The Death Card

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Research into my novel has taken me down some questionable alleys – areas I never would have thought to explore otherwise. One such area is the mystical and spiritual world of divination. More specifically  to my novel, tarot.

Tarot reading is a form of cartomancy. It uses a deck of cards to answer the question of the inquirer. In order to understand it, I ordered a deck of tarot cards and sat down to read up on it – meaning of different cards, their various interpretations depending on whether they land upright or reverse, etc. As expected, the deck comprised of both good cards and bad, meaning some cards promised good results while others spelled doom. It didn’t take me long to find out the two worst cards one could expect to land on the table in their reading. They were the tower card and the death card.

Though both signaled an end to something, their essence was different. The tower card indicated a moment in our lives where the universe steps in to uproot the very foundations of something we have built so that the whole structure comes crumbling down. This leaves an opportunity for something new to form in its place. The death card, on the other hand, meant exactly what it said. It indicated death.

Death. Easily the most dreaded word in the English language. It is the end. Something leaving that will never come back. There is no hope associated with death. It is the ultimate in hopelessness. It leaves a void and we don’t know what is going to take its place in our lives, if anything at all. And it is this not knowing that is the scariest. We don’t like voids. Voids lead to depression. Depression is a fancy name for hopelessness. It is a vicious cycle.

But we forget that ends lead to new beginnings. If death is an end, it also leaves space for something new to take birth. And it’s not always an end to a life. It can also be the death of a relationship, a habit, a cycle, a lifestyle, etc. In fact, these are much more common deaths taking place in our lives everyday than the death of a loved one. And they only make place for a better relationship, a healthier habit, an exciting cycle, a dynamic lifestyle. It leads to transformation.

Yes, letting go of something familiar is hard, but the excitement surrounding something new is also one of life’s joys (after an appropriate period of grieving, of course, since closure is important).

It is this feeling of joy, of anticipation, that we should aim for when something in our lives comes to an end.

The death card is easily my most favorite in the whole deck. After perhaps the High Priestess. That woman is wild.

Seeing Butterflies

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Lately I have been trying to get more in touch with my intuition; in other words, the spiritual world. Because I believe that when the world stops making sense to your brain, you need to open your heart.

As soon as I decided I wanted to do this, something odd began to happen. I started seeing butterflies everywhere. And they showed up in places I was focusing a lot nowadays. Currently my days are spent mostly either with my kids, or doing research online for my book. Being a visual person, I absorb more information transmitted through visual mediums, like Youtube videos. And so these are the places the butterflies decided to show up. I saw them in the background artwork in videos, being mentioned in various contexts, and they would catch my attention in children’s story books. In short, they were everywhere, to the point where I couldn’t ignore them anymore.

So I decided to  look it up. And I came across some fascinating information. Butterflies are known to pull your attention to them when they show up. Imagine you are sitting in the garden, lost in your own thoughts. A butterfly shows up and lands on the flower nearby, and it pulls your attention to it, in effect pulling you out of your thoughts.

Therefore, when you see butterflies everywhere, it is the universe telling you to stop pondering over your past, stop dreaming endlessly about your future, and simply focus on the present. Because focusing on your present will direct you to your soul path in this world. And you need to focus on that because that will bring you your greatest good.

Learning this, I had to admit that butterflies made perfect sense to me at this time. Lately, I have been dwelling a lot on my past – shoulda, coulda, woulda. And when I wasn’t doing that, I was busy dreaming about my distant future, with everything I want to achieve in this life. But what I wasn’t focusing on was the present, where I am supposed to be doing the work needed to get what I want in the future. And so, if I didn’t focus on my present, my future dreams would remain just that – dreams.

So thank you, universe. I needed this subtle kick in the butt at this time.

(Note – as soon as I finish writing this blog, my daughter brings me a storybook out of ten others, and hands it to me to read to her. It is a story about a caterpillar turning into a butterfly.)

Bet Olam Cemetery

 

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This is a long overdue blog. I meant to write it sometime after I returned from my trip from Cleveland, Ohio. It took me a while to get off my procrastinating bum and attempt to write it in the first place, only to discover that there was a persistent error in opening the site from Chrome. And so after trying a few times, I just gave up.

I finally figured out the issue six months later and so here I am 🙂

As always, I found this visit to a cemetery quite effective in recharging my batteries, and at the same time visited people who most likely led quite extraordinary lives.

Bet Olam is a Jewish cemetery. During my visit, I saw something that confused me, and so I came back to my hotel room and did a quick Google search on it. The exposure to Jewish burial traditions was fascinating. Hence, this trip also proved quite educational.

What struck me was the placement of rocks on some of the graves.

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The website www.myjewishlearning.com gives a number of possible reasons for this practice. One was from the time of Temple of Jerusalem, when marking a grave with piles of stones warned priests so they didn’t come near it. Priests were thought to become ritually impure by coming within 4 feet of a corpse. Other reasons include helping keep the soul in the world which it finds comforting, and to keep golems and demons from getting into graves. But the one that was the most striking for me was the following:

“Stones Last Longer Than Flowers

Flowers, though beautiful, will eventually die. A stone will not die, and can symbolize the permanence of memory and legacy.”

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I also came across the grave of Jessica Elizabeth Frankel. Something about her (most probably her age and beautiful face) made me do a search on her too and soon enough found a news report from Fox 8 Cleveland. Jessica was 16 and died in a tragic tubing accident. My thoughts and prayers for her family. A young death is always harder to deal with.

 

 

I also saw quite a few graves with one half of a couple buried while the space for the other half was left empty, waiting for the inevitable. I had always wondered what goes on in the mind of the spouse left behind when he or she visits their partner’s grave. Does the empty space on the grave marker fill them with resignation that life will end soon, with fear of the unknown which death is to many, or with longing to be joined with their beloved?

