Rituals of Release

Rituals of Release

So I pulled a Tarot card today.  This one, for us, in preparation for our virtual convening, The Grove.  Honestly, I was hoping for something inspirational, something like The Star to indicate rebirth and a new beginning.  I know – and I say it all the time – that there are no “good” cards, or “bad” cards, especially in the Shining Tribedeck, but in times like these, times when I feel like I am long past being able to process or accept one more curve ball from the news or my community, I will forgive myself for wanting a little bit of reprieve.

But the Tarot knows what it needs to say.  Today’s card is the Nine of Birds.

Like the Star, this figure emerges from the realm of the dead – in this case, a burial mound.  She stands at the entrance, accompanied by the wisdom of the owl, and equipped with a weapon which both and urn and a scythe.  It’s a barren image, of grief and death and sorrow. 

BUT.  Isn’t that where we are now?  Haven’t we been literally been surrounded by it for longer than we can fathom? One of the key messages of this card is that we are in the doorway, and we have our protections and defenses.  But to move forward we have to process and acknowledge all our feelings.  We have to accept our losses, and empathize with others’ suffering.  

This is a card that calls for rituals of mourning and release.

I don’t know about you, but I am tired of shouldering all the burdens, fighting all the battles, and feeling so stuck in the process.  

So the Nine of Birds, of course, is the Star’s shadow self, and a great plug for our intensive, creative, restorative gathering coming up on October 24-25thThe Grove.  Four teachers and ten hours of rituals and techniques to clear away, reach for, and gather what you need.

And for those who aren’t coming, I encourage you to find a ritual for release.  Clear a space where you can feel safe and let out something you have been holding.  For me, these feelings immediately start my creativity swirling.  If you need a more specific exercise for your creative project, imagine (possibly for your character if you have one, and if not, just embody a watcher/voice) the moment when “you” have risen out of the land of the dead, when the effort has been expended and all the emotions have surfaced – the moment that is too full to hold back anymore.  Don’t forget, if you are writing a story, that quite often our characters don’t actually know what they want – they often fight against what they need only to arrive at the place they thought they didn’t want to be in.  So this is a great moment for a narrative.  It’s unstable; it needs to be embraced or emptied or it needs to explode. This might be the emotion right before or right after a major climax.  On the other side is the new world, a new epiphany, a new possibility.  We can’t see it yet, but it’s coming.

Come to The Grove if you can. Sign up for updates from the Two Trees Writers Collaborative if you want to hear more about our upcoming offerings.  Stay safe and happy writing.

Dear Writers

Dear Writers

Dear Writers,

I have been thinking a lot about community lately: what it means to be a community of writers. To hear each other, to hold each other up, to stand in each others’ darkness unafraid, to turn up the volume on each other’s voices.  This year, perhaps because I lost my father this summer, and I am breaking my ties to my childhood and my first home, I am thinking about the families we choose. The ones we create.

And I am grateful.  For my families – all of them. And my writer friends, who never cease to amaze me with their fresh perspectives, their soaring optimism; who remind me that what I have always thought was axiomatic is actually just someone else’s opinion.  In these dark times – when so much of that darkness has fallen on us personally, not just as a society, and as a nation struggling to be – I am still grateful.  And I am optimistic because of you.  Because of all the glorious love and courage you scream out, dance out, whisper into the blue skies of the Big Island when we are together.  And in dog-walking Brooklyn.  And beneath the icicles of Vermont, and on the shores of Port Townsend, or Useless Bay on Whidbey island,  or wherever I have encountered you.

You writers.

And so, today – Giving Tuesday – for one day only, I am giving back.  Doing my part to facilitate a community of writers on the island that is my childhood home.  Elena and I are giving a $200 discount to any writer who applies to join the 2018 retreat on Tuesday. So if you want to join us for our third year, NOW is the best time.

Looking forward to hearing from you.

Love,

Reiko

Join us in 2018

Join us in 2018

Enjoy this video of our 2017 memories and imagine yourself escaping to Hawaii in the cold!  2018 dates are February 28-March 6th.  Flights are discounted for the offseason, so the time to act is now!  We invite you to poke around on the website and apply.

Deadline December 4, 2017.

