Imagined Future

I’ve been continuing my practice of picking one tarot card every day, not so much to learn what is in store for me in the future or to delve into the secret places of my soul, but simply to get familiar with the idea of the tarot. I mean, I have all those decks of cards that my deceased brother collected, so I should do something with them, right? Besides, it’s a way of honoring him and all he wanted but was never able to accomplish.

The most interesting thing I’ve found while doing this exercise is how often I get one of the dire cards one day, such as the nine or ten of swords, and one of the most fortunate cards the next day, such as The Sun.

So far, I haven’t learned much about the cards themselves or myself, just that I refuse to see bad in the bad cards, though I do enjoy seeing good in the good cards. If I get a card that seems to spell disaster, then I keep searching for meanings until I find an interpretation that portends something better. For example, the ten of swords can mean violent accident or death or misfortune on a grand scale, which I won’t accept. It also means that no matter how much we try, we cannot control everything, which I will accept. Not being able to control everything is a truth that can be applied to any situation and a lesson that behooves us all to learn.

Beyond that, I hadn’t realized why I objected to anything to do with foretelling the future until I read this quote:

People didn’t want to know their real future. They wanted to know their imagined future, the one they cherished instead of fearing. — “The True Secret of Magic,” a short story by Joe Edwards

I realized then that foretelling the future is like writing a story. Every story, taken to its logical conclusion leads to death because we all die. If we write the story all the way to that end, the story is a sad one. To make a happier story, we end at a pleasant time in the character’s life. Perhaps a wedding and a belief in happy ever after. Or the solution to a crime and justice for a victim.

Telling the future would be the same. Almost any fortune that doesn’t include specifics, such as telling someone they will be divorced within the year, will fit practically any situation. Almost any future will include happiness and sorrow, success and failure, sickness and health, betrayal and forgiveness. And every future, no matter how sunny and felicitous, ends in death. At least an earthly future does, and that’s what concerns us: how our life will be.

We want the pretty story, a belief that no matter how bad things are, things will work out to some sort of satisfying conclusion. (Isn’t that what we want from fiction, too? A satisfying end to a story, a belief that all the horror the character went through was worth it in the end?)

I know my end, perhaps not the specifics of my expiration date, but that there will in fact be an end to me. Meantime, I try to create my fortune — my future — every day. Even knowing that I can’t control everything, I try to control something — my attitude, my actions, my interactions with people — in such a way that I will have a felicitous fortune.

I don’t need to be told a bright future, and I certainly don’t need to be told a bleak one. Both will happen. Both will affect me. Both will be processed and I will move on to another day, another future.

I suppose if I were young, I would want to know if I’d be pretty, if I’d be rich, if I’d find love and happiness, but those wishful, youthful days are long gone. I once loved greatly, once was loved. I once felt immense joy and experienced vast sorrow. I once shared my life with someone. And now I don’t.

But just as I shy away from foretelling, I shy away from backtelling. In the first case, whatever will be, will be, though my actions today can affect what will be. In the second case, whatever was, was, and my actions today won’t change any of it.

But neither case really matters. What matters is . . .

What matters is . . .

Hmm. I’m not really sure what matters. That I am determined to cherish whatever my future might be rather than fearing it? That right now I am living a future I could never have imagined even a couple of years ago? That I am trying to imagine a comfortable future for myself? (Though if a great present came from nothing I ever imagined in the past, would anything I imagine in the present affect the future?)

Maybe what matters is that I am living as fully as I can, which, apparently includes picking and learning about one tarot card every day.

***

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

Odds and Ends

Yesterday I got the courage to get down on the floor to do some stretching exercises. Ever since I damaged my left knee, I haven’t ventured to floor in case I couldn’t get back up. Although I am right-handed, I am left-legged, and I didn’t want to stress the knee. It was a bit iffy, but I managed to get back on my feet. Oddly, it was harder getting down than up. I’m not going to try it again for a while. I’ll continue to do other knee exercises, as well as walking. I walked a mile today — walked, not trudged! The muscles around the knee are a bit sore, but I hope that they will soon get back in shape.

Do you care? Probably not. I don’t blame you. Other people’s ills get to be a bore.

