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.

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.