Saturday, September 22, 2012

CIN CIN - a piu tardi, see you later

Visconti-Sforza Tarots restored by A.A.Attanassov

I'm off to Italy for the Tarot tour*--from Milan to Ferrara, Bologna, Rioli, Tuscany, Florence, Siena et plus. One of our first stops the Duomo (Gothic Cathedral), the Plazza Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II & Libraria Esoterica, a metaphysical shop filled with tarot decks. After lunch, lucky us, we'll get to meet Osvaldo Menegazzi, internationally renowned tarot artist and publisher and visit his shop Il Meneghello.  Here is a photo from the 2011 Italy tour's visit with Osvaldo:

Next day, the Castello Sforzesco, where the ancient Visconti tarot cards were found in an old well. We'll rub shoulders with the frescoes of Leonardo da Vinci and Bonifacio Bembo (creator of the earliest known tarot deck). I will have my Leonardo da Vinci deck with me--the one Kevin found at Clos du Luce in Amboise a few years ago.  I haven't worked with it much and this should be the perfect opportunity to pick up some da Vinci vibes!

Frescoe, Leonardo da Vinci - Castello Sforzesco
Bonifacio Bembo Fescoe

For our week in Tuscany we will stay at Castello di Montalto, in the area known as La Berdenga, which is an extensive territory in the Chianti region.

Castello di Montalto - Tuscany
But perhaps the place I am most excited about seeing is the Tarot Garden of Niki de Saint Phalle.  Born to a French father and American mother outside of Paris in 1930, but moved to the USA in 1933 after being wiped out by the Great Depression. Niki revealed her artistic temperament and rebellious streak early on; dismissed from the prestigious Brearley school in NYC for painting fig leaves on the school's statuary.  A fashion model in her teenage years, she was on the 1952 cover of French Vogue. 

Niki de Saint Phalle

Niki de Saint Phalle painted her way from Paris to Switzerland, Spain to Germany, finally moving to the Ca. in 1994. Perhaps best known for her "shooting paintings", collages and the life size dolls she made of brides and mothers giving birth-- exploring the roles of women.

Influenced by Gaudi's Parc Guell in Barcelona and Paro der Mostri in Bomarzo as well as Palais Ideal by Ferdinand Cheval and Watts Towers by Simon Rodia, Niki de Saint Phalle decided that she wanted to make something similar; a monumental sculpture park created by a woman. In 1979 she acquired some land in Garavicchio, Tuscany, along the coast. The garden, called Giardino dei Tarocchi, contains sculptures of the symbols found on Tarot cards.  The garden took many years and a pile of dough to complete. It opened in 1998, after nearly 20 years of work. We will be able to explore, interact and actually touch the 22 Trumps with the Mediterranean sea as our backdrop.

Giardino dei Tarocchi
 Niki died in California in 2002;  Here is her "Guardian Angel" floating high in the cavernous space of the Zurich, Switzerland Hauptbahnhof.  Calling all Angels...  Arrivederci

Guardian Angel - Niki de Saint Phalle

*Our hosts for the tour are Arnell Ando, Michael McAteer and official tour guide:  Morena Poltronieri of  Museo dei Tarocchi. We are blessed to have these amazing, knowledgeable people at the helm.  If you would like to check out Arnell's gallery, her mystical art works, miniature tarot parlors, art boxes, and the tarot decks she has created, you can visit her at

HAPPY EQUINOX - Joyeux Anniversaire de Mariage

Kevin in Sepia - Aubettere-sur-Dronne
Thirty years of love and conversation--a blind date that didn't end up on the cutting room floor. Thank you to Lizzie and John wherever you are for putting together the Irishman with the Jungian sand tray miniatures & the woman with porcelain clay under her fingernails--remember that first afternoon?  The light slanting into the room, a pair of's fitting that we tied the knot on the Equinox, a shared life of balance and equality.

This one's for you Kev, my anchor, my ballast; this is how I see you, the many faces, reflective, pensive, a muscle man in Sepia tones, wearing the face I have looked at for 30 years--I know every line by heart, now etched on my soul.
And thanks for all the laughs!

I am using the "Temperance" card to illustrate the "Equinox" because it represents harmony,  balance, inner change and transformation. Some would choose the JUSTICE card where the scales of Justice have their origin in Egyptian mythology, when after death there would be the weighing of the heart.  The dead were judged by Anubis, using a feather, representing Ma'at, the goddess of Truth and Justice.  Hearts heavier or lighter than the feather were rejected and eaten by Ammit, the Devourer of Souls.  So take the opportunity this month to lighten your heart! 

Temperance Card -Ciro Marchetti, Legacy deck

 One definition of the "TEMPERANCE" card:

"Your Holy Guardian Angel appears in a fleeting golden moment, suspended in a beam of light.  She draws the fire of heaven down from above as she summons earthly energy up from below.  You are being prepared for an alchemical wedding, which will empower and transform you forever."*

 In the Thoth Deck (the one I use most frequently), created by Aleister Crowley, the card is XIV - ART

It has been said that it is Diana, the Huntress, the Great Mother of Fertility and one of the lunar goddesses who is dressed in the green of creativity - performing her feats of alchemy, binding together fire and water, light and dark, male and female, death and rebirth. The melting of contradictions a major step toward oneness. Even the bees and the serpents on her robe have made an alliance.  The whole card is characterized by symbols of integration and the unification of opposites.**  A "marriage".

