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The Adventures of Fen Fatale ~ Ecoheroine

The Marriage of Tarot and the Empath

On the heels of the beautifully aspected Taurus full moon, my dreams lately have had me thinking a lot about empathy. Recently, I taught a series of workshops for Windham-Raymond Adult Education on folklore, astrology, palmistry, tasseography, and my favorite–cartomancy, the art of reading everyday playing cards for divination. I first began working with the Tarot, astrology, and cartomancy in 1992, while I was a teen-ager. Prior to that, around 1991, before I entered high school, a friend of my mother’s gave me a set of Celtic Tree Oracle cards–a system of divination with a guidebook and cards created by Colin Murray and Liz Murray, illustrated by Vanessa Card (1988). I still have my original deck and guidebook–even though there’s a little bit of tree sap on some of the cards from using them outside 20+ years ago. (I experimented with aeromancy, allowing…

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The Marriage of Tarot and the Empath

On the heels of the beautifully aspected Taurus full moon, my dreams lately have had me thinking a lot about empathy.  Recently, I taught a series of workshops for Windham-Raymond Adult Education on folklore, astrology, palmistry, tasseography, and my favorite–cartomancy, the art of reading everyday playing cards for divination. I first began working with the Tarot, astrology, and cartomancy in 1992, while I was a teen-ager. Prior to that, around 1991, before I entered high school, a friend of my mother’s gave me a set of Celtic Tree Oracle cards–a system of divination with a guidebook and cards created by Colin Murray and Liz Murray, illustrated by Vanessa Card (1988). I still have my original deck and guidebook–even though there’s a little bit of tree sap on some of the cards from using them outside 20+ years ago. (I experimented with aeromancy, allowing the wind or a sea breeze to lift certain cards in the course of a reading in some secret grove on the coast of Maine. But over the years, I fully embraced my true path as a hydromancer, and have never mastered aeromancy, divination with the element of air.) I will have to write a different post on hydromancy.

my original deck of the Celtic Tree Oracle by Liz and Colin Murray from 1991

I had always been intrigued by different languages, different systems–from ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs to runes, and even created my own “planned language,” with a full dictionary and grammar guide (my own version of an Esperanto, albeit without speakers other than myself). Learning the Celtic Tree Oracle system of divination was fun for me as a fourteen-year-old; I spelled out my name in the Ogham alphabet, and learned that the ash tree (“Nuin”) was associated with my birthday (in late February). As a result, I’ve always sought out ash trees. Just before I decided to buy my home at Nixie’s Vale in southern Maine, I was pleased to discover that the property beheld a rare black ash seep–full of ash trees–which served an ecological purpose to cleanse and filter the soils around the well, and replenished a perennial stream that meanders through the woods and flowed into the pond. It spoke a language to me: one of wetlands, of trees, of healing and replenishment, of water and folklore–one in which I imagined a water nixie living, protecting the well, the streams, the seep, and the nearby pond. That’s why I named my home “Nixie’s Vale.”

By nineteen, I was serious about the study and practice of cartomancy and Tarot. I began reading for others in college–friends, classmates, total strangers–on campus while a student at St. Lawrence University. Sometimes, my peers approached me on campus–students I didn’t know, and never encountered in a classroom, to ask me for a reading. I’d garnered a reputation for “accurate readings” by my sophomore year. (I read palms, too, but my preference was a deck of Tarot or regular playing cards.) I enjoyed a variety of references to guide my early practice but I loved books by Gillian Kemp. (She wrote The Fortune-Telling Book (2000), among other books.) Later on, I loved working with The Oracle of Love by LeeAnn Richards (2003).

A classic reference on cartomancy by Leeann Richards

Cartomancy is over 700 years old. Scholars in the field of semiotics study ways that signs and symbols as elements of communicative behaviors, which is a robust field of scholarship. Within that field of study, there are those who focus on the symbolism that corresponds with maps and cards. Cartography is map-making; cartomancy is divination with cards; notice the use of the same prefix “carto-” meaning, “map, chart,” or “playing card.” Early in the 16th century, historians and scholars see the use of astrology (see the work of Don Cameron Allen, 1942) and cartomancy in the Tudor court of King Henry VIII and Elizabeth I. (Allen, 1942) and (see the work of Ross Caldwell on the history of cartomancy in Europe). According to Caldwell, what we now think of as “playing cards” appeared in Europe in the 1300s, although the various methods for using them for divination evolved and split into various sub-groups throughout Europe and time. In the Tudor court, Anne Boleyn read cards–but she was likely using what we consider traditional playing cards, which had the likeness of King Henry VIII for several of the kings, and later, he commissioned cartomancers to make a deck featuring four of his wives–none of which were Anne Boleyn. In the Showtime series, The Tudors, we see a couple of scenes in which Anne is “reading cards” and she’s using ‘playing cards’ not Tarot. Then, Tarocchi, an Italian card game, was printed in Europe, and circulating, but it wasn’t until later that cartomancers combined the 52 cards of the traditional deck with unrelated illustrations inked by medieval monks–Christian monks, who created the archetypal illustrations that later became known as the “Major Arcana” of Tarot, to create the 78-card Tarot deck.

