The Star

Our local star rises over City Park in New Orleans, December 3, 2017

I recently read about the 17th card of the Tarot deck, the Star. It’s a pretty hopeful one, coming after the Fool has emerged from his encounters with Death, the Devil, and a creepy Tower with people falling from it. I couldn’t help but draw the comparison between the Star being the 17th card in the Major Arcana, and this being 2017…

The book I was reading was Juliet Sharman-Burke’s The Complete Book of Tarot; I’ve had this book for decades, but have referenced it more and more these past few years as I focus on my writing. Regarding the Star, she writes: “The Star has always been an emblem of hope and promise; a light to steer by.” She goes on to reference the Magi following a star to Bethlehem. It seemed another interesting coincidence that I just happened to read about the Star on the first Sunday of Advent.

And I got to thinking, I realized I am personally feeling more hopeful in December 2017 than I was in December 2016, for several reasons. First, I feel a lot more confident about my fiction writing than I did a year ago. It seems I spent the better part of ’16 consumed with and worried about the publishing part of authorship. Truth be told, it felt like a distraction. I couldn’t see how I could keep all the plates spinning and finish the trilogy I had begun in anything resembling a timely manner.

Fast forward to now: book 2 is written, and I’m in the midst of editing and re-writes. Book 3 is outlined, and I’ve begun writing it. Working with After Glows Publishing has made a world of difference—they’re who I have to thank for the confidence boost.

Next, I start a new job next week as a Technical Writer. It’s with the same company I’ve been working for; but it’s outside of the marketing department. So, no more trade shows for me. Believe me, it’s a welcome change—I’ve been involved with trade shows or “experiential” promotions for roughly twenty years. I’m excited about taking on a new challenge, and having the chance to hone my word skills with a different type of writing.

Finally, I find the #metoo movement really hopeful. I try not to stray too much into political/societal musings in this space. My intent is keep it to things I have some authority over—mainly, my personal experiences and how they relate to my writing. Since I’m a woman who has worked in a corporate/business environment for many years, I definitely have authority over my own experiences in that sphere, and those experiences definitely influence my writing.

And I know this: it takes boatloads of courage to come forward and expose the bad behavior of someone who has power over you and your livelihood. Too often, I’ve seen that courage met with, at best, some temporary disciplinary action; at middling, indifference; and at worst, reprisals against the powerless. The fact that some perpetrators are now losing their jobs—their positions of power—feels like a sea change to me.

A quick aside: I’ve written here before about The Writer’s Almanac. I hear it has been canceled since Garrison Keillor was dismissed from Minnesota Public Radio. While I will miss hearing the content of that syndicated program, I was never particularly attached to Garrison Keillor’s hosting of it. I’m impressed that Minnesota Public Radio didn’t let his “brand name” outweigh the claims that were brought against him.

I’ll conclude with the December quote from my 2017 “First We Dream” calendar. It’s from Louisa May Alcott, and it seems fitting that it involves a star:

Far away there in the sunshine are my highest aspirations. I may not reach them, but I can look up and see their beauty, believe in them, and try to follow where they lead.

The Writer’s Almanac

Be well, do good work, and keep in touch. ®

From Friday’s walk

“Be well, do good work, and keep in touch” is Garrison Keillor’s sign-off for each edition of The Writer’s Almanac. I assume it’s trademarked by either Minnesota Public Radio or American Public Media, who distributes the daily five-minute program.

I know of Garrison Keillor through The Writer’s Almanac. I’ve never listened to A Prairie Home Companion. I’ve never even seen the movie, which is my usual cheat to acquaint myself with things I feel I should know more about.

As it is, The Writer’s Almanac is such a rare treat for me. New Orleans’s public radio station, WWNO, plays it around 9am each morning, right at the end of their broadcast of NPR’s Morning Edition and right before On Point. I’m usually at my job by that time, and I don’t listen to radio (or anything else non-job related, really) when I’m at my desk.

I always get a little charge when I hear the opening piano notes for the program. (Wikipedia tells me it’s a version of a Swedish song, performed by Richard Dworsky). And it was rare indeed that I heard it twice in a week—last Friday and this Monday. I took the day off Friday, and was late into work on Monday because of an eye doctor’s appointment.

My mind always feels a little more expanded when I get to hear The Writer’s Almanac. I hear poems that I’m not likely to encounter anywhere else, and hear of fascinating people who would not otherwise cross my frame of reference. Unless they showed up in a Google Doodle.

One of my favorite poems—John Updike’s “December, Outdoors”—was first introduced to me via the program. And June 30—Friday—was the birthday of poet Czeslaw Milosz, someone I’d never heard of before. He was born in Lithuania in 1911, and raised in Poland. He moved to the United States around 1960, and wrote the following about this country:

“What splendor! What poverty! What humanity! What inhumanity! What mutual good will! What individual isolation! What loyalty to the ideal! What hypocrisy! What a triumph of conscience! What perversity!”

That kind of resonated with me. Especially considering the inhumanity Milosz witnessed in his lifetime.

Anyway, after hearing The Writer’s Almanac on Friday, I was inspired to do something a little off my routine. I went for a walk along the lakefront—that’s how New Orleanians refer to a certain section of Lake Pontchartrain’s shoreline. I could go on about this shallow, brackish, body of water; how it and the Mississippi River define the geography of New Orleans; how it pervaded the dreams of my youth. But maybe that’s a post for another time.

So, I’ll conclude with this: I always consider it a small success when I’m able to “be well, do good work, and keep in touch.” In the past week, I’ve gotten my eyes checked out (they’re healthy), I’ve written about some things I find inspirational, and I’ve posted here. If I can keep myself from worrying about either the magnitude or measurement of these actions, then I will have truly succeeded.

Here are some more pictures from Friday’s walk: