In My Seasonal Camouflage

Posted August 23, 2016 by JJ
Categories: Playing Cards

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According to Deborah Leigh’s system of reading playing cards, the 10 of diamonds is about money, but a neutral card, neither good nor bad.

I took one look at this Ptarmigan photograph and thought “That’s me, hiding in the foliage.” Our exterior home renovation is taking much longer than planned, and when we took the concrete steps out we found a glitch, so I’ve gone from feeling fairly positive about repairs and such to feeling overwhelmed, worried, and hiding. As well, the spouse pushed me into hours and hours (when I only wanted to do two hours at a time so I wouldn’t hurt myself) of painting wood trim with a brush and it’s set off my carpal tunnel, tendinitis, and pain and fatigue. He could care less and is simply ignoring me.

So, I’m hiding in plain site, camouflaged in a chair reading several mysteries. I can’t hold a pen and my typing is limited to a few minutes at a time. I can’t do anything but rest. Instead of carefully balancing what I can do to avoid nerve damage and pain, I’m knocked out of living altogether. Blah.

Of course, I know nothing about ptarmigans. This is the Rock Ptarmigan (Lagopus mutus), and is a female in her summer plumage. They are the only birds to turn white in the winter to blend in with the snow, and brown in the spring and summer to blend with foliage. They are a subfamily of the grouse family.

Hide from the unpaid bills little bird, read the book Smoke by Dan Vyleta when you finish the current book.

Incidentally, I could never remember how to spell the word “camouflage” until studying a card one day a few years ago, I needed to spell it quite a bit in my write-up and it cemented itself in my spelling mind.

So there you go, cards at the fore of education and intellectual growth again!


Unreadable Decks, Maybe

Posted August 21, 2016 by JJ
Categories: Tarot - General

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It’s strange about decks that are “unreadable”, I consider it a challenge to find a way to use them.

In looking at online comments about the Lost Code of Tarot, I am hearing a lot of stuff about cards not being identifiable and the book being a bit of a put-on, a story with no meanings for cards, and then there’s the controversy about the Kickstarter campaign for this deck and how Llewellyn released the mass market version before, which may or may not be exactly the same as the funded one.

I choose not to fund decks at Kickstarter, although I have bought decks elsewhere from artists that were originally funded on Gamecrafter or Kickstarter et al. It’s a bit like buying a house from a developer before anything has been built, which is not something I would do either.

I used to trade people for the “stinker” decks, the ones that weren’t readable. It’s fun to pull something out of chaos. Does everything have to be systematically readable to be enjoyable?

I have a good collection of cards, all listed in a visual database, so I rambled through the tarot entries and pulled a few out that I’ve had a great time with, although many are considered baffling or unreadable. It’s a random pick, subjective, and doesn’t include all the stinker oracles and weird oddities that I delight in keeping regardless of their readability.

I always feel that I should challenge myself more, find something quirky and delightful and completely unfathomable and find a way to use and delight in it. For me, the term “unreadable” conjures up a vision of a mind that can’t be bothered learning new things.


Oh my, the Giotto, Bosch, and Bruegel, the holy trinity of unreadability!! Does it get any better?

Not for me.


Let’s Go To Marseille and Have Some Plonk

Posted August 17, 2016 by JJ
Categories: Tarot - General

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I received some money and decided to buy myself a treat other than a book on the history of toile fabric. This book is a gorgeous thing but it’s not a card deck.


Intrigued by Andrea Aste’s Lost Code of Tarot because of the fantastically fresh artwork, stories and all the alchemy and history, I ordered it. The only Marseille deck I own is a little-fancied deck by Il Meneghello called Classico Tarocco di Marsiglia, whose Hermit inspired my interest some years ago.


Along with the deck kit I ordered two books on Marseille reading traditions.


Milestone birthdays need to be celebrated with art and story and the whole panoply of history.

Plus you can have a bowl of ice cream and maybe some rhubarb crumble with strawberries and apples.



The Capybara Who Wanted To Sing

Posted July 25, 2016 by JJ
Categories: Tarot - General

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These two capybaras were fond of jazz and had a brilliant idea for adapting the song The Happy Wanderer as a jazz tune and contacting Brad Mehldau to play the piano background for them while they sang their duet. It would have been good, these two were really in tune, but the chap in the water found his friend dead one day on the shore.

It wasn’t the loss of the music, although that hurt deeply, it was the loss of his friend, his companion, the one friend who understood his ideas and augmented them, the only Other whom he could sing with.

