Oh Yeah?

IMG_20150223_181619_839

No sense at all

is nonsense.

I return to color scheme

clouds and landscapes.

Humans are crazy makers.

IMG_20140827_063757_879

Another week has ended. I’ve turned off all the news, avoided social media, signed off on all business transactions and go outside to the natural world. I feel a huge sigh of relief as I watch the sky.

IMG_20140831_182105_339

Journal prompt: write about your inner feelings in as few words as possible. Don’t explain, just write a brief few lines.

Wait a week then go back and do a re-write. See what happens.

 

copyright ©2016 by Susan E. Rowland

Rock it Better

 

 

 

rocks in the earth

They won’t tell
directly
or even acknowledge
the sparkled laser
sent without motive.

As ever,

the measured avoidance

is through.

They even stole my azure blue.

 

Shifty,  picayune & shallow

shaded murmurs are simple trinkets

of  unresolved ego ramblings.

When doubts threaten to flood

my painted longing

an eyelash flickers,

I lift the brush.

The miracle speaks
like halos talking

because you,

dear Spirit,

do

rock it better.

 

DSCF1875

Journaling Tarot, an Interview with Mary K. Greer

 

Mary K. Greer2016-Mary Greer

 

This week I’m excited to introduce you to Tarot expert, Mary K. Greer. She’s the author of eleven books and has been a tarot teacher for years. I use her Tarot for Your Self, a Workbook for Personal Transformation regularly. I recommend that all memoir or journal writers take a serious look at tarot as a tool for self-discovery through symbolism and metaphor.

greer books

Some keywords defining the tarot journey are

  • perspective
  • imagination
  • spirituality
  • discernment
  • symbolism
  • process
  • theme
  • Jungian psychology
  • personal transformation

My personal story with oracle cards began around 1986 when I bought my first deck. I started with a non-traditional oracle deck, The Medicine Cards. Then I purchased the classic Rider Waite Tarot, and the Crowley deck intrigued by  the illustrator Pamela Colman Smith. The Jamaican-American woman artist who created the original tarot images so well-known today, supposedly was not mentioned for her work when the deck was published. Unfortunately, they say she died in poverty and obscurity, but her work is beloved by many through the ages.

the hermit sue rowland copy

      my collage  tarot card – the Hermit

Tarot is about the human saga. For brevity’s sake you can look up Tarot here. It’s uncanny how spot-on the card pulls can be as a fun tool for writing.

Aside from the twenty-two Major Arcana or Trump cards there are four suits with general associations making up the lesser arcana. When you read the cards you look at the relationships generated by the images and their meaning.

  • Cups represent emotions and water
  • Wands represent action and fire
  • Swords represent thinking and air
  • Pentacles represent materials (coins) and earth

tarot-cards-23262948

  • What I want to explore for journal-keepers and seekers in this segment is the excavation of symbols and metaphors that help you, as a writer, discover your own personal story.

Please join me in talking with Mary K. Greer below:

SR: What got you started in the tarot path?

MKG: I was in college in Tampa Florida in the late ’60s and my best friend got Eden Gray’s Tarot Revealed for Christmas but no cards. I was fascinated and asked everyone if they knew where I could find Tarot cards. Someone told me about a “metaphysical” bookstore on the other side of Tampa. I borrowed a car and went on my first magical “quest” to find a deck. I discovered not only the cards but the whole world of the occult and metaphysical at that bookstore. Within a year I decided I would teach Tarot in college and that someday I would write a book on the subject. I had found what I never knew I was looking for. What really drew me to the Tarot was my interest, as an English/Theatre Arts major, in “archetypal criticism” involving a Jungian approach to symbolism and Joseph Campbell’s hero’s journey, all things I was just learning about then. I soon discovered that the stories I would spontaneously tell about the cards were easy-to-interpret metaphors for what was happening in someone’s life. To me it seemed as natural as breathing, although it could be disconcerting when potential boy friends nervously complained that I knew too much about them after they asked me to read their cards!

SR: How did you decide to write about tarot?

MKG: I had been teaching Tarot in colleges for several years and started doing large lectures and wrote an article. About this time I started going out with a travel writer. We went off to live in Mexico for a year and he encouraged me to write a book. I started it there and continued it when I returned to my teaching job in San Francisco. My college had a degree-completion program for returning adults. We required students to keep a journal recording their work and life experiences. I taught the journal writing workshops and also directed the school’s “learning skills” program for which I had found a workbook that was highly effective. So my first book addressed the then-taboo that one should never read tarot for him or herself. (I love to break taboos!) I used journal techniques and the workbook format to help people overcome the so-called “problems” with reading for oneself and use Tarot for personal insight and creativity.

