The tarot has been used for more than half a millennium to read the future, gamble and practice the occult. Until now, it probably hasn’t been used as for philosophical and ecological inspiration. “Rust Belt Arcana: Tarot and Natural History in the Exurban Wilds” by Matt Stansberry pairs each card of the Major Arcana with an animal or element of the Great Lakes.

Chapter 3, “Death and Rebirth,” calls forth The Empress, a symbol of life, death and rebirth. For this Stansberry evokes the lowly skunk cabbage, the first sign of spring. He explains that the plant “generates its own heat, melting surrounding ice and snow.” While the air may be freezing, the temperature around the leaves can be as much as 50 degrees higher. Insects find it by its smell of rotten meat and pollinate the plants by traveling from one to another.

Chapter 5, “The Hierophant,” is “the upholder of traditional teachings.” As a young boy, Stansberry was taught to hunt deer by his father. He now dislikes guns and hunting, but goes once a year and his family eats the venison. Stansberry talks about deer overpopulation, saying that America has a hundred times more deer than a century ago, causing the loss of other species.

The odious opossum represents “The Hanged Man,” a passive figure, roadkill, a target of predators, not worth trapping. Stansberry quotes the Ohio Department of Natural Resources data of a 40 percent decrease in opossum population since 1990, but that’s not the good news it seems to be, as opossums eat the deer ticks that carry Lyme disease.

This very original, thoughtful debut touches on evolution, mysticism and the magnificent diversity of our side of the lake. David Wilson’s watercolor art is reproduced in black and white.

“Rust Belt Arcana” (160 pages, softcover) costs $16.95 from Belt Publishing. An accompanying 78-card boxed tarot deck sells for $40; both can be ordered for $50.

Matt Stansberry, an Akron native, is an alumnus of Kent State University, has written for fishing magazines and lives in North Carolina. David Wilson is from Stow and also is a Kent State alumnus. Stansberry and Wilson will launch “Rust Belt Arcana” at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Visible Voice Books, 2258 Professor Ave., Cleveland.

 

'Magic Garden' mystery

In “Flowers and Foul Play,” Book One in Tallmadge author Amanda Flower’s Magic Garden mystery series, Tennessee florist Fiona Knox had inherited a cottage near Aberdeen from her Scottish godfather. Fresh from a broken engagement, she feels there’s no better time to relocate. She finds a charming cottage, a welcoming caretaker and a body in the magical garden.

Now, in “Death and Daisies,” Fiona is ready to open her new flower shop with the help of her visiting sister, despite the disapproval of the flinty parish rector. A major thunderstorm hits the village on the night before the shop’s grand opening, and though there is little physical damage, a body is discovered on the beach -- that of the rector, who had left a note in the shop door telling Fiona that the garden would destroy her.

With the animosity between her and the rector, this makes Fiona a suspect. There’s also an ongoing dispute about land development on the historic and scenic North Sea coastline that might be a factor, and every one of the town’s shopkeepers has a say. There’s the prospect of a romance for sister Isla, too.

“Death and Daisies” (320 pages, hardcover) costs $26.99 from Crooked Lane. Amanda Flower will sign her books including another new release, “Premeditated Peppermint,” at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at the Akron-Summit County Library Tallmadge branch, 90 Community Road.

 

Events

Learned Owl Book Shop (204 N. Main St., Hudson): Terry Pluto meets readers and signs his latest, “Browns Blues: Two Decades of Utter Frustration,” 1 to 2 p.m. Sunday; Jane Turzillo, author of the illustrated history “Hudson, Ohio,” joins the open-to-all History Book Club, 2 p.m. Sunday.

Mandel Jewish Community Center (26001 S. Woodland Road, Beachwood): The annual Cleveland Jewish Book Festival continues with a Local Author Day, featuring J.D. Blackrose (“The Soul Wars”), Beth Ricanati (“Braided: A Journey of a Thousand Challahs”), Cathryn Siegal-Bergman (“Going Back”), Joseph H. Baskin (“Exit Strategy”), David Eden (“My Pashtun Rabbi”), Shira Atik and Alice Kiderman (“Stone Words”) and Jean Loeb Lettofsky (“Studies in Judaism and Jewish Education”), 2 to 4 p.m. Sunday; Rebecca Erbelding talks about “Rescue Board: The Untold Story of America’s Efforts to Save the Jews of Europe,” 11 a.m. Monday. Admission is $15; register at mandeljcc.org or call 216-831-0700. One event remains in December.

Cuyahoga County Public Library (Parma-Snow branch, 2121 Snow Road): Novelist Elizabeth Berg (“Night of Miracles,” “Open House”) presents “A Cook and a Book,” about the relationship between books and food, 2 to 3:30 p.m. Sunday. Tickets are on sale to see Adriana Trigani, author of “The Shoemaker’s Wife,” who will bring her 1940s-set “Tony’s Wife,” 7 p.m. Nov. 30. The $25 fee includes a pre-signed copy of the book; Trigani will not sign at the event. Call 216-661-4240.

Cuyahoga County Public Library (Beachwood branch, 25501 Shaker Blvd.): Kristina McMorris discusses her novel “Sold on a Monday,” a Depression-set story inspired by the famous 1948 photo of four children huddled on a Chicago porch behind a sign reading “4 Children for Sale,” 7 to 8:30 p.m. Monday. Register at 216-831-6868.

Snowball Bookshop (564 West Tuscarawas Ave., Barberton): Ronald Koltnow talks about “Barberton Fried Chicken: An Ohio Original,” 1 to 2:30 p.m. Friday.

Barnes & Noble (198 Crocker Park Blvd., Westlake): Tiara Varner signs her children’s book “The Adventures of the Onyx Brothers: The Shaky, Achy Tooth,” 11 a.m. Saturday.

 

Send information about books of local interest to Lynne Sherwin, Features Department, Akron Beacon Journal, P.O. Box 640, Akron, OH 44309 or lsherwin@thebeaconjournal.com. Event notices should be sent at least two weeks in advance.