Planting

I don’t have a dedicated vegetable garden spot yet, so after I bought a few cherry tomato plants yesterday, I planted them around the yard near other plants that need to be watered. I put three of the seedling in the back by the alley, three on the side yard, and a couple in other parts of the back yard. I don’t know how this style of gardening will work, but it makes sense to me. Maybe someday I’ll have a real garden, but for now, I’m just planting things wherever it feels comfortable. This way, if the plants like a certain part of the yard and do well, but don’t like another part of the yard, I’ve hedged my bets some. And truly, it doesn’t matter. If even one of the plants does well, I’ll have more fruit than I could possibly eat.

I did have to laugh, though, The plants cost more than a few months’ worth of tomatoes would cost me, but like everything else, it’s more the doing than the done.

Since the planting went well yesterday, I walked to the store again today and bought a few marigolds, enough to plant near each of the tomato plants. That’s one thing I remember from a long-ago failed gardening attempt — that tomatoes and marigolds like one another.

While I was out roaming my yard after today’s planting, I discovered clumps of gorgeous yellowish-orange flowers huddled around a downspout.

I’m not sure where these Siberian wallflowers came from, though perhaps one of the wildflower seeds I’d strewn around the yard a couple of falls ago ended up there and decided to take root. Or I suppose a bird could have dropped the seed. I do know I would like to plant more of these flowers. I wonder if it’s too late? Seeds around here can’t be planted before May 5th, so I wouldn’t be that far behind, but considering the state of mail delivery around here, it could be weeks before I got the seeds.

Well, there’s always next year.

Meantime, the larkspur are starting to sprout. I only had a few plants last year, but apparently, they planted themselves, and because of the winter moisture, I have several patches of the flowers. It will be fun to see them bloom, too.

It does seem as if I don’t really need to do anything to make my yard grow, just make sure it gets plenty of water, then sit back and see what — besides weeds — will come up. But then, I’d miss out on the fun of planting things.

***

Pat Bertram is the author of Grief: The Inside Story – A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One. “Grief: The Inside Story is perfect and that is not hyperbole! It is exactly what folk who are grieving need to read.” –Leesa Healy, RN, GDAS GDAT, Emotional/Mental Health Therapist & Educator

Belief in the Tarot

Yesterday a friend told me she didn’t believe in the tarot. To be honest, I’m not sure I believe either, though I don’t exactly know what I mean by that. Obviously, I believe the cards exist because I have a few dozen decks. I believe they’ve been around for centuries. I believe that the cards have meanings, though I don’t know if those meanings are intrinsic or if they are simply assigned, especially since the cards themselves as well as their meanings have changed over the centuries. And I believe that they help people focus and perhaps help them delve deeper into their problems.

Beyond that, I’m not sure what there is to believe. Although people think the tarot is for for telling the future, those who study the cards say that’s not their purpose. Although the cards are said to help develop one’s psychic abilities, I have yet to see any evidence of that. I also don’t know if readings truly reflect anything in the past, present, or future, or if people simply read into the cards what they want to see. Nor do I find any deeper understanding of myself because of my card use. It’s possible, I suppose, that I have no hidden depths or even hidden shallows, that what I know is all there is.

This talk of belief and non-belief has made me wonder if it is necessary to believe in the tarot for it to work. If belief is all it takes, then one can use any sort of cards, such as a regular deck of playing cards (which some people do) or even seed packets, for that matter. Though perhaps “seed packets” are not a good example because in a lot of respects, seed packets can tell the future, at least for most people. Those people plant the seeds, and someday the picture on the packet will come true. In my case, I’m lucky to get a few scraggly seedlings.

If one’s own belief doesn’t matter, then it should be possible to learn something from the cards, if only to understand what they symbolize and what they mean to others.

After all (to continue the gardening metaphor) I have no belief in my ability to grow anything, though sometimes seeds do come up, and sometimes bushes I’ve transplanted do bloom, like this native rose.

Regardless of what I believe, I plan to continue learning the tarot. It’s certainly a multi-faceted study if nothing else.

