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Saturday, 13 June 2015

Music and voice

Today I'm going to venture into the dreaded spare room and do some tidying. Not chucking -- just tidying. I will organise items, like with like. I will create piles that are not in danger of toppling onto anyone's head. I will leave a place to stand and walk. Those are my only goals. It's up to another person in the household to determine what will be chucked out, because most of the stuff belongs to the other person. This is a delicate undertaking. (This person knows I'm doing this today, of course, and has agreed to it.)

I'm using one of my new decks, a recent acquisition, Soul Cards I by Deborah Koff-Chapin (1995). The cards have no system whatsoever - no names, no numbering, and no guidebook. They are just paintings. It is entirely up to the observer to find meaning. I am drawing two cards about today's issue: challenge and gift. 

The LWB that comes with the deck offers tips on using the cards:  'Describe what you perceive in the image without necessarily having to interpret (although interpretation happens naturally much of the time). The relationship between your perception of the image and your situation generally presents itself fairly easily. If it doesn't - and even if it does - allow the image to settle in your psyche over time.' 

I notice first the mandola, and how the neck of it spirals up like a nautilus shell, arching over the player and terminating as the head and face of a winged creature who hovers near the player and extends a palms-up gesture toward him (or her). The patterns around the player's head  are halo-,  shell-, and serpent-like, all at the same time. The winged figure curves around the kneeling player. The blue smears move like light. The yellowy-orange bits play like flame. The face of the winged creature is benevolent, the player placid.

The challenge of this issue is to achieve harmony. The patterns around the player's head take on the meaning of sound waves. The sound waves become the angelic being. What am I sending out? Am I sending out messages of love and harmony, or discord and conflict? The challenge is to send out messages of love and harmony. The challenge is to create waves of acceptance, peace, and accord. This is a cycle -- just as the image shows energy emerging from the neck of the instrument which becomes the angel, who in turn goes back into the instrument, in a cycle. It is both creation of sound and listening to sound. So it is give and take. In fact, the player seems to be listening more than producing. Maybe he has plucked only one or two strings and is now listening to the reverberations. And this could be a message to me to do less than I might feel inclined, and wait carefully for the full effect.

The challenge is also to remember the principle of separateness. I am not my partner and he is not me. The instrument reminds me of 'The Prophet' by Kahlil Gibran: 'Sing and dance together and be joyous, but let each one of you be alone, even as the strings of a lute are alone, though they quiver with the same music.' The challenge is to allow my note and his note to be different. The challenge is to play in harmony rather than dissonance, and to always remember -- my note is never going to be the same as his note, no matter how loudly we play them. Smashing the mandola against a wall will never change that.

The first things I notice in this card are the faces. They are distressed. They are howling. Their necks writhe toward the same point. Patterns emerge from the sides of their heads, fluttering like dead leaves or wings. The faces use them to call extra attention to themselves. They want to be frightening. They want to be heard.

The figure out of whose head these apparitions emerge stands shirtless, eyes closed, with a small smile on his (or her) face. The voices shout. They howl. The figure smiles. One of the faces curls around the figure's head and howls into his ear. The figure smiles. He is unperturbed. There is dark and light. In truth, a couple of the faces seem to be howling out of duty or habit. Still loud, though. They have a job to do. The figure smiles on.

The gift of this situation is to move placidly amidst the noise of my own yammering internal voices. There will be voices in my head telling me things. I will be told all sorts of things about myself, about my partner. There will be voices telling me stories about what will happen in the future, what I should have done before this, what I should do next. They will tell me stories about how this other person thinks, how he feels, how he will react, and they will tell me how wrong he is, how right I am, what I should think and feel and how I should react. I will hear elaborate and wrenching tales of woe and oppression and resentment, reasons why I should feel angry, hurt, unvalued, annoyed, reasons why I should feel righteous, virtuous, and correct. So many stories, all a fiction. All a version of truth, but not the truth. The gift of the situation is to move through them and dismiss them, like the figure in the card.

It is a daunting Challenge and a formidable Gift.

Time to get started.


  1. Wow, I've heard a lot about these cards but never have I read or heard somebody "reading" them. You do this beautifully and so in depth.
    Good luck with the room and being you!

    1. I'm not sure how they'd work for clients, unless you got them to talk you through what they say and then help them interpret what they say...

    2. Talk you through what they 'see', that should read.

  2. "Yeesh, kinda scary card" was my first thought with that "Gift". Still, as ever, when you spend time looking into it, something wonderful comes out :D Good luck with not just the clearing out, but creating harmony inside and out while you do so!

    1. I bought these decks specifically for shadow work, so...maybe it's working. :)

  3. Beautifully interpreted. Did you notice the fetus in the mandola?