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Posts Tagged ‘RHRC’

Feature Essay: Elizabeth Berg, author of TAPESTRY OF FORTUNES, on Visiting a Psychic

Thursday, April 3rd, 2014

Berg_Tapestry of Fortunes Elizabeth Berg is the author of many bestselling novels as well as two works of nonfiction. Tapestry of Fortunes is a New York Times bestseller and follows four women as they venture into their pasts in order to shape their futures, fates, and fortunes. Today, she shares a special story with us about a time when she went to visit a psychic!

THE “HOLD ON A SECOND” PSYCHIC BY ELIZABETH BERG

When I wrote Tapestry of Fortunes, I knew I wanted to include aspects of divination. It was for whimsical as well as more serious reasons. I wouldn’t say I believe entirely in the prognostic statements of Runes or Tarot cards or people who call themselves psychics, but there can be times when readings are eerily dead on. One of the first times I went to a psychic, I had a lot of fun with a pretty eccentric character. But there was something about the experience that let me know there was more to the business of inquiring of the oracle than I had thought. Here’s what happened.

Claire Brightwater is the proprietor of Earth Dancer Gallery. This is a shop situated over a shoe store and next to a weight loss clinic. You can buy all kinds of Native American things there: kachina dolls, beautiful stones, feathers, books and tapes, blankets and jewelry and medicine wheels. Also, you can take advantage of Claire’s psychic abilities. You know she has them because of the sign in her window. PSYCHIC, it says.

So I make an appointment for a reading. And when I arrive, I’m a little late and apologetic and out of breath. “Sorry,” I say. “Sorry.” She holds up her bracelet-laden arm. “No problem.” She pulls a chair up next to her desk. “Here,” she says. “Sit down. Center yourself.” She has long, flaming-red hair. She is wearing a purple shawl and a colorful, long skirt and many rings. She is a wonder to behold, one of those women who look so good overweight that you want to be overweight, too. I put my jacket and purse on the floor and she says, “No, you have to get centered,” and puts my purse under me and my jacket behind me. “There,” she says. “Now, I’ll just pay some bills here while you hold some crystals.” She puts a pink one in my right hand and a purple one in my left. While she makes out checks, I hold the crystals tight. I see another homemade sign against one of the counters. NO PLASTIC. CHECKS OKAY. BARTERING OKAY. In a little while, she looks up. “Okay?” I nod. She checks the pink crystal. “This is for love,” she says. “Your heart is full of love.” She nods, agreeing with herself. “Yes. Very beautiful.” Then she takes the purple crystal. “This is for stress,” she says. “This is cold. You got a lot of stress.” Now I nod, thinking, Well, I’m alive on the earth. Why wouldn’t I have stress? Claire’s advice to me about stress is this: “You need to go back to the earth. You need to lie down on it, first on your back, arms and legs spread out. Then lie on your front, and listen to the pulse of the earth.” This sounds like fine advice to me. I used to do it all the time when I was a kid. And I had much less stress then, come to think of it.

She tells me she sees a lot of oscillating around me. “You’re going back and forth, back and forth inside, aren’t you?” We stare intently at each other. The phone rings. “Excuse me,” she says. Then, into the phone, “Hello, Earth Dancer Gallery.” I’m thinking, wait a minute. What kind of reading is this? But she takes care of the call and is back to me. She tells me to pull an I Ching card, and I get “Retreat.” That sounds good, I tell her. Yes. I definitely need a vacation. Claire suddenly jerks her head up, stares into space. “No . . . note . . .NOTORIETY!” she says. She looks at me. “This word, it just came to me! Are you trying to be famous or something?”

“Well,” I say, “I guess we’d all like to be famous. But I don’t know if notoriety is the word I’d pick.”

The UPS man comes. Claire tells me to hold on, she’ll be right back. She goes over to the counter to pay the man, has a little chat with him. Sixty dollars I paid for this, I’m thinking. Jeez.

Next we do animal cards. Claire is an all-around kind of psychic. Turns out I’m an owl. “You need to go into the dark for the light,” Claire tells me. “That’s what this card is saying.” Well, I’m all for op- posites. You know, the blond beauty, held in the arms of the strong, handsome man, says, “Oh, I hate you, I hate you, I hate you!” just before she kisses him to death. There’s something to opposites.

