Friday, December 21, 2012

Yule Blog Hop: The Presents of "Presence" and Other Little Gifts

Blessings of the season to all of you! Hopefully you are coming to visit me from Arwen’s blog.

At this time of year, presents are on the mind. You agonize over what to get every person on your list, and you wait with anticipation to see their smile as they open your gift. You wonder what you might receive from others, and look forward to ripping open those packages. Well…at least I do.

But what I want to focus on today are the intangible presents, the “gifts” that we receive each and every day from people that are not of the physical or mundane realm.

A lot of people who know about the tarot will tell you that Pentacles is a suit about money and work, and I have no argument with that. What many of us forget, however, is that it’s also our “resource “ suit. Money is a very tangible resource, but our time is less so, and many may not even consider that a resource, although in many ways for me it may be the most precious.

Think about it; how many times have you walked out of a movie thinking, “That’s two hours of my life I’ll never get back!”? Or when you come home drained from work or an event?

You remember that time you were really upset and your friend took more than an hour of their time to talk you down and let you vent? They listened. They consoled. They tried to cheer you up. They didn’t have to do it; they chose to help. They gave their time and energy for you. To me, that’s a fantastic gift right there.

How many times has your significant other done things for you? Sure, you think, s/he does things for me all the time. But those are gifts, too. You’re settled into your comfy chair and some ice cream appears next to you, complete with a spoon and napkin. You might not feel like climbing the stairs that one more time, and s/he offers to run upstairs and grab what you need.

Just the very presence of that special someone is a gift. I had a lesson in that a few weeks ago. I went to Europe for the first time in many years—11 to be exact—and at the encouraging of my beloved bride, I went by myself. She knew she’d be taking on all the extra stuff I do at home while I was gone, like the trash, and was willing to give me up for a week as I had an adventure on my own.

I was excited for the trip, and had a great time. The day before I returned home, I went to Disneyland Paris, and as I entered the park and looked around, I realized that I’d never been to a theme park ALONE. My beloved wasn’t there to enjoy it with me. She doesn’t ride many rides, but she wasn’t there waiting for me when I came out, asking me how it went. She wasn’t looking for that perfect souvenir in a shop. The lack of her presence cut me to the core, and I was glad that I would be seeing her the next day.

[Before I forget, I want to give a shout out to all my non-American colleagues—I was truly impressed that people from every nation imaginable came out to Paris Disneyland in the nearly freezing weather, complete with drizzle, to enjoy the park. I’m not sure how many Americans would have braved it in conditions like that, except perhaps for this crazy Yankee. But I digress.]

My point is that it doesn’t have to be tangible to be a gift. We receive so much from our families and friends each day that we sometimes miss. Because while I’ll be the first to admit that presents don’t suck at all, my life would suck a whole lot more if not for the little gifts I receive every day from those in my life.

This holiday season, take time to give thanks for the little gifts that come our way as well as for presents. Blessings of the season to all of you!

Now it’s time to head on to Stella's blog!

PS: You can find the master list of all blogs here! A special thanks to Alison for wrangling us this go-round! :)

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

In Search of Lost Time: Leaping Back into the Bathtub

So I promised you some blogs about my visit to Nantes. Well…it’s been a crazy time since I’ve been back. Imagine that, with the holidaze and all.

On Monday the 3rd, I’m sitting at Dulles waiting for my flight to be called, and I am SO EXCITED. But I’ve been up since 1:50am so I’m thinking sleep on the plane won’t be a problem. United Airlines gave me a great seat with two open seats next to me, and as the dinner service on the flight ends, I figure I’m about ready to settle in for some rest. I’ve been prepping by getting up early for an entire week, and I’m certainly tired. But sleep never came.

I shouldn’t say NEVER. I got maybe 15 minutes of sleep. I had open seats next to me and I was comfortable, but I was WAY TOO EXCITED. The flight over there is like 7.5 hours, and the whole way there was turbulence once every 30 minutes. Add that to people hitting my elbow as they walked up the aisle, and before I knew it they were handing us breakfast. I knew at that point sleep was out of the question.

We arrive in Paris and it’s rainy, cold, and still dark at 7:00am. My bag finally comes out and French customs also seems more lax than before. Five French police officers are just standing around the exit into the airport and no one seemed to be paying any attention.

I’m planning to grab a train at 9:47am to Nantes, and this time it will be a lot easier than in the past: Since I left, the airport has a TGV station so I don’t need to spend $80 on a cab going into Paris or hop on the commuter rail or bus with my luggage. Those times can stay lost, as far as I’m concerned; Paris cabs, like cabs in New York, are an adventure that no one needs to have.

And that’s when I get my first shock: Everything in the airport and the train station is now in ENGLISH as well as French. This is a trend that I see over and over again during my trip, both in Roissy at the airport, in Paris, and even in Nantes. Lots and lots of English everywhere. I’ll talk more about that in later posts but keep that in mind moving forward.

