Staring at the Sun

By Corrine Kenner

Note: This post describes the exercises we used during our “Tarot for Writers” workshop on February 9, 2019.

Exercise 1: Pull a card at random from your tarot deck, and write a flash-fiction story about the character in the card.

THE SUN from the Wizards Tarot deck

A handsome, dour-looking man gazes sadly at a wheel. He’s reflecting on the passage of time. It’s his birthday, and he’s alone. No one has called. No one has written. He didn’t even get a card with $5 in it from his grandmother. He’s probably a Cancer or a Leo, judging by the sunflowers in full bloom outside his window. Either way, the loss of commemoration on his birthday strikes at the very heart of his self-image. He wants to be recognized. He wants to be loved. As a youth, he was the golden child. He could do no wrong. Perhaps he grew arrogant and self-absorbed with the passage of time. Perhaps he became a celebrity in his own mind. But now he realizes that he’s not everything he once dreamed of being. He’s alone. On his birthday. No one his cheering his existence. He doesn’t even notice the spectral figure of a horse outside his window — a shadowy rider from another plane of existence. It’s his birthday, and he’s alone. Of course, it’s only 6 a.m. The sun is barely risen. His party isn’t scheduled to start for another 12 hours.

Exercise 2: Now look at the card again and simply describe the image, without adding any interpretation or inventing a story about the character.

I see a blonde man with a blonde beard. He has large, coarse features. His beard is neatly trimmed. He wears a tunic-style blouse with a collar, almost like a priest’s collar, buttoned up to his neck. His brown pants are loose and baggy. They hang off his legs, which are crossed, the right leg over the left. He’s also wearing a blue velvet tunic embellished with gold embroidery. He rests his left hand on the calf of his right leg, and his right hand on a primitive carved wheel with eight spokes. Each spoke is marked with a carved eight-pointed star. He’s seated on a marble ledge of a window seat, underneath two tall, arched windows. The balustrade underneath the window is carved with the symbol for the Sun and a mystic Hebrew letter. A long golden drapery has been gathered and pulled to one side. Outside the window, four golden sunflowers face in toward the room. A few green and sunlight-dappled leaves suggest the presence of woodland nearby. A white horse stands outside the window, but its gaze is unfocused.

Exercise 3: Go through the description you just wrote, and make a list of all the key words you used. What does each of those words or phrases represent to you? Don’t overthink. Just free associate.

  • blonde: pure
  • man: strong
  • beard: wise
  • large: overpowering
  • coarse: crude
  • trimmed: controlled
  • tunic: priestly
  • collar: constricted
  • buttoned up: controlled
  • brown: earthy
  • loose/baggy: uncontrolled
  • legs: connection to the earth
  • crossed: conflicted
  • right: good
  • left: bad
  • blue: sky
  • velvet: soft, sophisticated
  • tunic: robe, ceremonial
  • embellished: fancy
  • embroidery: artistic
  • calf: musculature
  • hands: tools
  • wheel: sun
  • eight: turning points, directions
  • spoke: support
  • carved: hand tooled
  • star: guiding light
  • drapery: embellishment
  • gathered/pulled: twisted
  • outside: nature, uncontrolled
  • four: seasons
  • golden: precious
  • sunflowers: food
  • face: appearance
  • green: verdant
  • sunlight: energy
  • woodland: nature
  • white: pure
  • horse: partner
  • gaze unfocused: clouded, confused, thoughtful

Exercise 4: Imagine yourself as the central figure in the card. Who are you? Where are you? What are you doing? What are you thinking?

I’m in the card, looking at the man on the window seat. He doesn’t notice me. Maybe he does, but he’s not thinking about me. Maybe I’m a ghost. Maybe he senses my presence but doesn’t want to acknowledge it. The room is cold. I’m barefoot and wearing a long white nightgown, but its sheer fabric offers no protection against the cool morning breeze coming in the window. My feet are bare, and the cold marble tiles on the floor send a chill up through my body that I sense and feel in every joint, especially my knees. Birds are singing. A horse outside breathes loudly and I can hear its tail swishing. Behind me, dark-paneled walls contrast with the bright sunlight coming in through the windows. Much of their detailed in the carved walls is lost in shadow. The bright light outside makes it difficult to focus on anything inside the room. Even the man would be backlit and lost in shadow if he didn’t have his face pointed toward the sun. I am the horse; the horse in the window is a reflection of my true form.

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