Knight of Sticks — Tarot of the Absurd

Thursday, September 26th, 2013

Knight of Sticks TarotCharge! Knight of Sticks pursues the spark of his idea. Ready to take on the world, he charges at his goal. Go! Go! Strong with courage, he fears nothing. Aiming his bow to the sky, he shoots the moon. Let fly! He tucks those with less valor under his strong arm that they might ride. Come ride! Thus, he sets off his journey in haste. Though he has no clear plan of attack, he has glory in his eyes. And O!— he is a thrilling lover with his love for action.


But O! too— he is impatient and impulsive, and consequences be damned! When there is no clear goal, the Knight of Sticks is liable to get restless and act recklessly. He needs to learn about the consequences of his actions. Not every problem can be “fixed” right away; not everything can be controlled. Many things are made worse when one does not take the time to think. In order to keep out of trouble, it is necessary to give this Knight one’s full attention.

Two of Sticks — Tarot of the Absurd

Wednesday, November 28th, 2012


Well favored, the Two of Sticks is about planning, progress, decisions and discovery. With such careful steps and the courage to attempt something less than comfortable, these two dancers have managed to find stability and freedom in an apparently precarious pose.


Ill favored, with poor planning, these two dancers start to tremble, upsetting their delicate balance. As the future quickly becomes uncertain, they must make a hasty plan to dismount.


I am feeling stuck. I have no plan. I feel as if my balance depends upon a partner whose next move is unknown by anyone but the omniscient. I feel stuck in this posture. Although it is where I want to be, my inability to make a plan makes it seem as if I fail to accomplish anything, ever.


I could blame failure of accomplishment on the fact that my baby doesn’t nap without me by her side or holding her, but that seems a cop-out. She’s so cute! How can I blame anything on her? I would rather blame it on the fact that I fail to use my time wisely and I don’t plan anything successfully. Especially not naps.


I would like to write a cohesive companion book for this deck. What are the steps I need to take in order to be able to do this successfully? What’s the plan, Shanahan?

Six of Sticks — Tarot of the Absurd

Thursday, November 1st, 2012

six of wands tarotThe Six of Wands is the card of victory and public recognition. These two people balance proud. They wear V for victory on their varsity sweaters. The winner’s laurel crowns their heads.


Victory is a success or a winning that leaves one happy or satisfied. It is, in effect, the sense of accomplishment. Thus, victory is an emotion, for our emotions are our feeling-senses. Q: “How do you feel?” A: “Victorious!”


A success or a winning that does not give a sense of accomplishment is not a victory. The public can recognize our acts and cry “victory,” but if we fail to acknowledge our own successes and let ourselves be happy with them, then in essence we never truly allow ourselves to be victorious no matter what the public may cry.


*   *   *


In my twenties I filled copious journals writing under the premise, “I write, therefore I exist.” My goal was to write myself into history. Pre-history is defined by the period of time before the written record, and history is written by the victors. I wrote to avoid becoming a prehistoric looser.


Of course, these days it takes quite a bit of effort to be prehistoric. We are recorded from our birth certificates to our death certificates. We are recorded through utility bills, traffic tickets and insurance payments. We are recorded on attendance sheets, police records, and tax payments. Tho public records, none of this will give us public recognition. Public recognition takes personality.


I did not want mere the existence granted by public records. I wanted to stand out: I wanted to be outstanding. No. I wanted to be outstanding, but I did NOT want to stand out. Okay, I wanted to stand out, but I did not want to STICK out. The problem was, I stuck out. I was used to sticking out. In grade school, I stuck out when the goal of every child is to fit in. I stuck out with all sorts of rough edges that fit no where. I stuck out in how I spoke and what I said and how I thought and what I wrote. I stuck out in how I moved and what I wore. I did not fit in: I stuck out. Exceptionally. And no matter how well I did at what I did— and I did do well at what I did— nothing felt like victory.


Victory began in the midst of an epic tour-de-USA bicycle ride when I sat atop the highest pass in the Sierra Nevada mountains: the east entrance to Yosemite. “I will always be discontent,” I decided. It seemed to be where I was headed. I made it my purpose. Elated with my decision, I descended into the valley at 35mph, no handed, arms out like eagle wings pulling a trailer on my bicycle. It was fun.


Soon, every time I found my self discontent, I was able to think, “This is what I want.” I became content with my discontent. The knowledge that I was where I needed to be made me happy. Eventually, happiness allowed me to recognize my own accomplishments. Eventually, acknowledgement of personal successes let me feel victorious.


Now my successes are all much smaller than they used to be. I allow myself a great sense of victory for each one (Yes! The kitchen is clean! The baby is sleeping! VICTORY!) and it all evens out. Secure in my existence, I hardly write anything anymore.