I’m sure my talk of the tarot is every bit as boring. The only interesting thing (to me, anyway) is that except for an occasional card warning me not to take things for granted, to accept what comes, to live each day to the fullest, and to make good choices when it comes to opportunity, most of the cards speak of harmony, of peace, of good fortune, of being in the right place. It’s possible I’d read these things into any card because that’s my current situation. Also, if I don’t like the first interpretation I find, I search around for another interpretation. (For example, the ten of swords is a card of death and misfortune, but since I refused to accept such a meaning, I delved deeper and found that the card could also mean a renewal or even simply accepting your present circumstances.)

I mentioned yesterday I’ve been reading a series of spy/adventure novels. I remember back in the days of Glasnost thinking that a whole genre of cold war spy novels, Russia vs the USA, had suddenly become defunct, and that sure seemed to be true. In the following years, spy novels centered more on the Mideast, which killed any interest I had in the genre. But now, all these years later, those old Russia vs. USA novels are current again. And the mention in one of these book about the Chinese and their bioweapons program sure struck a chord.

Come to think of it, at the beginning of The Bob, people talked about the Chinese being held accountable, and then suddenly, that whole topic of news disappeared. I wonder what that’s about? I could create all sorts of scenarios based on these old spy books, but to be honest, it doesn’t really matter where it came from. It’s here, it’s killing people as well as destroying a way of life and the world economy, and no reparations can ever make up for all the problems it caused. (Hmm. I didn’t realize I’d adopted such a laissez faire attitude. Maybe it’s because I’m abstaining from the nastiness of Facebook.)

For some reason, the sun yesterday was exceptionally hot. It seared my skin and desiccated the plants that had been watered the day before. All summer, watering every other day was fine, and yesterday? Not the hottest day of the year, but it sure seemed like it!

Today is supposed to be a bit cooler, though I’m glad I got my walking in early. And my blogging. Now I can sit back and read for the rest of the day.

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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

Self-Fulfilling Prophecy

I’m beginning to wonder if the tarot is a self-fulfilling prophecy. It’s not supposed to be a prognosticator, but rather a way of gaining insights. I don’t expect anything from my foray into card reading — it’s more a way of honoring my deceased brother since the cards were his. And what the heck — I always like learning something new, especially something that might have deeper meanings. And it’s like decoding messages, which fits with being a mystery writer.

The cards for the previous four days were all high pentacle cards (Queen, Nine, King, Ace in that order), which together indicate prosperity, financial gain, goals achieved, enjoying each day, and new beginnings. All great cards to get, and rather interesting that they would all show up in such a clump. Also interesting in that I started a new job this week, and although it is part-time, it will help tremendously with my finances. And for sure it’s a new beginning.

Today’s card was the King of Wands. This card suggests that an opportunity is presenting itself, and that I have the perseverance and maturity to see it through to the end. Mostly, this is a card of pure energy. It’s that last part that made me wonder about self-fulfilling prophesies. After I did my tarot lesson for the day, I went grocery shopping, did laundry, took a walk, cooked rice, made salads for the next few days, cleaned a bit, talked to a friend on the phone, and now I’m writing this blog.

Whew! Lot of activity! Way more than I usually have the energy for in such a short span of time. So did the card suggest to me that I would have energy and my subconscious said, “Okay, sounds good to me, let’s energize the woman.” Or did I wake up with the energy and the card simply reflected that? Or was my bout of energy and the card coincidental?

Personally, I think it’s coincidence. The storm systems that have been moving through the area and zapping my energy, have passed temporarily, allowing me to get much accomplished. And almost any card can be made to fit any circumstance. I think it’s like horoscopes. The horoscopes that have no connection to anything that happens, we immediately forget, and the ones that strike a chord are those we remember.

But who knows. Certainly not me since I am a neophyte when it comes to the cards. I do enjoy tinkering with them, though. It helps give shape to my day by giving me something to do when I wake before I’ve settled in for the duration. It’s a bit mysterious. And, as I said, it’s a connection to my brother.

It’s all good. Especially the part about having energy. I did like that!

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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

Garage Gallery

I’ve been keeping track of my daily tarot card pick for a month now, and though I don’t see how the cards affect my life, there are certain things that show up again and again, such as sixes, which represent moving away from conflict, light after dark, and harmony. Another frequent card is the ten of weapons, which can mean anything from misfortune on a grand scale to a reminder that we can’t control everything.