The Latin sentence inscribed on the sun translates to "examine the inner realms of the Earth, by cleansing you will find the hidden stone." There are several possible interpretations of this, but I am drawn to the idea of bringing creative forces into contact with earth energy.  This card is the Consummation of the Royal Marriage which took place between the Emperor and Empress - VI THE LOVERS - The ceremony is performed by The Hermit, one of the forms of the god Mercury, completely hidden by his robes to symbolize that the origin of all things lies beyond the reach of the intellect. Again we have the union of opposites through Love, becoming conscious through relationship. Anam Cara, here's to our past lifetimes and possible future ones, but mostly to sharing the divine present...

Lovers - Jardin du Luxembourg - Paris

*The Book of Thoth (Egyptian Tarot) by the Master Therion (Aleister Crowley)
** Mirror of the Soul - Gerd Ziegler

Friday, September 21, 2012


Melody Gardot - "Music is my love, men are just my lovers"
"I watch William Blake, who spotted angels every day in treetops and met God on the staircase of his little house and found light in grimy alleys--"* Line from poem "Blake" by Polish poet Adam Zagajewski. 

I've been "spotting angels" too, musical ones like Melody Gardot. At age 18 Gardot was cycling to ? when a Jeep Cherokee ran a red light, knocked her down, broke her pelvis, back, left her with such severe injuries she was bedridden for a year.  Former life & history were wiped from her brain; the memories of who she was locked away on the other side of midnight.  She remembers the hospital, and she remembers the pain, on a scale of 1 to 10, she says it was a 40.  They were trying to cut her clothes off and she hears herself screaming "no" when they get to her brand new "Agent Provocateur Bra".  She had to learn to walk again, brush her teeth...and relearn words--once she'd been a straight A student, but even language was lost to her.

When her doctor found out she had played piano before the accident he suggested music therapy to help redefine the neural pathways, to create a bridge where the connections had been broken.  Since she couldn't sit in a chair to play the piano she taught herself guitar while lying on her back.  The music brought her back to herself.

She says:  "Music is the thing that saved me.  It's the thing that gave me purpose.  In my mind it made me walk.  It gave me the dignity of being a human being that could do something, and we all need purpose.  If nothing defines your character or gives you the ability to wake up in the morning, I think we can easily lose the passion to exist, and then it becomes hard to wake up, hard to go to sleep. So in that sense, music has become my priority.  Music is my love. Probably the greatest love of all for me.  Men are just my lovers."

Gardot is still in constant pain, but says when she is performing she doesn't feel it; she has transformed her pain into art.  She has no home, few possessions and travels with a couple of suitcases and three books:  a Voltaire, Zen Mind and a book of homeopathic remedies (she sticks to a macrobiotic diet).  From walking with a cane like Frankenstein, she copes with vertigo by taking Tango lessons. 

She had me at "Somewhere Over the Rainbow", but after I heard her sing "La Vie en Rose", I was undone.  If you want to hear her sing and tell her story in her own words, there is a four part video on You Tube:  Melody Gardot, Accidental Musician.  If you're lucky enough to get to Paris (where the French adore her) you can see her at L'Olympia, Nov. 5,6,7., or see her in Berlin, London, Warsaw, Monaco, San Francisco.
"I'm never really afraid of bad news at this point in my life"

The composer Ravel said, "Music is dream crystallized into sound".  It feels like one has entered another dimension when watching Gardot perform, she's broken through to a level where there is no separation.  Something about Melody Gardot made me want to go back and watch the Wim Wenders 1987 film "Wings of Desire.  While he was formulating the film in his mind, Wenders was reading some of Rilke's poetry and thinking about the angels among us.  He doesn't say so, but I think he must have read Rilke's "The Man Watching", the fourth stanza:

Ed Buryn's William Blake Tarot
"When we win it's with small things,
and the triumph itself makes us small
What is extraordinary and eternal 
does not want to be bent by us.  
I mean the Angels who appeared 
to the wrestlers of the Old Testament:
when the wrestlers sinews 
grew long like metal strings,
he felt them under his fingers,
like chords of deep music."

 The Irish poet, John O' Donohue wrote "Meister Eckhart says the soul has two faces. One faces towards the world, and the other towards the divine, the eternal, where it receives 'the kiss of God'...there is a place in the soul that neither time, nor flesh, nor no creative thing can touch."

Saturday, September 15, 2012

ADIEU à l'été - GOODBYE to the summer & des autre choses

Corn & Clouds

"Adieu veau, vache, cochon, couvée" from a fable by Jean de la Fontaine, Perrette et le pot du lait (Perrette and the Pot of Milk) about a  young girl on her way to sell milk at the market daydreaming about what she will be able to buy with all the money she earns, eggs will become chickens, whose sale will allow her to buy a pig, in turn to be sold to buy a cow and a calf.

