Right Livelihood: In Search of Runes-Part 3

by Carol Thompson

Editor’s note: This is part 3 of an ongoing, 5 part blog chronicling the author’s journey with TLA.

Shall I become a Rune Master?

During the years that included marriage/children/divorce/single parenthood and my first explorations into runes I was content in my log cabin at the foot of the mountain on the far end of a long dirt road. We had limited, dial-up internet at the time, and I was not subscribed to a cable TV network, so most of my worldly news came through the Times-Argus, our local paper. One day I saw an ad for a “Power of Words” conference at Goddard College in Plainfield, Vermont, and since I was only living an hour from the campus, I called a friend who lived near Goddard to see if she had a spare bed for the weekend. When she said “Yes”, I signed up for the three-day event. The first night’s keynote speaker brought me face-to-face with Julia Alvarez, a favorite author of mine. I just did a quick google search of Julia and read through her bio. I was not surprised to see that one of her personal realizations was: “Since ours was an oral culture, stories were not written down. It took coming to this country for reading and writing to become allied in my mind with storytelling.” These words would ring true for me many years later.

In my continuous, frequently frustrating, sometimes delightful search to answer the question of “What do I want to be when I grow up?” I noticed that so many of my interests involved nature. I was a kayaking teacher in the summer, and led snowshoe expeditions at a local ski area in the winter. I volunteered for a program called ELF (Environmental Learning for the Future) at my children’s elementary school. I had been a self-taught animal tracker for years and was an active member of a local organization called “Keeping Track”. The director’s name was Susan Morse, and oddly enough, that was also my sister’s name. Her middle name was Carol, so we bonded and I became one of her most devoted followers.

Under Sue’s tutelage I learned about trees, plants, water sources and wetlands, connectivity of habitat, behavior, seasonal differences, social and privacy needs. Her favorite critter was the bobcat, an elusive, solitary, nocturnal predator who was on the “protected” list. When we were out on a tracking expedition in search of the wily feline, we looked at scat (poop) and could tell what the hungry omnivore had been eating (birds, rodents, deer, berries, eggs). If it was a particularly lean year, domestic cats or small dogs might be on the menu as well. Since my involvement with Keeping Track, I can’t pass by a pile of poop without checking it for content (hair, feathers, bones, berries), and whenever I find some mud and see a clear foot print I check to see if it is cat (one leading toe with no toenail indentations) or dog (4 toenail marks). So, the world of nature has been a familiar one for me and when I first found out about runes, I was able to identify with much of the language that was being used to describe each individual symbol.

Wild animals have many ways of communicating – bears rub up against the rough bark of red pine trees to leave hair behind and dogs and their relatives leave their personal calling-card’s scent of pee just about everywhere. Only humans have developed meaningful symbols to pass on detailed information. Over a thousand years ago, during the time of the Vikings and the meandering Nordic tribes in Scandinavia, the first runic marks were found on sticks, bones and rocks. Because there was no written language at the time, all of the knowledge surrounding the use of runes continued on through word of mouth. Just like the whispering game where people sit in a circle and repeat a phrase received in one ear and passed to the next person, the final combination of words didn’t always end up identical to what was originally spoken. The same was true with runes – the interpretation was not “set in stone”, so to speak. There was fluidity, nuance and similarity, one locale’s version and another’s explanation. But ultimately, the bridge of connecting threads was woven together by the spoken word, the communication and connection with an other, and the personal awareness of relativity to one’s own experience.

Runes were useful tools for initiating dialogue, investigating options, delving into past experiences and narrowing down choices. They were a means, but not an end. Somehow, years ago, the elements came together in my constellation and I felt the calling to runes.

I just had to figure out a way to take my skills and my knowledge and transform them into a profession…

Carol ThompsonCarol 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.

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Right Livelihood – In Search of Runes: Part 2

by Carol Thompson

Editor’s note: This is part 2 of an ongoing, 5 part blog chronicling the author’s journey with TLA.

What shall I be when I grow up?