Today’s card, the queen of pentacles, is also a frequent card, showing up about once a week. The queen is sensible, hard-working and domesticated; loves the comforts of life and displays splendor of life. She’s kind and affectionate; generous and forgiving, and prone to weight problems. Also, she depends more on her intuitive skills than her intellect.

I was nodding through the whole description. Yep, me. Me. Me. Wait! What? Relies on intuitive skills rather than intellect? I thought it was the other way around, but I suppose if the card is right about all the rest of it, then it’s probably right about that, too. Or not. Who knows? Another meaning of the card is someone who is shrewd and capable, so that seems to contradict the intuitive skills dependence meaning.

And oh, yes — there’s one other thing: the card represents the embodiment of feminine creativity.

I did have to smile at that, considering that I spent the morning decorating my garage, or at least one corner of it. I don’t like clutter, especially on the walls inside my house, because too much stuff makes me feel closed in. Over the years, though, I’ve collected some pictures I liked and painted others, and the garage seems the perfect place for them. I’ll be able to see them occasionally, and won’t get overwhelmed or claustrophobic.

I even put up a frill of a curtain. I wasn’t sure I wanted a curtain, though it would seem to be the epitome of a girl garage, but when I was sorting through things to store, I found a curtain ruffle and a rod that was the perfect size. Apparently, the window wanted a curtain!

Maybe I shouldn’t post the photo of these bits of artwork because, as a blog reader pointed out, posting photos and talking about my possessions might put me at risk for break-ins. Not that I have anything that’s worth anything except maybe my car, but that garage door sure was expensive!

Still, I got a kick out of my garage gallery, and thought you might, too.

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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

A Slightly Dreamy Woman

I’ve been doing a one-card tarot reading every morning this month, and every time I asked the same question — what do I need to know today?

I’m not sure what I need to know, but there is definitely a pattern to the cards. Five of the cards spoke of harmony. Two spoke of balance. Two spoke of working toward one’s dreams, and two said the dreams were coming to fruition because of previous hard work. Two or three mentioned change and growth. (That adds up to more than twelve cards, but some of the cards fell into a couple of these categories.)

It’s interesting to me that there is a theme to the cards I picked, but I have no way of interpreting it. Since at least two of the cards refer to intuition and inspiration, I should be able to intuit the meaning in these cards, but it’s hard to know if they are saying I’m almost to the point of balance and harmony or that I need to work harder to get to that point.

I must admit, I do feel as if I’ve found a balance to my life and seem to be in harmony with my self for a change, but since the tarot is about digging deeper and discovering what we don’t want to face, it’s possible I’m fooling myself. Though if I were, wouldn’t I feel out of harmony?

Either way, being in harmony (or nearing that state) and merely feeling as if I am in that state of near harmony, it seems to be the same thing — a feeling of having found a balance.

But since these cards also speak of change and working toward one’s dreams, maybe it means I have found near-harmony but that’s no reason to rest on my almost balanced laurels.

One of the cards I picked was the Keeper of the Crescents. This is a weird deck, one of those that the creators decided to forgo a lot of the traditional names and meanings and made up their own, as well as switching around the elemental meanings of a couple of the suits. This card is the equivalent to the Page of Cups. The book that came with the cards spent a lot of time describing the card and pointing out the symbolism and mythos of the various aspects of the card, but when it came to interpretation, they said only that it meant a quiet and slightly dreamy woman, full of deep passion and feelings.

Although the card seems apropos, I had to laugh. All of that imagery just to mean something simple as a slightly dreamy woman? Why not just do an image of a slightly dreamy woman then?

When I looked online for Page of Cups, I did find more of an explanation, such as this card representing the unexpected inspiration that comes from the unconscious (though isn’t inspiration, almost by definition, unexpected?), perhaps in ways we might not truly understand. It also says to be open to new ideas that come from intuitive inspiration, despite those ideas being something we might not expect.

So far, I haven’t come upon those new ideas yet — no ideas about the cards I’ve chosen so far this month and no ideas about anything, actually.

If I had an idea, I’d have written about it instead of writing about these cards.

Well, there was one idea that came to me — it suggested that I would have been better served to pick a more traditional deck for this first month’s foray into a daily tarot pick. That way, whatever I learned would have more relevance to other decks. So next month, I’ll be sure to pick a less esoteric deck.

