By Bridgett Trejo

When one admires a butterfly in all its elegance and beauty, the transition it experienced seldom gives pause. The chrysalis that protected it with hardened proteins, and prepared it for the flight ahead, is all but abandoned and forgotten. A similar process can be ascribed to all living things. We must be nurtured and meticulously created before we are born. Even after birth, we continue a journey that guides each individual to his or her destiny. This story is about one person’s inspiring journey; one with an ending that just might surprise you.
Toney Brooks was born and raised in Tuscaloosa. He attended Tuscaloosa High School and the University of Alabama.
“We all have mentors in our lives that come and go. My favorite was a teacher, Miss Anna Brown. Miss Anna taught Senior English at Tuscaloosa High School. She dubbed us, ‘Little Lambs.’ Somehow, Miss Anna made me want to sit still, study and learn, no small accomplishment. She instilled the desire in her students to memorize Shakespeare. To appreciate Salinger. To marvel at Hemingway, a man who never met an adjective he couldn’t live without. Anna Brown made me and many of my contemporaries want to write. She was the best teacher I ever had.”
Brooks went into the radio business instead. His 30-year career began in Tuscaloosa working for the legendary Bert Bank, a survivor of the WWII Bataan Death March in the Philippines. “Bert inspired, and employed, an entire generation of radio and TV majors at the University.” Brooks had risen in the ranks to program director at WTBC when Vietnam knocked. But before that war, the children of the sixties narrowly avoided a far worse conflict.
“Bert reluctantly put me on the air in 1962 with strict instructions: play music, watch the wire machine, and don’t talk. Until then, I’d done odd jobs around WTBC ever since graduating high school in 1961. I would do most anything that would allow me to hang out at the station, an experience that, to me, was like a dream come true. I went on the air in 1962 when the station converted to a 24-hour broadcast schedule. We did that because we all thought the world might blow sky high at any second. And it very nearly did.
“The Cuban Missile Crisis was an intense time, to say the least. My newly acquired on-air position required that I check the Associated Press wire machine every 10-minutes from 3 a.m. until 6 a.m. No problem; I was officially a disc jockey. Another (more studious) University of Alabama student handled the midnight to 3 a.m. shift, a difficult shift for a student. The late Stan Siegal, who eventually went into television, followed my show at 6.
“Stan’s brother, Don, was student body president at the University in 1964. I helped Don with his campaign, as did the radio station and everyone who worked there. We even covered the election results live from the Student Union (now Reese Phifer Hall). That was a first! Don’s now a partner in a large Birmingham law firm.”
In Vietnam, shortly after the Tet offensive in 1968, Brooks was named War News Editor of the American Forces Vietnam Network located in Saigon. He was awarded the Bronze Star Medal and Army Commendation Medal.
“I was the Walter Cronkite of Vietnam. I went on TV each evening to present war news to the troops, the international press corps, and Vietnamese civilians. I don’t know what the locals really thought of American soldiers, since the most popular TV programs at the Saigon station were Laugh In and Combat. There’s a message there, probably.
“One day after enjoying lunch at the floating restaurant on the Saigon River, a kid came running up to me. He pulled on my sleeve and said, ‘Combat starring Rick Jason and Vic Murrow.’ I think it was the only English he knew. I bet he thought I knew Jason and Murrow personally.
“Saigon was easy duty, as the saying goes. We lived in air conditioned hotels converted to barracks, dined at fancy French restaurants and, in my case, got to rub shoulders with the best foreign news correspondents of the day.”
After the war, Brooks went into broadcast management where he ran a highly successful rock station in Denver. Later, he became president of the group that owned it and expanded to 12 stations. Eventually tiring of radio, which had become “absurdly corporatized,” he moved to Europe to salvage values and rediscover himself. In the UK he picked up where Anna Brown had left off; it is here that Brooks returned to writing.
In England’s West Country, he published a fantasy fiction book about King Arthur’s return. “Actually, it was more of a West Country tourism book.” Yet he credits that book with bringing him and artist Holly Sierra together for a unique project: creating a deck of tarot cards. Brooks is the wordsmith on this collaboration and Sierra is the artist. The contribution of both—Sierra’s art is otherworldly and Brooks’ descriptions and instructions are described as wise, clear, entertaining—has won accolades and attention; the deck was acquired by U.S. Game Systems, Inc.
When one mentions the word tarot, some people experience mixed emotions. This may be because it is so widely misunderstood. Briefly, let’s explain what Tarot is not.
Tarot is not divination in the strict, modern sense of the word; it does not conflict with religion. Everyone enjoys free will and takes, or at least should take, responsibility for their actions. Therefore, it follows there is no fixed, divine will for tarot to apprehend. Destiny is real, fate isn’t. Destiny is derived from the choices we make.
Tarot is a tool for personal and spiritual development. The society we live in tends to devalue the immaterial – things it cannot see, smell, touch, taste or feel. The mystical is disparaged and dismissed as fringe and irrelevant to busy, modern lifestyles. Consequently, there’s a growing hunger for rational spirituality.
Many are awakening to their spirituality through yoga, meditation, reiki, chakra work and other life-changing transformative tools, including tarot. Tarot is first and foremost a journey of self-discovery. It teaches us to listen to the inner voice and trust it.
To change the world, it’s often said that we must first change ourselves. This means we must alter our worldview from one of abject materialism to one that balances the material and spiritual realms. By definition that is a paradigm shift.
Toney Brooks has a very unique way of looking at life that offers much inspiration, say those who know him. He and artist Holly Sierra designed Chrysalis Tarot with the idea of enhancing the world by re-imaging the metaphysical and emphasizing a renewed appreciation for nature. Synchronicity, a Jungian concept, is defined as meaningful coincidence that aids discernment in making destiny-driven choices.
“We invented a fun-loving group of medieval troubadours made up of artists, musicians, mimes, poets, and muses, to replace traditional tarot court cards. In fact, we threw much of traditional 16th century tarot out the window. It had devolved into a thick and murky dogma with arcane symbols, irrelevant Kings, Queens, Knights, Hermits, Hierophants (most people don’t even know what one is), and other subtle religious nuance.”
In addition to engendering synchronicity, the tarot deck Brooks and Sierra created, Chrysalis Tarot – the name suggests personal transformation – teaches how to communicate with one’s personal unconscious and interact with the Collective Unconscious, which is like a memory bank for humanity. To learn more about Chrysalis Tarot, which has won rave reviews from around the world, visit chrysalistarot.com

Bridgett Trejo is a freelance writer living in New York state.

About The Author


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.