For a couple of months now I’ve noticed this same card popping up over and over in my tarot readings. It’s not a bad way to begin a new year: a youngling leaving the nest, setting out on a journey into the unknown, trusting to luck. But the Fool can be unsettling card, too. I mean, just look at that cliff.


I looked up the Fool in Sallie Nichols’ book Jung and the Tarot and really liked what I found.

The Fool, archetypally speaking, is something of a shit disturber. He’s a truth-teller, but he doesn’t usually make much rational sense. In fact, disrupting reason is one of his primary functions in literature, especially where reason is being abused by those who seek power (e.g., in King Lear). Nichols points to the flower children of the 60s and the deadheads of the 70s as exemplars of the Fool’s playful-yet-serious anti-establishment impulse.

According to Nichols, literary tradition teaches us three ways to deal properly with the Fool: 1. Admit him at court and seat him at the royal table. In other words, be tolerant but keep a close eye on him. 2. Set aside periods of universal permissiveness and revelry: Saturnalia, Fastnacht, Mardi Gras, Feast of Fools. 3. Freely admit to and laugh at our own foolishness whenever it’s pointed out to us.

What am I supposed to do with this trickster? How do I embrace his playful, deregulating force for myself without letting it devolve me into shambles? Well, music seems to have something to do with it. Dancing, maybe. Certainly laughter.

My friend Rahul informs me that in the Baghavad Gita, Krishna (God) is a player, in several senses of the word. He fools around, he flirts, he flouts conventional morality. He knows that life is ‘leela’ (a play), and we mustn’t become too attached to our roles. It’s all fun and games. This is why Krishna plays the flute.

Hey, I thought, reflecting on all this, it might be fun to make a Fool puppet sometime. Then I remembered that I’d already done that 20 years ago. I dug him out of his box:


poppies, posies, favors!

PoesiesUpon completing my substantive edits for Mad Miss Mimic I was overcome by a fit of exuberant craftiness. I bought a digital download of vintage opium-poppy illustrations on Etsy, printed the images on card stock, and tied them with ribbons to specialty single-serve teas.

Both opium and tea get fairly heavy play in my story, which takes place in 1870s London. And the Victorians were big on sending posies and favors of all kinds. So I am packaging up these little pretties and sending them as thank-yous to those who’ve helped whip the manuscript into shape.

fun with archetypes: The Tower Princess

She doesn’t get out much, the Tower Princess.  Could be she has three wee bairns, all nursing at once.  Or it’s a lack of funds holding her back–her husband is an experimental jeweler, or maybe an organ tuner.  There’s a past she’s turned her back on, a history of addiction, breakdown or loss.  There might also be a touch of agoraphobia.  Certainly, she’s quiet at a party, finds nothing to say to those with degrees, careers, therapists, Caribbean vacations, hot yoga classes.

But just get her alone.  Better yet: visit her at home.  There will be muesli with warm almond-milk for breakfast, organic leek-and-asparagus quiche for lunch.  Dinner is Marrakesh chick peas with stone slab-baked bread.  Her house is small but impeccably clean.  A closer inspection of the chic, cubist fibre-art wall hanging in the dining room reveals wedding lace and motorcycle chaps: the piece turns out to be quilted together from her family’s milestone clothing and memorabilia.  Her children’s art is framed with hewn bark, twisted willow twigs from the park.  All the furniture is 70s vintage, all the dishes mismatched floral china.

Do you like the Tower Princess?  You love her.  She’s witty and generous and so stylish that her DIY boy-haircut, felted sweater and rubber boots make you feel simultaneously frumpy and overdressed.  There’s a romance to the curated warmth of her space, an allure to her fragility and resoluteness.

What you want most is to be like her, but without her limitations.  Tomorrow, of course, you’ll dump the kids at daycare and breathe a sigh of relief over your latte.  But today, after your visit to the Princess, you might come home and hang ribbons from your son’s window-frame, or bake a carrot cake.  Maybe, thanks to her influence, you’ll even be inspired to get out the bread machine.


My mom was a Kindergarten teacher, so at least I come by it honestly.  There’s nothing I like better on a drizzly Saturday afternoon than taking out the yarn box (yes I have a yarn box!) and engaging in some instant creative gratification.

Fun fact: did you know that “pom-pom” is a powerfully taboo word in certain after-school programs?  As I understand it, every time someone says the p-word, an innocent fuzzy dies a horrible death.  After thirty minutes of giving accidental but near-continuous offense, I tied my purple specimen (above, far right) to the chandelier and retired.

But by then the pleasures of the pom-pom (if not of its name) had rubbed off on both kids: repetition (wrapping the frame) + violence (cutting the threads) + surprise (pulling off the frame) = new toy!






As chandelier ornaments they were a bit of a bust.  Try getting a 7 yr old to eat his spaghetti when there’s a ball on a string dangling within easy batting reach.

piecing it together

Anybody remember paper toile? Corking?  Soap carving? Well, I do–my childhood was enriched by a number of these bizarre late-seventies crafts.  In fact, I won a blue ribbon for my soap-carved eagle in Grade 5 (how I wish I had a picture!).

One of my favorites of these crafty pastimes was decoupage.  I loved painting the surface of an ordinary object with watery glue and arranging my favorite magazine clippings or greeting-card cutouts all over it.  The final layer of glue would go on milky and unappealing, but the whole thing would dry to a satisfying vinyl-like finish.  Once I covered my suitcase with pictures of Prince (how I wish I had a picture!).

The decoupage metaphor as applied to writing is nothing new.  Postmodern literature, in particular, is celebrated for its use of bricolage and pastiche as techniques for citing, juxtaposing, and commenting on ideas and tropes from the past.  Irony, of course, plays a much bigger role in postmodern decoupage than in the glue-and-paper kind.

But I think decoupage is actually a basic activity of all creative writing.  You select bits of real-life and imaginative stuff that have caught your fancy: a compelling character trait, a resonant phrase, a standout landscape.  You arrange them in ways that look good to you.  You fix them to the page with word-glue.  You add more bits to fill gaps, peel off what doesn’t fit.  Then you layer more word-glue overtop.  Often when you’re done, the whole thing appears gooey and opaque to your eyes.  But come back later–after you’ve opened a window, taken a walk, cleared your head of the fumes–you realize what a shiny and gorgeous thing you’ve really made.

Okay, so I still indulge every now and then. Recently I snipped images from Art News magazine to cover my daybook.  Can’t do this with a Blackberry, canya?