(With thanks to our photographer extraordinaire, Micael Storm Blue)

Awakening! Tarot for Writers

Awakening! Tarot for Writers

If you are interested in using the Tarot to communicate with your muse, here is an example of how you can use it to offer a message for your writing life, process, and work.

This post comes from a limited-series Tarot feature I published on She Writes a while ago.  Here, I’m working with the Shining Tribe deck, created by renowned Tarot scholar Rachel Pollack* who taught me that the Tarot “is a vehicle to remind yourself of what you already know.” It’s perfect for writers, and it’s the deck I use for the Tarot for Writers readings I offer with Two Trees.

One of the simplest ways to work with the Tarot is to pull a single card, which answers some version of the question: What do I need to know right now? Today, my version of this question was:

What do we need to remember?

The answer was the card Awakening.

The Card: Awakening is the 20th card in the major arcana: the card of transformation, of realization, and a shift in perception. This “awakening” is to the true self, without doubt. It suggests a joining with others, and responsibility. Unlike the Judgement card in the traditional Rider-Waite Tarot deck, this spirit has come for everyone. All rise!

So what does this card mean for you, as the writer?

Remember that the role of the artist is to shine the light.

What do you see when you look around you? What needs to be addressed, revealed, celebrated or transformed? Where do you see a different, or unspoken, truth? In other words, what do you need to say?

Every person has their own unique perspective, and your writing is rooted in how you experience our shared world. Remember that the role of the artist in any society is to offer that different view, to encourage us to reconsider our commonly-held beliefs so we can grow and change together. Sometimes, our art is a direct challenge; other times, an exploration, a celebration, or a dissection. Your story may be dark or painful, it may seem apolitical and personal, but as long as it is your truth, it matters.  Sharing your artistic vision can literally shift the way the rest of us see.

It can also bring us together. All rise, remember? When readers encounter feelings and experiences they share in someone else’s stories, those strangers are no longer so strange. The more stories, the more truths, the more chance that they will find validation in your experiences or your imagination. So, whether you are still dreaming, or writing, or in your final edits, take some time to reconnect with what is universal in your story. Don’t forget: the people in Awakening are standing in the same pool of consciousness. Together, they lit the windows in their world.

Remember this: Do not doubt your voice, or the fact that we need it. Trust the light, and embrace your true self.  Only you can tell your story.

How can you apply this card to your work?

Sometimes the cards prompt a new series of questions, or a writing exercise emerges. These may be for your project, your writing life, or something else. I encourage you to find your own connections between the images in the card and what you are working on, and I feel quite comfortable that you will find some!

This time, I want to go back to the card, and answer today’s question very simply:

Remember to transform.

Ask yourself:

Do your characters change over the course of their experiences?

Is everyone safe and the same in the end?

Do you have enough twists in the plot?

Is your reader pretty sure, right from the beginning, that she knows where she is going, and does she get there pretty much exactly as she expects? (If so, you need some surprises!)

Does an image in your poem allow your reader to experience something in a new way?

Does the reader change?  Did you make her laugh, break her heart, teach her how to dress a wound? Will she always think of herself now as your sister?

Keep it dynamic. Keep it unique. Keep it true to your felt experience. Keep it connected to the essence of our shared humanity.  I suspect that you will hear the cards repeat some of these messages in the coming weeks, just when you most need to remind yourself.

Happy writing!

 

*The Shining Tribe Tarot: Awakening the Universal Spirit, created by Rachel Pollack, comes with a detailed book that describes the nuances and the inspiration behind each card. If you want to know more, or have your own Tarot practice, I strongly recommend it.

Art As Activism

Art As Activism

This interview with Reiko was originally published on the Women Authoring Change blog for Hedgebrook, an amazing retreat for women writers. In their own words, “Our mission is to support visionary women writers whose stories shape our culture now and for generations to come. Our core purpose is equality for women’s voices to help achieve a just and peaceful world.”  


Hedgebrook: Tell us about your work as a writer—do you write in multiple genres/forms?

Reiko: Sadly, yes. I’m a self-taught writer, so every time I write a book, I have to teach myself to write all over again, and it’s not a quick process. For my first novel, Why She Left Us, I read like crazy and mapped out the books I liked to figure out what a novel was. I dissected them, teaching myself everything from how to end a chapter to how to format dialogue.

