This blog was featured on 01/09/2018
Letting Go - Tarot for Writers

The new year started off with a bang in our house. First, there was a fire, which displaced part of our extended family. In order to give them a place to live, my partner had to completely empty out his studio. Then we got an offer on my childhood home, which we are being forced to sell since my father passed away this year. Turmoil, yes.  Divestment – of possessions destroyed by collapsing ceilings, water; of possessions that lost the Sophie’s Choice calculation of what we have room for. Letting go, of family homes, family possessions, family history, childhood.  Whether by tragedy, circumstance or decision, we in my family enter 2018 without our familiar places and with less tangible stuff.

It looks cataclysmic on the surface.  It looks urgent, uncertain, sad. An out-picturing of what so many others have faced this year, as the world shifted under our feet politically, environmentally, socially and financially. We lost a lot this year, from assurance and complacency, to actual human friends and family members. So the question I am pondering is:

How do we find the grace and opportunity in letting go?

I have found, almost immediately, that there is opportunity.  As the song goes, “When one door closes, another opens.” We can no longer define ourselves by what we used to have, by our relationships and old structures, because they no longer exist. And in that, the chance to redefine ourselves. To witness the web of support around us that we might never otherwise have seen. To understand what we have outgrown and what we no longer need.

So what does that mean for writers, and how does it apply to our work?  I pulled a single tarot card to answer this question, and this week, the card that came up is the Gift of Stones.

In the Shining Tribe, this is a card of rituals, pilgrimages, harvest, and the gifts of the earth.

The image is of two mother/daughter temples to the earth Goddess. The actual temples, which are the oldest freestanding buildings on earth, attract travelers and seekers from around the world who come to find the Goddess in their own lives and dwell inside these “bodies” shaped from individual stones. In her description of this card she created, author Rachel Pollack details the offerings – bits of self, representation of dreams and prayers – that the visitors leave behind. 

To apply this to the writer, it helps to think of the circumstances that might require letting go.  Rejection comes to mind. Writers block. Grappling with a creative project that will not work. Or the desire to get out of a rut, take a risk, try something new.  Whether in despair or with hope, writers often find themselves at a place where there is no ground beneath their feet, squarely in the middle of the unexpected and unknown. When we feel like we aren’t quite whole, the temples built from individual stones reminds us that we are all the elements, all the time:

There is no one self, no one path, no one vision.

We, and our writing, can always be reconfigured into something new and beautiful.

Trust that the earth will hold you.  Treat yourself to a sacred journey, or a walk around the park.  Make a small offering, blow your wishes into it, leave it on the earth. Bless the technology of the computer which allows you to cut, paste and collage your way out of your old surroundings.  Trust your voice.

As for a writing exercise, here’s one I created this morning.  I am currently in residency at the Goddard MFA in Creative Writing program, where I am on the faculty, and where my colleague Kyle Bass shared the poem Written By Himself by Gregory Pardlo in his keynote speech on origins.  I thought of it since, when we let go, it can be a helpful to be reminded of who we are, in all our disparate glory. That the limited way that we may have used to perceive ourselves was self-constructed, and we are actually boundless and immeasurable.

Read Pardlo’s poem.  Using the echo, “I was born” freewrite your own list or poem.  Let each line be an entirely new idea, unconnected to the last.  Write as quickly as you can, as much as you can.  If “I was born” doesn’t resonate with you, try “I am.”

You can do this for yourself, for grounding.  You can use it to get to know a character.  You can use it to generate material for a memoir or story. You can look for images to play with and deepen.

We’ll be doing this in my advising group this week at Goddard, with a few add-ons.  I’d love to hear how it goes for you.

Happy writing!


*In this feature, I’m working with The Shining Tribe Tarot: Awakening the Universal Spirit, created by renowned Tarot scholar Rachel Pollack, who taught me that the Tarot “is a vehicle to remind yourself of what you already know.” If you want to know more about the deck and its images, or have your own Tarot practice, here are the links.


**P.S. If you are interested in more Tarot, I am doing a tarot workshop at the Pele's Fire writing retreat this year.  More info at the link or on my website. We have one cabin left, due to a cancelation!

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