Friday, May 27, 2016

The Queen of Cups and The Ten of Disks

May 17: The Queen of Cups by Mary Allen

My card this time was the Queen of Cups.  The queen herself is virtually invisible on this card in the Thoth deck, just a small dim face almost hidden among blue swirls and green reeds; there are lotuses, a stork, and a large greenish crayfish shell that are more visible than the queen is too. About three quarters of the way down the image is a line separating the upper and lower parts of the picture; below the line is water, with the queen, the blue swirls, the bird, and everything else that appears above reflected in the water below.  As above, so below, is the message of this card. 

This is a very watery card, but when I look at it I think of air.  I’ve been thinking about this card all month when I meditate in the mornings.  I’ve got a few button-pushing things going on, and when I get out of bed, find my slippers, go to the bathroom, feed my cats, I feel a bit of heaviness, a little bit of anxiety roiling around in my solar plexus, like the remnants of an uneasy dream.  Then I go upstairs and sit in the green brocade chair in the corner of my attic study, close my eyes, and meditate for twenty minutes.  In meditating I focus on the moment and the world as it comes wafting through the open-because-it’s-May, east-facing windows on my right: the many-layered tapestry of bird songs, the green-smelling spring air, some background sound which is probably distant traffic on Route 80 but which seems like the happy humming or breathing of the world itself.  And I start to feel lighter, happier, more expansive.  My upper self starts to match my lower self; the part of me above the water line, in the world, gets more like the light airy place of the unconscious. 

It’s kind of the opposite of what Angeles Arrien says when she talks about the as-above-so-below aspect of the Queen of Cups in The Tarot Handbook:  According to her, the double reflection of the water in the Queen of Cups “is representative of the Queen’s constant choice to reflect her feelings accurately.”  In other words, as I read what she’s saying, the Queen lets the dark feelings, the pain and anxiety and other bad feelings left over in the unconscious from earlier traumas, come to the surface instead of pushing them down and keeping them hidden from herself. I can go with that too; I’m all for accepting and admitting those feelings without “blame or judgment,” as Angeles Arrien says. 

Last month I did some more accepting and admitting, letting rise to the surface of those old dark feelings.  I visited the deepest regions of my inner self through a therapy called EMDR and broke off a chunk of the old frozen emotions—shame, terror—that I felt around my mentally ill mother when I was a kid.  Those feelings are still stubbornly stuck inside me, or have been until I’ve located them, every single one of those remnants of trauma, years and years worth of them, and broken them up with EMDR.  I’ve been doing EMDR therapy for longer than I care to say and I’ve yet to come to a place where I don’t feel any of that nameless roiling anxiety, that unspecified dread, at least some of the time—maybe there is no such place—but I feel that dread and anxiety less and less.  I’ve gotten lighter and lighter, happier and happier, more and more peaceful—I can feel it in my solar plexus—as a result of all that finding and releasing of childhood trauma. 

Many years ago I pictured myself like some kind glass of liquid, clear on the top half, inky on the bottom—I knew I was suppressing a lot of stuff.  It wasn’t a good way to live, and I thought if I could just find some way to shake up the glass, the liquid of myself would get all mixed up and become pink and beautiful and healthy.  That is to say, my upper consciousness would match my lower consciousness, my interior world would be lighter and more permeable, more able to breathe, to hear and see and mingle with the beautiful outside world.  And now, in this May, 2016, I think that I can honestly say that my glass of liquid is pretty much the same color all the way through, that as above so below is true in my personal universe.

But that isn’t really what interests me most, I realize, when I look at the Queen of Cups today.  What interests me is the unconscious itself.  In the tarot cards water is a symbol for the unconscious.  With the Thoth-deck Queen of Cups the water takes up half the card, it’s all that water below the line.  In the Rider-Waite deck the Queen of Cups is sitting on a throne with a pool of water at her feet; she’s wearing a kind of cape made of water too. Maybe it’s seeing her sitting on that throne that makes me think again of sitting in my own chair in the mornings trying to access the water of my own unconscious as I meditate.  How you get to that water, that unconscious place, and what you find there is what really interests me. 