Drawing from my Celtic roots, I have always been drawn to decks that have a Celtic theme. One of my favorites is the Wild Wood Tarot by John Matthews and Mark Ryan. I love working with this deck. It’s unconventional–and that might be off-putting to those who are looking for a traditional Rider-Waite-Smith Tarot deck, but for those interested in Celtic mythology, folklore, or pre-Celtic mythology and folklore, this might be right up your alley, too. For those who are in love with pre-Celtic folklore, such as the old medieval tales of Robin Hood, or the folklore of the Green Man and Green Woman, as well as the animal kinship, connection to Nature, this is a valuable tool for meditation, divination, and drawing inspiration for writing in a journal.

Working with the Wild Wood Tarot deck

The relationship between Tarot and empathy is a constantly renewing interest for me as a practitioner of lightworking and healing arts, and as an Empath. In this context, what do I mean by empathy? It’s sometimes called psychic empathy, and I would like to point out that the definition of “psychic,” is “of or related to the soul,” so empathy is a soulful experience.

While it’s a relatively broad term, psychic empathy can describe the range of experiences one may have as an “Empath.” You’ve probably heard of telepathy and telepaths—Empaths, or highly empathic people, receive information in different ways, but are highly sensitive to the emotions of others. Sometimes these people call themselves “highly sensitive people” (HSP) and refrain from mention of any psychic correlation. Others delve into divination or experience lucid and/or prophetic dreams, as I do, and still yet others call themselves “healers,” “Reiki practitioners,” therapists, counselors, or some other type of healer. Most empaths are healers at heart. In addition, there are a myriad of other layers to the experiences of Empaths–including clairsentient (“clear feeling”) expressions of psychic empathy. I’m a clairsentient empath type, which is not uncommon for those born under the sign of Pisces, or those with strong Piscean energy in their astrological natal chart (Pisces Sun, Moon, Rising/Ascendant, sometimes those with Jupiter or Mercury in Pisces). In fact, in western astrology, all of the water signs–Cancer, Scorpio and Pisces, are likely to experience psychic empathy, and/or clairsentience in their lives, regardless of whether they choose to use this as a gift, or tool for healing (themselves or others), or in their vocation or, express it through creative arts. I’m a poet and writer, and tend to use my “clear feeling” gifts to connect with others, and to transmute those experiences into my writing. I swim at least five months of the year in the lake and the ocean to clear my mind, replenish my body and spirit with the energy of water, essential for any hydromancer, but also helpful for Empaths. Swimming cleanses the body and mind of others’ energy, and for me, recharges my energy physically and mentally.

I’m a Piscean poetess-empath & Mystic, swimming in the sea

Emotionally intuitive, and sometimes physically intuitive people are empaths. There are emotional empaths, physical empaths, intuitive types, and those who connect with animals through psychic empathy, and those who connect closely with the earth (the plant whisperers! I have lots of friends who fit this category!) An empath might be primarily emotionally intuitive, or both, that is, experiencing the emotions and physical ailments/illnesses/injuries or pain of another being. Depending on the individual’s experience, an empath might have additional gifts or abilities, which allow that person to receive other types of information. This might include highly detailed and specific information, names of people or places, details about emotionally-charged events (e.g. a trauma, a memorable event, a rite-of-passage) or just about any other type of thought. It’s not mind-reading. When an empath is a baby, s/he might tune into other babies (e.g. cry when another baby cries, or have a soothing/calming effect on other children). As an empath reaches puberty, the experiences can be heightened and frustrating, especially if the teen-ager doesn’t understand what s/he is experiencing is a form of psychic empathy.  Dr. Judith Orloff is one of the most well-respected experts on psychic empathy. You can find more about her work at her website here. 