But another hurdle stands in my way, and this time, technology is not in my favor.  I take the CDGVAL tram over to the train terminal and go to buy my ticket. They’ve got TONS of machines available so I don’t even need to talk to a person. I put in my itinerary—I did NOT press the British flag button, if you’re asking…if I can’t buy a train ticket after as much French as I have had I’d better pack it in!—and dip my credit card. “Card not read”.

I try this three times before I realize what is happening: French cards have a gold “coin” or “une puce” as the French would say for additional security. If you don’t have this type of card, you can’t use the machines and have to go inside to the customer service representative to buy your ticket. So I’m thinking…”I’ve got about 90 minutes before this train leaves, so no worries.”

I walk into the office, ready to have my first interaction with a real-live French speaker in some time. But instead of entering the bathtub slowly I was shoved in headfirst. Blocking the line in front of me is a man yelling at the lady in front of him in line in very intense French: “When we open up your bag and we find my shit in it, I will put a bullet in your head!”

I carefully make my way around the man, who continues his rant. Apparently, the lady in front of him has stolen stuff from him—she’s carrying his yellow plastic bag, supposedly—and he wants it back. A burly security guard comes out to the unhinged man to make sure he doesn’t do anything physical. The woman, for her part, tells the security guard that she will happily allow him to look in the bag to make sure none of the man’s things are in it. She’s rather calm, but she keeps pushing forward in line.

As the line moves forward, the man just keeps yelling. A train company employee comes out to try to calm him down but his rant continues. He calls her a thief and a liar and insists that the police come down to investigate his claims. As he is doing so I’m focused on the customer service representatives and the electronic boards over their heads. I notice one of them changes to “I speak English”, and again I am struck by the change. Do French people actually WANT to make Anglophones comfortable?

I finally get my ticket and confirm my suspicions about the card. I make a mental note to allow more time to buy a ticket for the ride home, since the machines are right out. I leave the folks to their dispute and head outside to sit. I’m trying not to be tired but it’s catching up with me a little, and I know that if I give in it will seriously screw me up.

Nearly four hours later, I get off the train at the same place where I disembarked 21 years prior—Nantes. I was absolutely thrilled and totally nostalgic. I walked slowly through the train station, trying to give my brain time to assimilate what had changed, which was a lot.

And that was when I started finding lost time. I remember waiting for people to arrive in the old waiting room, the old train information panels that changed with a whick-whick-whick as they rotated—they are now digital, of course, but some of the old ones are still there—and the corridor connecting both sides of the train tracks where you go to get on your train. It was crowded at this time of day, which surprised me since it was only 1:00pm.

I headed to my hotel, a short walk from the train station, and unpacked and showered. I needed to wash the “road” off of me. Then I went out and got on the tram to pick up my old bus route. The #51 is still going to my old house, so I grabbed it and while its route changed a little at the beginning, I started seeing familiar sights. Then I came into my old neighborhood, and more lost time was sitting right there. Small little bursts of familiarity started to come back to me: The side door of my French family’s home, the old supermarket near my place, the traffic noise. I’m thrilled to be there, elated to know that the year I spent there wasn’t lost after all, that it wasn’t just a vivid dream that I concocted.

I walked along past their house to the Erdre, one of the tributaries of the Loire, where I used to go every once in a while. The view has changed a little but not that much. I remembered the many times I crossed the bridge walking friends home at night, and I took deep breaths of the Nantes air and loved every second of it.

I hit a local grocery store with the original name of “SHOPI” and sat on a bench and had a snack. The fact that I hadn’t eaten lunch—or whatever the fuck you wanted to call it at that point since my body was stuck somewhere between EST and French time—finally overtook me. 

I headed back for the city center but this time I used a tramway line that didn’t even exist when I lived here before. They’ve made some amazing improvements to the TAN network and I couldn’t wait to try them out. I was impressed; they are quiet, fast, clean and cheap. You can’t ask for more than that in public transit.
I headed back to the hotel and checked out the area. I found my local grocery store and took a quick look around. Then I headed back to my hotel and realized that I wasn’t going to be awake for much longer. So I snacked a little more and soon thereafter crashed on my bed.  I had been awake for the vast majority of the last nearly 48 hours, and my body decided that enough was enough. I didn’t wake up once in the next 13 hours.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

In Search of Lost Time: A Tarot Reading for Nantes

I went to the DC Tarot Society meeting yesterday afternoon, and as usual I had a great time talking to tons of people about a number of subjects near and dear to my heart. I also met Mary Phelan, tarotist and artist, who has published three decks of her own and has been writing and reading about tarot for many years.

Anyway, I love reading for others, but I don’t like to have readings very often. Usually it has to be a specific need on my part, and because I also read for myself, occasions where I would have a reading become more rare. Mary was nice enough to offer to read me yesterday, and I took her up on it. Sometimes the right opportunity just presents itself.

What I asked was pretty simple. Going to Nantes is an amazing opportunity for me, so what I asked was, “What do I need to know about this trip?” Mary did a four-card spread for me, and while I usually don’t share my readings—they are very private and no one should ever be asked to divulge one, in my humble opinion—I am happy to share this one with you.