Every day it’s different for me.  It takes longer on some days than on others to get my thoughts to shut up to the point where I can make contact, even briefly, with that place of the unconscious.  I try to listen to the sounds but I keep getting distracted, I find myself rehearsing what I’m going to do that day or what I’m going to say somebody or blah blah blah.  This morning I could kind of feel the two worlds, the two states of consciousness, one superimposed on top of the other, the thinking, the incessant blah-blah-blah-ing, on top and the unconscious, that beautiful light airy place of water, showing through underneath.  And then I was there.  I can always tell when I arrive there:  Suddenly I feel my body relax and sink more deeply into the chair, and at the same time some part of me—my spirit, maybe—expands a little, like a flock of birds rising into the air.  It truly is like visiting some other place inside myself.   Sometimes when I arrive there I get a deep feeling of what I can only call being at home.  I didn’t have a real home when I was a kid, my relationship with home was extremely broken, and I’ve always thought I had no early experiences of feeling at home. But it turns out I did, I must have, because I find those feelings, memories of those feelings, when I get to that place when I meditate.  This morning, as well as those feelings, I felt a longing for home.  And I felt, in some deep way I can’t possibly articulate, that the place inside me I found by listening to the sounds around me and getting my thoughts to shut up, if only for a few seconds, was home.  I’ve come across a lot more in there too, in that vast deep airy watery place inside myself, during other very short windows that open while I meditate, and for slightly longer periods while I’m doing EMDR, and a few times in the 1980s when I got there with the help of a hypnotherapist.

As I look at the Queen of Cups now, the cup she holds in the Rider-Waite deck seems like a magic lantern containing an entryway to that magical place, and the watery blur of blue and green in the Thoth deck seems like a promise that we can all find that magical place inside of us and all around us if we just get still enough.

May 2016: The Ten of Disks by Tania Pryputniewicz

I was delighted the Ten of Disks fell as my card of the month! In the Thoth deck, the disks are thick as cut rounds of wood or foil coins full of chocolate you might get in your goody bag at a Pirate Party. Behind the ten main coins positioned in the pattern of the Tree of Life we see the pale green coins of spring, and beyond them, dusky violet coins rimmed in red.

Having sold our home, we are poised here at a respite during which we can afford to fill the family cupboard and portion funds to keep us above the poverty line. The blessing of the card extends to my many jobs I am grateful to, for the way they contribute financial and spiritual dividends: teaching, writing, and stewardship of others, including writing mothers, while raising my family.

In the Rider Waite Smith version of the Ten of Disks, we see a curtain of falling disks obscuring our view of a family: seated grandfather, several dogs, husband with back to us, wife facing us, child clutching mother’s skirt. Rachel Pollack, in Seventy-Eight Degrees of Wisdom, suggests the card in part refers to, “hidden experience in ordinary things” and suggests the family might fail to “notice the magic all around them.”

Coming out of six months of financial strain, I am acutely aware of the magic all around us again. And the practice of regularly reflecting on one’s life in journal entries or photos or blogs fosters the currency of precisely such an awareness of “the hidden experience in ordinary things.” I have found it to be true of the domestic monastery, but it applies to any life in which one stops to reflect in writing day by day (a hands on form of meditation).

I don’t know if my children and husband see the magic all around us, but I feel it in the Sundays we rise and hop in the van to drive along Route 75 parallel to the sea.  A four-minute spin delivers us to Katie’s CafĂ© where its surfboard sign, hung by a pair of chains, greets us with image of a mermaid resting on her side. In we go past the paintings of surfers emerging from sunlit-backed barrels and tables adorned with glass goblet worlds holding cacti and succulents anchored in multicolored pebbles, miniatuure clay surfboards at the ready. A life-sized Neptune covers the supply closet door; even inside the bathroom we’re met by undersea imagery of kelp and fish lit by lone strobing urchin lamp.

“Welcome to Katie’s,” the barrista beams, pushing menus at us down the counter though we already know we want Davos, acai fruit bowls, Hammerheads, apple-shaped apple juice for the littlest, the middle son sporting his first ox-blood leather jacket and white t-shirt. Katie herself--if we are lucky--with her long blonde braid down her back reminds us to sign the kids up for her summer surf contest. We corral my husband from the inevitiable two or three former students or current trainees he’ll run into and snake a couple tables out back. Over the sound of the surf, the ocean breeze chills while the coffee warms our palms.