Tarot has its roots in cartomancy, the method of divining with the use of what we now think of as traditional playing cards. Playing cards—with the King, the Queen and the suits of Hearts, Spades, Diamonds and Clubs—were invented for the purpose of divination about 600+ years ago. There are 52 cards in the deck for 52 weeks in the year; four suits represent the four seasons and the four elements—earth (diamonds), hearts (water), air (spades) and clubs (fire). And so forth. But Tarot came later. One of my favorite WordPress blogs on Tarot is Truly Teach Me Tarot, by Vivien Ní Dhuinn, who has fantastic information about the individual cards and how to read Tarot cards in various spreads for various purposes. I have referred to her website again and again, even though I have read (and studied) the Tarot since 1992. I’m always learning–Tarot is such a rich, robust arena of holistic systems for mindful ways of knowing, living, being. One of my favorite teachers of Tarot, for me, personally as a practitioner and lifelong learner, is Pamela Loffredo, a professional psychic-medium and Reiki Master Teacher, and Intuitive, based in Maine. She can be found through Leapin’ Lizards in Portland, Maine. Pam taught a series of Tarot classes at Leapin’ Lizards over the years, and I took one of her classes. I’ve learned a lot from Pam. 🙂 Another fantastic resource is Mary Greer. In Mary Greer’s 21 Ways to Read a Tarot Card, she explains a bit about the relationship between the empath and Tarot. Her blog can be found here.

But I also frequently rely on my own intuition, my own experiences as a lightworker, an Empath, and a Mystic, and a hydromancer, sometimes, aspiring to draw from dreams, ancestral knowledge, traditional knowledge passed down to me from my grandmothers, including my Irish grandmother, who taught me some elements of Irish cartomancy before she died in 1992.

Reading the Wild Wood Tarot at Nixie’s Vale

Since the invention of Tarot, Empaths have used not only the cards themselves but the whole experience of sitting with another person and “reading” for him/her. In my experience, whenever I’ve “read” for someone without the use of cards, or any other tool (including their palm, or use of a pendulum), the other person can be incredulous. It seems to me, when I have illustrated cards with symbolism in front of the person, or some other tool (e.g. a moving pendulum, lines on a palm) the person embraces the information more comfortably. People like visual aids. I tend to think of Tarot in this way when I give a reading. I’m not unique. Other empaths use Tarot as a tool and their empathic abilities as guidance. It seems to me that this is a long-standing relationship between empaths and Tarot. After a 400 +/- years, we’re talking commitment. A quick Google search will turn up countless results for “empathic Tarot” readers, each explaining their gifts and how they use Tarot to help others. There are hundreds online and many fantastic readers on Youtube. Some of my favorites include AquaMoonlight (she’s in Maine!), Ashley at Hello Tarot, Andrea Leigh Cox on the Detox Intuitive, Reading the Signs Astrology and Tarot (she’s in Ireland!), Wendy Bones Tarot. In particular, Andrea Leigh Cox is a gifted Intuitive, Detox Specialist, a fellow Pisces, a beautiful soul, and utilizes her many gifts to help people. To learn more about her work, visit her website. I have learned a great deal from Andrea, and feel she is a kindred spirit.

How about you? What has been your experience with Tarot, or card reading, and psychic empathy? Please leave a comment to share about your experience, or if you have a favorite deck of Tarot, please feel free to comment below. Thank you for reading, liking, and sharing my blog.

Working on a new poem. This is too long and it’s a draft. But in honor of April being National Poetry Month, I’m trying to keep up with Mike Dockins’ plan to write a bunch of poems this month. So, here goes.

                                                  Hiding Juniper

Would it be a nightmare if I dreamt
I climbed upstairs, my grandparents’
Old yellow farmhouse, where I spent
Vacations and holidays in childhood,
Played board games and invented
Some of my own; knew the secret
Hiding places: Nana’s sunny ledge
A pocket amidst the juniper hid us
She pretended to be an owl, eyes
On the birds all around her, and I,
A little fox, bounding and blonde,
Skirting the fields and meadows,
Beyond their borders into moss
Havens, emerald rock shadows.

Nana brought me on the odd errand,
Trips to the “Stump Dump,” or attic,
Crossing a stream, or walking Sally,
Their yellow lab-retriever, whose
Antics included a wide sheepish
Grin, when embarrassed, down
The Woodman Road to Uncle John’s
House. We’d push the drawbridge
Upward, to enter the attic—full of
My mother’s memories, four decades’
Worth: the Nancy Drew collection,
Paper dolls (I added to the designs),
Sewing baskets, the one scary box
With the green rubber spider mask
(The precise location of which,
I was all-too aware), and full jars:
Coveted crashed glass marbles
In a spectrum of colors I liked—
Blues, greens, pinks and purples.