Queen of Wands Crossed by Temperance — Fairy Tale Tarot

Saturday, September 29th, 2012

I was recently gifted a nice new little laptop from a couple of family members. It is my first new computer in nearly eight years, thus I need to go about purchasing all those updated graphics programs. I want to draw cool pictures— might I someday be gifted the time!— so I bought a big screen. Then, of course, having a screen, I bought an external keyboard. Not having used a mouse since sometime in the mid 90s, I found it necessary to purchase an external trackpad. I don’t have all the correct adapters and such yet, so I’ve got a lot of pretty hardware sitting on my desk collecting fingerprints.


I need a break from my own deck and from one-card readings. My most-used spread has always been the celtic cross, although I am not certain I know what all the positions mean. Thus, I study the first two positions: The Significator and What Crosses Me. This would increase my typical reading by NEW! IMPROVED! 100% MORE CARDS! (one).


After more consideration than usual, I pulled the MRP Fairy Tale Tarot off the shelf. I really wanted something else, something simpler, but I paid too much for this deck, so I figure I ought to either try to appreciate it or be rid of it.


I picked out the Queen of Wands to represent myself, shuffled the deck, asked, “What Crosses Me?” and pulled Temperance. Is it possible to be crossed by temperance?


I take a break to scan the cards and ponder this and quickly discover that there is no software which enables my old scanner to function with my new computer. Sigh!*


The Fairy Tale story is called “Water and Salt.” It’s about learning to listen and appreciate the value of ordinary life. I suppose it is possible to be crossed by Temperance if one wishes to do something extraordinary. Or it is possible to be crossed by Temperance if one is extremely well-rounded and cannot choose a single path to follow. I suppose it is possible to be double-crossed by temperance should both instances be the case. Recently, I’ve been feeling double-crossed by temperance.


All the extremes that made my life so unusual are tempered by having a child. There are a number of extremes that I have excelled at. However, no one extreme has stood out above the rest for any extended period of time— except from the point of view of my partner’s son who sums it up quite well by saying that I am extremely bizarre. I have never argued.


The battle between the desire to DO DO DO DO DO and the desire to chill with my babe is not much of a struggle: the baby wins most every time. My one remaining extremity is writing. The fabulous worlds created by miraculous manipulation of the alphabet are one of the truest forms of magic. I have always dabbled in this form of sorcery. It has always been my dream to enchant.


Double-crossed by Temperance, the Queen pares her Wand to a fine point and takes aim.


*And I need a new camera, too, if I am ever to take pictures of my soon-to-crawl daughter.Baba Studios Magic Realist Press

Piatnik-Wien Three-Card Read

Sunday, August 12th, 2012

I am trying to learn to read tarot cards with unillustrated pips (minors) by merely reflecting on the geometry and colors and whatnot scribbles in the card. My favorite is the Tarot Piatnik Wien, which has beautifully colored un-illustrated pips.


I ask the deck to help me free my mind and learn to read unillustrated pips my own way. I draw at random one card for study. Valet de Baton. I am looking for numbers only, no people, so I draw another card. Valet de Denier. My third card gives me Troi de Epees, so I stop here and lay them out in a row.


Three of Swords


The Valet de Baton wears his fancy buttoned uniform in a field of flowers. The colors are warm. He kind-of reminds me of a British redcoat. He seems as if he is pondering something, tho not something unpleasant. According to the dictionary (one of my favorite references,) a valet is a man’s male servant who performs personal services. I think of batons as sticks. Sticks are natural things that come in all shapes and sizes. They are no longer living. This man is the Valet of Sticks, so he performs personal services for the natural world and those who love it. He likes to be outside doing stuff, but because he is immature, he does not have a great sense of direction in life in terms of what he wants. He knows what he should do, and he knows what is in his line of work, so, in general, he does what he is told. But because he loves the natural world so much, he also loves to explore. This leads him wandering down unexplored paths at inopportune times.


The Valet de Denier wears his fancy flower-embroidered uniform near a diamonded fence. He is a young man who performs services for money. Any blue collar worker (and he is blue indeed) can relate to this. He holds a big coin in his hand as if to say, “Hey! I just got my paycheck!” I think he is eager to learn what kinds of things he can do to make money. Until he matures, he might not care so much about the ethical side of the work he becomes engaged in. He knows that money is powerful but he isn’t sure why.


The Troi de Epees is black with a yellow border, as are all the epees in this deck. I call them blades. The backgrounds of the blades remind me of chalkboards, and the squiggly designs remind me physics equations or something I can’t comprehend.


What this says to me about my ability to read pips intuitively is this:


Like the Valet de Baton, I often run off into the woods without a proscribed trail. I do like to follow trails, one after another, but I do not know where I am going and I don’t necessarily care. I simply enjoy the woods.