I’m grateful for these Ten of Disks mornings with gift of breakfast the five of us gather to share before the scatter:  youngest to skateboard practice, the middle (James Dean boy) to work out at the gym with three buddies, the daughter to lifeguard-aide training, and the husband to tackle the Obstacle course on base…which leaves me free, free to breathe, and best of all, free to harvest the bounty in words.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

The Hierophant and Art, or Temperance

April 2016: The Hierophant by Tania Pryputniewicz

In the Aquarian deck, the Hierophant’s gloved hands remind me of falconry and I step right into the world of Robert Duncan’s poem “My Mother Would be a Falconress.” When I first read the poem in the heartland, I recognized that form of psychic connection bordering on bondage that Duncan captures, though it is a fertile way of relating I associate more with my father than my mother.

In the Hierophant’s red scepter I see the telephone poles and redwing blackbirds of my Illinois childhood. Two keys sit in the left hand corner of the card. Which door does the Hierophant guard or welcome me to unlock? His pale pink and pewter complexion makes him appear invincible. Intellectually I know he often represents formal religion, as in the Pope and other more rigid traditions of spirituality as defined by large groups that appoint a leader to embody their teachings.

As I write new poems about the Illinois commune I lived on as a child, I’m thinking about borrowed religions and ideas.  Raised as they were by Christian and Catholic parents and struggling under the duress of a breakdown my father suffered, my parents opted to start over on the commune after reading The Ultimate Frontier (a book written by our leader detailing his spiritual journey and the lessons of many prior civilizations). We moved from upstate New York to Illinois to join the Stelle community.

Our leader, we were taught, incarnated as King David and further back in time, as the Pharaoh Akhenaton. We drew on diverse traditions to shape our daily ways—out of yarn we made Eyes of God; on Easter we walked a spiral bordered by lit candles. The literature of those commune days still fills my imagination from The Education of Oversoul Seven by Jane Roberts to The Sun Rises (a book written by Dr. Stelle about cavemen Rhu and Hut and the White Brotherhood our leader claimed carved an insignia on his hip).

Knowing there were multiple incarnations made this one seem optional, mundane. Traipsing around on our various field trips, I wondered: Why learn about fertilizer for seed crops or butchering methods at the slaughterhouse or chemical mixtures for sewage? Why would we, the chosen children, need to know these things, if we were once Lemurians or Atlanteans? Why did we fall from grace? How was it possible to skin a knee? To lose a cat to a car on a hot tar road in summer? And how am I to know which past incarnation’s work I need to complete in this incarnation?

I’m using poetry to call a Truce against the pressure of the commune’s unconscious, absorbed, and borrowed beliefs. I begin to make peace with my parents’ pilgrimage in the corn when I look through not only their eyes, but those of the other adults operating at that time in my circumference: the practical, simple, daily “teachers” acting as collective counterbalance to the Hierophant, our leader, at the helm.

When the leader was exiled for alleged inappropriate relations with the mothers of Stelle, our family left the group. The door swung open and out we went into the free bright air, traveling in a Maroon 57 Chevy with wooden camper my father built for hand by us. In California where we landed, I spent years mistrusting the Hierophant. Neither traditional nor wildly creative forms of religion seemed real though memories of the past both haunted and inspired.

When I look at the Thoth Hierophant, I see the comforting earth-tone browns of a robed man and in front of him, in his path, a barefoot Egyptian woman in Blue. Who wouldn’t want to be that agile, graceful, poised Egyptian queen, crescent moon in one hand with downbent sword at the ready?  And yet in this image, I see nothing real or of this world I live in at present.

But maybe that is the point, we are to feel outside of the card, eager and wanting the state of grace the Hierophant and female in front of him seem to possess. Trust in me, they seem to say—I know the way. I don’t think we are meant to revere symbols, Hierophants, our parents, or other human beings so much as we are meant to revere the process of searching, looking, and listening to our responses to them.

And maybe the Truce is realizing we can learn just as much, if not more, from a derailed Hierophant as a pure, perfect Hierophant.

April 7, 2016: Art, or Temperance by Mary Allen

My card of the month was Art, or Temperance, as it’s sometimes called.  It’s the fourteenth major arcana card, the one that follows Death.  I love this card and was overjoyed to see it come up when I picked it. In the Thoth deck it shows a woman with what I can only call a two-sided face—one side dark, the other side light—mixing fire and water together over a cauldron. There’s a bluish-white lion standing on one side of the cauldron and an orange eagle on the other side, both of them with their feet in the pointy orange flames that are heating up whatever’s up in the pot.  This is a beautiful card with many strange and arresting images:  a circle in the woman’s chest holding a clutch of celestial blue balls, a large oval of pale yellow light behind the woman, with writing in it (what does that writing mean? I don’t even know what language it’s in), the woman’s green dress decorated with bees.

