Season’s Turning

 

May your heart be as light ….

 

Summer is waning.  In the mornings, the geese cry to each other as they turn their attention to warmer climes.  The days grow shorter, the sunshine taking on a faded, old-gold cast.  The flowers in my garden are long gone, their seed pods spreading their treasures in the hopes that spring will be a lush one. An equinox looms on the horizon.

Usually the end of summer tugs a cord of sadness in me, and I begin my quiet spiral into seasonal depression.  This year, I’m feeling the opposite.  It feels as if I’ve emerged from the summer of endings.  Now I get to rest, to quietly create, to look toward what is instead of what is not.

This summer was hard for me, for many.  I lost a friend to cancer.  I said goodbye to a furry companion of 15 years.  Other pets were in and out of the vet’s with too much regularity.  A few friends lost family members.  A few friends had serious health concerns.  So many across the world were victims of deadly hate and malice.  And our US politics spun out of control.  Friends still argue, divisive, about who should take the reins of our government.

More personally, the words came grudgingly, and I had to fight every sentence before it would let me consign it to a page.  It felt like a dust bowl summer, where nothing thrived save the heat and the wind, the emptiness and the never-ending grit.

So the cooler weather and softer light feels like a blessing, an opening.  It feels like an opportunity to step back into creation, and caring, and nurturing.  The softness lifts the heart a little, soothes it.  It makes way for wonderful new things to peep through the door.  Like a new kitten (literally).  That’s a good thing.

One of the lessons of this summer is to live without regrets as much as possible.  It’s a lesson that spirals around and around, orbiting me, making sure that I don’t forget it.  It makes me impatient to do more, but happy to at least do.  It reminds me to savor.  It gives me back my words.

I hope your summers were easy and kind, full of laughter and exploration.  I want to hear what you did in your summer.  Please share your story, even a little one.

May our autumns be gentle and abundant with all that is good, true and beautiful.  May all our hearts be as light as a feather.

 

Literally, a kitty.

Literally, a new kitty.

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

 

Star Wars Sans Spoilers

 

Don't ruin it for others! I mean it!

The nostalgia is strong with this one.

 

 

I was 14 when Star Wars: Episode IV came out in May of 1977.  My father took my brother and me to the now-demolished Valley Circle Theater in San Diego.  I remember being disgruntled at having to go to a movie that Saturday, as I had a book I wanted to finish!  I had no idea what the movie was about.  Star Wars?  I didn’t want to see a war movie.  Whatever!  It wasn’t even a mystery or a musical!

The Valley Circle was a huge venue, and it was packed.  We stood in line for tickets, and stood in line for popcorn.  The seats we found were about 3/4th of the way back in the center section, and over to the left.  I was cranky about that, too, because all the seats were on one level, and I was very short.  Naturally, a veritable pillar of a man sat right in front of me.

The lights went down.  The now-familiar fanfare started.  The opening titles rolled.  The guy in front of me slouched, and I sat up straight, eyes riveted to the screen as a spaceship–A SPACESHIP–flew by, tiny lasers pew-pew-pewing backward at …

WHOA!

An ominously dark behemoth hove into view–a Star Destroyer!

That was the moment my world changed.

Like many of my generation, Star Wars ignited something in me.  A passion for science fiction, fantasy, and orchestral music lit up, and never left. What’s more, there was a BAD ASS PRINCESS!!!!  I’d never seen a girl kick-ass and take names the way Leia did.

Star Wars changed what I believed possible.  A girl could be a princess and a spy and a rebel leader and a senator and someone who shot Storm Troopers with the best of them!  With one defiant look, Leia Organa redefined the roles women could have in any world!

The rest of the original trilogy brought good fun, good adventure, and more of my favorite Princess, even though the ewoks made me a little crazy.  Then came the long, sorrowful years of the prequels.  Okay,  some of I and II were okay, but for the most part, wow, truly terrible.  I honestly tried to forget III altogether as the ending made me furious.

And now we have Star Wars, The Force Awakens.

Say what you will, I loved it.  Was it a great movie?  Hell no.  Was there great acting?  Mm-no, not so much.  Were there any amazing plot twists?  Sorry, nope.  Worse, they used some old, crappy tropes that could have been avoided with just a little writing.

So what did it have?