Would it be a nightmare, if instead,
I mounted the stairs and found: parked
At the top, your grey Toyota 4Runner,
Its front end blocking the attic door,
My escape hatch in any dreamscape,
No matter the origin, or fear, I fled
From monsters or unknown enemies,
And found my way to Nana’s secret
Hiding places: the juniper ledge,
Mossy Stump Dump, or the attic—
Especially the attic, where she once
Described a “safe room” that Grampa
Engineered: a sliding wall, or partition,
That offered a place to hide valuables
And their children, if ever necessary.
Contrary to this, my mother told me
That I imagined this, that the hidden
Room did not exist (except in Nana’s
Over-active imagination). She and I,
Both dreamy Pisces, also both had
Mercury in quirky Aquarius, Venus
In feisty Aries and nature-loving
Earth moons. So, I don’t doubt,
Nana and I conjured safety
In the simple architecture
Of our bond, hand-in-hand,
An automatic intimacy,
Hiding in the juniper.

Would it be a nightmare, if I told you,
I was frustrated to see your silver truck
Parked in my path to the attic stair,
Something, or someone, slammed
A door downstairs, in my dream,
Your truck fit in the doorframe
Of my grandparents’ bedroom.
I could not maneuver around it.
Suddenly, I found myself running
Down the hall toward the fire
Escape, only to end up in the garage.

A young man in a plaid shirt and cap
Leaned over sundry yard equipment,
He held a weed whacker in his hands,
Examining the controls. Fearing that
He would cut off my arms with it, and
Seeing nowhere to hide, I searched
For a weapon to defend myself,
As I might in any other nightmare.

I crouched low to the concrete floor,
Studying a chainsaw that resembled
My vacuum cleaner; its cord wrapped
Around an attachment, but I trembled,
Terrified, not knowing how to wield it.
Then, jean-clad shins and hiking boots
Appeared in front of me, knobby hands
Held out at his sides, an offer? A threat?
I picked up the chainsaw and pushed
It hard into his legs out of self-defense
And ran out through the open bay,
Out onto the dirt driveway. I mapped
Diversion tactics to no avail and he
Caught me by the hand, and carried me
To the 4Runner, which was now sitting
Where it belonged, realistically.

He put me in the passenger seat.
My dream self slumped, played dead,
Like one might do with a grizzly bear,
So he’s less inclined to kill (or eat).
The dream guy steered and talked,
His voice muffled (I was dreaming)
And handed me a bag he’d packed:
My odd childish hobbies, favorites,
Heirlooms, romantic novels,
The right cosmetics.

Would it be a nightmare, or
A wonderful dream, if he were real,
If this happened, and the helpful
Man with knobby hands came
For me, and found my hiding spots,
Parked his chariot by the drawbridge,
Took the time to meander awhile
In meadows while I slunk afoot
Lichen-covered granite ledges,
A blonde fox in the juniper.

For G. 

LCS

 

Poet’s note: This brings a conclusion to my role in the Tupelo Press’s 30/30 Poetry Challenge to raise funds for the literary press. But there is no time limit or deadline on making a donation. If you come across these posts after January 2014, please do consider making a donation to the nonprofit literary press. Readers may also want to see the work of the other poets participating in the challenge on a month-to-month basis. Their work, and more about the project, can be found here.  Thank you all for reading!

A Finger in Every Pie

For months, since July, I keep dreaming of a muscular guy
Who wakes me up talking; I see strong-willed arms wrap,
The kind with sleeves like loosely-rolled maps, ‘round my
Waist. He’s brought a chair (literally, it’s a ladder-back)
He collects furniture and information—a curious mind.

With each segment of the dream, I get an added sense
Of who he is, but not superficially speaking. I can feel
That he radiates warmth like a woodstove, an intense
Drive, deep and unwavering affection; it seems real.
Not one to be pushed around, he’s got presence.

By morning, I remember words exchanged
In my dream (he comes alive one-on-one); for
Example, he talks of how he would rearrange
The world, and he defends opinions with ardor.
I love a good mystery; he’s a problem-solver.

Other people move around us in this recurring dreamscape,
If they get too close, he gets cagey; the familiar—that’s
What he values most: constancy. When we make our escape,
Onto side-paths, if we’re stopped, he’s an artful negotiator,
Adept at fitting in (where I stand out), he loves a debate.

In fact, it seems to me, based on vague interpretations,
This man invests pride in his work, an interruption of his will,
Restless, a veritable expert at smoothing over altercations,
With a mischievous humor, well-developed sense of smell
And easily bruised ego, leonine and loyal in his actions.

