Kings and Camouflage

GRAPE (PUTAO) – Vitis vinifera


The King is trying to hide those brambly prickles under soft, malleable leaves. Reaching out a hand he pretends to generosity and a pleasant demeanour, when we really see him as he is in this Chinese mirror. The back of it is fruitful with abundant grapes and the frolicking of birds and animals, but turn it over and see the King reflected in all his parsimonious glory, wrapped in dried up grapevines.

Disregarding his downcast eyes, I ordered a book on watercolour and the Kindle version of James Ricklef’s book on tarot spreads.

Go wrap yourself with wet reeds from the stagnant pond King. You might well look down and clutch your big pentacle and try to camouflage your dark face with a beautiful animal.





Ten Thousand Golden Fruits

Daily Draw January 6th, 2011

Years ago I used to yak, yak, yak, when things were bad, now I tend to go to ground and slip inside the cave. That’s where I’ve been. Home repairs and a flare-up of pain are keeping me inside myself.

However, I grabbed my 365 Tao: Daily Meditations book today and opened it to #6 for the 6th of January and got:

Thunder and rain at night.
Growth comes with a shock.
Expression and duration
Appear in the first moment.

I have been getting cards about growth for a year I’m sure. Growth and change and yet I feel like I haven’t gone anywhere.

To go with this I drew a card from the Botanical Symbols in Chinese Art Knowledge Cards:

Loquat (Pipa guo)
Eriobotrya japonica

This yellow fruit was named after the pipa, a stringed instrument from China, because it has a similar shape. The Chinese script on the painting says Ten Thousand Golden Fruits Decorate the Tree,  and the painting was done in 1968 by Chao Shao-an.

The legend is that because its leaves come out in autumn; the flowers in winter; the fruit in spring; and the fruit ripens in summer, it is supposed to embody the four seasons.

I found it interesting that it flowers in winter, since I feel winter is consuming me right now. The Tao says winter might destroy some things but it leaves room for growth; it is appropriate for things to be swept away. Subtle and unseen cycles take place before the shock of a spurt of growth.

Even though a seedling looks different, it embodies the resulting tree or plant even in its first moments. That’s what “expression and duration appear in the first moment” means. It’s already inside the plant, whether it be an oak or a rose.

The other thing that strikes me about this is that I don’t feel like I’ve gotten anywhere in the past year, and there is a feeling in this that I am thinking that an instant fix is at hand when I have to wait like a seedling. Humans are impatient with time, we want it right away and that’s not the way of the Universe.

Back to the Three

Daily Draw December 29th, 2010

I’m back to the three decks of flowers and botanicals today.

9 – FORGET-ME-NOT – Marshland
GARDENIA – (ZHIZIHUA) – Gardenia jasminoides
29 – COLUMBINE – Affection



I laughed when I drew the last one because I am using a yarn colourway called Columbine for a piece of houndstooth fabric I’m going to be weaving. It’s a lovely purple colour and I’m pairing it with a red/orange colourway called Poppy. Perhaps I’m on notice to get going on the project?

Our plumbing problem has turned into a major one and we have to call a plumber. We’re limping along with half the pipes under the kitchen sink and a hope for resolution next week. It’s a simple fix but our sink and pipes are old and everything’s rusty and glued several times and we can’t do it ourselves.

I felt like dying all day yesterday. Somewhere along the way I have lost my ability to cope with small things, my ability to bounce back, to look at things without seeing the end of the world. Fear gets a grip on me and eats away. When you look at what happens to people in life there is a shining resilience to the human spirit. However, I feel like death right now. Apart from the rigmarole of calling a plumber and having them in the house for who knows how long, we don’t have the money. I don’t even have $19 to buy a weaving book I want. The dreaded property taxes come in February and we are struggling to keep up with the oil bills for heating and on and on it goes.

And yet, there are people with many more problems than I, so I reach for some perspective and do the dishes and cook and keep the kitchen as clean as I can and wait until the next thing rears up to disturb the equilibrium. That’s all you can do, flow with the situation. Something new always rears up, it’s just the way life is, it’s part of being human.

Forget-me-not comes up again. For some reason I am thinking of my Mom with this. She’s been dead for many years but her birthday is coming up and she would be upset with me for wanting to die over yet another stupid plumbing problem. I feel her Columbine affection somewhere in my mind. This is merely one of life’s little problems: the marshland can bog you down but it can also feed flowers. Oh yeah, we’ve heard that one before, right? Yeah right. Okay Mom, I’ll try to buck myself up.

The lovely carved lacquer box with the gardenia on it is a card I’ve drawn before. The fragrant flowers, apart from looking good and having a beautiful scent, are good for dyeing, especially silk. Another reminder of textiles and weaving and getting on with positive things.

