Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Tarot Poem Prompt

I admit that I sometimes dabble in writing poems. By and large, I only write them when an idea for one pops into my mind of its own accord; doing anything else tends to just feel forced. That notwithstanding  I decided to see what would happen if I drew two tarot cards and tried using them directly as a prompt for a short poem. Here be the result...

victory in truce

a victory it is, of sorts -
not quite bartered away
or sold, that very last bit of your soul.
it lies here, between us - your dreams,
your words, your thoughts
only half-buried, tamped down
and heavily glossed.

it scratches at the back of your throat
as you stand in front of the waiting crowd,
smile, accept their applause.

Monday, November 26, 2012

life as an adult

A puss in boots, sword at the ready: a new adventure awaits. The feline page of swords in this deck reminds me, in more ways than one, of childhood. I think of the story books I used to read, the ones that were never quite just about entertainment - Polish language all of them, first read to me and later on, me made to read them myself, out loud, language study drilled into my brain. I remember cassettes in the same language, stories listened to in long car rides back and forth between New York and Pennsylvania.

I remember playing at sword fighting with my then best friend, searching for perfect sticks, fallen tree branches we could use for our duels, pretending we knew something about proper posture and movement. Sword fighting in her grandmothers backyard and next door in mine as rain drizzled over our heads.

Everything felt so much more possible when we were kids. The first time I met her I insisted that I was a witch - according to my child logic, the fact that I could balance on my stairwell railing and jump off the side of it, several feet down, without hurting myself was somehow evidence of that. So many plans and possibilities and dreams that seemed real, then.

Perhaps it is because you have yet to collect so much baggage, as a child. So many memories and experiences, anxieties and fears, habits, compulsions. There aren't yet so many chains wrapping themselves around your body, trying hard to hold you down in the same place. The cat with the sword moves forward with confidence, ready to take on the new, sure of its own mind and intentions. The plain in front of it is so wide, so empty of obstacles. Clouds dance and sail through the skies.

When you are older you do not look so far ahead. You set small goals, reasonable hopes and even so...trying to conquer a single thing can be so draining, feel so impossible. You find so many tangled knots unwilling to be undone. A string of self-defeating behaviors and habits and issues and each time you try to leave one behind you find, after a time, that you have merely replaced one bad with another.

And all the while, trying to balance dealing with those chains with new beginnings of a different sort. Will they hold you back from moving forward in other ways? Or will it be a step forward here, a stasis there, all dichotomy and juxtaposition? Life is rarely so very clear, once you get beyond a certain age.

Thursday, November 22, 2012


I may not be a fan, at all, of the culture and celebrations and historical background of this holiday, but well. The idea behind it, at least, is worthwhile. So a simple question:

What should I remember to be thankful for today?

The goggle-eyed frog in this picture stands at attention, a defensive stance. He carries a wand, and we can see eight others behind him, forming a sort of fence, a barrier, a safeguard.

Certainly the frog is doing what he can to stay alert, to protect himself and what's his. But what draws my attention in this image are those wands - those pillars of support, those tools. Where would he be without them? How safe can you be if you have nothing to rely on?

Reliability, support, a foundation - something you can fall back on when need be. I have parents that continue to be willing to help and support me, to the degree that they can, even though I am an adult now; I have friends I can talk to, trust. I have cards and books and the healthy coping mechanisms I have managed to slowly develop over time.

More basic still: I have a safe place to live. I have access to food, clothing. I do not live in a country where I have serious reason to fear for my life when going about daily activities  All my life I have had access to clean water, basic medical care, education.

Of course those are the bare basics, but unfortunately, so many people do without them. Doing research for another presentation, readings about Armenian genocide...depressing, that, very much so.

I have tools, internal - my mind, my resilience - and external, situational. A basic level of stability from which I can build, grow. Its such a basic thing, so close to us, that it is easy to forget about. Made up of so many things that you don't even think about until or unless you suddenly find them gone. But they are worth remembering, and appreciating. 