In my dreams, I feel whiskers tickle the nape of my neck,
He craves intimacy, calm energy and doesn’t chase me;
Instead, he makes slow, deliberate advances, little checks
To mark his progress; a stubborn streak, natural-born vitality,
What qualities draw me to him—headstrong and passionate.

The dream man is full of contradictions, e.g. deeply
Rooted in his comfortable lair, his instinctual thirst
For safety and all that’s earthy—he learns quickly,
Perseveres; but he’s changeable, easily immersed
In the news of the day, odd people and water.

When I look down to examine his hands, I see the fiery lines
Hard-scrabbled and stable, his love for adventure, the outdoors,
An ability to handle equipment, gear of all kinds, the art of tying
Flies to fine fishing line. His agile fingers lead a sensual tour.
But for all I know, outside of dreams, he’s got a finger in every pie.

                                                                                

                                                                          ~Leah C. Stetson

TP Donate

Special thank-you offer for those who donate to Tupelo Press for the 30/30 Challenge: Anyone who donates $250 or more to support this 30/30 poetry challenge this month may choose either of TP’s gorgeous broadsides, one of Ilya Kaminsky’s “Author’s Prayer,” the other of Aimee Nezhukumatathil’s “The Ghost-Fish Postcards.” Both may be seen here.  Please indicate which one you would like by writing “Aimee” or “Ilya” in the same space on the donation form (where you may also indicate that your gift is made in support of my part of the 30/30 poetry challenge.)

On Discovering a Crack in the Cornerite

A long slim crack runs down like a dark drip of dried paint
In the corner of my bedroom, where two cream-colored walls meet
Ninety degree angles to frame the southwest border—in feng shui,
Activate the love in your life by attracting yang chi, a golden phoenix,
Mandarin ducks, or dragons (I have frogs and mermaids, silly me).

Five years ago, there weren’t any flaws in the plaster, at least
My eyes did not detect a weak spot; storms and shifty energy
Pulled the big pieces apart, slowly, over time, and I just noticed
The definite divide in white; it’s probably brought on lethargy,
An indicator of “bad” feng shui, cracks challenge intimacy.

I dreamt of Stephen King’s Langoliers last night; they’d come
To eat my memories. I seek safety in my best nightmares
At my grandparents’ house, usually the attic; but feral cat-like
Fur-balls with big eyes and teeth slunk out of the barn, where
Grampa kept electric drill presses; these protect me in dreams.

Such cracks in plaster, and prevention, stirred interest among
Architects in the 1920s; they studied the upward phenomenon,
The movement of the outer edge (take note: the order of walls)
Which partitioned the structure, created the stressors of some
Peeled the papery lime layers away from the cornerite’s seam.

At my first improvisational comedy class, I was late; street
Side parking a bit more complicated than expected. I joined
A semi-circle of sock-footed participants, the meet-and-greet,
Each talking about their “edge,” whether lost or found, they coined
The term in a way I didn’t bet: it meant the margin of vulnerability.

My usual reaction, make a joke (but this wasn’t comedy, not yet)
I live at the edge of a lake, well, not technically; I’m in the ecotone.
Sprawled across my bed today, my focus switched, it re-directed
Attention toward that crevice; it reinforced a conclusion, one
I’d reached on the drive home—this device, my “edge,” had pre-sets
Too narrow, no room for cuts, bleeds or formatting errors—

All human, on and off the page.

– Leah C. Stetson  TP Donate

The full moon yesterday drove me to tears. It’s the sort of energy that turns me into a wounded animal or cursed character from Greek mythology. Normally, a full moon in Aquarius sends me jumping for unexpected joy, since I was born with a triple blast of the cool, breezy and sometimes hurricane-like gales of Aquarian air.  While I’m “Aquarius Rising,” I’m a watery Pisces (Decan 1), which makes me stormy. Truly, I get most creative during thunderstorms, hurricanes and blizzards. Living in “Thunder Town,” where the radon in the granite and abundance of lakes and ponds attracts frequent thunderstorm activity has helped me to be productive and prolific as a writer, for the most part. (This past year has had its share of dry spells and strange weather.)

The incredibly beneficial Grand Water Trine with Jupiter, Saturn and Neptune in the three water signs (Cancer, Scorpio, Pisces), with a cosmic “jackpot” moment the week of July 16-19th, was especially golden for those of us born in Decan 1 Pisces with Feb. 23 or 24th birthdays (like mine!), or born in the first few days of Pisces (Feb. 20-25th) more generally. Last week, when I got terribly upsetting news about my poetry manuscript, I thought, “Where’s my cosmic jackpot?” Then I had a wonderful meeting-of-the-minds with a fellow literary nerd, and thought, “Hmmm, perhaps THIS is my cosmic lottery ticket!”  Yet, I was wrong.  Someone yelled “Bingo” prematurely…and we all know that’s a ‘no-no.’ Thus, I had a few epiphanies during this blowhard of a full moon. Ugh.