I am 66 years old and still trying to figure out what I want to be when I grow up. One of the main reasons I decided to jump into the Transformative Language Arts program was because the Power of Words has always held great importance to me. I have stacks and stacks of journals safely stored in a couple of boxes in my sister-in-law’s attic in Vermont. When I decided to sell most of my worldly belongings and move to California several years ago, my journals were in the small “must keep” pile. I am hoping to re-visit them some day and write a memoir about the forty-plus years that I lived in the Mad River Valley, a small community of 2500 rugged souls, revisiting the homes I built, renovated, owned or rented, my jobs and the people who became my friends and work-mates, the close relationships I experienced with people (many of them long gone), and the wonderful (and frequently challenging) times spent raising my two daughters, primarily as a single parent.

I believe that if there is ever a “who has had the most jobs” contest, I would be high on the list. I’ve worked for architects, cross country ski centers, caterers, solar power fabricators, Habitat for Humanity and the National Wildlife Federation. I’ve been a house painter, office manager of a small construction company (24 years!), a census taker, bread baker, sign maker, greenhouse laborer and a short-order cook at a ski area. I was the head employee for a kids’ kayak camp, the executive director of a non-profit recreational trails association and the Naturalist Program’s Winter Snowshoe Outings director. I started three different businesses: Valley Community Camp (summer camp), Renewal School (classes in personal growth) and Out Back Tracks (snowshoe/animal tracking outings). I am currently in the process of starting one more new enterprise, called Sticks and Stones. This is the one that will be taking my TLA knowledge and practice and transforming it into my next, newest profession as I become Rune Master, a Teacher of Runes. My study of Runes is a perfect tool for discovering Right Livelihood, and will prove to be a creative means of making a living as well as creating a life and assisting others in their similar quests.

For those of you who do not know about runes, I invite you to google the word and you will come up with a wealth of information. The study of runes has been a continuing project of mine for over twenty years, and their key component is the Power of Words. As I worked my way through the different workshops in the past two years, the final class was actually the first one that most people start with – the Foundations Course – focusing on TLA: in Service, as a Catalyst, as a Right Livelihood, and as a way to put teachings into Action. I found myself appreciating the focus of this class more as a summary and collecting vessel than as a beginning. Each topic of this class provided me with great relevancy as I revisited notes from my other three classes and the one conference as the meat of my education and the Foundations class seemed to be the frosting that provided the skills to put my Plans and Visions into action.

All of my Foundations classes included lively discussions, written and via group chats. I found that one of the most important pieces of these discussions was the establishment of “Ground Rules”. Since my new profession does not include a guide book, I appreciated the rules and will keep them in mind when working with new clients and new groups. When I meet someone for the first time, I will be able to witness them and listen carefully with my full attention. I can assure them that whatever happens during our interaction, they can trust that I will maintain confidentiality and allow them the freedom to experiment with options and interpretations when possible. I have integrated these important words of wisdom into my introduction: “I am not a therapist and sometimes the nature of personal work can open wounds. Please let me know if you would like to contact a professional to turn to if needed.”

One of my personal introductory papers states: “At a time when the written language was used by only a few, runes represented a way to share information verbally and visually. Used as a tool for clarification and illumination, one’s personal story will be brought to light while navigating the path of the runes.” Everyone is different and no two stories are ever the same.

The study and practice of runes combines two main components: Story Telling and Listening. Human relationships depend on the connections that create society and knowing how to interpret the symbols on runic stones is one tool that provides a key that can open the door to self-discovery.

Carol ThompsonCarol 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.

Right Livelihood – In Search of Runes: Part 1

by Carol Thompson

Editor’s note: This is part 1 of an ongoing, 5 part blog chronicling the author’s journey with TLA.

I began my voyage towards a “Transformative Language Arts Foundations Certification” two years and two months ago. I needed a new start, a new direction and a new focus, so I signed up for classes that provided me with the tools to Gather Courage, the keys to the Values of the Future, and the skills to figure out how to Change the World with Words. Today, as I look toward my next evolution and see where I am as a result of my history with TLA, I do so with a sense of sadness, liberally sprinkled with pride, as the finality of an ending begets the excitement of a new beginning. The past two years have brought about a huge change in my life, a change that continues to amaze and astound me. I have been given the opportunity to re-create myself once again.

When I first put together my TLA Network Profile I listed my profession as “Granny-nanny” and this was my short Bio:

“I just made the decision to quit my job, sell my house and all of my belongings, retire and move from Vermont to the Bay area in California to be near my new and first grandson, Dylan, and his family (they live on a 41′ sailboat!). I LOVE California, but miss Vermont and my friends and expect to return to the Mad River Valley some day.”