In so many ways, where you start in life is just a crapshoot, a throw of the metaphorical dice. It's easy to focus on the obstacles, on what you were born lacking - but important also to remember the advantages, those wands, the comfort of fortifications.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

On the move

A spot-on reflection of my life right about now, and I suppose an explanation of sorts for why my posts have gotten a bit scarcer as of late here. (I have a history of starting blogs and then abandoning them and don't want that to happen with this one, so I always get a bit nervous when I notice I haven't been posting much.) It's kind of funny, but I haven't been feeling all that much enthusiasm for a number of my decks that hew very closely to the RWS images of late, but the Magical Forest remains an exception to that trend. There's a certain mood to this deck, a certain use of color that continues to enchant me.

On the move, yes. The wands are flying through the air on their way to this or that goal. The golden tone of the background reminds me of dusk, and of fall. I always have such mixed feelings about autumn...on the one hand, I adore the color of changing leaves on trees; on the other, winter is by far my least favorite of times, and the coming of it fills me with a certain bit of dread. But so it goes, and so it is Fall, and things are moving swiftly indeed.

A lot of deadlines are coming up, papers and presentations to get done, research and writing. I had two presentations just yesterday, and two more next week. Reading to do, and so on. Entire days spent in classrooms or the library at school. However, there is a difference between now and times like this in the recent past: that three of coins. We see work here, creating of a hall, a temple; work that comes from within, that you do as much for yourself as for others. Work that you can enjoy the process of doing. This time, there is a lot less stress, and a lot more positive productivity involved. I feel capable of getting things done. I actually had - fun - writing a paper I had to hand in and present on yesterday. I spoke for fifteen minutes in Arabic about Tunisia and my stay there over the summer, filled a powerpoint with fun pictures, impressed my professor.

I would like to say this is all me, just me developing a better approach to things, but well. Credit where credit is due: by taking action a few weeks ago...I think I may have finally found a professional who actually *listens* to me, and medications that actually help with some very long-term issues.

Traveling tonight to spend the holiday with parents, but not much of a holiday it will be with all the schoolwork to get through. I've also taken some action in terms of setting up a plan of sorts which, if things go as I hope...I would spread my remaining classes out so as to graduate from my program at the end of next fall instead of this spring, take an extra semester of scholarship supported arabic study, and use the extended time to work on developing my resume/gaining much needed experience in my field. I've been reaching out for help from the staff of my program, their career resources. It's more things to run around and take care of, but well.

Swiftness in Work. I still use the Thoth regularly for myself, though I try to focus on other decks here for variety's sake...finding that it's titles stick in my head regardless...

Saturday, November 17, 2012

making your own happiness

The magician here stands before the Stonehenge, a place man-made ages ago that continues to awe and impress to this day. He points is wand upward, ready to work, to channel power from above into the earthly realm. He is ready and able to make use of all the tools at his disposal.

Next to the ten of cups, I see here a reminder of the importance of taking an active role in shaping your life, in creating that environment of comfort, fulfillment, happiness. If you simply wait for things to get better on their own, for good things to happen to you, for someone else to swoop in and fix what isn't working, you might be waiting a long time indeed.

Even more important, the magician is making reality as he conceives of it. Want and will and action. Making your own happiness isn't only about the action...it's about figuring out what you want, what that means for you. In a lot of ways, the more I think about the ten of cups, the more I question this kind of commonly portrayed representation. Is this what true happiness and satisfaction is supposed to be? A heterosexual partnership and kids, a life at home? Does that make me inadequate, if I am alone? Does that mean that a person who chooses not to have kids will never be truly fulfilled, or the person that doesn't like to settle down? At this point in my life, this image makes me feel vaguely uncomfortable. If I were this woman right now, I would not be happy. I would feel trapped, constrained, overwhelmed.