SW:TFA had a galaxy worth of nostalgia. It managed to conjure up that old Star Wars magic despite (or because of) being mostly unoriginal.  It brought back old friends, and it set the stage for new adventures.  A woman and a person of color were the main characters.  The casting was more diverse than in almost any other recent American-made show.  The CG wasn’t egregiously used, and I liked the action scenes (we can debate why in the comments, if you want).  More, it didn’t take itself too seriously.  It was FUN.

And this time, a girl is having the adventures: a non-whiny, capable, intuitive, kick-ass, Force-sensitive, pragmatic-yet-compassionate GIRL.  This is huge.

I adore the character of Rey, and I’m delighted that she held center stage–right after Han Solo.  She’s been given the central mystery as well as ample room to grow, and I’m looking forward to discovering the secrets of the galaxy right along with her.  Thanks to writers Lawrence Kasdan, J.J. Abrams, and Michael Arndt for giving us a young woman to go adventuring with, and for someone a new generation of girls can embrace as their own.

Now just give Finn his due, and we’ll be good.

For the rest of you, go see it, if you haven’t already!  Then come back and tell me what you loved or hated about it.  I want to know what you think!!

Swanky -- in that 'the future is now' sort of way. The Valley Circle Theater.

Swanky — in that ‘the future is now’ sort of way. The Valley Circle Theater.

SPOILERS MAY BE IN THE COMMENTS.  READ AT YOUR OWN RISK.

But please, do tell!!

 

That Old Rascal, Time

It’s been almost a year since I posted. Not quite, but close enough for government work. I’ll admit that writing life, coupled with work life, tangled up with family life sucked the blogging life right out of me.

But it’s a new dawn, a new day, and I’m ready to poke at all those topics that once drifted to the top of mind like sweet smoke of a camp fire, only to dissipate as the winds of another busy thing blew through. There are thoughts to ponder and, I hope, discussions to be had.

Let’s do the blog thing!

— kn

The Balance of All Things

All right, so it’s not the balance of all things, merely certain aspects of my life.

This weekend, Simone and I finished what we call the first reader’s draft of our second MS.  ::incredibly happy dance goes here::  The story has seen a fair whack of revisions already, and we’re to the point where it’s time to let other eyes peruse it, and tell us what they see.  After we have some time away and feedback/crits in our emails, we can assault it with fresh brains.  Which is awesome.  I love this part of the process, because it’s like magic.  Take a couple of weeks away from the story, add a dollop of feedback from our generous and stalwart critiquers, then see what cool things emerge.   And while the MS is out having adventures, I get to dive into all the things I haven’t done for the last … well, a while.

For instance, gardening.   Or, catching up on the five different TV shows I’ve missed entire seasons of.  And there’s my poor family who would like some attention.  And responsibilities like cleaning the fishtanks, or making sure no one starves because I’ve neglected to buy groceries for three weeks straight.  Which reminds me, I need to buy groceries.  Or maybe I’ll clean the house.  It hasn’t had a deep and meaningful clean since September, which is, not coincidentally, when we started working on this story.  And in a few days, Simone and I will start on the Phase II revisions of our first MS.

You see how it goes.

It’s true that I sometimes groan and whimper at all the things I want/need to do, and wonder why, why, why I can’t be independently wealthy so I can write 40 hours a week, instead of working outside the house (this moaning does not take into account awesome health benefits), then I’d have all that other time to do things like groceries and gardening.  Which is, I believe, what most artists/writers/dancers/creation-gurus/every-day people want.  Why can’t we just live the life we love??

Then it dawned on me, and I’ll be the first to admit, I’m sometimes slow on the uptake.  I am living the life I love.  For crying out loud, I’m writing NOVELS!  Two, so far, and many more to go!  I get to collaborate and create with a brilliant, insightful, delightful, wonderful friend on an almost daily basis.  I get to play with words, and weave stories together, and do research, and go on site tours, and take the Seattle Police Department’s Community Academy, and dream up new and delightful ways to make my characters suffer or find redemption or fall in and out of love–or all the above!

There’s a gracious lot of AND in my life.

Do I wish I had more hours in the day?  Of course.  Don’t we all?  But I can’t say I’m not living my dream, because I am.  Every day that I sit down and work on a story, I’m living my dream.  And for now, my day job pays for my real job, and that’s really much more than all right.

As for all the rest of life?  It will work out.  It always does.   And therein lies the balance of all things.