Summer 2013 is odd in that it has not one but two full moons in Aquarius–one on July 22nd, which dared people (go on, I dare you, see what happens) and the second one on August 20th.  The August full moon is supposed to be aspected with far fewer challenging or oppositional energy for those of us with Aquarian traits (or Pisces, for that matter). I’m hoping for a creative splash of full moon energy to make up for the suck-the-life-out-of-you whirlwind we just had yesterday. Late August could heighten or inspire some cutting-edge ideas.

swimwear19565Fortunately that Grand Water Trine I mentioned has wonderfully magic effects that last into next year, with Jupiter in Cancer (for those of us Pisceans) until July 2014.  This is happy news, especially for my fellow mermaids & mermen looking for a true, soulmate love. But this is just the beginning…we have a whole year of this dreamy Neptunian influence. How lovely! Grab your retro glam swimsuit and pose like a ’60s pin-up girl at the beach. That’s the Pisces way.

If you want a video podcast of your August horoscope, check out Kelly Rosano’s podcast series. I like her. This one’s for Pisces (August 2013). You can find the others at her All Are One Youtube Channel. 

Recently I discovered Ondine ~ a brand of pre-cooked lasagna pasta, named after the Ondine, a mythological mermaid (or group of mermaids), who dwelled along the rivers. Also spelled “Undine,” they were water spirits who showed up in European folklore. In one eerie version of the story, the Ondine had the ability to “gain a soul” by marrying a man and bearing his child. In a German version of the myth, called “the Ondine’s Curse,” the water spirit, or mermaid, casts magic on an unfaithful man so that he would stop breathing during sleep. Apparently this “curse” and mythology fed the early medical thinking on those who suffer from frequent hyperventilation. I’ve heard several variations of the diagnosis for my sudden and frequent lapses in breathing–but from now on, I am going to think of it as my Ondine’s curse. That’s a little easier to swallow than all of the other freakish-sounding medical explanations from doctors over the past 25 years. It’s my spiritual mermaid self just channeling ancient memories.

NymphsI was nine years old when I stopped breathing one day, while washing my hands in the bathroom sink. I had no way of calling to my mother for help, so I clapped my hands and banged against the counter. A sharp pinch in my lung prevented air from going out or coming in, so I couldn’t breathe in either direction. My mother called 911 and the first responders arrived, and examined me in the living room. I hadn’t been breathing for several minutes–but suddenly began to inhale and exhale tiny puffs, like sipping the steam off the top of hot cocoa. My chest burned. I gathered from the look on my brother’s face, I was turning funny colors, and freaking him out. One of the emergency responders told me I had a touch of pleurisy, an inflammation in the lining surrounding the lungs. It causes sharp intense pain in the chest (the lungs, specifically) and can be brought on by taking a deep breath, coughing, or even laughing. Over the years as I grew up, and to this day, I occasionally stop breathing. Sometimes I am engulfed with laughter with friends, or talking on the phone, and suddenly I go dead quiet. My closest friends and family know this about me, so they know to either wait it out, or my best friends will continue laughing–since frequent hyperventilation is inconvenient and embarrassing, and sometimes funny. Not in a ha-ha kind of funny, more of an obtuse Addams Family dinner way. Oh, she’s stopped breathing again. A part of me wants to think this is the basis for my constant need to speak fast and furious, and to interrupt others with enthusiastic bursts of creative thinking–because there is the likely scenario that I might stop breathing mid-sentence and lose the thought completely. This is a bit difficult to explain to people in the work place, and can sound melodramatic. When I taught writing classes in my usual exuberant and entertaining way, I sometimes clutched my chest and lost my breath. After this happened once in front of horrified students, who thought I looked young enough to be one of their classmates, I explained it away in my best impression of SNL “Coffee Talk,” and told them I was verklempt and for them to “talk amongst themselves.”