***

What if God decided S/He didn’t like how the world turned out, and turned it over to a development company from the planet Xerxes for re-creation? Would you survive? Could you survive?

A fun book for not-so-fun times.

Click here to buy Bob, The Right Hand of God.

Living Vicariously

I have noticed that while my daily tarot card pick seldom reflects what I am feeling or doing (possibly because I am not feeling or doing much of anything), it sometimes reflects the situation of someone I’ve been talking to, especially if I empathize with them. Just as often, the card seems to reflect the situation of a character in a book I’m reading.

To the extent that the tarot has meaning, and to the extent that I am not reaching far afield to find any sort of meaning in the card, this does seem to indicate that our brains can interpret a fictional world and a fictional experience as being as real as a real-life experience.

Research does tend to corroborate this idea — people who read fiction are more empathetic than those who don’t read. They think better, connect to new ideas quicker, are more able to comprehend other people’s motivations, can understand and accept more easily the idea that others hold beliefs that are different from one’s own.

When testing readers to see what happens to their brains, scientists have recorded noticeable changes in brain chemistry that seem to bear out the idea that the experiences in fiction are in some way interpreted as real. This makes sense when you consider that a story we read becomes a memory as does everything else we’ve ever experienced, so when the brain isn’t focused on daily tasks — or maybe when it is — it plumbs our memories for clues about what worked, what didn’t, and how to proceed.

There are many things I have done in a fictional world, whether one I created or someone else did, that I would never be able to (and certainly wouldn’t want to) experience in real life, such as be a spy in a hostile country, become an assassin or a victim of an assassin, be a psychic, deal with drug problems.

From a young age, long before most kids started experiencing with drugs and alcohol and smoking, I’d developed a fear of addiction because of the books I’d read (though now, I can’t imagine what I was reading when I was a child to give me these ideas), and so I abstained even when pressured and ridiculed. I never understood how people could be so blasé about experimenting. In fact, I was shocked at people’s ignorance when all the class-action lawsuits dealing with tobacco companies showed people the dangers of smoking. How could they not know? It seemed so obvious to me. Apparently, one doesn’t have to personally go through the trauma of addiction to understand how devastating it can be.

This connection between fiction and real memories makes me wonder what I will remember when I get old. Will I remember my life or one of the tens of thousands of other lives I’ve lived vicariously? And will it matter?

***

Pat Bertram is the author of Grief: The Inside Story – A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One. “Grief: The Inside Story is perfect and that is not hyperbole! It is exactly what folk who are grieving need to read.” –Leesa Healy, RN, GDAS GDAT, Emotional/Mental Health Therapist & Educator

When the Clouds Stopped Bursting

It rained most of the night, and when the clouds stopped bursting, they left behind a dark and damp day. The tarot card I picked this morning wasn’t any cheerier — it spoke of strife and quarrels, illness and inner conflicts. Luckily, none of those things seem to have anything to do with me, but today was a good day for huddling under the covers and reading, and the books I got from the library are full of all those things.

When the story I was reading became as dreary as the day, I went online and basked in the light of the computer screen to do more research on the tarot. My latest plan of action is to finish out my tarot year (begun on July 1, 2020) with one-card readings, then go to two-cards for a month, then three-cards for the next month, then four cards . . . well, you get the point. Apparently, a person can use any number of cards for a reading, even using the whole deck, though I can’t imagine trying to make sense of that bit of chaos.

I’d planned to use a specific deck for that second phase, the deck that so far seems the only one to speak to me — if a vague affinity can be called “speaking” — but I haven’t yet finished sampling all the decks. If I continued the way I’ve been going, learning each deck by doing a one-card reading for a month, it would take me another year or two to try out all the traditional 78-card decks I have, and then another year for the specialty decks. Most decks, of course, combine the Major Arcana (the twenty-two cards depicting the human archetypes that show a person’s spiritual evolution into enlightenment) with the Minor Arcana (the court cards and the numbered cards), but I have a few decks that are simply the twenty-two Major Arcana cards, while a palmistry deck seems to be just the Minor Arcana. The Persian tarot has fifty-five cards. The Oracle of the Triad has fifty-seven cards. The Chinese Horoscope has forty-seven. The Book of Destiny deck has thirty-three cards. A cartomancy deck has thirty-two. If that isn’t confusion enough, I also have a Deva Tarot deck that has an additional suit called the Triax, for a total of ninety-three cards.