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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

 

Puzzling out the Tarot

Although I see myself as a bit of a mystic, I’ve never been into tarot, or any sort of divination for that matter. I always figured if we can change the future, then it doesn’t matter what the predicted future is, and if we can’t change it, then the prediction especially doesn’t matter.

If ever a thought of the tarot crossed my mind, it would have been in the same mental classification as astrology, Ouija boards, and fortune cookies. I used a Ouija board once when I was kid, know my astrology sign and will read my horoscope when it’s in front of me (though the horoscope never seemed to have any relation to anything going on in my life), and enjoy fortune cookies, but that was the extent of my interest. Oh, I did read up on the occult since I have always been one to try to get a peek into the secrets of the universe, but charlatans so often dominated the field, that I stuck with more scientific gateways, like particle physics and quantum mechanics. (Yep, I was one of those who read such books for fun.)

I’m still not sure there is anything for me in the tarot, but considering that it is supposed to be a way to get insights into one’s inner being, it’s worth studying for now. And besides, it seems a message from my brother. Admittedly, this collection of tarot cards hadn’t been specifically earmarked for me, but that mass of decks sure struck a chord with me, so it felt as if he meant me to have them.

So here I am, trying to make sense of a massive amount of contradictory information. For example, the card I picked this morning to answer my question of what I needed to know today, was the nine of swords. Swords are supposed to be a bad luck sort of card, without a lot of happiness attached, and the nine of swords especially so. One interpretation talks about fears, vulnerability and inner turmoil and suggests that I learn what the source of those fears are. Another interpretation talks of depression and suffering, scandal and loss.

But swords relate to consciousness at a mental level, and reflect an individual’s thoughts, beliefs, and overall attitude. They also point to fears and worries, but don’t necessarily put a whole lot of weight on those fears, because the sword is two-edged, which connotes a balancing act to stay positive.

And nines are about nearing completion, maybe about reaching a plateau, because what looked like the end hasn’t quite arrived.

All that seems positive to me, so instead of the nine of swords telling me I’m depressed and fearful and need to figure out what my trouble is so I can get into a more benign state, my own take on the matter is I’m already there. Or almost. That I’m doing well balancing my fears and staying positive, even though I can do better.

See what I mean about contradictory information?

And this isn’t even taking into consideration the whole ancient elements matter — water, fire, air, earth. According to the most common tarot tradition, swords mean air, but some decks and some scholars indicate that swords are fire. (As you can see, in my own interpretation, I left off any mention of air or fire because the element question muddles an already muddled situation.)

On a different note completely, as I was reading about the elements, I happened to open the book to another page that was defining the “fool” card, and I had to laugh. Apparently, in Italy and Austria, The Fool goes by the name “Mat,” which is an Arabic word meaning “a dead person.” In The Wheel of Time, one of the major characters is a fellow everyone thinks is a fool. I thought he was simply an archetype, but he is definitely one of the major arcana characters from the tarot. Not only is his name “Mat,” but as he says, “I’m usually pretty good at staying alive. I only failed one time that I remember.”

Now I’m going to have to re-reread The Wheel of Time again to look for additional tarot references. As well as to continue puzzling out the tarot itself.

***

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 Most Compelling Images

The most compelling images seem to be those that somehow mirror ourselves, or at least our image of ourselves. At it’s most basic, this mirroring is why humans buy magazines with other humans on the cover, and why the animals we most bond with have the cuteness of a human baby, with wide-set, round eyes, and generally a round face.

I didn’t realize that I was prey to such subconscious mimicry, but of course I should have known since, although I don’t always like to admit it, I am just a human. I was reminded of our subconscious fascination with ourselves when I was gazing at the tarot card I chose during a one-card self-reading, a painting by Stephanie Pui-Mun Law. This three of wands card shows a woman standing at the edge of a land bridge, far above a mountainous scene with a river running through it.

I was suddenly struck by the familiarity of the image, and then I remember this photo of me on the north rim of the Black Canyon of the Gunnison, which I used for the cover of Grief: The Great Yearning:

There I am, standing at the edge of the world, though the altar-like rock in front of me masks that reality. If the photo had been taken from the same perspective as that of the tarot card image, you would see I what I am seeing — a mountainous scene with a river running through it.

No wonder the image of the woman standing above it all struck such a familiar chord.  She is I, or maybe I am she.

