lived in thirty years and two marriages ago. Her children have not been born. More than that. Her life isn't the same life at all. She has had different parents and lived in a different town. She has an opportunity for a complete do-over. But she can't help but have regrets. Those experiences are a part of her. And there was a grandchild.
The Sun. This card is all about radiating energy, masculine action, and associated with Apollo. An idea--to research the Greek gods of mythology and flesh them out, modernize them. They had their superpowers and weaknesses then. They can certainly have a variation of those same superpowers and foibles today. Forget the fairytale quality and sketchiness of the children's book myths. These gods and the humans they interact with should be characterized in exquisite detail, down to their birth marks and sexual activity, so that readers can become totally absorbed in them. We like them larger than life, but real.
The High Priestess. Prompt: Someone behind a curtain. How appropriate, since I just read Hoffman's The Sandman for my JHU short story class. Hiding behind a curtain always resulted in a horrifying discovery. I think a very thin person would be hiding behind the drapes we have in our homes now. No heavy damask curtains. This thin person is thin to the point of starvation. This is a child, twelve years old. He has slipped into the home of an affluent couple and is waiting for them to finish their dinner. The scent of pot roast hangs heavy as damask.
The Empress. Prompt: The birth of a miracle child. I see a plain, round-faced girl who works in a bakery. She is a sweet-smelling girl, warm as yeast, skin gritty with pink sugar. Her breath is chocolate and cherries. The belly under her white apron has been rising like dough under a dish cloth in a warm place. She has no idea why. She is not married and doesn't have a boyfriend. When her boss finally comes out and asks, nodding at her apron, if she has something she'd like to tell him, she only shakes her head.
The Emperor. Prompt: The weight of responsibility. The baker feels that he must do right by Eleanor. He is not responsible for her pregnancy, but he feels that, maybe if he had offered her some fatherly advice, she wouldn't have gotten into this predicament. Eleanor is a sweet girl but, as far as Donald can, she doesn't seem to comprehend the gravity of her situation. As a matter of fact, she acts as if she doesn't even realize she is pregnant. Donald thinks of the reality show about women who don't realize they are pregnant until they go into labor.
The Hierophant. Prompt: A blessing or a curse. Donald feels that Eleanor has been cursed somehow, at least that she has had some wrong inflicted on her. She must have been taken advantage of; she is a simple girl. However, Eleanor has been blessed, although, because she is indeed a fairly simple girl, she doesn't know it yet. There was no angel Gabriel to bring her good tidings. There was no benevolent being from another galaxy who impregnated her with a laser beam. There certainly wasn't an honorable young man who intended to love her and make her his wife.
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