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.

The Chariot — Typeface Tarot

Sunday, July 1st, 2012

Artist: Lynda Cowles
click image for link to deck

Out of the desert darkness drove
a rattling compact sedan— four doors and

THE CHARIOT! emblazoned on the side.

The letters spoke of triumph—

and of speed— and so

I stepped inside.


The driver was a man

of any age— I can’t recall his face—

O! but his eyes—

two disks that spun like flaming wheels—

I’d hailed a taxicab and caught

some new-born sun god as my guide.


He drove fast— swerved through traffic—

turned tight corners— ignored signs—

I do not know how long we sped.

I cannot tell you where we went.

I could not look outside the car.

I only saw inside— inside—

the speed— the noise— the flashing lights

flew by— flew by— flew by—
all the while he never moved

his hypnotizing eyes from mine


We stopped— and then the car was gone—

I stood exactly where I’d been.
The night was dark. The air was dry.
My journey faded into dream.

I cannot tell you where I went
and I’m not sure of what I’ve seen—

but one time— when I stood in darkness—

and took a ride.


The Hermit — Tarocchi dei Celti “Jacovitti”

Sunday, May 20th, 2012

The Hermit turns away from a consumerist, materialistic society to seek answers that arise in quiet solitude. He teaches us to honor timeless inner wisdom. The Hermit understands the myriad of paths that people choose and  helps us with compassionate detachment.


I draw one last card from this deck before I send it away to its new home. The Hermit. Why do I let this deck go so easily? Perhaps because I do not realize its value. Perhaps because I realize value is not intrinsic to an object, but rather given to it by others. Perhaps because it makes me uncomfortable. Perhaps because I know it will be adored in its new home. Most likely I let it go because I am afraid of becoming like my mother in her vast house full of curiosities and wonders. For example, there is a room built specially to house reels and skeins of yarn whose twisted fibers will never touch one of the dozens of knitting machines that lounge about the house, each one purchased in state of disrepair and fixed to perfect working order. They are for sale, if only some one would ask.


Last weekend I asked to borrow my mother’s button collection. I haven’t looked through it in years. I remember three large tins of buttons. They arrived with my sister last weekend, eleven tins of fasteners, each tin averaging 5”x8”x8” in size. One tin contains old coat buttons, hundreds of buttons in muted hues of grays and browns. Another contains white buttons, no mother-of-pearl. Another contains mother-of-pearl buttons only. Another contains antique cards of buttons once sold at 27¢ each. There are buttons to be covered, wooden buttons, woven leather buttons, sequined buttons, glass buttons, silver buttons, and more. Any button, any button. Thousands of buttons— myriads.


I am in the process of having my tarot deck printed. It is a long process because I am learning about papers and bleed and color and layout and nursing all at the same time. The local printer does not have a tuck box die, so I am going to design a card sleeve and then make a box decorated with ribbon and an antique button— hence the buttons— if I ever have two hands free.


There is always an idea. There is always material to carry out the project. There is often not enough time. Even less often is there enough will. The house is full of possibilities. A room of yarn. A room of fabrics. Dozens of sewing and knitting machines, fixed to perfect working order. Paints. Papers. Inks. Rooms full of books. Where is my mother amongst this? It is springtime. She is in the garden, weeding, building fences, moving rocks, planting seeds. Everything in the house can burn, as far as she is concerned. These curious items are nothing. The earth is everything.


The Hermit turns away from a consumerist, materialistic society to seek answers that arise in quiet solitude. He teaches us to honor timeless inner wisdom. The Hermit understands the myriad of paths that people choose and  helps us with compassionate detachment.

Nine of Cups — Renaissance Tarot

Thursday, April 19th, 2012

Artist: Helen Jones

Author: Jane Lyle


A delightful person whom I do not know suggested that when I don’t know what to write, I look at others’ blogs for inspiration. So I read her blog today and paraphrase a sentence and steal a few words. Such are the wiles of the writer.


In spite of my “best efforts,” [none] I’m not able to write a blog nearly as often as I like [every day], given that I have to simultaneously nurse a baby and bounce her up and down [okay not simultaneously] when I’m not nursing her and attempt to nap when she’s attempting to nap and— wait— I just stay home all day. Sigh. Actually, I have very little to do. I stare at my baby. I tell people who are visiting me [bless them!] to do things for me. Mow the lawn! Cook me dinner! Wash the dishes!