Satisfaction means different things to different people. The important thing is figuring out what will bring you closer to it, and then working towards that, whether the steps be big or small.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

a matter of focus

Today's draw brings back some themes from the previous reading, coming at them from a bit of a different perspective. Here again we have one of those less than joyful cups cards, the five. Usually this card shows a figure brooding over the broken or spilled vessels, ignoring the whole ones. Here we have something a bit different. The cloaked figure seems to be ignoring both. Instead he looks out at the water, fishes skipping through it, the way the sun and the color of the trees reflects on its surface. Perhaps he is taking a moment to think beyond the cups, beyond the immediate, positive or negative. He could be brooding, sure, looking at the water and not really seeing any of it, too absorbed in his own thoughts, problems. But maybe he is, in fact, appreciating the beauty that nature provides us, the little details that can bring us such joy and can be so easily forgotten, overlooked.

Perhaps he is using this time to meditate on the large picture, to think abstractly. The energy of the fish in the water, the warmth of that sun, the slow passing of clouds in the sky - what can that inspire within us? There is always possibility, somewhere around us. Even if it is still vague, a chalky sketch on a plain far ahead of us, a hill we will have to climb up and conquer. There is possibility and opportunity, and so much of that may not be what we planned or expected - it too, like the reflected color of tree leaves on water, can be overlooked so easily, if we insist on remaining absorbed in what was, what could have been.

There are so many things in life that we may have wanted, dreamrf of, planned for that, it turns out, were not to be. Will we spend more time dwelling on that, letting it cloak so much else, or will we focus on the new, on the future, on that vague outline that can slowly grow, become real to us?

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

current strength and weakness

So to start off a new week with a rather more conventional deck than the last, I'd thought I'd do a bit of self-inventory. A short sort of spread, two cards:

What is my greatest Strength right now?
What is my greatest Weakness?
Again here we have my year card, Justice. As I wrote a week ago or so, I've been making some strides, small though they may be in the grand scheme of things, to bring some more equilibrium and balance to my life. In the last couple of weeks I've gotten a better handle on some more problematic habits of mine; I also feel more caught up on/on top of my school-work than I did earlier this semester. I've been working more actively on trying to build on my to do list system, to get more organized about things in the longer term as well.

The Druidcraft tarot is known for its rather big-footed people, and this card is no exception. Here, the bare feet on stone remind me that I have gotten more grounded, particularly in the daily type of things I need to be doing. The owl reminds me of wisdom I have, experience, the sword of my ability to harness logic and critical thinking to my advantage. Self-reflection and self-awareness. I generally have confidence in my ability to assess things and think of solutions, when I make an effort at being objective. Both with personal and professional/academic issues, I think this objective, balanced logic of mine is a major strength indeed. I trust my judgement, my ability to weight things. I can follow authority when I feel it is worth following and question it when it needs questioning, and I can separate my personal feelings from my objective assessment in both cases (ie., I hate this, but it is the right thing to do; This is great for me, but the fact that you allow it shows your incompetence.)

The second card in this spread reminds me that, despite my awareness of this and the work I've done to try to develop a more pro-active and positive-minded approach to things, I nonetheless still tend to...focus over-much on the negative. I see both positives and negatives, can appreciate the good, the progress, and yet in my mind I tend to minimize the formerand dwell and brood on the latter. This card is especially apt because for me, it often isn't the dramatic kind of sorrow of the five of cups, but rather the kind of listless apathy of this four - I see the bad cups, the defective cups, the problematic empty cups, and I dwell on them. I think about the future and consequences and implications if the problems remain unsolved, but solving them seems so impossible, such a pipe dream. I dwell and do nothing, despair and resign myself and rediscover my apathy and worry some more and withdraw again into nonchalance.

Of course, changing thinking is especially hard. Action however, is less so: you can, deep down inside, believe that you will never get those cups filled up again, but that doesn't mean you have to continue to just lie there on the branch. You can force yourself up, force yourself to pick up those cups and get to walking towards the water. Perhaps you are right, perhaps you will never make it - but you can certainly still try. My weakness is this kind of resigned apathy that tempts me to give up before I've really even started; self-paralysis, inaction. 