When this card comes up I think it’s talking, not so much about art as we think about it but about the art of life, the alchemy of mixing things together—a little of this, a little of that, sorrow, happiness, darkness, light, and what you do with all of that—to create a life.  Living a life is the ultimate creative act, I read somewhere, and to me this card is talking about that.  And I guess it’s an apt card for my month that just passed. 

Angeles Arrien says that every symbol on the Art card “represents the union of opposition which creates something new.”  Something really great happened to me last month, and something not so great, or actually a few not-so-great things, happened too.  The nice thing was huge and the not-so-nice things were all kind of small, but on balance, in some metaphorical weighing scale of suffering versus pleasure, the not-great things probably at least equaled the nice ones if they weren’t heavier.  They didn’t cancel them out though; all those things were just mixed together, creating a month.

The wonderful thing was:  I was on vacation in the desert for two weeks, writing and hiking, resting and thinking and laughing and talking with my friend.  The not-so-great involved being sick for two weeks before I left, losing a bunch of sleep and feeling sort of sick again after I got back, and, in the middle of the vacation, like a drop of black ink falling into a glass of clear liquid, a rejection letter that arrived in my inbox, for a memoir I’d spent the last two years rewriting after spending at least fifteen years writing.  Just one little rejection letter, I know—everybody knows you have to get thousands of no’s before you get a yes, and blah blah blah.  But, for various reasons, psychological and otherwise, I found it discouraging, disheartening, dispiriting, faith-in-my-writing-diminishing, and a whole bunch of other things.  Still, later on in the day it came, my friend and I went out and hiked through the desert, baking in the sun, buffeted by the wind, and I started the work of digesting that letter, making sense of it in the context of my story, scrounging up the courage to try again.  By the end of the day I was ready to go back to the cauldron of life, to keep mixing in new ingredients, creating more faith.  

Related Link:

A discussion the formative influences of the Stelle commune on Tania's writing life, poetry, and a bit about the beauty of Tarot writing:

Podcast, This Choice, hosted by poet Ren Powell

Friday, January 22, 2016

The Prince of Disks, The High Priestess, and The Fool

January 15, 2016: The Prince of Disks and The High Priestess by Mary Allen

I picked two cards last time, the Prince of Disks—naked guy in a chariot holding what looks like a brown-leather globe, many smaller glowing-bath-bead-like balls behind him forming a backrest, everything brown and earth-toned, the chariot pulled by a bull—and The High Priestess, the number two major arcana card—white blurry woman semi-hidden behind a net-like screen with something that looks like a white China teapot on top of her head, a harp on her lap, a cradle of blue-ish energy with swirls at either end rising to meet her outstretched arms, and, at her feet, an array of vividly colored flowers, grapes, crystals, and a little camel.

The two cards sat on my coffee table for a couple of weeks surrounded by books and scribbled-on post-it notes and unread parts of the Sunday New York Times, not talking to me at all.  Then a few days after the New Year arrived they suddenly said something.  

My friend JoAnn and I decided to write about the previous year and what we wanted in the year to come.   A long time ago, back in the early 1990s, we made lists of what we wanted.  She wrote down the lists for both of us, and I would have forgotten all about it if I hadn’t happened upon the scrap of yellow notepaper with my list written out in her neat JoAnn handwriting, about nine years later.  On the list were things like, I want to have all my time to write and not have to have a job, I want to publish a book, I want to own my own house.   The very idea that I could have those things was laughable back when we made the lists and I don’t know what gave me the courage to ask for them.  But by the time I found the list nine years later, I had them all:  I had all my time to write because I’d gotten a big book advance and I’d bought a house with part of the money and I had a book that was about to be published.  That certainly got my attention, and ever since then some superstitious part of me has felt like if I can just think positively enough, if I can just do a good enough job of envisioning what I want a la The Secret, I’ll get it, and if I don’t I won’t get it.  (This, despite the fact that I’ve written down plenty of other lists of stuff I wanted and even put the lists in a receiving bowl or written them over and over on sheets of paper that I left in a folder in a drawer, and not gotten any of those things.)