Now I find myself sipping raspberry zinger at my desk. The inside flap of the box has this description of the tea: “According to Roman legend, raspberries were originally white – but turned red when the Cretian nymph Ida scratched herself on a thorny raspberry bush.” (Celestial Seasonings) It’s too bad these descriptions don’t make it on the grocery store shelves like the hand-written recommendations of bottom-shelf wines: “Full-bodied and dishes it right back.” I think in another life, I’d like to be responsible for writing the descriptions of teas and under-sold wines. raspberries

Ondine Movie Pic“Ondine” is also a beautiful 2009 Irish romantic drama starring Colin Farrell and Alicja Bachleda. This is one of my favorite movies from recent years. It makes me want to go to Ireland really really bad. (Plus, I’m Irish.) Check it out: http://www.ondinefilm.com/

Tonight I shall experiment with tomato Ondine lasagna with roasted root vegetables, goat cheese and tomato basil sauce.

Every now and then I catch a NATURE special featuring the weird mating rituals of some animal, like the koala in “Cracking the Koala Code” or mountain lions or prairie voles. I’ve already written plenty (far too much) about prairie voles, and that whole chemistry topic is nothing new. What I’m interested in is this topic of “dating down” that I keep seeing in blogs, or *gasp* crappy dating advice from over-eager dating coaches, who even encourage this twirpy and negative spin on dating. We all know what “dating down” means…in the usual context, it makes me think of some line from “Dirty Dancing” when the arrogant waiter tells Baby it’s okay if she’s “slummin’ it. We all do that sometimes, Baby.” (She was in love, dammit! And Johnny Castle aka Patrick Swayze was a stand-up guy.)

Osprey at Wolf’s Neck Farm. Terry Chick photo.

But I got thinking of another way to read the “dating down” concept:  what if it’s down to the bones of the dating rituals, or more accurately, the mating rituals. What it’s really about is dating down to the animal within us. When I was a kid, I was pretty sure that I was part fish and part otter, full of fur and snout and salt water. (My mother affectionately referred to me as her little raccoon, or otter, because I washed my seafood before eating it.) My dad’s a Grizzly Adams-Dirty Harry cross, and in my dreams, he sometimes appeared beside a bear, or AS a bear himself. I realized I was raised by some kind of bear-man, who identified himself as a lone wolf, and now I see him as part-wolf, part-bear, and still part Dirty Harry. My mother always said that the osprey was her totem animal, and she was always a bird-mom, in the best and worst possible ways, feeding us hors d’oeuvres and making nests for us, wherever we moved, which was often, circling in the same general territory, never straying too far from the Sheepscot River in midcoast Maine.  Our family land, now a Chewonki Preserve, has had an eagle’s nest for many years, along with osprey nests, and I grew up with a strong sense of responsibility in protecting our heritage and the wild things that depended on our land ethic.

One day when I was a teen-ager, a mountain lion showed up in our backyard, close to the Sheepscot River. I made sure that my cat was inside the house and together, my cat and I watched the mountain lion creep over the stone wall terraces like a duchess descending a grand staircase. She was well-camouflaged against a meadow of lilies, a strong tawny blonde, and purposeful in her movements. I never forgot her. Over the years, I have grown to accept that I transformed, at puberty, from part-otter part-fish girl into a part-otter part-mountain-lioness and as daughter of an osprey-woman and a wolf-man, I have those animal traits, too. (If you’ve seen “LadyHawke,” then you can picture what I’m talking about.) I am protective and territorial of the land that I nurture and call home; I move through each day with purpose but I don’t show off, surrounded by the lakes and natural beauty. Yet I am still playful and never lose my sense of wonder, or love for the water.  

A female mountain lioness stakes out her territory, and then allows some males to approach. Most of the males are chased away, mauled and intimidated into submission, but a couple will remain, to tough it out. They compete for her affections, but it’s really more about chemistry—as she picks the mate no matter who wins the battle for dominance between the toms. It’s up to her, ultimately. Then after she mates with the tom, he’s allowed to stick around. This is a pretty big deal since mountain lions are not like lions in Africa—with a whole pride. And dare I mention kinky otter sex? That’s probably better left up to the imagination. Otter sex is not for the faint-of-heart, lemme tell you. Only Scorpios could really even imagine going there as it’s worse than shark BDSM. Ask a marine biologist. I’m not at liberty to say.

So what’s the take-away from this post? Date down, you might be disappointed. Date down to the animal, you might find the right mate, someone who echoes your instincts and brand of wildness. Or you might get mauled.

Last night I read my Pisces February 2012 horoscope by Susan Miller  – my new favorite astrologer – and I was thrilled to read that as of February 3rd, Neptune has moved into the sign of Pisces (my sun sign) for the first time in 165 years. The last time was during the Victorian age, when the Romantics were popular in art, literature, poetry and culture. I blogged about the Romantics in my Strange Wetlands post about Romantic Ecology, with which I have always identified. I grew up reading the Romantics and Victorian gothic literature–often reading 1st or 2nd editions I found in the  libraries of my family’s great homes in Wiscasset, Maine. Some of them were on the “museum” circuit, and historical sites of interest, so we had tourists coming through, sometimes sneaking into my bedroom when I was a teen-ager. I often lounged on a chaise in my bedroom and swept off into a dreamland of Shelley, Bramstoker, Blake or Wordsworth. That is, until I discovered Millay, Carson and the Confessional Poets.