I draw the Nine of Cups. Enjoy yourself! [It will only get more difficult.]


Sometimes I sit here and stare at my baby and think, “this is exactly what I’ve always wanted.” The thing is, I never thought about wanting this, exactly. It’s contentment and satisfaction and happiness that I’ve always wanted, tho I haven’t always known it. These things come in many forms. In my experience, goal-oriented happiness-seeking does not lead to the same level of contentment as acceptance-of-life happiness-seeking.


A friend I met while planting trees in Alaska has a Chinese (?) tattoo on her shoulder. When I was twenty-two, I asked what it meant. She said— “It means, enjoy life.” Then, with habitual honesty, she edited herself— “Actually, it means enjoy yourself, but I tell people it means enjoy life because I don’t want them to take it the wrong way.”


I thought, “What is the difference between enjoy life and enjoy yourself?” I prefer enjoy yourself. It is somehow both more immediate and more permanent.


Ten years later, working in Hawaii, I met a native man who’d grown up on Ni’ihau. He had the most pleasant temperament, tho he said when he was younger, he was quick to anger. He loved to tell tales and I loved to listen. Whenever it was time for me to go— for it was never time for him to go— he blessed me with the words, “Enjoy yourself.” I thought of the friend I’d met in Alaska when I was younger. I thought how wise these people are, these people who enjoy themselves.


Enjoy yourself!

Five of Coins — Sakki-Sakki Tarot

Monday, April 16th, 2012

Monicka Clio SakkiArtist: Monicka Clio Sakki

Author: Monicka Clio Sakki & Carol Anne Buckley


Like all fives, the Five of Coins indicates a situation of conflict. The difficulty here is with money, wealth, or possessions. Times are hard. Life sometimes seems meaningless. What is the purpose of such material things as we surround ourselves with? If we open our minds and accept life without the comforts we are used to, what new things do we find? All things material are impermanent.


With patience and courage, the feeling of impoverishment can be overcome. The tools to do the dirty work are with us all the time. It is easy to look in the accustomed places for comfort and a sense of belonging; it is difficult to see a whole new world of riches that lies just beneath our feet.


•   •   •


I once lived in Hawaii. I worked with an arborist in an immense botanical garden, where I climbed trees big enough to hold tree-mansions. In my spare time, I swam in the ocean, out in the open ocean, swam from beach to beach out in the ocean, all alone. I brought nothing with me. I wore goggles and a swimsuit. I swam for hours on end. I swam with turtles, dolphins, humpback whales, and a myriad of fishes, out there, all alone. I came to land like a mermaid, uneasy on my legs. I was in love with the ocean. I was madly in love with the ocean. It was almost enough to sustain me— but I was missing community. I had no family. I belonged in the ocean, all alone, but I did not belong on land.


When my boss became tyrannical and abusive, I had no where to turn for help. His actions took away the beauty I had found in life. I became sick. I had no energy. Hanks of hair fell out of my head; much of my remaining hair turned white. Eventually, I realized the most important thing is family. Because I had not made a new family of people to surround myself with, I decided to return to the northeast US, where I grew up. I have family here. I know the seasons. This is my wealth. This is my community. These are the riches that have been beneath my feet all my life. When something is lost and something new appears, quite often, it has been there all along.

The Star — The Shakespeare Oracle

Friday, April 13th, 2012

Artist: Cynthia von Buhler
Author: A. Bronwyn Llewellyn


The first time I passed through Oaxaca, Mexico, I had one of the most amazing dreams of my life.


I dreamed I was a woman living in a small village in the mountains. I was newly in love and newly married when my new husband went off to war. He said to me before he left, “While I’m gone, make me a weaving.” So I made weavings. Every day I made weavings, weaving to no end until one day I said, “I can’t do this anymore. I have to stop. I have to do something else.”


I wanted to join the army. I bypassed all the armed forces where women are accepted. I walked until I came to a cement house where it was cold. I went inside. The house overlooked a canyon— a canyon familiar to my dreams, into which I often dove on wings of faith in search of freedom. The men inside wore black: black clothing, black hoods over their faces. This sector of the army was kept secret from women. No woman knew of it; none had ever been here.


I picked up a gun. “I wanted to fight,” I said.


The men looked at me askance. “You are a woman,” said one of them.