Fête du cochon - Feuillade

She trips, spills the milk and sees all her dreams evaporate.  Adieu is to be used when your hopes are dashed or you don't expect to see something or someone again. 

Deathbed farewells, seasons turning or "tu peux dire adieu à ton argent" = you can kiss your money goodbye, appropriate usages. Not to be used as one young french friend cautioned me, when visiting a sick friend in hospital.  A few years ago an American acquaintance who felt she had been snubbed by me (by moving to France and not doing it in the style she deemed appropriate) sent me a stinging e-mail, signing it "Adieu".  How thrilled I was when I discovered she was "finished" with me!
Straw - Grassac

Hay Bales - Doumerac
Hay bales - Charras
I've been photographing the hay (foin) all summer.  It was only cut once this year in mid-July when the grass was "high as an ass's eye".  Hay is cut from grass, clover, alfalfa (even though we had horses for years I did not know this).  Straw is the shaft that is left after the grain has been harvested.  When I see the straw bales gleaming in the sunlight, I can't help but to think of Rumpelstiltskin from  Grimm's fairy tale and the miller's lazy daughter who made a deal with the eponymous imp to give him her firstborn child if he spins a whole tower room full of straw into gold. Of course she reneges on the bargain (as any good mother would!) and then has to guess his name.  She gets a bit of help from yet another man - the damsel in distress gambit plays heavily in most of the Grimms' oeuvre-- and comes up with his name on the third try, a suspenseful  arc in all stories involving wishes and guesses.                                                          
This high?

There's been more than a few "adieus" this summer; loss of a beloved plum tree, probably at least 250 years old.  We found the heartwood (coeur du bois) split, the heavy fruited limbs cracking and sagging under their own weight. We gathered the plums and Kevin made plum wine.  It will be ready by Christmas.  Come join us for a toast to what is left in the barrel after "La Part des Anges".

Kevin in the Verger

Adieu aux Tournesols

There hasn't been enough rain for the farmers to pull off a good harvest.  The corn that was not irrigated has been left withering and quaking, rustling in the afternoon winds like noisy ghosts. I bike past fields of sunflowers that look like cadaverous, anorexic, runway models.  I prefer to remember them in their "salad" days, but Vincent saw their beauty in all phases.

Vincent Van Gogh - Two Cut Sunflowers

Scarecrow in Roger's Cellar

Turn, Turn, Turn

To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under heaven:
A time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted.    Ecclesiastes 3

Something for Everyone

Saturday, September 1, 2012

VOYANCE - Les Marchés Nocturnes - La Rentrée

La Tour Blanche -  Night Market
“At night, I open the window          
and ask the moon to come
and press its face against mine.
Breathe into me.
Close the language-door
and open the love-window.
The moon won't use the door,
only the window.”


This spring I read les cartes de tarot at day markets, arts festivals, and the wonderful Fête de la Lumière. In July and August les marchés nocturnes rolled out their banners & twinkle lights, and I read under the cloak of  blanket blue-black skies studded with stars. There is such softness and protection; I feel like I am inside a paperweight.  There are differences reading in daylight or by candlelight, but not what you would imagine.  Divulgences, confessions, revelations, secret wishes and desires are as freely spoken at 2 p.m. as at midnight, but the daylight seems to provide a finite structure--a beginning and an ending...a question asked and answered.  The night is infinite; the night has a thousand eyes.

When I bit into the apple and set up my business under France's somewhat simplified(?!) auto-entrepreneur scheme (that's right they actually call it a "scheme"), I hired a french woman to help me with the reams of paperwork & the thorny task of categorization.  To my surprise, after just a few long-winded phone calls, she briskly anointed me a "Voyante" (clairvoyant) and my scheme "Voyance" (clairvoyance).  The French "clair" means clear and "voyant" is the present participle of voir, to see.  

I like that --"to see clearly"-- to see in the dark. J. Philip Thomas who created the Tarot de Paris deck  had a vision of the Major Arcana (Arcana means secrets) cards as a sequence of statues located somewhere in Paris.  His Moon card is a photomontage of Notre Dame Cathedral with two of the famous Chimera connected by a beam of light.  Thomas describes his card as "All is Reflected"  -- we can't really see in the dark so we have to use our imagination. We are always dealing with "chimeras", something which is hoped for, but illusory.  I feel like I am connected by a beam of light to my clients, as though we enter an unknown territory together, exploring past, present, and future...a landscape of possibility...the Wheel of Fortune forever turning.

"It may be that when we no longer know which way to go that we have come to our real journey. The mind that is not baffled is not employed. The impeded stream is the one that sings.”
Wendell Berry

I'm going to miss the romantic, nocturnal markets, the fairy lights,  grilled sausages, handmade soap, and the way the French turn out en masse, rain or shine in these withering economic times.  August 31st, the night of the "blue moon" was the last night market of the season in our region.  September 1st and La Rentrée (the return from vacances and beginning of the Academic year) is in full swing; not a good time to try and buy a cahier or colored pencils, supplies are limited, set in stone for the students down to the dimensions of notebook paper and crayola colors.  Au revoir (or adieu) à l'été, bonjour l'automne!