 

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Baby Byron and the Wieder twins were hard to deal with as usual. Can’t help thinking every time I come across graves of children: It just shouldn’t happen.

 

Ann ‘Toots’, Harry the Violinist, Edgar the Quiet Gentleman, and Papa who made his kids laugh were a joy to meet.

Here are some more grave markers that stood out for me. May they all sleep in peace.

 

 

 

 

Work Trip

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Last month I moved from Houston to Ellicott City, Maryland, courtesy the husband’s new job. Since I had resigned from my job back in February of this year, I am currently enjoying the unenviable position of a homemaker. And my position is especially unenviable because of the recent move.
Let me clarify. Living in Houston for over six years, we had accumulated a lot of junk. All that was packed by the very efficient moving company people assigned to us by the husband’s generous new employers. I considered it a blessing because it meant I didn’t have to pack. However, I had failed to realize at that point that the services did not include unpacking. Maybe our 4 day vacation to Puerto Vallarta that we had squeezed in during the last week of our move was to blame for this oversight. Anyway, so since the move, I had been busy unpacking box after box of stuff , half of which we don’t need and will probably be donated or thrown away. Doing all this with an 8 month old baby while the husband was at work all day would have been daunting enough for me to compile all the boxes in one spot and set them on fire.
Luckily for me, his family lives in the same town and my mother-in-law was only too happy to take her beloved first grandchild off my hands most of the days (and quite a few nights).
But the work was still daunting, and I had already started keeping an eye out for a spot for my box bonfire around my new home, when another blessing came my way. The husband’s new employers were sending him to Cleveland, Ohio for a week-long training. Well! I had to accompany him, you know. Because a week away from it all was essential to complete my latest draft! And the sooner I completed it, the sooner I’d get published. It was going to be not just his work week. It was going to be mine too. As I expressed all this to him, I couldn’t quite dismiss the vision of a large, comfortable king size bed, room service, and no unpacked box in sight from my mind.
So here I am, in a hotel room while the husband’s at training. Yesterday was his first day of training, and it went very well. My first day of writing, however, didn’t. All I accomplished was pull out my notebooks and notes from the suitcase and pile them up on the nightstand. And then I dozed off for most of the day. Suffice to say, I was very embarrassed to report this fact to him when he got back to the hotel in the evening. I vowed to work through the night to make up for the lost day. But then I fell asleep. That bed is VERY comfy.
Anyway, when I woke up today, I had a new resolve. I had to work today no matter what. So I gathered my notes and marched to the breakfast room downstairs, and I am proud to report that I edited 3 chapters over a plate of eggs and potatoes, an orange juice and 2 cups of coffee.
After that initial kick-start, it’s like the floodgates had opened, and I came back to the room and scribbled away for over an hour. Exhausted, I decided to go out for lunch at a nearby restaurant, and then check out a Jewish cemetery that is 5 minutes’ walk away from my hotel.
And now I am back, full of ideas not only for my novel, but also for a couple of blogs.
Maybe this trip is going to be what it was supposed to be after all – a work trip.

Life Event

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There she is. The reason for my absence and the cause of my contentment – my little bundle of joy, Zoya. My new center of gravity has just turned three months old, and I have been too engrossed in her to read or write or blog or anything. My days begin with a diaper and the bottle, and end on pretty similar notes. The middle is filled with a wild assortment of pacifiers, bibs, onesies, cute little sounds from her, and drool. Lots of it.

But I will be going back to work in a couple of days, courtesy the end of my maternity leave. So I guess I should get back to writing too. After all, if I have to work for someone else, why shouldn’t I work for myself too? And I have to admit, a part of me has been missing blogging. Hopefully, I’ll do it more regularly now.

Tonight is the Night

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Tonight I tackle the penultimate chapter of my book in my latest draft. Yes, I was able to get past the chapter before this – the one that had me in a bind for almost four months where I didn’t write at all. Now that that is done, I can finally plunge into this one, and though I am excited about it, I realize with a little surprise that I am also slightly nervous.

This chapter is where it all comes together… or however much I want to come together in this particular book, and I am afraid I will either miss on important stuff or give away too much.

But, oh well, will cross that bridge when I get to it. Which will be later tonight or tomorrow when I re-read it and wonder at my own astounding levels of dodo-ness.

Moving to reading – I did quite a lot of that these past couple of weeks. I finished The Historian – a very long book based on Dracula – which I enjoyed as I found Kostova’s writing to be quite fluid, despite the length. Whatever Happened to Baby Jane was another chilling read which I liked. Little Beach Street Bakery was extremely entertaining, and Auntie Mame was HILARIOUS. After enjoying The Lady and the Unicorn, I decided to give Chevalier’s most famous book a go and thoroughly enjoyed The Girl with the Pearl Earring. Cuckoo’s Calling got me hooked on Cormoran Strike’s world and I currently started the second book in the series, The Silkworm. J.K. Rowling forever!

Current reads also include Outlander, which I had started late last year and then set aside when I went on my sabbatical from everything books, and have recently picked up again. Despite the length of the novel, I find Gabaldon’s writing quite fluid, just like Kostova’s, and hopefully will finish the book soon. The story is very engrossing. Then there is Whose Body? by Dorothy L. Sayers, which is taking some time getting me hooked but Kindle tells me I am only 22% in so there is plenty more in it to pull me in yet. And last but not the least, My Perfect Life at Cornish Cottage by S. J. Crabb is a laugh a minute and I am thoroughly enjoying it as my lightrail read at the moment.