I saw into their hearts and knew then it was not a sexist remark. The men were aware that I could fight as well as they could, but they cared too much about me. Each one of them loved me and would not let me do this to myself. This squadron meant death.


In came the man in charge. He said I could not join. I was furious. One man after another of higher rank came in until at last in came the Zen Master. I paced in small circles as we talked.


I said, “I thought I knew this. I used to know what I was doing. I used to know detachment. I thought I knew what Zen was.”


He said, “We are all just learning.” He said, “Show me your weavings.”


I brought them out. He lifted up each of the weavings one by one and held each one in admiration. Each weaving depicted a different woman, sitting, weaving. There were piles of them, dozens and dozens of weavings, large, and in bright colors. The man nodded at each one. He knew the names and villages of all the women. He spoke highly of their weaving and spoke highly of mine.


At the bottom of the pile was a small weaving of a young child holding an empty spoon before her with two hands, as if in offering. The Zen Master could not place this image; he had never seen such a child. He asked, “What is this?”


I turned my head and looked at the floor. My eyes blurred with tears. I said, “Oh. That one doesn’t belong.”


He said, “Then get rid of it.”


“I can’t,” I said, and began to sob helplessly. “It’s my hope.”


“Well then,” the Zen Master said to me, “get rid of all the others.”


And I woke, sobbing.


*   *   *


The woman in the next bunk in the hostel noticed when I woke. She said she heard me crying but didn’t want to wake me in the middle of a dream. She sat at the head of my bed and listened as I told her my dream, crying. She said she never had dreams like that. I thanked her for listening. I am so thankful for her, so thankful for this unknown woman from Israel, for without her waiting for me to awaken and without her listening, I may never have remembered the most beautiful dream of my life: the dream of what hope is.


Hope is The Star. Get rid of all else.

Queen of Wands — Tarot of the Immagination

Wednesday, April 4th, 2012

Frenec PinterArtist: Frenec Pinter


I wish I knew which queen this image portrays. She should be strong, confident, a bit manipulative with her amazing amount of positive energy and charisma, and determined to get what she wants. Unfortunately, I wouldn’t recognize her even if she was currently famous, let alone historically famous. Anyone less clueless than I am?


I did not ask a question today. I hoped the card would inspire me to write. Unfortunately, I don’t think I like the Queen of Wands right now. Not this one. I don’t like how she looks at me as if she’s better than me. I don’t like her clean-ness, her white-ness, her lace and perfect hair-ness. I prefer the New-Age Tarot’s big-foot, multi-breasted, four-armed, three-faced, double-helix-bodied Queen of Wands who dances on an Earth of arms and eyeballs. She makes me feel so normal.




Five of Wands — La Corte dei Tarocchi

Tuesday, April 3rd, 2012

Artist: Anna Maria D’OnofrioAnna Maria D’Onofrio


The father of a nineteen-forties dollhouse family
left long languishing in my mother’s attic asks,
“Is this all there is?”—


Is this all there is, these separate beds
with plastic quilts draped neatly down the sides
and pillows firmer than my head?


The children’s toys went from popular
to out of date to vintage to antique
as the twins stood, unable to kneel,
trapped in a childhood of white lace dresses and pressed pants.


Our other, an infant, tied to Nanny’s apron with a thread
has neither wet nor cried through all these years.
Mother never held the stiff thing in her slender, hollow arms.


The toilet in the bathroom never flushed—
tho I do recall the year my daughter sat there,
skirt hiked up for all to see
as we took turns sleeping in the bathtub.


The living room never saw a mess of toys or spilled tea.
The piano never sang a note. The hearth never roared and
the mantle clock has told the same time
going on three-quarters of a century.


For one brief flash of of time
I watched my wife in the kitchen
as she cranked the wringer on the washer almost daily
and swiveled the sink handle.


But the basin is dry. There is no drain.
The icebox, the oven, the cupboards all are sealed.
Here we sit, legs out straight for over thirty years,
chairs pushed back from the empty table.
I wonder upon what it is that others dine
and Nanny, always standing, holds the baby.


La Corte dei Tarocchi answers with the Five of Wands—


A punctuated equilibrium of dust
rejoices in the chaos of chubby hands
three times a century.


One day your house’s pressboard walls will crumble
into something-that-has-never-been.
Only in that moment will you know
these days of waiting came
not because you were put aside
but because you were loved.