45132883-tarot-cards-tarot-the-high-priestess-card-in-the-foreground

SR: How would you advise new students to examine their lives by using tarot?

MKG: There are so many ways I can’t even begin to describe them all. Definitely keep a journal in which you write card meanings, your own readings and what is happening at that time, plus make up spreads, gather info on related myths and symbols, and so on. Do a reading at the beginning or major turning points of everything in your life. Note the patterns that appear: certain cards for certain people, when a card keeps coming up and what it finally means for you. You can go back to these readings later and write what actually happened—revisiting them again and again as you gain more insight. Write about the cards particular to you based on your birthdate numerology, astrology and so on. Dialog with these cards as if you were characters in a play, figures in an “active imagination,” asking advice or answering questions posed to you by the Tarot “archetypes.” Explore the many spreads and other processes that are found both in my books and in so many other books today. Try a variety of decks. Each will require that you look at your life from a different, perhaps totally new and fresh perspective. Create Tarot art. By the way, your “journal” can be a public or private blog, a computer file, a ring-binder, an artist’s notebook—whatever works. Start with what interests you most and go from there; you have your whole life with Tarot as your companion and your relationship with it will develop over time.

Last bit of advice: When in doubt, simply describe the card! It’s amazing where you will naturally go from there.

************

Thank you so much, Mary! What a treat to talk with you.  Readers, you can find Mary in the links below.

Bio: Mary K. Greer is an independent scholar, writer, teacher and professional Tarot and Lenormand consultant. She has an M.A. in English from the University of Central Florida where she first taught Tarot in 1974. With more than ten books and nearly 50 years experience in Tarot, Mary pioneered many of the Tarot reading methods used today, including reading Tarot for yourself and methods that are interactive, transformational and empowering. She leads intensive workshops every year at the Omega Institute in Rhinebeck NY and travels internationally teaching Tarot. Visit Mary’s blog and on-line courses. Check out the “Tarot Magic Tour in Merlin’s Britain” that will take place in June 2017.

 

                                    ******************

Journaling prompt: find yourself a tarot deck and try a reading. How do you like working with Tarot? What Tarot card do you resonate with?  Write about your experiences.

Discussion: A note to people who are afraid of divination or who might fear Tarot study, or are concerned that oracle decks are dangerous. (They’re not). Briefly, people are often afraid of the “occult” and imagine robed devil worshippers dancing around a fire encouraging making human sacrifices. Not true. I’ve never met any such characters.

With any study group one has to follow one’s intuition and if something or someone makes you uncomfortable, then don’t pursue it. There are times when I use “lighter” oracle decks such as Fairy Tarot or Guardian Angel Tarot.

Yes, there are cards that represent the archetypes of “the devil” and “death” etc, but these cards about symbolism rather than a literal event. Breaking the chains of addictions or illicit behavior (devil card) or the need to  change behavior or look at things from a new perspective (death card) are only indications of elements in life. Find a good teacher. Do research.

Each person who chooses to work with oracle cards or the tarot can choose a deck that isn’t frightening. There are all kinds of decks available that do not use these classic “negative” images. I will devote another blog entry to this topic.

Copyright © 2016 by Susan E Rowland

Thoughts of Grandfather

grampa and sue copy.jpg grampas 90th

Above: Grampa’s 90th birthday 1972. My mother made the dress.

July 17th was my maternal grandfather’s birthday. He was born in 1880 and died in 1977. He was my favorite relative. He was a man of few words and a limited education-he completed the eighth grade to be exact. Then he went to work on the family farm. When the farm was sold, he worked on Henry Ford’s farm. My grandmother, who died before I was born, took in teachers for room and board. She worked as a seamstress.

Grampa L. worked as a laborer his whole life. After he stopped working on farms, he was employed as a custodian at the local high school. One time he got on my case for throwing away pencils. He saved pencils long after the erasers were tough and unusable. Throwing out something useful was simply not done.

For as long as I can remember, Grampa would get up at 5:00 am like clockwork and put on his green janitor uniform, even after he retired. He lived by a strict schedule. His little unassuming house was always neat and clean, every tool in its place. He grew raspberries, corn, sunflowers and rhubarb in his back yard in a small Michigan village. When he let you slip your little hand into his, you felt warm and protected. He was decent. He was kind.