When JoAnn said, a couple of weeks ago, she wanted to write about what she wanted for the coming year, I thought about all of that again.  And when we did the writing I did write about some things that I kind of want now.  My desires for material out-in-the-world things like new houses and not having to work and even book publications have gotten much less urgent over the years as my daily life has gotten happier—not happier because of what I have, but because of how I’ve changed internally; I can barely conjure those desires up at all, though there’s still some small superstitious part of me that feels like I should ask the universe to give me new and better things.  So first I wrote about what I wanted materially, and then I wrote about what I wanted for myself spiritually, that is to say, inside myself, and I realized that the latter had become a lot more important to me than the former.

After I did that writing I went into my living room and sat on my couch and my eyes fell on my two tarot cards of the month, the Prince of Disks and The High Priestess, and what they had to say to me fairly jumped out at me.  For a long time I’ve thought that the High Priestess, with her pale hidden priestess power beaming into the universe through her upraised arms and that oasis full of life and color at her feet, is about manifestation.  About the spiritual power that is behind everything, not just getting a house and a publisher and time to write, but every single part of life, whether we know it or not.  And the Prince of Disks, with his balls and his bull and his ruddy nakedness, looks like, I thought in that post-New Year’s Day moment, the ordinary gifts we accumulate in daily life, what we make every day with our steady efforts, which is a kind of manifestation too.  I thought the Prince of Disks might be talking to me about all the work I’ve done to improve myself and my life in the last twenty years, ever since my book was published and passed more or less unnoticed into the literary ether without bringing me much in the way of further magic:  Ever since then I’ve been working steadily on making my everyday life a life I don’t need divine intervention to want to be in, finding work I don’t want to escape from, figuring out how to feel better about myself, appreciating and improving the house I’ve got instead of thinking I need a new one.   I’ve learned that the universe might buy you a house but you’re going to have to do a lot of work before you can even begin to like it and live in it.  All of that is what I thought about when I looked at the Prince of Disks lying on my coffee table.

Then I looked again at the High Priestess.  Was all of the above just what she was talking to me about too?  Or is it possible I could get another shot at a different, more magical kind of manifestation, now that I’ve done all that work on myself and I’ve also finally, on January 3rd, finished my second book, the one I thought I finished a couple of times before and couldn’t get published despite the lists in the drawer and the requests in the receiving bowl?   Could the High Priestess be telling me my luck is about to change, that flowers and a camel—different flowers, a new camel—are about to appear at my feet in some magical way that won’t require effort or grappling with expectations or low self-esteem or any of the other everyday challenges that usually go along with this life? I’d like to think so.  At least, I guess I would.

January 15, 2016: The Fool by Tania Pryputniewicz

It’s my birthday today; I rose at 5:50 a.m. in the dark in a quiet state of elation which followed me into the kitchen to the spit and spin of coffee beans, the bitter smell of grounds, burbling chirp of water--all the morning rituals that make up a beautiful life as a writer and mother, knowing that on the other side of the dog’s walk, mugs in hand (half my husband’s coffee splashing out onto the sidewalk as Husky lunges after a jackrabbit), on the other side of oatmeal for the middle child and toaster waffles for the second, and after giving up on the sleeping teenager who stayed awake all night to study for finals, I will be throwing a birthday Tarot reading for my January with Mary and writing to December’s card of the month, The Fool.

In the Inner Child deck, The Fool card is titled Little Red Cap. She stands poised with butterfly on finger tip and a basket of apples on one arm, wolf flattened and wrapped around a purple tree trunk just outside of a cabin. A blue light haloes Red Cap’s hand and butterfly, her focus on that one second the butterfly trusted her enough to alight.

The authors of the Inner Child deck (Mark and Isha Lerner) speak of the red cap symbolizing the initial stage of spiritual adventure, reminding us that the jester’s cap in the traditional imagery of the Fool “signifies the presence of divine consciousness.” There’s a way in which Red Cap enters the woods oblivous to dark forces eager to divert her. I love Angeles Arrien’s affirmation: I respect the nature of who I am; there is nothing to fear (The Tarot Handbook: Practical Applications of Ancient Visual Symbols).