So many options and possibilities!

That, I think is what keeps me interested in the Tarot — the possibilities. I’m sticking with the traditional decks for now because that’s where I find most of the focus for study, both online and in the books I own, but even there, I find a plethora of possibility. There seems to be a vast array of spreads and layouts, and an even greater number of ways to read each spread.

There are also secret codes and arcane symbols on the cards adding further complexity to readings if one chooses to consider them in order to find deeper meaning. According to one interpreter, he keeps his interpretations of the cards brief because if he gave all the various meanings of the cards, he could fill an encyclopedia. Still, it amuses me that so many of the books accompanying the decks will spend pages describing each of the cards, defining the symbols, explaining the codes, and then, at the end of those pages will give the card’s meaning in a single sentence. I really don’t see the purpose of all those symbols and images and codes if it all just comes down to a few keywords.

But then, I am a neophyte. Maybe ten years from now, when I’ve learned much about the cards, I’ll be able to understand, but for now, not so much. Mostly, this research is a way to play with the cards I inherited from my deceased brother, rather than simply treating them like a curiosity.

And it gives me something to think about on this dreary day.

Besides, you never know — I might actually learn something important from all this research and study and practice.

***

Pat Bertram is the author of Grief: The Inside Story – A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One. “Grief: The Inside Story is perfect and that is not hyperbole! It is exactly what folk who are grieving need to read.” –Leesa Healy, RN, GDAS GDAT, Emotional/Mental Health Therapist & Educator

Two-Card Tarot Spread

I’ve been doing a daily one-card tarot reading for the past ten-and-a-half months. I plan to finish out my “tarot” year with the one-card reading, then graduate to a daily two-card reading. To that end, I’ve been researching how to do a two-card reading, but even something as simple as that is as confusing as the rest of the tarot information.

For example, there is no such thing as simply choosing the two cards and laying them out since there are several ways of doing it. A reader can shuffle the cards, deal two cards off the top and lay them side by side. Or a reader can shuffle the deck, cut it, lay the two piles side by side, then turn over the two top cards. Or a reader can shuffle the cards, fan them out, and pick two cards and lay them side by side. The side-by-side layout supposedly gives the two cards more or less an equal strength.

Another possibility is to do one of the above ways of laying out the cards, but instead of side by side, one is dealt beneath the other, which gives the lower card a supporting role.

A third possibility is to shuffle the cards, deal one card upright, then deal a second card sideways over that card to cross it. Or deal one card sideways and deal the crossing card upright. Whichever way, it’s still basically the same thing — the bottom card is your situation or question, and the crossing card shows what is crossing you or challenging you.

As if that weren’t enough, there are all sorts of possibilities for the reading of the cards.

For example, in the side-by-side layout, the cards can show two different possibilities, such as yes and no; if this then that; a valid fear and an invalid fear; perception vs. reality; what you need vs. what you want; what you need to act on and what to leave alone; what you know vs what you need to know; what to banish and what to attract; your strength and your weakness; a mistake you made and what you can learn from it; what you are feeling and what you are thinking.

The top card in an up and down layout can show things like what your situation is or what you need to know and the bottom card can give any extra information that might further explain the top card. (Though it seems as if these would work just as well in a side-by-side layout.)

The crossing cards can show things like what your goal is and what is blocking you; what is blocking you and what the solution is; what your ideal is and what you are settling for; what your situation is and what your obstacle, challenge, or adversary might be; a possible opportunity and what might prevent you from following up on the opportunity; what is happening today and what you need to resolve; your state of mind and what problem you face because of it; how you perceive a situation and what the situation really is.