The phone rings again. Claire tells the caller, “He’s not here. Can I take a message?” She writes something down, hangs up. “It’s time for you to wear a feather in your hair, yes?” she asks me. She picks one out for me. Two dollars.

Now, I know how this is sounding. But the notion of wearing a feather is actually quite appealing. As is lying on the earth. As is a retreat. I’m starting to feel kind of happy. I ask Claire what music is playing in the background. It’s very, very soothing. I want it. It’s “Lazaris Remembers Lemuria,” she tells me. Just so happens I can buy one from her.

“Have you been feeling tired?” Claire asks.

“Yes!” I say. And I really have. Not just I don’t want to do the dishes tired. I’ve been deep tired.

She nods. “All the women around here are tired,” she says. “It’s because of our connection to the earth. The earth is having a very hard time giving birth to spring this year, and we all feel it.”

A customer comes in, a woman just looking. “I’m doing a reading,” Claire says, “but just let me know if you need any help.” A few minutes later, there’s another phone call, someone wanting to know about the upcoming pipe ceremony. Claire tells them all about it.

“Your work, you need to pay attention to what comes from the heart.” She looks at me, shakes her head. “You will have great success.”

Another customer, a teenage boy wearing a T-shirt featuring crystals, looking for bumper stickers. No bumper stickers. But Claire sells him some little rocks.

We finish up and I realize I am feeling calmer and more centered than I have in a long time. Some of what Claire said felt silly. And some of it felt scary-true. Whatever has happened, I feel better than I ever have after any therapy session. Plus I got a feather and a tape and permission to lie down on the earth.

I guess what I believe is that there is much to the unconscious that we can learn from and be guided by. Is using some tool for fortune telling one of them? Maybe you should find out for yourself. If you’re not enlightened, you’ll at least be entertained. That’s my prediction.

Stay up to date with Elizabeth Berg on Facebook! Tapestry of Fortunes hits bookshelves in paperback on April 8th.

Discussion Questions: STILL POINTS NORTH by Leigh Newman

Monday, July 22nd, 2013

Newman_Still Points NorthIf you and your book club have Leigh Newman’s beautiful memoir Still Points North in the reading queue then we have the discussion questions to accompany your next meeting.

1. In the beginning, the author describes events and objects as belonging to either an “Inside” or “Outside” world. What do these divisions represent? Do the two halves ever change or overlap?

2. Leigh’s childhood is split between two very different worlds. How do you think her life would have been different if she had only grown up in Alaska, or only in Baltimore? What did the combination of these experiences give her?

3. Leigh begins Part II “The Middle of the Woods” with the memory of swimming with a dolphin family. Why do you think she chose this story as a transition to the adult part of her memoir?

4. Acquiring Leonard the dog and a more homelike new apartment represent an important life change for Leigh. What do they signify? Have you had any similar markers of transitional moments in your life?

5. Despite the belief that opposites attract, Leigh and Lawrence seem to get along because of their similarities. What does Lawrence provide for Leigh and vice versa? How does their relationship change over time?

6. Leigh insists on catching a king salmon despite her admitted indifference to the fish. Why do you think this is? What does catching a king salmon mean for Leigh and her Great Alaskan life? Have you ever done something like this?

7. Leigh and her mother have a complex relationship. What does her mom’s commitment to finding the wedding dress help Leigh understand?

8. Why is the scene in the Parisian flower shop an important moment for Leigh? What does she learn?

9. On page 125 Leigh realizes, “That’s the thing about parents…you don’t have to see them all that much to imitate them.” In what ways do the characters in this memoir imitate their parents?

10. How does Leigh’s relationship with her father transform over the course of her life? What were the most influential moments? What has she learned about her father and herself by their conversation in Chapter 15?

11. Why is Nana such an important character to Leigh? How does she compare to Leigh’s other grandmother, Maybelle? Why are both important in shaping the author’s development?

12. On page 220, Leigh wonders “how long do you have to live somewhere for it to be home?” How would you answer her question?

13. Of all the themes in the memoir—wanderlust, travel, family, home, and love in all its permutations—which did you find the most compelling? Why?

Join the conversation with the author on Facebook and Twitter!

“[Leigh] Newman has crafted a vivid exploration of a broken family. . . . Her pain will resonate strongly with readers, and she vividly brings both Alaska and Maryland to life. . . . A natural for book clubs.”—Booklist

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