Sunday, November 11, 2012

power of vision

We have here the page of swords - her head, her face, is concealed, outside the image. What we see instead is her body, arms wide open, ready for whatever may come. A bright red dragon tattoo stretches across her skin. Dragons, power, confidence, strength. In the red we have passion, fire. This page has intellect to guide her, too, ingenuity, imagination. She is young, ready to venture into the world, ready to take on challenges, ready to prove herself.

But for what? In the three of wands we have opportunity, potential. Red again, for energy and passion, for vision. The snake slithers and travels up, the other two wands taking on various complex forms. The ability to see what you want, to believe that it is possible to achieve. Inspiration, from above or from deep within yourself. The tools to make that idea real.

I have a lot of reading for my classes about insurgents, rebels, terrorists. Readings about what drives radicals, why religious terrorist groups are more deadly and dangerous than the secular leftist and nationalist groups that preceded them. Quite often, these groups are made up of many young men, pages, somewhat well educated; many leaders, historically, have been trained as doctors and engineers. And what drives them to take such extreme action? What motivates recruitment? Why do some groups succeed in preventing defection, infiltration  internal disunity? What drives someone to sacrifice their life for an abstract cause?

Vision, vision. There is so much power in a clear vision of what you want, what you believe in. If you can so clearly see it is easy to do so much to grasp it, to take the power within yourself, that dragon, and harness it ruthlessly - especially if you are young, without the baggage of so much experience to weight you down.

In less extreme circumstances too. One of my main meta-issues right now is a general sense of feeling adrift in life. One would think that being in a Master's program is a pretty clear indication of knowing, at least in a general sense, of where you are going or what you want, but I find that isn't the case at all. I question more and more why I am doing what I am doing, what, if anything, it is going to get me, besides a mound of debt I can't imagine being able to pay off. I question why I do most anything, sometimes.

Those times in life when I have had that vision, a sense of knowing what I want, and believing that I could get it, seeing a way...I have managed to do much, even when faced with significant challenges. I love learning, thinking, analyzing, writing, trying new things. All of that can serve me well. But when the vision isn't there, when everything is such a blur, it's easy for pessimism to set in. Then, even the simplest things can seem so tediously pointless.

I think this is a reminder for me, a push to think and clarify. What is important to me? What do I want? What do I think I can achieve in the short-medium term? Crack that eye open again, at least a bit.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Response to a Challenge

Earlier this week, Carla commented on a post of mine:
"You've made me actual consider ordering the Mary-El, and I didn't think that was possible. If you can write an entry reconciling me to that Hierophant image, I am sold. :)"
This, I suppose, is my attempt... ;]

 "It was granted me to carry away from my prison years on my bent back, which nearly broke beneath its load, this essential experience: how a human being becomes evil and how good. In the intoxication of youthful successes I had felt myself to be infallible, and I was therefore cruel. In the surfeit of power I was a murderer and an oppressor. In my most evil moments I was convinced that I was doing good, and I was well supplied with systematic arguments. And it was only when I lay there rotting on prison straw that I sensed within myself the first stirrings of good. Gradually it was disclosed to me that the line separating good and evil passes not through states, nor between classes, nor between political parties either - but right through every human heart - and through all human hearts. This line shifts. Inside us it oscillates with the years. And even within the hearts overwhelmed with evil, one small bridgehead of good is retained. And even in the best of all hearts, there remains…an un-uprooted small corner of evil. Since then I have come to understand the truth of all the religions on the world. They struggle with the evil inside a human being (inside every human being). It is impossible to expel evil from the world in its entirety, but it is possible to constrict it within each person."
― Aleksandr I. Solzhenitsyn, The Gulag Archipelago 1918-1956

The image for the Hierophant that we have here is, to say the least, rather unusual; some might call it uncomfortable, disturbing. Indeed, we have a woman, bony and sorrowful, awkwardly holding two deformed infants to suck at her swollen breasts. A stained glass window, murky, behind her; a golden key dangles at her chest. What to make of this image?