My profile picture showed me on the sidewalk in front of the sweet, affordable ($1000.00/month), 740 square foot, one bedroom, one bath cream-colored stucco apartment that was my first home in 42 years not situated in the Green Mountains of Vermont. Located two blocks from my beloved Dylan, I was able to walk to the marina in 8 minutes. I’m standing in front of my new-to-me bright red Prius named Ruby Begonia with my new-to-me electric yellow 16’ long Eddyline Nighthawk sea kayak proudly perched on top. Life was good. I was living the dream (California, right?) with a car that could zip me around town getting 50 miles per gallon and my fantasy boat that could provide unlimited adventures around the San Francisco Bay.

Two years later, Dylan is now the toddler with a “never take no for an answer” attitude (remember the Tasmanian Devil from Looney Toons?), the Prius is history (kept having battery problems) and I traded it in for a dependable slate blue-grey Corolla, the sea kayak is gone (found a shorter, fatter, more kid-friendly model at REI) and the one-bedroom is now a two-bedroom ($1800.00/month) on the other side of town (long story…). I rarely get to San Francisco because the traffic is horrific, and I sold the building lot in Vermont that I hoped to put a tiny home on some day, but, I’m still standing, thank you, Elton John:

“Don’t you know that I’m still standing better than I ever did
Looking like a true survivor, feeling like a little kid
And I’m still standing after all this time
Picking up the pieces of my life without you on my mind.”

To be continued!

 

Carol ThompsonCarol 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.

Stories with Spirit: Regi Carpenter

Regi Carpenter will be teaching the upcoming online class, Stories with Spirit: Creativity as a Spiritual Practice beginning April 4th.

About the Class:

“At the heart of one’s creativity lies a desire to explore and express the exquisite power of the present experience, feeling, sensation and belief. This class will focus on strengthening and recognizing the intuitive sense of the creative process without judgment or restriction. We’ll play with writing meditations, reflections, and written and spoken word pieces that gently guide us to who we are now, in this moment.

Through writing meditations, personal reflections, readings, videos and on-line shared discussions, we will explore how our creativity brings us into the present by bearing witness to the sacred within one another, the world and ourselves.

We’ll focus on the use of images, metaphors, ritual, voice, and a variety of writing structures to create vivid pieces in and outside of class. Beginning and experienced writers in any genre are welcome!”  

Regi is a phenomenal storyteller whose captivating presence can be felt in this powerful TEDx presentation:

Don’t miss out on this opportunity to connect to the soul of your creativity with an incredible facilitator guiding the way!

Register here

About Regi:

For over twenty years Regi Carpenter has been bringing songs and stories to audiences of all ages throughout the world in school, theaters, libraries, at festivals, conferences and in people’s back yards. An award winning performer, Regi has toured her solo shows and workshops in theaters, festivals and schools, nationally and internationally.

Regi is the youngest daughter in a family that pulsates with contradictions: religious and raucous, tender but terrible, unfortunate yet irrepressible. These tales celebrate the glorious and gut – wrenching lives of four generations of Carpenter s raised on the Saint Lawrence River in Clayton, New York. Tales of underwater tea parties, drowning lessons and drives to the dump give voice to multi-generations of family life in a small river town with an undercurrent.

 

What Does Vulnerability Look Like?

by Melissa Rose

This piece was written during my experience in the TLA online class, Diving and Emerging: Finding Your Voice and Identity in Personal Stories facilitated by Regi Carpenter. I loved this class and the places the writing prompts led me, causing me to form a richer relationship with my memories and experiences. 

       The woman sits crossed legged on the shore of the silent lake on a crisp spring morning. The lavender mist hovers above the water, as she watches a flock of brown and black birds bob along the surface. She has been up for hours, watching the sun rise from behind the mountain in the distance, wrapping herself in a thick pink sweater, as the chill around her is remedied by wool. In this moment, she is anything but restricted. No pressure of tiny hands reaching for her. No eyes watching where she is. She inhales the fresh air and for once feels free. She tries to savor moments like this. They only come occasionally. Every minute by herself she wishes she could stretch into miles between obligations. It’s been so long since she could remember what it felt like to be alone. To simply “be” without label. Without definition. Only the morning breeze blowing a quiet promise through her wispy brown curls. She slips a single foot from her sandal and digs her bare toes into the soft sand beneath her; a boulder worn down into a million pieces.