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Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

Standing on an Unbuilt Bridge to the Future

It’s not often a picture speaks to me. I’m not particularly visual, which is why I write and dance rather than paint. Still, I keep thinking of the Three of Wands tarot image painted by Stephanie Pui-Mun Law. The picture is of a woman accompanied only by a cat, standing on the end of an uncompleted bridge arcing out over a river far below. The meaning of the card is about seeking what is uncharted, expanding one’s horizons, taking a long view, moving fearlessly into new areas, trusting that the bridge will form beneath our feet as we tread beyond what we know. (The symbolism of the cat wasn’t explained, but traditionally, cats tend to give us messages of change, flexibility, adaptability, beckoning us to realize that when we turn within to our own hearts, minds and souls, and trust in ourselves, we will always be shown the truth of matters.)

I’ve been researching various other interpretations of the Three of Wands card, and though there is some difference of opinion, generally the card means, besides just expanding one’s horizons, looking away from the past to an unknown future, dreaming beyond current limitations, trusting in oneself (when there is no one else to help, we can always look to ourselves and never be let down), and new opportunities for financial success. This card often is about traveling to actual places, but it also refers to other travels such as fresh starts, new insights, and even dance. (Bruce Chatwin wrote: “To dance is to go on pilgrimage.”)

This was the first tarot card I ever drew for myself (actually, I didn’t draw it, it fell out of the deck when I was shuffling the cards), and it will probably be the last because I wouldn’t want to dilute its power. The card hints at a visionary and creative future for me, and gives me a image of myself that I’d like to believe — strong and fearless, embracing the unknown, willing to go beyond the ordinary even if I have to go alone.

Perhaps that image of me isn’t true now, but as I continue to change, continue to be open to whatever happens, continue to believe that something awesome (in the sense of causing both fear and wonder) lies ahead, then the world will lie open at my feet.

Now that I think about it, isn’t this true of all of us? We’re standing on an unbuilt bridge to the future, the past behind us, the bridge growing beneath our feet when we walk. There’s nothing really to be gained by looking back, especially since looking back could cause us to lose our balance. So, like the woman in Stephanie Pui-Mun Law’s lovely painting, we go forward, trusting, hoping, believing . . .

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Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

Inviting Myself to Dream, Explore, Believe

Yesterday I moved energy around. Today I moved two carloads of stuff around. Took the things to a friend who has a use for them. At least I hope she does, otherwise I’ve just used her as a dump. Of course, she’s also free to move the stuff around. It’s hers now.

Someone used me as a means of moving energy/stuff around — she gave me her tarot cards and the book to help me interpret the meanings of my readings. I’m not really into tarot or any sort of divination for that matter. If we can change the future, then it doesn’t matter what the predicted future is, and if we can’t change it, it doesn’t matter either.

Still, out of curiosity, I did a one-card tarot reading where you ask a question and the cards give you some sort of answer.

Right before Jeff died, he told me things would come together for me. And recently, my publisher said he has a strong feeling things will work out for me. Of course, I’d like to know how they will work out. I mean, personal and financial successes are ways of things working out, but so is death. (That is how things work out for all of us in the end.) But I gave the cards a break and simply asked if things will come together for me.

I dealt myself a fantastic card, the Three of Wands, painted by Stephanie Pui-Mun Law. The picture is of a woman accompanied only by a cat, standing on the end of a bridge to the edge of the world. It arcs out across the sky, and ends abruptly, a shimmering river far below. She is obviously standing on the edge of the precipice, wondering where to go. (Sounds familiar, doesn’t it? That seems to be a recurring theme in my wonderings on this blog.)

Knowing that sparkling potential waits for her, she takes a step. And it is not emptiness that meets her unhesitating foot, but sturdy rock and shale. She continues to walk, the bridge growing beneath her feet with every step.

Wooo. Seems apropos, doesn’t it? And so much like an answer to my question. Just go, believe in the journey, and everything will come together when I need it.

The section about the Three of Wands in Shadowscapes Companion by Stephanie Pui-Mun Law and Barbara Moore ends with, “The Three of Wands invites you to explore, seek out the uncharted, expand your horizons. Take a long view of situations and express leadership.”

I’m not sure how much leadership one can express when one is alone at the end of bridge that is being dreamed into existence as one walks upon it, but otherwise, it’s exactly what I’ve been inviting myself to do — dream, explore, believe.

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Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.