When I started my next book, Hiroshima in the Morning, which was a memoir, I didn’t realize there were new rules, new expectations, until the first draft was done and it was terrible. And then I had to look at the central question of the memoir, the reason why I was telling the story so that I could use it to create the skeleton… I’ve just finished my next novel, and now I am working on my fourth: a fantasy, possibly for young adults, though that’s not even clear. With, you guessed it, yet another set of rules and assumptions that I need to learn, to play with, and possibly to break.

Complaining aside, perhaps it is truer to say that I will always have to teach myself to write this new book that’s in front of me no matter the genre, because this new book has the potential to be anything and how else could I find out what it needs to be? And as hard as it is to keep shifting (and failing, over and over), I also expect I would be bored if I was repeating myself.

 

Hedgebrook: Do you consider yourself an activist?

Reiko: Yes, though it’s taken me a while to realize it. When my memoir was still a manuscript, and Amy Scholder at the Feminist Press asked to see it, I did think to myself, “Why would she want my book? I’m just a mom.” Of course, if you are a woman who believes that fathers can take care of children as well as mothers, that mothers should be allowed to travel for work without being vilified, that you are equal and your voice is important too, then you are a feminist. But at the time, I didn’t consider those views as political statements. They were my experience, my reality. I thought it was just common sense.

 

Hedgebrook: Would you characterize your writing as activist? Why or why not?

Reiko: I think all writing is activist when you speak from your heart and from your truth. When what you have to say is urgent to you, and when your exploration of an idea or a form or a vision is consuming. I write about motherhood, gender roles, racism, discrimination, historical trauma and war. These topics emerge, regardless of what I think I am writing; I don’t plan them, and especially, I don’t start with them. I start with people, relationships, situations, inheritance. I often find myself circling around identity, with my characters trying to figure out who they are, what they want for themselves, what they refuse to be, and how their sense of themselves is different than the stereotypes and misperceptions others hold.

Again and again, in my books, you’ll find women stuck in roles that suffocate them. You’ll find lots of racism, individual and global. The internment of Japanese American citizens by their own country is just one example from my own family’s history, which is still relevant today. More relevant than ever in the aftermath of this presidential election. Our history is full of times when we created the label “other” for people who were not like us. Full of times when we changed laws and twisted all logic and reality in order to enforce that separation and to justify our acts of racism and hatred. We assassinate, enslave, perpetrate genocide, imprison, drop bombs on entire cities. This history infuses my books, but I keep my focus on people, and on the human consequences of hating, judging and limiting each other.

 

Hedgebrook: What impact do you hope your writing will have in the world?

Reiko: I hope my readers will experience a new way of seeing the world. Art should be surprising, challenging, exhilarating, and tenderizing. Of all of these, this last is most important to me. Despite my earlier answers, I’m not trying to hit anyone over the head with my “message.” The point is not that war, racism, oppression and misogyny are bad – we know that. To me, the point of reading is to be able to leave your daily life. The world of the book may be wonderful or ridiculous or terribly sad, but that’s how we practice our empathy and stretch our own boundaries. We need empathy now more than ever. And we get it by immersing ourselves inside the character who is suffering, striving, facing down oppression. The character who is just like us after all.

And in a society without enough empathy, a society of fear and separation like the one we live in now, I want to help to give voice to the stories, experiences and people who are not often heard. As a writer, in my subject matter, but also as a teacher, mentor and activist. This is where it begins. We need to hear ourselves, validate our experiences, find allies and community, claim our space. This is the Hedgebrook mission, of course, and I guess my own point here is that society cannot and will not change until the silence is broken. So that’s my mission: to speak the truth I see and help others speak their own.

 

Hedgebrook: What’s the best feedback you’ve received from a reader/audience member?

Reiko: Some form of, “Thank you for sharing this story that does not get told.” “Thank you for seeing me, and for reflecting my struggles and my experience.” “Thank you for showing me that I too will survive.” I’ve heard from many women struggling to define their own motherhood who were grateful that they were not alone. From children of internees whose parents would not share their own stories. But also from people whose lives are very different from my characters’ on the surface, but who see themselves in a broken family, an adopted child, a family secret. We are, at heart, the same. That connection is everything.