He thought he would never sing again, never feel that special creativity rising from within, but as he slipped in the water and felt its coolness slip around him, smoothing his fur and washing his grief, he realized that he could find opportunity again, he could feel where he would go even amid the grief. He knew Brad would understand and they would create the most beautiful rendition of the song that had ever been heard, and maybe Kurt Elling would sing the vocal with him.

He laughed and waved to a bird in the sky, as he caused ripples in the water with his movement.


I love to go a-wandering,
Along the mountain track,
And as I go, I love to sing,
My knapsack on my back.

My knapsack on my back.

I love to wander by the stream
That dances in the sun,
So joyously it calls to me,
“Come! Join my happy song!”

I wave my hat to all I meet,
And they wave back to me,
And blackbirds call so loud and sweet
From ev’ry green wood tree.

High overhead, the skylarks wing,
They never rest at home
But just like me, they love to sing,
As o’er the world we roam.

Oh, may I go a-wandering
Until the day I die!
Oh, may I always laugh and sing,
Beneath God’s clear blue sky!

Ruminating on Three Pentacles

Posted July 24, 2016 by JJ
Categories: Tarot - General

Tags: , , ,

We had our 40th anniversary, and during the week as part of the celebration, we went to an art gallery where artists had booths and were available to talk to people. Hey, schmoozing about art supplies—I’m on it!

I was speaking to one artist and interested in her technique as I hadn’t seen it before. Then we started chatting about various techniques and I mentioned making things and she said something like “We seem like we have a lot in common” and she asked me for coffee. She asked me for coffee, then she asked me to go walking with her dog and then proceeded to tell me about taking a picture of another woman and her dog and reporting them, and then asked where I lived and wanted to call and on and on. Her husband sat behind her, an unsmiling, glowering, taciturn lump of wood on a chair. Bad ju-ju from both of them.

I recently extricated myself from a friend whom I call The Crazy Cat Lady. After 29 years of her phoning and phoning me and telling me for hours about her cats and all the personal problems that she had or each individual in her family had, and more about cats, and more moaning, and rarely remembering anything I told her about me, I moved across the country and left her behind. Her voice was a bitter parody of friendship, literally the bitterness in her voice increased over the years, palpably, overwhelmingly. She refused to talk to me for a year once when I didn’t drive for two hours to come to her 40th birthday party because I was working that day. I had sent a gift I had made myself and decorated a special box for it, so she could open it at the party, but nothing I did was ever enough.

I simply can’t do it any more. Yes, I have compassion and am interested in people, but why be trapped again by a person like this? I don’t want this cycle back in my life. One woman I knew referred to folk like this as “emotional vampires.” Unlike me, she was canny about people; I thought she was cruel, until I experienced such vampires myself. Direct experience and observation is valuable.

It’s very draining, and the people refuse to change or help themselves, you’re on a wheel of negativity and bitch and blame and cringe when the phone rings. People need time to sort things out, I certainly do, so I wait and try to help but with such people, they continually have an excuse and are very dismissive of you. They suck your time and joy away. The last time she called I told my husband I felt like killing myself after her typical two-hour assault. For a year I didn’t answer the phone when she called and called, and I do not in any way want to repeat the experience with another person.

So, in order to sort this out in my mind I pulled a single card. I could have done a reading but I wanted a single pinpoint of illumination on this thing that has been worrying me. I felt guilty.



Speaking of art! This is like the Master of Art card in my mind.

There is mention here of goals and dreams and meeting people along the way who can assist you. Take advantage of what is offered. Attaining goals is a team effort. The lone daydreamer is not a good stance apparently.

One of the things I like about the Internet is being inspired by others. As well at this gallery, I met a group who meet once per week to make and share art. They were thinking I could show them some bookbinding things or talk about art journals. I thought that might be good, but then I ran into this other woman who frightened me with pushing herself into my life, a complete stranger who in ten minutes was taking over my life. I cannot describe the vibe I got from her other than to say my warning bells went off, and I could feel myself physically backing away from her.

Like everything else in life there is a balance to relationships. At this time, I don’t want to be part of a team, do not want to call attention to myself. I’ve got safeguards in place, and what of it? I have resources and people I talk to but I am quite happy eating leaves on the savannah by myself, and occasionally bumping into someone to share a meal with. Psychologists like us to believe that there is something wrong with introverted loners who don’t aspire to working in groups. Nonsense.

