Ah, Valentine’s Day. This year it’s particularly challenging as it comes two days after my divorce is final. No matter the reason(s) for ending a marriage, when you’ve been with someone for fifteen years, it’s a difficult goodbye. In the last few months though, I’ve been amazed at the capacity for love within myself and within all the folks who have been part of my life, whether they be husbands, boyfriends, lovers, family, or friends, or some combination of all these. I’ve been wearing a lovely pair of purple crystal earrings all week, a Valentine’s gift that traveled to me all the way across the Atlantic, and they remind me I am loved, I am beautiful, no matter the losses, the changes of the past year.
February is almost half over, and I’ve only just noticed that January is done. Winter in the UK is usually wet and chilly, but this has been a rough one, even according to locals. It feels as if I’ve been hunkered down for weeks, waiting for the winter winds to blow themselves out, and at long last, spring just might be on its way. I heard birds warbling to each other in the hedge near my flat the other evening, and I noticed that the sky was still lit with sunset, even though it was well past 17:00. Yes, Sun, do return to those of us in the Northern Hemisphere who have missed you so very much.
I spent the winter holidays in the States, sorting through the last of my things in Illinois, spending time with family, visiting a city I love, New Orleans. Once every few years, I get a psychic reading at Marie Laveau’s House of VooDoo on Bourbon Street. In a small room in the back, cordoned off by a velvet rope, Dave held my hand, read the lines on my palm, shuffled through a deck of Tarot cards and offered me predictions, comfort, and reassurance. He said practical things like get some new glasses, support your ankles and be careful of sleeping on your shoulder. Wine, spinach, and meat are my friends, which I would never have guessed. He assured me my loved ones are safe, many good things are on the horizon, and that my ability to ‘see shit and make it happen’ will serve me well. Phil, a psychic-in-training who set up my appointment, helped me with my purchases after my time huddled in the back room with Dave. I asked Phil if he thought a Freya altar might be a good idea, and he held the packet I’d selected, which his wife had put together, and said yes. He said he’d noticed, when he first saw me walk in, that a female, perhaps an ancestor, seemed to be hovering nearby. ‘If you feel a tingling on your neck’, he said, ‘Don’t worry. It’s just Freya, along with your ancestors, come to help you’.
One comment Dave had made in the back room, holding my hand, his eyes closed, was about the many students gathered round me. I came to the UK to teach creative writing, and oh, the students are indeed gathering round. They are hungry to write, hungry to take risks with each other. I invite them to pubs, to coffee shops, and they join me. We sit at a table and write, or chat about writing. I’ve waited so very long for this. I recently gave them a writing prompt based on the Tarot. Oh Gentle Reader, would you like to try it? No belief in the occult required, I promise. If you can get your hands on a Tarot deck, perfect. If not, a deck with interesting pictures works really well, like the one I procured from the Columbia Art League years ago. Here’s the task: Draw a three-card spread. The first card indicates the past, the second indicates the present, and the third indicates the future. Name the cards (if they don’t already have names) and describe what they look like. Next, make up a character for whom this three-card spread was drawn, and then write out (five minutes for each card) what each card indicates about the past, present and future of this character. Finally, pick a day in this character’s life, if you could only select one day to write about, and begin your scene with something like, ‘On the morning of …’ and go from there. This activity gives you practice at being an ‘all-knowing’ god, which, as writers, we must at times be. You know the past, present and future of this character, and now you can figure out the moment that must be written, the moment that answers the Passover Question: ‘Why is this night (or day) different than any other’?
I’ll leave you with this lovely video by Ed Sheeran, a UK singer/songwriter I’d never heard of until I came across the ocean to my new home. It’s about love, about how we stay connected, how we forgive, how we grow and learn to become the incredible individuals we are.