Behind me stretches a rich December in which, like a Fool, I committed to blogging three days a week to prompts on Quest 2016. Foolish, with a weekend workshop to teach, dozens of holiday cookies to bake, and a roadtrip to Northern California looming. Like the Fool, I packed my tools in bag and set out. As we drove the ten hours north, sketch pad on lap, I pulled Tarot cards to help me answer blog prompts and doodled in colored pencil when words failed.

Keeping to it meant staying up late at my brother’s table, crook of his tiny sidelamp warming my scalp as I photographed artwork and blogged to the snores of the kids burrowed in their sleeping bags and my husband peeking out of his to ask, What are you doing now? Perfectionism, due to lack of time, waned, so each post was briefer than usual. But coloring my way through the knot of emotions road trips and large gatherings trigger gave me a surplus of peace; I was present to the kids and to my surroundings. Which inevitably fed my eye imagery for the blogposts and resulted in a win-win of quality of life, quality of art in a serene and rhythmic mobius.

In the Thoth deck, The Fool wears a suit of full green. He faces us, unflinching. In the Rider Waite Smith, we see the Fool in profile about to step off the cliff. He’s not braced against freefall, something the creative process requires. I’m thinking of lucid spinning dreams in which you accelerate at ridiculous speed flooded by equal parts terror and joy. There’s no stopping the disintegration and there’s a delicious desparation to find God leveraged by the adrenaline-surged sensation of annihilation. Which might be a form of prayer in action, a motion based experience of faith upon waking to find you still have a body, a life to live before you.

Or a way of allowing the light of source to course through us, as here in the Thoth depiction we see the Fool’s face aglow with pale gold. His raimant, too, from gold boots to gold curls under green cap, capped with divine red feather.  

Given everything--the chronicles of mistrust or pain any one of us at midlife could place on the ledger to prove the world is a dark and dangerous forest--it is foolish to trust, to start again, to quest anew.

And yet, Yes, the Fool says to me, Yes; here we go again.

Related link:

Friday, December 18, 2015

The Princess of Cups and Lust

December 12, 2015: The Princess of Cups by Tania Pryputniewicz

My card of the month this time was the Princess of Cups. In the Thoth Deck, she floats in blue sky or water, pale green slippers supported on vines or arms of a leviathan octopus. One hand loosely grasps a lotus and the other holds out a basin supporting a sleepy looking turtle whose shell floats up off his back. Turtle, lotus, and edges of the Princess gown splay out in rays towards us in a unified field of letting go.

“The heart has many mysteries and ambiguities;” writes Alejandro Jodorowsky of this Princess; she may “hesitate between fear of being hurt and the desire to give all of [her]self” ("Way of Tarot: The Spiritual Teacher in the Cards").

I’ve been thinking a lot about the heart also in relation to Quest 2016 (an online adventure for which questers quest by musing on prompts created by visionaries). I’ve responded so far by pulling Tarot cards, usually three, and in addition to writing about the cards, sketching a synthesis image in colored pencil. The heart and the eye often figure. 

I went to a wedding this month with my husband. On our way to our chairs, we walked through tunnels of green hedges laced overhead with firefly-sized points of light. We emerged in front of a fountain, its basin adrift with red rose petals.

We sat facing the gazebo in the unusually windy December late afternoon, shafts of sunlight passing through thick pale gold and lavender trunks of the eucalyptus grove, waiting, listening to a classical trio and the lilt of violin. In that waiting, stilled as we were without our children or cellphones, I considered what it would take to give more. As a wife.

After the ceremony, I stood by the heat lamps watching the women in furs. As the waiters circulated, I ate warm mushroom tops full of melting cheese and noodle sachets soft with olive oil. We could see the photographer, perched perpetually between his umbrella lights, profusely wiping his brow. When it was our turn to be documented, I brought him a cup of water.

Inside the banquet tent, the billowed ceiling glittered in the glow of three tiered crystal chandeliers. White and peach rose bouquets floated three feet off the dining tables at even intervals on slim metal vase stems, meridians of tables below lined with candles and evergreens braided with red roses. Halfway through dinner, laurel crowns winking with white lights, a dozen ballerinas fluttered over to the head table to bless the bride and groom.

Everywhere: evidence of the bride’s love of light and jewels from arbor to chandelier to table to her own beaded gown.  I watched all night, separate as usual, but a little more merged and trusting. Here was beauty; I could let go. I danced with my husband, many songs in a row.  My husband I knew best; we came to know the rest by dancing, dancing, dancing.