Like the Valet de Denier, I hope to find a tiny bit of worldly success off what I do. But the success I will have at relating to plain pips in a worldly manner without outside influence will be mighty small. However, I know an awful lot and I can learn put it to use.


Finally, if I expect to be able to find insight using the pips alone without outside reference whatsoever, I will find nothing but blackness, indecipherable scribbles, and frustration illustrated on the Troi de Epees. This is but a small failure: a normal, every-day failure that occurs when one is not interested enough in the task at hand.

Ten of Sticks — Tarot of the Absurd

Tuesday, July 31st, 2012

Upright: hard work, great achievement, burden of responsibility, stress


The man in the image has harvested a crop that he has worked hard to grow. His goal has been achieved, but his responsibility has not lessened. The bounteous harvest is no easier to carry than the fields were to work. Lest he lose everything he has invested, he needs to move on to the next part of business and sell his ware. Unfortunately, there are not enough people to help him market the load. There is, perhaps, a more efficient way to accomplish his task than to do it all himself. Unfortunately, although he was quite inspired to create a boon of goods, he remains quite uninspired as to how to lighten his load. There are two main ways to go about it: (1) drop some (2) ask for help. Hopefully he does not turn full-face and make someone else do all the work.


*   *   *


When I lived in Fairbanks, AK, I biked everywhere, year-round. When I went shopping, I carried groceries home on my back. One time, I bought a bunch of groceries, loaded my bike, and then decided to check out what was on sale at the craft store. They were selling mis-measured picture frames for five and ten bucks each. So I bought a bunch of very fancy frames. Quite a few, really. Some were very very large.


Thus, my backpack was over-loaded with groceries, I had about eight picture frames tied to the outside of the bag, and I had a dozen eggs strapped to the top of the bike rack. I started to bike home through the snow. Only ten miles to go! I could do it. I knew I could. There was no doubt in my mind that I could do it. I’d carried heavier. I’d biked through deeper snow. I could do it.


Of course, I didn’t have to. There was nothing to prove to anyone. Not even to myself. I called a cab. It felt real good, calling that cab.

9 of Sticks — Tarot of the Absurd

Monday, July 30th, 2012

hidden enemies

The Nine of Sticks shows three camouflaged people battling with sticks amongst the trees. Are they fighting amongst themselves or grappling with a common enemy? How clearly do they see each other? How long has this been going on? Are they making headway or merely holding fast on the defensive?


The Nine of Sticks is about fighting it through to the end. The task at hand is almost complete— so close it seems as if it should be completed already.  Yet there is still more work. The work is perhaps more difficult than first imagined. There are unseen obstacles. Sometimes, such obstruction seems deliberate, as if hidden enemies wait around each corner or behind every tree. Try and try again. Be patient. Be resilient. Be vigilant and carry on. Some times, the greatest battle is the one that takes place in one’s own head.


*   *   *


I have dreams that I find a desk—
the sort with the front that swings open
to reveal cubbyholes and drawers
and within drawers there are partitions
and under the partitions there are boxes
and within the boxes there are divisions
each opened one after another because
inside there is something secret.
Each time I dream I find the desk
I am overwhelmed with excitement.
Nothing bad ever happens in these dreams.
No one ever finds me snooping.
I have no intent to take anything;
my only intent is to look
to find the last within-within.
The excitement is in opening one compartment
and finding another compartment to open.
There is nothing else.
There is nothing hidden but hiding places.
There is no enemy but that of waking up
before I find the ultimate within—

Page of Sticks — Tarot of the Absurd

Wednesday, July 25th, 2012

Princess Wands Tarot

The Page of Sticks is a light-hearted free spirit who encourages change, exploration and discovery. Unburdened, she comes and goes as she pleases. A creative restlessness smolders within her, emerging as spontaneous sparks from her exploratory mind. With or without a plan, she will give anything a go. Her enthusiasm is impressive, though she does need to be careful to remain focused, lest she lose interest in the project at hand and ultimately waste her own time and the time of those she snared in her net of energy.


Ultimately, her passion for living life to the fullest leads her towards a greater understanding of the world. With persistence and balance, her understanding matures her to a person whose creative vision can change the world. However, if she is overly-aggressive, impatient, pessimistic, superficial, lazy, or refuses to co-operate with others, she is heading down a path where her greater understanding of the world will most likely be learned at the school of hard knocks.

Four of Sticks — Tarot of the Absurd

Saturday, July 21st, 2012

Four of Wands


The Handshake


I met Willis in a bar in Fairbanks, Alaska.  We were both finalists at a  poetry slam and mutually curious of one other through the stories told by friends. “Will you live with me?” he asked. I don’t remember if there was prior conversation; he had not yet sat down at my table. I replied “yes” with little hesitation. Perhaps I took the question a bit more seriously than he had meant it.