Here’s the thing: I own a home on over an acre of land, I have everything I’ve ever wanted, all the books and fabric and crafts and art supplies and pets, appliances, a car, a garage to keep it in, and food, water, heat, clothing, everything that’s necessary and more. Still the niggly problems come. The niggly problems come whether you are a billionaire, or someone starving in a third-world country, or a plain old middle class Canadian woman living in the country. It’s the way it is.

Ain’t so bad Rock. Ain’t so bad.


Harebells on the Moor

Daily Draw December 27th, 2010

Yesterday while cleaning up the kitchen, I discovered a leak under the sink. It had only started as I’d been under the sink a couple of days ago and it was fine, but what a mess. I should have cleaned that cupboard in the summer.

The steel basket has all rotted out in the upper sink. We had that happen on the other side and replaced the upper part and the drainer, so it looks like that needs to be done on this side now. Let’s hope my husband can do it or it means the plumber and money. This is what you get with a 41 year-old house. Of course it happened at Christmas when stores are closed and I’m doing extra cooking and washing up.

Today I’m pulling three cards from different decks. I decided to get a nice botanical vibe going. I don’t have the energy for this, but I’m going to try.

From the British Wildflowers Card Game, Tarot des Fleurs, and the Botanical Symbols in Chinese Art Knowledge Cards:

HAREBELL – Moorland
59 – MYSOTIS – FORGET-ME-NOT; Souvenir, Memory
POMEGRANATE (SHILIU) – Punica granatum



Memories of those near and dear are forget-me-not souvenirs, which seems apt at Christmas. I used to have forget-me-nots planted in my first house, and I like them coming up every year. They self-seed like mad and tend to get pesky after a time, which does remind me of memories, because you get good and bad memories with no choice about which will crop up.

The Pomegranate is a fan painting using ink and colours on paper from the Qing dynasty by Jiang Tingxi, who lived from 1669-1732. Pomegranates originate in Central Asia, where there are associated with the Dragon Boat Festival on the fifth day of the fifth lunar month.

In May, the weather heated up and insects came out bringing mosquitoes and disease, plus poisonous snakes and scorpions. Different herbs, pomegranate and flowers used on this day were believed to ward off such poisons and evil spirits. So the fifth day is considered a poisonous day, and the red colour of pomegranate blossoms was believed to ward off evil so women would wear the flowers on this day.

Because of the numerous seeds in pomegranate, it is also a fertility symbol and an auspicious motif in Chinese art. It is often seen combined with peach and Buddha’s hand citron in a motif known as the “three plenties” which implies a wish for longevity and many blessings and children.

I am not too familiar with harebells but they look like the bellflowers I have in my garden. They are from the same family of Campanula anyway. Harebells are native in both Europe and North America, and are mentioned by several poets and authors. They are often called bluebells in Scotland and America, but there are several types and they spread by rhizomes so are quite hardy and prolific. I’ve always loved the delicate bells on these plants.

I thought to get a nice spring feeling with these cards but I am getting tenacious memory, poison, and hardy delicacy. I try not to go on and on about my poor health but it does tend to sap my energy and joy and make me feel that it’s not worth it to go on living. I feel like that a lot lately.

That’s the poison, the evil spirit, but the small delicate blues of harebell and forget-me-not, coming up every year, mean fertility and longevity along with the pomegranate…..perhaps a notion of perennial choice in thought? You can choose how you look at the world, good or bad, or how you look after yourself.

Most people do enjoy themselves at the Dragon Boat Festival after all.

Fragrance and Permanence Through Time

Daily Draw June 2nd, 2010

I had an odd dream where I had found three nice oracles to buy for my birthday and I was writing the authors to find out about symbolism so I could make jewellery inspired by the deck I bought. One author was doing a book signing and a girl came in who said one of the angels in the deck was not leaving her alone. She had machine guns which she proceeded to play with. The second author made jewellery himself and was doing a stadium show, he was kind of an artsy psychic type, showing too much celebrity and reputation rather than insightful art. The third deck was full of computer squiggles and repeated motifs, where someone could not be bothered with cohesion and meaning.

It was a “so much for that” dream. It reminds me of a person I recently wrote, who was another stuck-in-a-formula with nothing to say, New Age bumph parody, with no publisher and no finished deck, similar to the futility of my dream.

However, I am still keen on using a book from the British Natural History Museum with card decks. The Ironwing Tarot would be the perfect deck for it, full of information and depth, but I’d probably mix in some plant and animal decks I own too.

Today’s deck is from my Knowledge Cards collection, the Botanical Symbols in Chinese Art deck.

