Different Lenses

 

Find Cotton Valent on Facebook @CottonGallery

“The Star” by Cotton Valent

 

Old photos tell stories.  ::stage whisper::  They steal your soul, you know.   I joke, but I do love the older images that show us a time other than our own.  Not necessarily better, but different.  Old letters tell stories, too, through the paper they’re written on, the handwriting, the ink, and of course the contents.  Taken altogether and they open a window onto another time and place, a time of ideas we’ve lost, and mindsets limited by what we didn’t yet know, or were unwilling to grasp. We are given the chance to experience life, for the span of the pages, through another’s eyes.

For me, tarot cards open windows as well.  I had a ton of them at one point — 35 or so decks–which, looking back, seems excessive. I guess I felt it was excessive then, too, as I gave most away. They should be loved and used.  No point in hording, or keeping things in a box.  I feel this way about anything “collectible” whether rare or not.  You won’t do anything with it once you’re dead.  May as well enjoy it.

A few years ago I put away my tarot decks.  Stacked them neatly in a tray in their wraps, then let them collect dust.  There “wasn’t time” for them, and I wasn’t reading for anyone anymore, even myself.  I had no more questions to ask.  Life was life, and you take it as it comes, and you make things work.

I sometimes drift away from a passion to never really pick it up again.  I’m famous for dabbling.  Or–as someone once told me–I take in all I can from something, and when it no longer nourishes, I slough it off, like a snake does its skin, then move on.  I thought that was a very gracious way of putting it.  In this case, however, it didn’t feel true.

Last week, I met with two friends who also do the tarot thing.  Before we met, I pulled out a few decks to see if I wanted to take any of them with me on the visit.

In going through the different cards, I felt I was throwing back the curtains on a window, exchanging my black-and-white view to one of color and birdsong.  I had a sense of coming home again.

I mostly used tarot for inspiration and storytelling, for clarification, insight, and even focus.  And when I call them windows, I really mean lenses–often 78 different lenses in each deck.  They remind me of the gels I used to use when doing lighting design back in long ago.  The light fixtures we used were always the same, but by placing a different colored or textured gel front of the beam, it changed the way we saw what was on stage.  Mood, focus, drive, subtext all changed with the use of a gel.  And that’s how tarot works for me.  I have a subject I’d like to see revealed or enhanced, or whatever my focus is … and the card gives me a new way of viewing it, of considering it.  Pretty much as simple as that.  There are other ways of using them, of course.  This just happens to be mine.

For twenty years I’d used them.  Some of these decks are old friends.  They fit my puny hands.  There’s a whispering *whuffle* as they’re shuffled together, a worn softness to their edges from repeated use.  The colors please my eyes, the illustrations intrigue, inform, reassure, and reveal.  I love how their depicted archetypes and incidents cover the whole range of human existence.

I’d missed them, and not even known it.

Tarot has its lovers and its haters. For me, they’re a tool, and like all tools it depends on what you do with them.  Evil and good come from the hand which wields the tool.  It is one aspect of my life I don’t talk about much, though.  I find it’s less socially acceptable to read tarot cards than it is to be a role-play gamer, which is weird to me, but hey, I don’t write the social norms … I just try to change them.

I realized that I’d put aside my cards–my form of meditation and inspiration–because I’d also stopped being in a community which valued such tools.  The greater world didn’t seem to have room for them, or me as a user of them.  There’s a lot of side-eye to sidestep when you pull out a deck.

And that’s fear talking.  I may write about socially unacceptable people, but I’ve always tried to pass as socially acceptable myself.  Somehow, after stepping away from that community, my use of the cards made me an outlier in my own eyes, and set me up for judgment.

Guess whose voice was the loudest Judgey McJudgerson?  My own.

So … all this is to say, “Just do what brings you joy.”  As long as it harms none, go for it.

As for me, I’m back to my old morning routine of a card with my second coffee, and a page of poetry.  It sets my brain right, starts the day with imagery and lyricism.   And we all need a different view on the world now and then.

 

What’s your jam?  What have you given up from imagined peer pressure, or the real thing?  What would you do again, if you could? What tool do you like to view the world through?

 

"Ace of Cups" The Druid Craft Tarot. Illustrated by Will Worthington

The Druid Craft Tarot. Illustrations Will Worthington

 

Open Letter

 

From Me to You

From Me to You

 

An Open Letter to the people who have shared their stories and their lives with me lately–mostly strangers–but also a few friends.

 

Dearest Fellow Human –

You may know me, or we may have only met briefly in the Starbucks line, or through a drop-in flashpoint in a game, or from a comment made in a Facebook group we’re both in, or standing in the sunshine on the sidewalk.  But that’s okay.  However we came together, you were having a hard time, and you needed a friend.  It’s good we talked.  I’m glad that when we parted you felt like you were heard and supported.  I’m not always good at listening, so I’m glad I could be there for you in that time and place.

A lot of people I know are having a hard time right.  They’ve lost loved ones, are struggling with health issues, have too little money, feel out of control, fear the future, struggle with who they are, or simply are so damn tired all the time.  You’re not alone in feeling this way.  Truth.

After we parted, I wished I could have given you more.  I wanted to wrap you in a warm blanket, hand you a mug of hot cocoa or lovely tea, read you a good story, and let you know things can be okay sometimes, even if they’re not right now.

There are a few things I wish I could have shared with you, things I think you don’t know how to believe in, or are forgetting just now.  And I don’t want to sound pushy, but I hope that you will believe me, even just for a little while, as I tell you:

  1. You are worth loving just as you are right now.   You Are Worth Loving Just As You Are.
  2. Your story matters.  You matter.   I want to hear your story, in whatever way you want to share it.
  3. We can’t save other people, no matter how much we want to. We can only love them for as long as they’re in our lives, near or far.  The only person you can truly save/fix/change is yourself, and that’s where we need to start.
  4. You can only do your best. Some days your best will be excellent, and some days you’ll feel it’s not so much.  Celebrate the good days, and forgive yourself the hard ones.
  5. You’re allowed to feel whatever you are feeling, even the ones that others think are ugly.  
  6. It’s okay to ask for help. Some people won’t be able to do much, but others will.  We all suck at asking, but everyone needs a hand or a hug sometimes.
  7. Be kind to yourself and others as much as you can. You deserve kindness, and so do they.  Sometimes kindness is hard to come by, but give and receive what you can, as you can. 

 

I don’t know if we’ll ever see each other again, Fellow Human, but thank you for sharing your time and your story with me, and for including me in your life for a while.  I hope it gave you at least the seeds of what you needed.  I wish you gentle days and restful nights, and all happiness in the days to come.

 

With love,

The Stranger In The Coffee Shop / Online / In That Game You Love / At The Park

 

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