My first quandary, of course, would be how to lay out the cards. Up until now, I have been shuffling the cards, fanning them and then picking one rather than dealing the card from the top of the deck. I could continue to do that, but since I think I’d like to do a reading choosing one major arcana card with a supplementary minor card, I could also shuffle each stack, lay them side by side, then turn up the top card.

Generally, when a person does a reading, they need to ask the cards a question. Since I have no real desire to know anything in the future (since obviously, I will find out what the future is going to be once I get there), and since I think I’m fairly self-aware (the cards have not told me anything about myself that I didn’t already know), mostly I ask “What do I need to know today?”

So my second quandary is: if I continue asking that same question, how would I know what the second card means? Is it an explanation? Is it a challenge of some sort? Is it showing my fears or something else that could be stopping me from knowing what I need to know? Do I have to figure out ahead of time what the second card could represent, or would I try to figure it out from the card itself?

My third quandary would be how long to do a two-card spread before I continue to a three-card layout. Do I do it for a year as with the one-card or just wait to see how I feel?

I don’t suppose any of this really matters. All I know for sure is that it’s a good thing I have several weeks before I have to make any sort of decision.

***

What if God decided S/He didn’t like how the world turned out, and turned it over to a development company from the planet Xerxes for re-creation? Would you survive? Could you survive?

A fun book for not-so-fun times.

Click here to buy Bob, The Right Hand of God.

Tarot — My Next Step

It seems strange to me that although a tarot deck is comprised of 78 cards, almost all the deep studies focus on the Major Arcana (the twenty-two cards depicting the human archetypes that show a person’s spiritual evolution into enlightenment).

The other 58 cards in a tarot deck are classified as the minor arcana. The minor arcana is sometimes divided into two also, with forty cards being called “spot” or “pip” cards, and sixteen being the court cards (what are known as face cards in a normal card deck).

Most books about the tarot speak only of the Major Arcana, giving detailed descriptions of the cards, information about the symbolism on each card, as well as an extensive interpretation. Very little is said of the minor arcana. Even the books that are geared specifically to certain decks, give barely more information than is in the small leaflet included with most decks. Most of those books seem to be fill, devoting much space to a description of each card, which seems redundant. After all, I can see what the card looks like. What I don’t know is what it means.

Because of this, I have compiled my own book of interpretations of the minor arcana gleaned from a variety of sources. Still, the biggest emphasis is on the Major Arcana which leads me to believe that those twenty-two cards are the real power and the rest of the cards are more like helper cards to further develop a theme created by a layout of the Major Arcana.

In fact, there are tarot decks (some of which I have) that only include the Major Arcana, and there are divinatory spreads that only use the Major Arcana.

I am about to graduate from a daily single-card tarot pick to a two-card spread so I can begin learn how to read the cards and to figure out how they influence one another. Oddly, it’s hard to find such information. Most sites or books that talk about the various spreads will say what each card stands for in the spread, but not how to read them. Mostly, they say to rely on your intuition.

The first year of using the decks my brother collected was set aside for single-card readings. The year will be up in less than two months, so I need to figure out the next step in my tarot education. This second year (or at least the first month or two) will be for two-cards so I can begin to get an idea of how they influence one another.

My idea is that since the Major Arcana is . . . well, major, I should choose one card from the Major Arcana to answer my question (which is usually “What do I need to know today?) and then choose a card from the Minor Arcana to further develop the thought in some way.

Another possibility, of course, would be just to use the Major Arcana, but I wonder if that would limit my education too much.

A third possibility would be to forget the easy two- and three-card layouts and go directly to a complicated spread, then spend a week deciphering it. (All the tarot folk say not to do a major spread every day, but how else does one learn?)

I still have a couple of months to decide what to do.

Wait! I just thought of something — I could ask the Tarot what my next step should be!

***

What if God decided S/He didn’t like how the world turned out, and turned it over to a development company from the planet Xerxes for re-creation? Would you survive? Could you survive?

A fun book for not-so-fun times.

Click here to buy Bob, The Right Hand of God.