GARDENIA (Zhizihua)
Gardenia jasminoides

This lovely box is carved lacquer by Zhang Cheng who was active in the middle of the 14th century. The fragrant gardenia is native to China and often shows up in art. As well as embellishment and bouquets, the Chinese used it as a source of yellow dye, especially for the silk industry. It has been depicted in Chinese floral paintings since the Song dynasty (960-1279.) They also appear in Yuan dynasty lacquer (1279-1368) and in Ming (1368-1644) and Qing (1644-1911) dynasty blue and white porcelain.

So, a very long history in art and culture for the gardenia. One can’t possibly say “So much for that” since the flower weaves throughout culture and time in its depth of meaning and pleasure. It has long-standing and lasting pertinence and symbolism. Unlike the current trend of card decks, which seem to have little meaning going into them, and poor writing by people who have nothing to say.

The gardenia says permanence and beauty and endless revelation and inspiration; it is an evergreen shrub with over a thousand years of cultivation. Gardenia is in the coffee family Rubiaceae, no wonder it kick-starts people’s imagination. This particular gardenia is also called the Common Gardenia or Cape Jasmine and in Chinese medicine the fruit is used to “drain fire” or purge heat in people with certain types of fevers, or to lower blood pressure, stop bleeding, treat certain infections and swelling, sprains, abscesses. It cools things down, like a balm.

The balm of the fascinating and ever-inspiring gardenia. . . .

Let Loose in the Morning

Daily Draw January 31st, 2009

Another one from the Botanical Symbols in Chinese Art Knowledge Cards.

Convolvulus spp.

This is a vase from the Ming dynasty (1426-1435). Classically, the Morning Glory is often shown on “hundred flowers” vases. The Hundred Flowers is an idea from classical Chinese history from about 500 to 300 B.C. This ideal came from a time when the country wasn’t centralized and “Let a hundred flowers bloom; let a hundred schools of thought contend” was a popular philosophy. Schools were created called the Hundred Schools where discussion of philosophy and politics was encouraged. This sort of ideal was often oppressed in China once a centralized government was created, but it lived on subtly in cultural memory.

Unfortunately, The Hundred Flowers was also a campaign by Mao in the late 1950s where, using this classical maxim, he encouraged intellectuals to discuss the country’s problems as a way of promoting arts and culture and generally promoting socialism. He changed his mind when he didn’t feel the criticism was healthy as it pushed for democracy and the removal of the communist system and Mao himself. So he shut the movement down, which is a nice way of saying that people were killed, tortured, imprisoned, lost their jobs, and were “re-educated” when they alarmed the communist government with their comments and protest.

This reminds me of the vigorous growth of Morning Glories, and how the pretty flower can get away from you and twine around anything that’s available. A metaphor for pretty ideas freely let loose and then strangled when the result is not to your taste.

This plant is also called the trumpet flower and is a symbol for marital bliss. We have grown Morning Glories on and off in the garden for 23 years. My husband runs strings up and down from either the end of the garage or over one of the sun porch windows. Gordon Lightfoot has a lovely song where he sings “What’s the story Morning Glory, what’s the news today, I’ve been all the way to Biscayne Bay, and all the way back again, all the way back again,” and I once did a small quilted wall hanging with Morning Glories and the first line of this song embroidered on it for my husband.

They are one of my favourite flowers particularly in mixed varieties of blue, pink, and white. We bought a new packet this year in our seed order, so I’m looking forward to seeing them again, fresh and lovely trumpeting in the morning.

Another good draw with happy connotations and the anticipation of the new growing season.


A Whisper of Wisteria

Daily Draw January 29th, 2009

I’m going to be using botanical decks leading up to Spring, and today I am using the Botanical Symbols in Chinese Art Knowledge Cards. I have several decks of Knowledge Cards in my collection, and they are packed with information and beautiful photographs.

Wisteria sinensis

Wisteria sinensis (sometimes called chinensis) is Chinese Wisteria. It is a climbing vine and can be trained as a tree or grown over supporting trees or pergolas. I saw one example espaliered against a brick wall. It is actually a member of the pea family and the seedpods are legumes, although poisonous.

This bowl belongs to a set of dishes commissioned by the Empress dowager Cixi during the Qing dynasty (1875-1908). She loved wisteria, it’s a favourite plant in Chinese gardens and a common motif in Chinese painting, ceramics and decorative arts. The gnarled and twisted branches are reminiscent of dragons and it takes some skill to paint the twining branches realistically. This is part of the collection in the Asian Art Museum of San Francisco.


I tried to grow wisteria in my garden but it wasn’t hardy in my zone. I was so disappointed because it is one of the most fabulous plants and the clusters of flowers look beautiful hanging down. They are used for miniature trees, and the gnarled branches look wonderful in Japanese bonsai. I have attached an image of a Chinese wisteria bonsai of a white variety called Alba.


For today then, a dream of espaliered wisteria, heavy with clusters of flowers and a whisper of enchanted gardens. Precise work and training, so today would be a good day for my own work and my sewing commission.