      I am 4 years old, up at the cabin on the lake. It is early, and my mother sits next to the water outside, watching the Canada Geese bob along the surface and I awaken alone in my bed. I see her from the window, and sliding out of my pajamas I open the screen door and step outside. Stumbling on the sappy rocks, I walk towards her. She doesn’t notice me for several seconds because I am so quiet, watching her behavior, how she looks different. Not like my mother, but a wild creature in its natural habitat. She senses she is not alone, and like a doe, turns her head suddenly, with a sharp startled snap, then smiles, relaxing when she sees me, amused by my nudity. It is spring, and the air is crisp. I dip my feet into the cold water, but feel no chill.

      She always felt her body was wrong. The bumps never fell in the right place. The stomach expanding in places she didn’t want it to go. She felt trapped inside herself. Sweaters become her uniform. She never goes swimming. She never speaks of her body as anything but a burden. The flesh dragging behind her, like a punishment.

      I am 5 years old, and I search the house for my mother. I check the kitchen and the bathroom, even venturing into the dark garage. Then I notice her bedroom door is closed. My tiny hands turn the polished copper knob and I push the wood, stepping over the threshold, turning my head back and forth, looking for her familiar shape. We lock eyes, her body bare, pink breasts exposed and she covers her naked flesh with her arms, screaming in surprise, her voice high and tight as violin strings:

“Get out!!”

I flee from the room, retreating to my bed and under the covers like I had just witnessed a cardinal sin. My mother had never raised her voice to me before, and the sound frightens me. Shaking under the covers, she eventually finds me, applying her voice in an apologetic band aid.

“I’m sorry, Melis…you didn’t do anything wrong…” but the image of her face as our eyes met in that moment left an imprint. The shock and softness. The sting of her standing there completely exposed. A deer in headlights. The nakedness of her in her most pure and isolated state. The place of her she never wanted anyone to see.

I am my mother’s daughter.

      I hide my body as it grows and expands. As the pieces of it change shape. I grow breasts at age 9. My mother tells me to cover up. It is no longer “appropriate” for me to walk around my own house without a shirt on and I don’t know why. Only that my flesh is no longer amusing like it was when I was 4. It carried with it another message altogether. Something shameful. Wrong.

So I hide.

I wear sweatshirts on hot summer days.

      I don’t look at my naked body for years. Every mirror is an averted glance. Every locker room is a struggle to expose as little as possible. To never be left vulnerable. To never be seen without armor. Armor becomes my voice. Becomes my brashness. Becomes my need to hide how I really feel. Armor becomes a way to cover everything I do not want seen about myself.

      She drinks alcohol, hiding the bottles in her closet. Keeping the soft parts hidden under intoxication. Swallowing everything, covering up the raw places, collecting the pieces of herself and telling the children to keep her secrets.  

      In a bedroom, a man asks me to take off my clothes, and I am silent. As the pieces flake off my skin, a new exposure emerges. The prying open of a mollusk. The vulnerability left in the dark with my voice. I tell myself “You didn’t do anything wrong” but now the nakedness becomes more than a scream from my mother. It becomes the reason I scream too.

      A year later and I am fully clothed, standing on a stage. The lights hit me and I speak about the things no one wanted me to say. Exposure is what happens when I show my mess to strangers. Raw is what happens when I realize there is nothing to hide. That speaking is a step towards healing. That telling my story saves me from it.

      I stand on another stage. This time I say nothing. I am naked in front of strangers, but for a different purpose. For 3 hours every week I pose for artists. I embody emotion through my posture. Communicating without speaking every inch my flesh can muster. Telling the story of my body itself.

      Being naked is how I show myself my body is worthy of love. That there is safety in uncovering all that you hide behind. That for the first time since I was 4 years old, I can show myself that my nakedness is nothing to be ashamed of. That vulnerability comes in many forms. That the flesh I reside in is anything but sinful.

      I think of my mother, and all she chose to hide from me. That seeing her unclothed was the first time I was ever able to see a glimpse of who she really was, and everything she never wanted me to experience.

