by Carol Thompson
Editor’s note: This is part 4 of an ongoing, 5 part blog chronicling the author’s journey with TLA.
My family of origin was a quiet one. An average dinner meal looked like this: My father sat at one end of the table with my mother at the other end. My sister, Susan (one year older than me) and I sat on one side and brother Jon (5 years younger) was across from us. The meal was usually tasteless and dull, meatloaf, instant white rice and mushy vegetables from a can (remember the mix of lima beans, corn, green beans and little pieces of red pimento that nobody ever ate?). There was no lively chatter, no “how was your day?” recap, and if anyone did speak during the meal (…finish your milk, stop kicking your sister, what’s for dessert?…), my father would get mad (blow up) and some sort of chaos ensued.
It took many years of investigating the lives of my family, my parents and my grandparents before I became fully aware of why silence was preferable to bringing up any subject that could even be remotely construed as painful. Between some of the most horrific events that could befall a human being (the death of my father’s mother in childbirth, a suicide, the family secret of incest, untreated PTSD from fighting the Japs in the South Pacific, mental illness treated with electro-shock therapy, Parkinson’s Disease and kidney failure, it seemed like there just wasn’t any uplifting conversation that could bring joy to the dinner table. So, we just ate, drank and politely asked whether we could be excused.
I eventually learned to talk on my own and through the aid of teachers, friends, associates at work and an occasional therapist. I was an avid reader and writer of journals. By the time I was “grown up”, I found education held the key to finding out about words and how best to use them. One of the most valuable lessons that I learned from my parents was “how not to be”. Thankfully, I was blessed with a great sense of humor, a limitless imagination and the courage to try just about anything.
During the summer of 2016, I was living in California, part way through my Transformative Language Arts certificate program. In order to complete my studies, I needed to attend one conference and saw that the yearly Power of Words event was being held at Ferry Beach Park in Saco, Maine. My parents lived in Saco for 20 years (moving there after I left home in 1969), and they were both buried in the big cemetery at the center of town. I hadn’t visited their graves in a long time, so this seemed to be one good incentive to make a cross-country trip and attend the conference!
By this time I had already become invested in studying runes and was hoping to find a way to transform my “hobby” into a “profession”, so the workshops I attended had a lot to do with paving the driveway toward my future goal of finding “Right Livelihood”. I learned about “Laughter, Breath and Joy: Communal Communication”, “Your Livelihood is a Road Trip, Your Life Is the Terrain”, and, “The Values of the Future Through Storytelling”, facilitated by Doug Lipman. It was during Doug’s workshop that I found a great metaphoric vision for one of the key parts of my runic education – the Rubber Duckie Race – and how it could be used as a tool for storytelling.
The Rubber Duckie Race is used as a fundraising event where people pay money and are given temporary custody of a cute little yellow rubber duck. The race is held in a flowing river where all of the ducks are held captive behind a floating barrier. There are hundreds of identical ducks, with their unique number painted on their bottoms, crowded together, bumping each other gently, some facing forward and some backwards, waiting for the starting gun to fire. The future is filled with dangers: rapids, rocks, shallows, widow-maker tree limbs, sandbars, traffic jams, and swirling eddies, and when the barrier goes up, it’s the luck of the draw and the survival of the fastest as a stampede of floating little yellow bodies surges forward from the starting gate.
The spectators on the shoreline can participate in the race in several ways: they can hoot and holler, they can jump in the water and create waves to help break up a log-jam, and they can even blow on a duck in the hope of changing its speed or direction. But, and the rules are firm on this matter, they can never pick up or ever touch a duck.
And it was those rules that helped me with looking at my Rune Mastery in a different way. Doug said that physically touching, or externally directing someone’s values (their space) was against the rules. I was glad to see a definitive rule, and saw how I needed to avoid a direct, hands-on approach. I could see how making waves could eventually influence one’s direction, perhaps imperceptibly at first. By simply being a participant, by listening to someone else’s story, I am “blowing on” their values and experiences, subtly reinforcing certain values and increasing the likelihood that those values will move in a particular direction. Over time I could change the course of a whole fleet of ducks.
After the conference was over and my mind had absorbed a richness of knowledge, after I stopped by and paid a visit to my parents, and once I had a chance to pull together all of the new information that would carry me on to my next incarnation, I was glad that the runes had chosen me, and felt my calling stronger than ever.
Carol Thompson moved from the Mad River Valley in Vermont to Benicia, California on Christmas Day, 2014, in order to be close to the marina where her first grandchild and his family live on a 41′ sailboat. A life-long learner, Carol has a BS in General Studies and holds certificates in Counseling & Human Relations, Non-Profit Management and will soon be certified in Introductory Transformative Language Arts. Two of her main interests are the study of Runes and the creation of beautiful miniature succulent gardens. She has taught Introduction to Runes classes in Vermont, California and New Zealand. A DNA test confirmed her Scandinavian ancestry.