A Truly Appalling Novel

I recently finished reading an appalling book, which unfortunately isn’t all that uncommon. What is rare, however is the agitation I’ve been left with. Not only is the premise incredibly silly and the ending utterly nonsensical, but the author went on to bestselling fame. How is that possible? The only thing I can think of is that he either had an in with someone or he was dealing with agents, editors, and publishers who were also men. No woman would have ever countenanced the ignorance rampant in the novel.

(If you are squeamish about the workings of a woman’s body, feel free to decamp. I won’t mind.)

The story starts out with a married woman having an affair and getting pregnant. To cover it up, she makes sure she has lots of sex with her husband so he would believe the baby was his.

Thirty years later, the ensuing daughter falls in love and wants to get married, but her mother hates the fiancé and forbids the marriage, so the daughter elopes. When the mother finds out, she hops on a plane, goes to where the two are honeymooning and tells the new husband she had an affair with his father, that his new wife is his sister, and that neither the girl or her saintly doctor father must ever find out the truth.

Instead of ignoring the mother’s wishes and talking to his beloved new wife, the guy fakes his death, leaving his bride drowning in grief, and then gets plastic surgery. Huh? What sort of idiot does that sort of thing after a single conversation with someone who hates him? Wouldn’t even a halfway intelligent person insist on a DNA test before committing such a folly?

And that’s not the worst. It turns out that the father knew all along about his wife’s affair. He was so incensed, he killed the man, aborted the other man’s baby without the mother knowing about it, then had copious sex to make sure his wife got pregnant by him while thinking she was still pregnant with the other man’s child.

The stupidity of this is mind-boggling. First of all, the affair was in 1960, long before instant pregnancy tests. A woman didn’t know she was pregnant until she’d missed a period, and though she might suspect, it wouldn’t be official until she went to a doctor after missing a second period. So the woman had to be at least two months pregnant. And yet when she gave birth, she was relieved to find out that she had remained pregnant long past her due date so she didn’t have to explain the discrepancy. What, three months past? (Two months before the abortion, another month at least to get pregnant again.) She was okay with a supposed twelve-month pregnancy? No way. And during all this time, she never went to a doctor? Just let her surgeon husband take care of her?

And how in the world could she not know something was wrong after the abortion? She’d been drugged into oblivion, so she wouldn’t necessarily have psychological or emotional problems, but she would know that she’d been drugged and she sure as shooting would have physical issues. After an abortion, the body can go through shock, vast hormonal changes, post-partum depression caused by hormone imbalance, milk production, soreness, and a variety of other biological changes. She could have an empty feeling that has a biological rather than a psychological basis because the oxytocin that was being rapidly produced by the body to ensure the bonding between mother and child is suddenly flowing the other way causing a void where the bond used to be. There can also be something known as microchimerism. Since the mother and baby immediately start exchanging cells, the mother can now have the father’s DNA in her body. And in fact, as weird and improbable as it might seem, that DNA can show up in the next baby. (Which actually would have been a better story than this one.) If nothing else, she could have had a menstrual period after the abortion and before the new pregnancy. That isn’t always the case, but if it was, then for sure she’d have questions about why she was bleeding. And, if her doctor husband had kept her drugged all this time so she wouldn’t be aware of any of this, why wouldn’t she have developed an addiction to the strong drugs, and wouldn’t it concern the doctor that his offspring might be born already addicted?

That’s not all of it, of course. Since it was supposed to be a thriller, it had to do with the doctor going around killing everyone who knew about the affair, the newly plasticized husband going back to try out for his old position with the sports team he’d been a part of, and various and sundry other ludicrous plot points.

A truly appalling story. Now that I’ve passed the horror on to you, maybe I can stop agitating over it and be grateful that at least my books make sense.

***

What if God decided S/He didn’t like how the world turned out, and turned it over to a development company from the planet Xerxes for re-creation? Would you survive? Could you survive?

A fun book for not-so-fun times.

Click here to buy Bob, The Right Hand of God.