(The book offers an explanation tied to the deck creator's own vision/system, calls the woman Babylon. I have a firm tradition of only taking what works for me from such book, however, and much of the deck's underlying system as described is not for me. And so....)

Well, who is the Hierophant, really? What is this major meant to represent? Almost always depicted as male, he is sometimes called the Pope, or the High Priest. Though usually depicted as a religious leader, he represents more than just the influence of established religion. He is authority - not personal, familial, organization, like that of the Emperor - but rather moral authority, systemic authority, the pull of duty and obligation. All those rules and taboos, established and implicit, that we are pushed to follow. He can be a teacher and a guide, wisdom of time and experience collected so as to be passed on. He can be tradition, institutions that hold sway, a regimented, routine way of doing things, the path of least resistance, the path of doing what you 'should' do, what you are 'expected' to do. He can teach, and he can guide, and he can forbid and command, our Hierophant.

But is it only religion and institutions that can do this, that can push us this way? Is this the only aspect of our lives that this card can represent? What teaches us, sometimes gently and sometimes with great pain, clawing into our skin, our minds? What do we suck at, in life, to find our moral center, the traditions and routines we end up following? How do we learn which expectations to follow and which to reject, which are the duties that bind us, call to us? Only from teachers, mentors, religious leaders?

No, no. What greater teacher is there, in life, if not our own experience, our own suffering? What can build and nurture compassion more than our own pain? How can we understand the sorrow and grief of others, had we never felt it ourselves? How could we learn to forgive, if not for having made our own mistakes, sometimes careless, sometimes ignorant, and sometimes pettily deliberate? We are molded and shaped by our experiences, our traumas and troubles as much as by our triumphs.

Who is that woman, that monstrous figure of suffering that holds the key to wisdom, enlightenment, transcendence around her neck? Her hands are frightening, but is it she who causes so much pain in the world? Or is it us, our own hands that do these things, the terrible and the wonderful both? Two infants, duality. We build beautiful cathedrals and mosques that stand through the ages, feats of engineering; we help those in need, raise money, give food and clothes to those without. And we burn people and stone people and slaughter them with machetes in churches, calling them roaches. This is humanity. This has always been humanity, the two sides of the coin.

When did I really become aware of the world outside of myself and those I knew? When did I really start thinking about the bigger picture, the grand scheme of things? It wasn't during childhood Sundays in church, daydreaming about stories and characters I had made up; it wasn't anything a teacher said to me, or a parent. It wasn't the early teenaged years I spent alone with books, absorbed in my own inexplicable sadness, my then-need to hurt myself deliberately again and again. All of that may have tilled the earth a bit, opened my mind, but no.

It was me at seventeen, in high school, always the student of history, deciding, for some reason, to read Solzhenitsyn's Gulag Archipelago, unabridged, all three thick volumes. So much painfully detailed recollection and recording; so much suffering, decades and decades of unthinkable injustice, brutality. We learn about the Holocaust in school, sure - see so many movies that to a degree we become desensitized; and anyway that is a story with a happy ending, relatively speaking. We fought the big bad Nazis, defeated them, liberated the camps. We had the Nuremberg trials and the formation of the Jewish state and we had bold declarations of never again, never again. This was something different. This was the suffering of twenty or forty million people (not counting victims or forced famines or war) killed over decades, and even more with lives destroyed. This was suffering without restitution, without justice, even without recognition. Who can speak of the gulags in any detail in this day and age?

I was seventeen and my eyes were pulled open. I read about genocides and wars and human rights. I went to university and studied international relations, economics. I wrote a thesis about the security implications of failing to protect human rights.

What shapes us, for good and for bad, if not suffering? What makes some people bitter and others kind? Why do some people grow and others remain the same, small in thought, in feeling, in self-awareness and understanding of the world? Why do some people bend and others break under pressure? What is religion, really, if not a system meant, for better or worse, to help people come to terms with the most terrible and terrifying aspects of existence?