According to Susan Miller’s astrological interpretations, now that Neptune is “at home” in Pisces, I will feel more comfortable with things in life, too, since  “all things Piscean” will influence art, lit, poetry, fashion and culture for the next 14 years. What bliss! Thank you, Susan Miller, for illustrating this bright spot in my horoscope. It’s refreshing to think about–that the next 14 years will be “delicious” as she calls it. I could really use even ONE year let alone 14 years of anything delicious, as the last handful of years has been rather dim and disappointing, with the exception of 2009, when I bought my adorable house and adopted my dog (two very good decisions). I love the idea that we’re entering into a reinvention of a Romantic or Victorian age –with a 21st century spin on it. I wonder what it will look like.

Lately I’ve read in magazines that the things that I’ve tried to change about myself–my curly hair or my curvy figure–and the things that I’ve always loved about myself–my mermaid spirit and my imagination–are the very things that are now “in style.” At the hair salon, while getting a trim, I picked up a magazine that had captions like, “perfectly smooth straight hair is OUT! Messy curls and wild texture is IN!” (Ace in the hole there.)  Mermaid-inspired fashion, hair styles and make-up are also making their way onto the runways and into magazines…no doubt thanks to this move of Neptune into Pisces (and out of airy cool & detached do-gooder Aquarius). Pisces is a rebel, a poet and psychic. People who are cool with things being a bit nebulous and dreamy will feel like finally, the world is making sense, whereas the steadfast hardcore just-the-facts-ma’am types and in-your-face-firey-my-way-or-the-highway types will probably see things not going their way for this 14 year Romantic period. As a poet, psychic and rebel, and a dreamy Pisces, true to form, I am more than OKAY with this change, this reinvention of Romantics and/or Victorian age.  After visiting the Victoria Mansion in Portland, Maine with my aunt just before the new year, I realized I was more at home in that Victorian museum than I am in most buildings. I love my 1990s home but it feels extremely modern, at least externally (vinyl siding) so I fill it with vintage furniture to feel more “at home.” Here’s to a new Romantic age, however it takes shape in the coming decade and beyond.

Last night I dreamt that I was sitting at a dressing table getting ready for a party. I wore a period costume, Marie Antoinette era, a pink and bronze gown with a full skirt, tightly-laced corset under a silk and rose brocaded bodice. A light-colored, feathered wig toppled on my head like a crown and spilled ringlets around my décolleté. I was applying the most unusual make-up from small jars, rouge and oily mica at the creases of my eyes. Most unusual of all—I put on red lipstick, a bright cranberry shade, which I never wear in real, waking life. As I painted my pale lips red, I noticed that the lips were not my own; my face was not mine but someone else’s: a woman also in her thirties, but with angled features and a pocked complexion under the layers of powder. I stared into the mirror. Some gold and beaded jewelry that I had never seen before sat coiled on top of a satin pouch and I picked it up and began putting on sparkling rings, a necklace with gemstones—some ornate design, bedazzling bracelets. Women buzzed about behind me; I watched them in the mirror. They wore the same style dress and elaborately decorated wigs. The rest of the room was a swirl of gold and emerald green velvets, mahogany furniture, most of it painted white like the vanity. Portraits hung on the walls. I didn’t know the faces but they looked freakishly young with white wigs. It was not my bedroom but some kind of suite, or parlor.

In real life, I had known rooms like this. I grew up in historic mansions in Wiscasset, Maine, a village known for houses built in the 18th and 19th century, a haven for antiques enthusiasts. But there in the dream parlor I was surrounded by contemporary pieces and dressed for a banquet. Someone announced a name into the parlor and I stood, stepped away from the vanity. I walked toward the center of the room and kept my gaze on the doorway. A man appeared, also in his thirties, I guessed, and he looked sheepishly happy, his lips curled upward on one side when he saw me. I didn’t recognize him but he knew me. He asked if I were ready and I nodded, took his outreached arm and we left the suite.

Marie Antoinette style vanity

Leah

Poet. Artist. Ecoheroine. Human ecologist. Spiritual mermaid and Mystic. I write about literary ecology, wetlands, water, Romantic ecology, and quirky adventures with my dog.

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