The Nature of Nature

I was frustrated yesterday at how slowly everything moves when it depends on nature, whether human nature or . . . nature. Trees and bushes grow slowly, humans work slowly, at least sometimes. That’s their nature. About the only things that move fast when it comes to a garden or landscaping are weeds.

Generally I don’t mind that the contractor has me at the bottom of his list of priorities. So much of his work is seasonal or comes from county contracts, so I understand those things have to come first. I also understand that workers come and go. When he has a lot of workers, he takes on extra jobs to keep them all busy, and then when his guys take off in the middle of a job, he’s left playing catch-up. I’m also mostly okay with their sporadic work because that way I can keep up with my part of the landscaping, working small areas at a time.

Besides, my yard was never supposed to be a quick project. I’ve always known it would be a life-long endeavor to find plants that will grow under my care and to wait for flowers to spread and bushes, shrubs, and trees to fill out and grow to a pleasing height.

Despite knowing all that, sometimes I find it hard to accept the human nature part of this endeavor. I suppose, of course, I could find someone else to do the work, or rather a lot of “someone else”s. These people do it all, whether home repair, concrete work, building, plumbing, landscaping, whatever. And if I have an emergency, they come immediately, which is important since I’m a first-time homeowner with not a clue how to do anything or even how to find someone to get things done. Still, I get frustrated.

But that was yesterday.

Today I’m back to being patient and waiting for things to work out in their own time, though I do reserve the right to nag when necessary.

I think it also helps that the people I bought the greengage plum trees from were helpful. As it turns out, one tree is doing great. One is mostly dead except for a bit of growth just above the graft site. One is alive but barely. They gave me credit for the dead tree and told me how to deal with the still dormant tree. Mostly it reminded me of the importance of patience when it comes to the nature of nature, because the truth is, when something does finally work out, like the lilac bush pictured below, it’s worth it.

***

Pat Bertram is the author of Grief: The Inside Story – A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One. “Grief: The Inside Story is perfect and that is not hyperbole! It is exactly what folk who are grieving need to read.” –Leesa Healy, RN, GDAS GDAT, Emotional/Mental Health Therapist & Educator

The Magickal Tarot

The tarot deck I am using this month is called The Magickal Tarot, though I’m not sure what makes it magical other than that the cards are supposed to be symbolic representations of the seventy-eight non-physical entities that rule the inner workings of the cosmos. Whatever that means. And anyway, if it’s true that the tarot is a representative of those entities, all tarot decks would be just as magical.

It’s a strange deck, at least to my eyes, with weird artwork. What makes it even stranger is that the artist used an interpretation of symbolism derived from Aleister Crowley’s Book of Thoth, so by all rights, I should have skipped this deck and gone straight to Crowley’s Thoth Tarot Deck, but I chose this deck because it seemed to be an interesting look at the cards. Instead of a single interpretation of each card, he broke it down into three separate sections per card, a moral level, a mental level, and a material level, which I thought would give me a greater understanding of the cards. Unfortunately, he only did this for the Major Arcana (the twenty-two cards depicting human archetypes that show a person’s spiritual evolution into enlightenment).

For the minor arcana (the fifty-two cards that are similar to a regular pack of cards plus an extra face card per suit) he did what everyone else does — gives a simple interpretation.

Even worse, from my point of view, the interpretation of the card in the book is often at odds with the card itself.

For example, today’s card was the ten of cups, which is basically a card of good fortune and success, harmony and fulfillment. And yet the card itself mentions satiety and conflicting elements. The difference could be one of interpretation — after all, the artist didn’t write the book, he only created the cards.

Still, for all the drawbacks, I’ll stick with the deck. Who knows, I might learn something I wouldn’t otherwise know if I had passed on it. Besides, the month will be over soon, and I’ll be able to use a different deck, perhaps one that really does seem magical.

***

What if God decided S/He didn’t like how the world turned out, and turned it over to a development company from the planet Xerxes for re-creation? Would you survive? Could you survive?

A fun book for not-so-fun times.

Click here to buy Bob, The Right Hand of God.