                                     grampa lamming

Grampa could make you obey just with a glance, and you knew he would take care of you while in his presence. I miss him and feel him on the other side. Even though my grandfather on my father’s side was a prominent and well-known physician, I favored my earthy grandfather who said “you ain’t” and “well, I guess it’s “prid’near quittin’ time.”

You could always tell when Grampa was in town. His red Mustang would be parked by the curb near the post office or  in the lot at the grocery store. He drove it until he no longer had a license, probably in his mid-80’s because I remember him driving to Cleveland alone in his 80’s. It was depressing when he couldn’t drive anymore. The Mustang went to one of my cousins.

 I remember Grampa taking me with him on errands in the village.  I’d cringe as he drove too slowly in second gear. His beloved cherry red car lurched and sputtered as he neared the end of the street. He paid no attention to the lurching. We’d get there, everything was in a half mile radius. He’d turn his head as far as he could, about 15 degrees, at the corner. I hunkered down politely until the turn was made.

Each time we visited, he’d make sure to mention my sister and me at the check out counter. He’d announce to the clerk, “These are my granddaughters. They’re visiting from Ohio.” His pride made me feel good. His words let me know I was loved in a way that is unique, unconditional; the affection is not contingent on  rank, employment, money or marital status.

What was said in private was another matter entirely.

Grampa’s handwriting was perfect and slow, like his other movements. He never failed to write me little notes in which he would include a stick of Wrigley’s licorice or Juicy Fruit gum.

He liked to read Westerns and when we were little girls, he would hide the books that had bad words in them. The words were mild compared to today’s ever-present in-your-face, irritating, unavoidable vulgarity. One time I snuck and anxiously prowled through the  book until I found the offensive word. It was “pecker.”

Can you believe it? Gone are the days of good and proper verbiage. Gone.

God bless you, Grampa. I can’t wait to see you again on the other side.

Journal prompt: write about your grandparents. Did you know your grandparents? Who is (or was) your favorite? What words and feelings would you use to describe them?

 

© 2016 Susan E. Rowland

Women, Weight, and Writing, an Interview with Amye Archer

INTERVIEW amy archer

 

Before we get started with the interview with our featured author, I want to take some time to add my condolences and prayers for everyone who is grieving from the recent tragedies in Orlando, Milwaukee, Baton Rouge, and Dallas.

                                              *****************

Almost every woman I know is self-critical about body image. It’s rampant, beginning in childhood or teen years. Happiness is shattered by the realization that all your self-worth is wrapped up into a concept society deems important. You are a clothing size. And if you don’t fit the bill, you are “nothing.” You become someone who is overlooked, ridiculed, and shamed. You have to be someone who is “easy on the eyes.” Being overweight is the new group to hate. It’s a painful membership to a club nobody enjoys.

                                                      *****************

I’ve been reading women’s memoirs on body issues and relationships.  Fat Girl, Skinny really hit home for me because Archer has the uncanny ability to tease the funny bone while talking about sensitive issues. A few emotions are prevalent in writing about life and eating disorders. There is anger, grief, frustration and fear. We eat for comfort. We eat for love but the satisfaction doesn’t last.

The goal is to deal with our thoughts as habits. Then we can cherish and love our physical bodies. And, we don’t do this fight alone.

It’s interesting that Archer talks about overweight women as a “marginalized group.” Writing a memoir about your body is like walking out on a diving board naked. There comes a time when you jump in the water, naysayers be damned.

women's body and flower petals

          “I am down almost thirty pounds now, and for the first time I can remember, I am actually inviting a man to touch my body.” AA

For Archer, joining Weight Watchers offered her the support, the challenge  to get fit, and the joy of belonging. She began to reach her goals.

“I have been humiliated most of my adult life. I have worked so hard at being accepted, so sweet and nice, always over compensating for the lack of aesthetic on the outside.”  AA

Below is my interview with writer, Amye Archer, Fat Girl, Skinny. You can find her here.

 

interview with amye archer

 

SR: What made you want to write a memoir?

 AA: I’m afraid that my writing a memoir was more necessity than choice. I have a difficult time writing from an imaginary perspective. My own voice is my own, and even when I try to write fiction, the character is often exactly me. So, yes, there was a point where I felt that this story needed to be told, but I also never felt there was any other way to tell it than from my own voice.