Do we reach for the key, do we find it? Do we swallow the bitter milk we are fed and use it to grow stronger, better than we once were? It is a choice, for each of us; always there is a choice.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Amazing Aces: Cups

So, to continue with the favorite Aces series, we move onto the second of four - the Ace of Cups. In contrast to the Ace of Swords, which as I wrote before, tends to have that kind of dual nature - new starts but also cutting away the old, severing, the cups Ace tends to be more uniformly positive in meaning - then again, the cups suit in general, one could argue, is a more positive suit.

What does it represent in readings, this Ace? For me, it's usually about new beginnings, opportunities which will be emotionally fulfilling - things that call to your soul. It can be the beginning of a new relationship, a new friendship or romance; it can be the start of, or an addition to, a family. Good feelings, intuitive growth, taking things to a new level with something or someone you care for. So which decks, from my current collection, do I feel represent these ideas best?

Swedish Witch

I really like how the Swedish Witch tarot presents this Ace. Like the rest of this deck, the card's artwork is rich with symbolism, without seeming overly-cluttered or busy. It takes the traditional Ace image of the large cup and really spices it up with a lush background - pond with reeds and lily pads, frogs and fish and colorful birds, even a mermaid sitting at the base of the cup. You get the sense of a warm, comfortable, nurturing environment. It's an ecosystem, symbiotic, natural, everything coming together, each creature with its own niche in the grand scheme of things.

The sun rising up out of the cup really shows the positive energy that the ace often represents, the light that these kinds of opportunities can bring into your life. In the unicorn that decorates the cup, I see just a bit of whimsy, a bit of the fantastical - permission to let yourself dream, to let your fancies take you wear they might, to let your guard down and simply enjoy what's here in front of you today. 

Victorian Romantic

The Victorian Romantic's take on this ace is another firm favorite, taking a rather different approach to the card. One of the things I really enjoy about this deck is the balance it strikes between maintaining a firm RWS influence while having enough of an original aspect to each of the cards that there is plenty to read in the images without resorting to purely standard meanings. Here, we have a lovely picture - the artwork itself is just incredible - of two nude figures meeting under water. One sits in the shell, the other meets her from above, bathed in a shaft of sunlight.

Is he approaching or being pulled away? It's a bit hard to tell, open to interpretation. The bond though, the strength of their connection, is obvious. They are willing to overcome obstacles, the pull of the waves, to meet. If this is a beginning, what will follow? The possibilities are many. In their nudity, they allow themselves to be vulnerable, to see each other as they really are. The old-style natural body shapes here a welcome relief from too many decks with too-perfect slim and tones and bustily presented forms. The color palette is incredible.

Golden Tarot of Klimt

Finally, we have an ace from the Golden Tarot of Klimt. Unlike the others, there is no elemental symbolism in this card, or in the minors of the suit generally. The color palette too, is rather different. Usually I like my Aces to be watery, so why pick this one? Honestly, I though the image we are presented here was perfect, conceptually. What's interesting about this deck is how both this card and the two of cups have couples. But whereas in the latter the couple in naked, familiar, intimate, embracing each other in what seems to be a time of distress, here we have a picture of the relationship at its beginning.

Here the couple, though firmly drawn to each other, is still at the start of things. They are dressed rather formally, as if for show. Their embrace is likewise proper, with a certain element of stiffness, distance - they aren't yet, in spite of their developing feelings, quite comfortable together. And there are the roses everywhere, beautiful, tokens often given at the start of courting. They still mean something, here. Later, simply a touch, the presence of the other would be enough. There is potential, still undeveloped, here. The relationship can grow, like a well-tended rosebush; or wither, a plant neglected. 

