In the tarot, that ancient tool for exploring the journey to the center of the self, the Fool sets off on a journey. She’s naive and eager to court adventure. He’s unafraid of dangers that may lie in his path. They dance on the edge of the cliff, follow the trail of butterflies, and seek out that which is fresh and new and exciting. Anything could happen, yes, but anything COULD happen! With Walt Whitman, the Fool sings: “Done with indoor complaints, libraries, querulous criticisms, / Strong and content, I travel the travel the open road!”
This is how the fairy tale begins. You are the golden child, innocent, hopeful, full of promise. Tabula rasa, a blank slate. Anything can happen.
You live on the edge of a great wood, a forest beautiful and terrifying. You live in a warm, inviting cottage. In a poor but tidy little hut. In a fine and well-appointed house. In a castle. In a dirty, ramshackle hovel. In a high tower.
With warm, nurturing, and protective parents, or a family struck by despair and dysfunction. With a gentle and forgetful grandmother. With your father, a benevolent but distant king, and his wife, a smothering overprotector. With the vain and hostile wife of your loving but absent father, a traveling merchant. With a terrible witch who stole you from your family. With a kind witch who has rescued you from your suffering.
One thread runs through all the tales: You are admonished not to go into the forest alone. There is a set boundary, a garden, a lane, a wall—a line that you must, for your own safety, never cross. For the wood, while full of calling birds and bright butterflies, can also be a place of fear and danger, where a child could be lost or eaten by wolves. Both the beauties and the dangers are very real.
And the wood is exactly the place that your adventure must take you, for the forest is the landscape of your own adult life. Perhaps, like Red Riding Hood, you made your first steps into this wood on your own with the firm and gentle guidance of a loving parent who gently set you on the most known pathway. Perhaps, like Hansel and Gretel or Vasilissa the Brave, you were set into the wood without supplies or direction, pushed out of childhood innocence before you were ready. Maybe, like Goldilocks, you followed a trail of bright flowers or a shining ray of sunlight into the wood, against all the cautions of the adults in your life, and your own curiosity drew you into the trees.
Aunt Eliza’s Advice for Lost Children
by Beth Weaver-Kreider
Once upon a time there lived a golden child
who followed a trail of bright flowers
deep into the heart of the forest.
That’s you, in case you hadn’t picked it up,
and the forest is the life you are wandering in.
This is the story you chose for your own
in those rainbow days before you were born.
Oh, for most of us, and much of the time,
the forest is fairly navigable, and not too scary.
But sometimes we get caught in the brambles,
overwhelmed by the shadows, befriended
by suave and creepy fellows in wolfskin.
We forget how to find our way,
forget that we are the main character,
the child of the glorious day,
forget our identity,
forget our destiny, our star
forget how to follow our guides,
forget who they are.
So step into the clearing, Dearies.
Have a seat by the fire.
Here’s a little advice:
Keep following the flowers,
the butterflies, the little birds,
whatever drew you in here in the first place.
Go ahead and flirt with the wolves,
but don’t give them Grandma’s address.
Breaking and entering is still
breaking and entering, Sweetie,
even if it’s a cute little cottage.
You never know what’s in the oatmeal.
Listen to the doll your mother gave you.
Your mother’s voice inside yourself
will always lead you true.
Beware of riddling with old women.
Always remember your manners,
and always be kinder than necessary.
There’s a happily-ever-after
right around the bend,
but you might have to travel
half a lifetime and complete
three impossible tasks
to reach it.
More Advice from Aunt Eliza
by Beth Weaver-Kreider
It doesn’t always have to be so,
but it seems to be the way things go:
When the sunny trail ends at that dead ash tree,
when the sweet-scented grasses turn to brambles,
when the radiant butterfly flits into shadows
and out from behind the tree pads the wolf–
That is when the story really gets started.
Epiphany can be those shiny angels,
those glittering kings bearing gold,
but it also comes in shadows and cobwebs.
One day you are sleep-walking
through your dreamy life,
not paying attention to where the path leads,
and epiphany comes in the form of a crow,
calling your name from the topmost branch
of a lightning-struck oak.
Or you find the sweet cottage
but wake up surrounded by bears
or tossed head-first into the furnace.
Or an old woman in tatters and rags
swoops into the clearing, chattering,
demanding to know who you think you are,
demanding your service, your heart.
And that’s the key, isn’t it?
Who do you think you are, meddling in this story?
Can you give your whole heart to the process?
What are you doing here, in the heart of this forest,
this landscape of your life?
What is your real name?
Are you ready to fight for it?
To go on a quest, answer the riddle,
do the three impossible tasks,
risk your own dissolution, your death,
just to claim it as your own?
You thought you were so brave,
following the path to explore the woods,
though you’d been warned,
though your skin prickled,
though you knew the stories
of those who never returned.
Now is the time for bravery.
Now is the time for fierce
Now the real exploration begins.
1. Symbols for the journey
2. Good coffee
5. Fairy Tales
May we walk in Wonder!
“One of the greatest tragedies in life is to lose your own sense of self and accept the version of you that is expected by everyone else.” —K.L. Toth
“Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.” —Oscar Wilde
“Believe me, you will find more lessons in the woods than in books. Trees and stones will teach you what you cannot learn from masters.” —St. Bernard of Clairvaux
“A woman with opinions had better develop a thick skin and a loud voice.” —Anya Seton
“The best teachers are those who show you where to look, but don’t tell you what to see.” —Alexandra K.Trenfor
“It doesn’t interest me what you do for a living, I want to know what you ache for. It doesn’t interest me how old you are, I want to know if you are willing to risk looking like a fool for love, for your dreams, for the adventure of being alive. I want to know if you can live with failure, yours and mine. It doesn’t interest me where you live or how rich you are, I want to know if you can get up after a night of grief and despair, weary and bruised to the bone, and be sweet to the ones you love. I want to know if you can be alone with yourself and truly like the company you keep in the empty moments of your life.” —Oriah Mountain Dreamer
In a trivial gesture, in a greeting,
in the simple glance, directed
in flight toward other eyes,
a golden, a fragile bridge is constructed.
This alone is enough.
Although it is only for a moment, it exists, exists.
This alone is enough.
translation from the Spanish by Jesse Lee Kercheval
“If you have good thoughts they will shine out of your face like sunbeams and you will always look lovely.” ―Roald Dahl
“To live in this world, you must be able to do three things: to love what is mortal; to hold it against your bones knowing your own life depends on it; and, when the time comes to let it go, to let it go.” ―Mary Oliver
“What should young people do with their lives today? Many things, obviously. But the most daring thing is to create stable communities in which the terrible disease of loneliness can be cured.” ―Vonnegut