SR: Do you journal or write your thoughts during the day or did you just sit down and decide to write a book?

 AA: I do not journal, but it’s important to know that my writing is happening in my head at all times. If you knew me in real life, you would know me to be a little clumsy, forever preoccupied, and often forgetful. And that is simple because I am always writing, and that writing takes up a lot of my mental space.

I’m also not a big fan of disciplined writing, or of “forcing it.” I sit and write when the muse is with me.

“I spent years feeling responsible for someone else.” -AA

SR: As a co-dependent in recovery, the above sentence screamed out at me and made me realize how much addiction to approval in any form can be  about relationships and childhood wounds.

 AA: I think it’s important to realize that there is a strong correlation between obesity and codependency. For me, as I grew more and more unhappy with my relationship, I found comfort in food. Sometimes it works in reverse. But there is oftentimes a connection clearly, because when we let ourselves get to morbid obesity-which I was at 275-we are clearly not taking care of ourselves, but are often great at taking care of others.

 It was a hard lesson, the idea that we must care for ourselves above all others. We live in a society to which the concept of self-love and self-care can be demonized, especially when you’re a mother. But it’s important and necessary for survival.

SR: How did your relationship with your sister factor into your writing? IE, family issues about truth and relationships are intense when writing memoir. What would you say to memoir writers who are excavating old wounds?

AA: I don’t advocate writing off family members, but the old adage is true: if they truly love you, they’ll come around.

I’m very fortunate in that I have artists in my immediate family, so the whole “laying it out there for the sake of the art” is an acceptable practice in my family. However, I understand that is not always the case, especially for those writing abuse/survivor memoir.

 My best advice is that you stay true to the message of your story. Never forget that there are people in your exact situation who can be reached through your storytelling. It takes tremendous courage to write a memoir of any kind, but it’s also a great responsibility. Be true, be honest, don’t hide or shrink from the truth and you’ll do fine.

SR: Thank you, Amye! You give everyone who struggles with body image  a feeling of hope. I love that you give us answers.  

“This is my own life taking shape around me.” -Amye Archer

                                                           *******

Right now, I am happy by being down about 12 pounds and am leaving sugar OUT of the house.

As a writer and artist, my goal is to be a healthy role model for my grandchild who has cystic fibrosis. I think about how we didn’t have so much junk food when I was a child.  Food was real food, even though we ate meat, we didn’t have access to so much processed food. For me, trauma and anxiety influenced my lonely food addiction. Now it’s a battle for health. It’s been my lifelong struggle to accept myself for who I am and not what I look like. The challenge of life’s journey for many is around learning to love the self. In turn, we become of service to others. It seems that the key to happiness has to do with how we view ourselves. I feel that gratitude is an essential factor in healing.

Dear readers, I hope you continue journaling, writing, doing art, playing music or whatever form of creative expression inspires you. The door to the path of healing is always open.

                                                       youth-active-jump-happy-40815-medium

 “Hang on. You will become one of us. We will accept you.” -Weight Watchers advisor to Amye Archer.

If you are moved to contribute any comments or questions, please feel free.

Journal prompt: write about weight and body image. Have you ever struggled with over-eating or addiction in any form? Use pictures and collage in your journal.

 

Quotes are from Fat Girl, Skinny. Art is mine.

 

Copyright ©2016 by Susan E. Rowland

You Left Me

Dear readers, I’m so sorry to be MIA but it’s been nuts lately. I haven’t forgotten you.

We have lost some dear friends and family members recently. Once again  I’m writing about grief. I haven’t been able to bring myself to compose something about Navajo angel Ashlynn Mike. Her little life must be honored and remembered. Words fail me completely with her death. The only thing I can think of is that our adopted mom, Bettye, crossed over in time to take Ashlynn’s hand and to comfort her on the other side. Yes, I believe in such things.

 

IMG_20150601_185754_639

You Left Me

I thought we had one more visit
and until then
a phone call would suffice.
It was not to be
because you up and died
you rascal, you!
You left me.

This blast of grief is different
and catches me like a trumpet–
Gabriel’s trumpet,
fierce and full in my ear at sundown
and first thing in the morning,
doubling me down at noon.
You left me.

Why did I mistake the brilliant
orange tanager who landed in the mesquite,
a sign a symbol I should have cherished
by action and not writing some silly line
in my journal,
brief, non-committed.
You left me.