Giraffe likes a bit of a ramble by himself. Good on you fellow, you get the tender, sweetest leaves that way, and can contemplate mixing ultramarine and cerulean to paint the sky.



Mulish Thoughts on Subtle Differences

Posted July 18, 2016 by JJ
Categories: Playing Cards

Tags: , , ,

I’ve been unable to use the computer much after practically doing the splits when I slipped on the kitchen floor while cleaning up, and then slamming my arm and shoulder into the counter while trying to hold myself up until the spouse came and grabbed one of my legs. How embarrassing, and the lump and bruises on my arm set up nerve pain.

So, I’ve been using my arm gently and catching up on last year’s sketches on my Manner and Material blog. Three more to go and I can get on with this year’s project and crack open my nice Stillman & Birn Zeta journal.

I was fortunate to have a friend send me a deck of playing cards called Discover Canadian Wildlife which has 52 different images. The irony being that he found the deck in the UK and mailed it over here!

I do love playing cards. As a sub-genre of my main deck collection, I have 64 playing card decks, many of them unusual. I like to learn about animals and this makes a great addition to all my animal decks, tarot or otherwise.

8 OF CLUBS – Mule Deer


When I looked at this I thought “Oh, it’s a white-tailed deer” which it is in general, except the tail has a black tip. Mule deer have slightly different antlers and huge mule-like ears, and are found in western North America rather than the east.

We get a lot of deer around here, which seem to be of the black-tailed variety, perhaps the Columbian Black-Tailed deer. Still, in my ignorance I really don’t know about anything except the white-tailed deer we saw in Ontario. This is the joy of card decks and spotting new animals when you move to a new region.

This reminds me that a quick glance can make you assume things that aren’t true. Always a danger.



Churchill Contemplates Varied Creativity in Libraries, Gardens, and Small Rooms

Posted July 7, 2016 by JJ
Categories: Art Postcards

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

It’s been a strange week with our back fence torn out for repair and the neighbour needing help shifting wood, and our contractor coming by to put in a temporary downspout and measure windows. We got a tremendous amount done one day as I finished my studio organization, hung six pictures, patched some walls, washed a bunch of fabric, and bought the final acrylic paints and medium for my abstract diptych that I’m painting for the living room.

It went on and on. I cleaned the kitchen several times and cleaned all three bathrooms and made a rhubarb/strawberry/cherry crumble. It didn’t leave much time for cards, but amid the unknowable result of negotiations between the Union and Canada Post, I received a parcel from across the pond.

Ah, the magic of postcards from National Trust properties. A heartfelt thank you to my friend Steve Bright, who knows how to choose just the right postcards and art for me.


Winston Churchill’s studio at Chartwell, and the library off the writing room in the tower at Sissinghurst. Up Vita and Harold!

These are people that had some grief in life. I remember reading about Churchill building the garden wall at Chartwell during the time he was in political limbo in the 1930s. It must have been hard for him, but he wrote books and painted and built this incredible wall during those awful years. I imagined it as a three-foot wall, nothing special, but in a garden documentary I was amazed to see the height of it.

Vita Sackville-West and her husband Harold Nicolson lived at Sissinghurst. It is actually a medieval castle and must have been rather gloomy and needed constant repairs but they liked it and built a garden that influenced many others and still does today. I’m not sure that I like Vita’s poetry, it’s of its time and seems a bit stagey today, particularly if you hear recordings of her reading it. Still, she forged on writing poetry, essays, biographies and I’ve always been fascinated by the tower at Sissinghurst which was her writing room, her private eyrie. The tower is Elizabethan, and looks damp and cold, but what a place to create. When the mind tires of ideas, you can look afar, bring yourself out again with your eyes on the land.

A reflection today on how to surround yourself with pleasurable things and yet get things done, create, regardless of what the world thinks of you, their lack of respect, or your isolation, or poor health, or your house needing repairs.

It’s about doing and challenging yourself amid the turmoil of life, and the fundamental ambiguity that plagues the mind. Regardless, there is THIS, these rooms, this art, these books.

I close with a favourite quote by another hero of mine, Kenneth Clark. I was struck by this sequence in Civilisation, Episode 7: Clark is discussing the Baroque and exploitation by relatives of the popes, clothed in nepotism and housed in palaces of greed. He ends by saying this as the camera pans out and shows him walking down an enormous arched corridor that is thick with ornamentation and carving, and a sense of huge, whistling coldness and emptiness that goes on and on.

“I wonder if a single thought that has helped forward the human spirit, has ever been conceived or written in an enormous room.”





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