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.

Four of Wands & Two of Cups — Napo Tarot

Friday, March 16th, 2012

My younger sister was willing to pick a card, although she was not willing to ask a question. She likes this deck. I asked her what the picture made her think of. She said, “Not a thing.” I think it’s great that she specifically does like the colors and shapes of the deck but attaches no meaning to the image because it is too abstract. I have trouble liking something that I find too abstract to attach meaning to.


Interpretation: “Completion of work. Activity at a standstill, work unresolved. Union of equal forces.”


I need to make a story for everything. Sometimes, the story is particularly boring. These people are cheerleaders, shaking their pom-poms of fruit and leaves because they are happy to be done with what they set out to do.


I need a clarifying question, as it is obvious to me that neither my sister nor I are accomplishing what we mean to be doing. “What is the purpose of procrastination?” I ask, and draw the Two of Cups, reversed.


Interpretation: “Love, affection, relationship, courtship, friendship, marriage, pleasure, joy.”


Procrastination happens when we do not love what we are supposed do and therefore we put off the task at hand by doing something we love to do more.


•   •   •


I somewhat do not like this deck, perhaps because the Little White Book totally sucks. The introduction starts out, “Argentina is a country brimming with esoteric possibilities. Our aboriginal mythology, rich and profound, always skirts around mystery, destiny and hope.”

[…and finishes…]

“Bringing this deck of cards to the public is the satisfying result of a search for inner symbols. The Tarot cards came out of my imagination, and the drawings by Napo came as a result of the knowledge of the cycles of life. We thus immerse myth in history and find the same meanings, the same question, as in the Tarot of the Middle Ages.”


Unfortunately, there is nothing in the book about what the esoteric possibilities of Argentina are, little mention of mythology or explanation of the symbols she used, no talk of what came out of her imagination, no mention about how she and Napo worked together, nothing. Mystery becomes uninteresting when there are zero clues. I’m glad she found her inner symbols. I am sure others of her culture understand the symbols of this deck better than I do. But because she does not help me relate, her symbols do nothing for me. Either that or I’m just grumpy because I’m really sleepy.

Four of Wands — Tarot of the Immagination

Wednesday, February 8th, 2012

Frenec PinterArtist: Frenec Pinter


I have neither Little White Book nor box for this deck. This deck was originally a display copy in a bookstore that went out of business. A number of the cards have holes in them, as does this one. I guess the holes were to keep people from filching the cards. Now I have a deck with holes.


The only easy thing to say about this deck is that the meanings of its cards have nothing in common with the most modern occult tarot’s most common meanings: those of the Rider-Waite-Smith-type decks. If anything, the upright reading of this card seems like a reversal of the RWS-type:


Upright: Celebration, harmony, marriage, home, community
Reversed: Breakdown in communication, transition


The attitude of these people is like the attitude of people waiting for a train. They are together in the same place, but all their thoughts are elsewhere. They are coming and going; none of them are being here. This group is the opposite of a community. They have no intention of communicating with one another.


I am going to NY City this coming week. How am I getting there? How am I getting back? Where am I going to afterward— Quebec or Vermont? Externally, people traveling generally appear to have a purpose and a destination. Internally, travelers generally feel at least slightly out of place— lightly shaken— loosely scattered—


“In a Station of the Metro”

The apparition of these faces in the crowd;
Petals on a wet, black bough.

—Ezra Pound, 1911