I liked the spread she used, too: Clean, simple, quick, and elemental. It was a four-card layout in a line, read left to right.

Physical: The Nine of Cups. Mary said I would have a fantastic time, eat and drink well on this trip, and just generally enjoy the hell out of it. YAAAY ME!

Mental: Queen of Wands. I’m going to meet a woman on this trip who might give me an opportunity to share my gifts with others.

Emotional: Five of Pentacles.

Disclaimer: Before I begin this piece, let me tell you that I am just like everyone else when I am the client. When I see a card like the Five of Pentacles, my stomach falls just a little and I kind of swallow and go OH HOLY FUCKBALLS! in my mind. So please do not think that because I read professionally I can see a card like that and just go “Whatever”. Just sayin’. I’m smart enough to shut up and let someone else do the interpreting, and since this is a snapshot in time, etc., etc. At this point in my head the peasants from Monty Python and the Holy Grail were shouting GET ON WITH IT!! just like before Scene 24 in the movie.

And yes, Samantha, I can see you laughing at me now saying, “Look who’s in the hot seat!” But I digress, as usual.

Mary just said, “Are you going to miss your wife a lot?” Ummm, America fuck yeah! In her defense, Mary had just met me. But I had been doing a lot of thinking about Jen and how I would feel about a) taking a vacation by myself for the first time in my marriage, and b) how I would feel being separated from her for a whole week because it doesn’t happen very often.

Anyway, Mary asked me not to focus on missing her so much. She assured me that I would have a fantastic time despite our separation. I told her that I would do my best; I am going to miss the hell out of Jen, but I will do my best to put it aside and enjoy France.

Mary also mentioned that in a past life, she got the sense that I was a high priest in Europe who was helping an oppressed religious minority. In Nantes, she said, I might be able to understand more of it, and told me to ask to dream about it for additional information.

Spiritual: Ace of Swords.

I knew what Mary was going to say before she opened her mouth on this one: “Write! Write! Write!” She said that my writing will become very important in the next ten years, and that I might find an amazing setting in Nantes to use in my tarot fiction book.

So it sounds like it’s going to be a phenomenal adventure/journey! I am looking forward to it even more now.

I’ll leave you with that. Tomorrow I will be too busy to blog, but I may get one or two in while I’m abroad. We’ll see…I may be way too busy having a good time.

Catch you on the flip side! Au revoir!

Saturday, December 1, 2012

In Search of Lost Time: My First Astrological Profile, Part Deux

So profiling the men was a little more challenging. Whenever you do a study, you like to have a decent-sized population to work with. In this case, I didn’t have many at all; that fall there were 8 or 9 men, and only three of us stayed the whole year.

With that said, the results were overwhelmingly clear: Fire sign men dominated this class, and while I can’t remember the exact amount over 50% of the males at the Institute that fall were either Aries, Leo, or Sagittarius.

This makes sense; fire signs do tend to be more adventurous, and so more of them would have been likely to choose to study abroad. I actually have a picture of me surrounded by three of my male classmates, one of each of the fire signs. It’s in my FB album for Nantes if you want to check it out.

I was the only water sign male in that class, and I don’t recall any others in the spring class, so I think I was the lone one for the year. I acted like a typical Scorp over there, wanting to be with people but enjoying my time alone. I had a few meltdowns myself, but I didn’t let anyone see them; my journal is my only witness, and it’s not talking. But it was definitely good to see my growth over the course of the year.

Being the only water sign guy there was a pretty awesome thing for me, astrologically speaking. I tried to help anyone who asked, and just generally be a good listener, which had its advantages. It made getting to know people a lot easier.

I was surprised that there wasn’t more romance between students over there. I wasn’t deliberately trying to pry into other people’s business but my ears were always open and I didn’t miss much. With all of these fire sign guys you would have thought they would have been making the rounds.

One of my close female friends from Nantes, a Taurus, dated one of the Sag men in our class. I had an intuitive feeling it wasn’t going to end well. Now granted…that was likely more intuitive than astrological; I didn’t have either of their charts and wasn’t capable of interpreting one at that time anyway. But I felt like it was a recipe for disaster. He did the typical Sag thing—his interest waned and he rode off into the sunset after some other girl. He didn’t mean it maliciously, I’m sure, but my friend was pretty upset about it.

Second semester, my Sag friend Siskel showed up, and the two of us were practically inseparable. We had some fantastic times together. There are very few people who are better on trips than Sag; they love an adventure. I wish I had been able to travel around Europe with him. What’s really bizarre is that I haven’t seen him in 21 years, either, and I’m going to Nantes before I’m going to visit him in Oregon. That’s sad. But I will definitely keep him in mind during this trip.

So there you have it. There was an astrology store less than a block from the Institute when I left, and it’s still there, although it has changed buildings. I plan to grab some French books on astrology so I can converse about it more comfortably.

Tune in tomorrow for my final pre-France entry! A très bientôt!