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Melissa Rose is a spoken word poet and playwright. She has hosted community spoken word events since 2003 and has been a member of 5 National Poetry Slam teams. She has performed her work across the United States and Germany and was a featured poet at the German National Poetry Slam in 2010. She currently lives in Eugene, Oregon and is the executive director of Siren, a nonprofit organization that empowers women through spoken word.

TLA Class Teacher Profile: Jacinta V. White

Jacinta will be teaching the upcoming online class, Becoming Undone: Unpacking Life’s Weight with Writing and Poetry  starting April 4th, 2018.

Jacinta V. White is a published poet and a 2017 recipient of the Duke Energy Regional Artist grant. She has been facilitating group and individual poetry writing sessions — using poetry as healing — for more than 15 years, through her company, The Word Project. Just three years ago, Jacinta launched Snapdragon: A Journal of Art & Healing — an international online journal publishing poetry, creative nonfiction and photography. Knowing from personal experience the healing balm poetry provides, Jacinta is committed to assisting others and expanding the conversation on art and healing.

See Jacinta’s experience with the TLA network’s One City One Prompt series

Read more about Jacinta

About Jacinta’s Upcoming Class: 

Becoming Undone: Unpacking Life’s Weight with Writing and Poetry 

“This class has been designed for and offered to those who feel overwhelmed by life’s challenges or those who feel too stuck to make a plan for something more.

Each week, participants will be given a poem and prompts that will gently guide them in journaling and poetry writing exercises (and optional “supporting exercises” for those who want to go deeper into the work).

By using creativity of writing, participants will begin to identify what weight needs to be unpacked and how, and begin to re-pack what is most important and meaningful to them.

This series is designed for those who are wanting to work through what “weight” might be holding them from living a fuller life. Those who feel stressed out and in need of clarity. Those who are burden and are looking for a place (internally) to process life (external) demands and to “find” themselves. And, ideally, those who are willing to go a beyond the surface and dig deeper into the balance and changes their life needs in order to live a life they were created to live.”

Register for Jacinta’s class here

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Call for Proposals

The Power of Words Conference is now accepting proposals for the 2018 Power of Words Conference! All you need to do is:

  1. Read the information below carefully
  2. Use the following form to submit your proposal by March 15, 2018
  3. Email your CV/resume to the director@tlanetwork.org

DEADLINE for submission: March 15, 2018

The 15th Annual Power of Words Conference will be held October 12-14th, 2018 at Goddard College in Plainfield, Vermont, and we are seeking your session proposals!

This powerful conference brings together writers, storytellers, performers, musicians, educators, activists, healers, health professionals, community leaders, and more. Together we explore the written, spoken, and sung word, seeking to find how it can bring liberation, celebration, and transformation to individuals and communities.

We invite your proposals for experiential, didactic, and/or performance-based sessions that focus on writing, storytelling, drama, film, songwriting, and other forms of Transformative Language Arts (TLA).

We encourage proposals from people of color, low-income people, people with disabilities, queer-identified people, and people of transgender and/or gender-non-conforming experience.

Submit you proposal here

What Can Storytelling Teach Us About Creating Connection? with Doug Lipman

Can storytelling help us be open and empathetic? Can it be an avenue to rapport? If so, how? Doug Lipman reveals three connection-building strategies hidden in storytelling—and simple ways to unlock each of them.

About Doug Lipman: In 1970, Doug Lipman was a discouraged teacher of highly resistant adolescents. One day he happened to tell them a story, and for the first time they softened. Since then, he has spent his life using storytelling for transformation—and helping others use storytelling’s connective power in any walk of life. Lipman literally wrote the book on coaching storytellers: “The Storytelling Coach.” He has coached executives, professionals and performing artists in Asia, Europe, Canada and the US, including at the World Bank, Microsoft, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab, and the United Way. In 2017 Lipman was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award for “sustained and exemplary contributions to storytelling in North America.”

“Good” and “bad” are incomplete stories we tell ourselves with Heather Lanier

Heather Lanier’s daughter Fiona has Wolf-Hirschhorn syndrome, a genetic condition that results in developmental delays — but that doesn’t make her tragic, angelic or any of the other stereotypes about kids like her. In this talk about the beautiful, complicated, joyful and hard journey of raising a rare girl, Lanier questions our assumptions about what makes a life “good” or “bad,” challenging us to stop fixating on solutions for whatever we deem not normal, and instead to take life as it comes.