Monday, November 5, 2012

supportive influence

I really like this deck's Emperor. Usually he's presented as a harsh, imposing figure, full of authority, sitting on a throne of some sort. Here we are given a much more intimate perspective, zoomed in. We see an older, fatherly type of man, a more gentle wielding of power. But yes, mastery also, the symbols of the elements, the fish sword...

I quite like the image, the feel of it. As I've written before, unlike many I've never really had negative reaction or feelings for the Emperor. On the one hand, perhaps this is because I've never really had issues with my father. Growing up, he always seemed like the more reasonable of my parents, temperant, less easy to anger. My mother was the one who would scream, who I had most of the conflicts with. Likewise, in school, many of my favorite teachers were male. There was one English teacher in particular in high school who took notice of me, did little things that meant a lot at a time of my life when I was rather troubled and rather withdrawn... gave me book suggestions since  I was always reading, feedback on my writing even after I finished with his class, support with college application.

Even moreso, the conceptual meanings behind the Emperor, that of discipline, organization, management, ordering...these are things I long for, want in my life. Not because  I am naturally an organized, on time, on top of things type of person; no, quite the contrary. Left to my own devices, I tend to descend into chaos. Things get away from me, forgotten, lost. My living spaces and bags grow so disorganized and messy I can barely move, find anything. I start to lose my ability to think straight. I could easily sit, curled up and withdrawn from the world, for days on end, doing nothing in particular, staring at walls, wasting time on the internet.

Self-discipline and organization is what allows me to function - a gentle kind of support that I need. Part of the reason I gravitate towards ridiculously busy and stressful schedules, I now realize, is because it doesn't leave me the long slots of unstructured time that I so rarely manage to use well. Having classes and work shifts I need to get to gives a structure to my life that makes it easier to get things done than if I had the whole day to myself. Having to-do-lists, everything I need to get done neatly written down and categorized, a whole system around that, helps immensely. When possible, I try to schedule busy days exactly - class, then library to work on a, b, and c, then run this errand, then go to that appointment, then go back to another class, and so on. It's easier to get done when I am following [my own] directions. Even eating, when I am trying to do that well, so much of it is just...what ought to I eat at what times. Pre-plan exactly, bring with me as necessary, follow through. I like routines, going the same way and eating the same thing at the same time every day because it spares me the need to make decisions, so difficult even, especially, when it is about small, meaningless things.

The emperor helps me. When I write an academic paper  I follow a particular routine I have now - outline, where I write out my ideas, general organization of everything. First draft, the most painful, getting the words all down on paper. Revision, organizing things, making sure everything flows. Add citations, footnotes, fill in numbers, specific information. Revise again, take out unnecessary words, make sure everything is clear, concise, logical. Print, submit, go. It serves me well - he does, the Emperor.

I see in him all the things I need to strive for - the forces that help keep my life from falling apart.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

two sides to everything

A tall, glorious city looms high above the ocean. A kind of sunset or sunrise motif to it, almost shining up high but dusky at its base. Below the waves, the angry waves crash into pillars, black and white, threatening to overwhelm. Everything has a cost...when you build a magnificent city near the sea that is the risk that you take. The head of a divine being rises out of the city's peak - protection, insurance, or an illusion people cling to when faced with very real fears? A raven flies overhead, an omen, a messenger...

A raven with a gem it its beak, a shiny bauble stolen at a cost; always a cost, always a tradeoff for everything. Nothing in life is truly free, in the grand scheme of things. The pearlescent serpent curls around the bird, ever-present, vaguely threatening.

Victory snatched from the jaws of defeat, it seems like. A natural disaster gives me additional time to write a far better paper than I could have managed in that originally allotted. I read about a city I love, soggy, start to set itself right as I polish off the last words. Always with the worry, this thing or something else. Worry and hope and desperate grasping. This for that, jewel and snake. Something that makes my thoughts clear, set right; and brings a certain breathlessness when I walk, even slowly.

Always the contrast, the juxtaposition, the dual-edged nature of things. What do you choose to focus on - the god bathed in light or the waves? The jewel in beak or the snake?