I thought I had one more visit
and you sent the warning through a bird
they always do that, you know…
there’s a warning, a message.
but I thought there was time, dammit.
It’s over.
You left me.

at bettye's summer 2007 004

With my dear friend and adopted Mom, Bettye B. RIP

 

copyright © 2016 by Susan E. Rowland

 

Women’s History Month- Sharing Wisdom, Strength and Beauty

GABY as a GYPSY

                                                                   Gabriela

It’s Women’s History Month here in the US and it’s taken me this long to sit down with a writing prompt. During these times of intense political rants and divisions, it makes sense to remember and honor the wit and wisdom of women. I’m constantly wondering what’s going to happen next on the local, national, and international scene. Why all the craziness? What for? You’ve heard the phrase, “God is coming and boy is she pissed.” That’s the way I feel lately. Maybe we could pretend it’s Christmas season and be of good cheer and talk about peace and love–then act on it.

I’d like to share some quotes with you to honor women.

  ” A nation is not conquered until the hearts of its women are on the ground. Then it’s finished; no matter how brave its warriors or how strong their weapons.” Cheyenne proverb

                                                             many baskets

                  “We women are going to bring change.” – Malala Yousafzai

Aunt-CharlieneWcal                                        My husband’s aunt Charlene-wonderful storyteller

“A woman is like a tea bag; you never know how strong it is until it’s in hot water.” -Eleanor Roosevelt

“Life is very short and what we have to do what must be done in the now.” – Audre Lorde

” No matter what accomplishments you make, somebody helped you.” – Althea Gibson

cheyenne with her blue fan copy

                                               Cheyenne Elizabeth, cystic fibrosis warrioress

“There’s always something to suggest that you’ll never be who you wanted to be. Your choice is to take it or keep on moving.” Phylicia Rashad

” The thing that makes you exceptional, if you are at all, is inevitably the thing that makes you lonely.” – Lorraine Hansberry

“If you judge people you have no time to love them.” -Mother Teresa

“I have not contended for Democrat, Republican, Protestant or Baptist for an agent. I have worked for freedom, I have laboured to give my race a voice in the affairs of the nation.” -Sarah Winnemucca

“Ignorance is fear. Nothing terrifies a person except ignorance.” – Nawal El Saadawi

” I knew that my heart and mind would always be tempted to feel anger-to find blame and hate. But I resolved that when the negative feelings came upon me, I wouldn’t wait for them to grow or fester. I would always turn immediately to the Source of all true power: I would turn to God and let His love and forgiveness protect and save me.”-Immaculee Ilibagiza


rita-pitka-blumenstein

Grandmother Rita from the 13 Indigenous Grandmothers

“Since childhood, I’ve had a passion for solitude.”- Nawal El Saadawi

“No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” -Eleanor Roosevelt

” A word after a word after a word is power. ” – Margaret Atwood

1920s flapper copy

 

Journal prompt: write about your favorite quote by a woman.  Add artwork or collage to your journal entry.

Peace, everybody!

copyright © 2016 by Susan E Rowland

 

A Song Begins to Breathe

george lewis study

 

 

Below is a free write tribute for Black History Month.

The picture-pretty calendar shows the promise of emerging pastel Spring blossoms. The short month of leap year ends at day 29. The page is not yet turned as if someone is holding  onto the hope that something important will occur-26, 27, 28, 29. “February is such a short month,”  she sighs. The floorboard creeks in the early morning as a faint light hits the kitchen table. Outside the window is the banyan tree. It seems as if it  has been there forever as silent as failing words. Instead comes the  music,  long sounds, riffs of carefree, lively notes, not drowned by hurricane waters or great floods. Jazzmen and women hold lyrics nobody has ever recorded, secrets of those who lived before. The notes are melodies that linger in the breezes of fluffy admiration. You know he plays melodies thinking about the way she looks when she knows some things are best left unsaid.  He plays thinking of her, the way she rises without guessing he’s not asleep; he has gazed at her shoulders. She is his sable-brown and mahagony woman. Her eyes shine right through your soul; her hair sparkles and her words come from places scented like spices of the ancestors from Senegal. Her hair is mixed with piney wood smoke and tales of the original people, maybe Opalusa or Chawasa from across the lake. His father liked to tell the same stories over and over, and the children didn’t ask him to stop even when they could form the words in their mouths as he spoke. The stories wrapped them up like rolls of soft dough.

The man holds his wife in his arms as the world stops hurting and a song begins to breathe.

 

Copyright © 2016 by Susan E Rowland