I found a house for us: a giant, uninsulated box with a heater in one downstairs room and no running water. Pipes would never have survived. Two winters prior, four acquaintances of ours had lived there and nick-named it “The Icebox.” Three women lived upstairs and a man named Jon lived downstairs— for the most part— in the front room. Using “prostate issues” as his excuse, he pissed in apple juice jugs. When the jugs froze in his room, he left the juice-colored contents on the kitchen counter to thaw. Willis and I kept our bicycles in Jon’s old room. Both of us biked everywhere, year round. Due more to obsession than lack of money, neither of us owned cars.


When we moved in, there was an empty paper towel roll on the holder in the tiny kitchen. It is immortalized in the background of a photograph I took of Willis playing guitar in the dim light of the television. The empty tube remained until we moved out. Neither of us generated any trash to speak of.  Although we were similar in many ways, I will never know if he adored me half so much as I adored him or if he merely found me curious and unannoying. We seldom spoke. We never argued. I adored him.


It was in this house, in the large, unheated upstairs room, where I illustrated a good number of tarot cards. I worked in thick insulated camp boots, a hat, fleece pants over long-johns, a few long sleeve tops and a fleece jacket. My hands were cold. I was working on the Four of Sticks: agreement, contract, good communication, ceremony or rite, harmony, community. I did not want to illustrate a definitive celebration, such as marriage; I wanted to leave the context of the agreement open to interpretation. Thus, I settled on a handshake. Many deals have been sealed and many great things have been settled on a handshake.


As it was eleven years before I would live in a house with internet, reference was not easy to come by. I eschewed models. The handshake was giving me unusual trouble. I had been working on it for perhaps over an hour when Willis came home. I stood as he came up the stairs.


“Willis?” I called, hesitantly. Truly, we never spoke.


“What,” he said, and came into the room.


“Will you shake my hand?” I asked. He held out his hand and I took it (I touched him!). He looked at me curiously for the half-second it took me to examine the placement of our fingers. I let go, hoping it would be enough. “I need to draw a handshake,” I explained.


He grunted some understanding sound and went off to go about his business. I sat down immediately to draw before the image of our clasped hands faded from my mind. I need not have hurried; the mental image of that painfully shy, awkward moment remains forever burned into my retina.


Perhaps due more to his good graces than to mine, we lived harmoniously together and parted peacefully. We lived on that handshake: the Four of Sticks.

Five of Sticks — Tarot of the Absurd

Sunday, July 15th, 2012

5 of wandsFives represent conflict and change. They were some of the most difficult cards for me to illustrate. Nearing the end of my deck illustration project (only two more years to go!), I was left with all four Fives (Five of Sticks needed to be highly revised), four Kings, four Knights, the Seven of Coins, the Eight of Blades, Seven of Sticks, the Two of Sticks, the Three of Blades and Judgment, with the Eight of Cups requiring some major revision.


I took this to mean that I had some underlying conflict with men.


After I realized that Judgment was my own, not that of some great angel coming down from above to pull me from my coffin, I then knew, too, that any broken heart was of my own doing and if I was to remove the blades it was to be done with my own hand. I drew the images: Judgment, Three of Blades.


Meanwhile, a friend’s husband (a.k.a. a friend) gave me the assignment of writing a profile for a personals ad. Online-dating-service, I guess they call them. Ho, hum. So I did. It was kinda silly. I’m really introverted, and probably my profile came across as kinda introverted, but I met a few men and learned who Knights are, so I drew all my Knights and the Eight of Blades.


A year later, my partner moved in with me. I drew the Seven of Sticks, then the Two of Sticks. I revised the Five of Sticks. I drew the Five of Coins. I drew the Five of Blades. I fixed up the Eight of Cups in celebration of my partner’s divorce. I drew the Five of Cups. I drew the Seven of Coins. I was quite pregnant. I drew the Kings: Sticks, Blades, Coins, and the grand finale, King of Cups. Then I had a baby.


*   *   *


I learned the Five of Sticks as a foolish battle, thus I drew fools, battling in a precarious balance, wearing impractical footwear and jesters’ caps. The battle is foolish because every one talks at once. The people might even be in agreement, speaking only with slight subtleties of nuance, but no one would know because no one is listening. They are all to self-important. The argument fails to move along.


We must learn to listen to each other and to listen to our own selves. What are we really saying? We kneed to accept the inevitable differences and channel our energy in a manner that turns competition into cooperation. Change is inevitable. We can work together to try to find a change that is perhaps not exactly what we wanted, but something we can accept and maybe, someday, even learn to enjoy.