Somewhere during dinner it began to rain. By ten o’clock, on our way to the parking lot, my husband pulled me into one of the arbor archways, his shirt damp from dancing, his heart-heat wicking through the silk of my blue dress. He kissed me to the sound of rain on the leaves--just us—with a suitor’s kiss. I looked up into the night sky where the eucalyptus tree limbs vanished into the misting rain, tree’s upper half retaining shape as a hive of pale blue lights threaded for yards up into the sky in its own anchored star field.

On the freeway, the rain fell in thick gusts. I was afraid. But the one bum windshield wiper only folded once, kindly waiting until I had passed the ambling semi with its dragon exhalations of roiled mist and rain coursing over our hood. The gas gauge’s red needle hovered mournfully over E forcing one more stop between storm and hearth.

The kids were wide awake when we walked in. Someone had spilled red candle wax on the rug. Someone’s homework remained undone. Half-eaten tamales crowned dinner dishes strewn about the counter. The husky howled mournfully, destitute of her walk.

All night the wind. All night I heard it, waking to the cats batting at the blinds to be let in, to be let out, husband warm each time I returned to sleep beside him. All night I thought again about the pastor’s words: he said we come to know our spouse more than anyone else, even more than our children.  Since children come after the marriage, they serve to deepen it.

I’m thinking of the heart, and “heart seeing.” We see with our eyes and yet the heart sees in its own way. Here the Princess of Cups has her eyes closed, even as she lets go, trusting what she is offering to be received by a benevolent world—turtle to arrive at its next bit of land, cut stem of flower to land in water. Maybe this Princess of Cups represents the eternally young part inside of every parent…the youthful self passing through the lessons of unconditional love and letting go no matter what body-age she or he is.

I saw it most clearly during the solo dances: in the face of the mother dancing with her son the groom, for as wise as she looked she looked like a little girl too, and in the face of the father dancing with his daughter. We watched, riveted, as each pair conversed, tilting this way to lean closer to hear, drawing back to laugh and smile. Drew closer once more at dance’s end for one last hug. Then, the hands dropping to side, parent-child watching as grown-child walked away--without a glance backwards--to dance with the spouse of their newly blessed forever.

December 12, 2105: Lust by Mary Allen

My card last month was Lust, or Strength as it’s called in other tarot decks.  It’s the eleventh major arcana card, which follows the tenth card or Wheel of Fortune, which was my card of the month before this one.
In the Thoth deck Lust (or Strength) shows a naked woman mounted on the back of a giant beast—a lion with five heads, all but one of which are human:  there’s a king, a priest, two women, and a creepy dreamlike animal with something like a malformed small head coming out of the back of its head. Angeles Arrien (“The Tarot Handbook:  Practical Applications of Ancient VisualSymbols”) explains that Lust in the Thoth deck doesn’t really refer to lust the way we think of it but rather comes from the root luster, as in radiance.  The literal meaning of the card, if a Tarot card can have a literal meaning, is related to Beauty and the Beast.  But in the Tarot cards, of course, the beast is the beast within.  The Lust card is all about working with our negative thoughts, bringing light, more light, to the dark places inside ourselves.  The woman on the card, according to Angeles Arrien, has “overcome old fears tied with the past.” 

I’ve been doing plenty of that lately—trying to do it at least—wrestling with my childhood fear of my mother which has somehow morphed, like a shape-shifting animal, into fear of rejection by editors and agents and publishers.  I’m finishing a book I’ve worked on forever and instead of feeling happy and triumphant all I can manage to feel is dread and anxiety.  But even as I write those words the feelings change into something else; the words don’t even begin to capture what’s been going on inside of me, its subtlety, its light and shadows.  I think of how interior stuff is never so simple.  It’s as complicated and strange, as beautiful and ugly as the world of dreams and the images on the cards themselves, which are like dreams.  It, whatever it is—meaning, spirit, emotion—resists being translated into words, and it’s only through looking at the picture and at the world around us, that we can even begin to see it. 

The Lust of the card refers to light and although I’ve never thought of it this card in terms of light, maybe that is what it’s all about.  It’s the middle of December as I write this, almost the equinox, the shortest day of the year, and we’ve been having a series of short gray almost lightless days.  But a few days ago the sun came out and I went for a walk.  Even though it should be winter it still feels like late fall here, no snow on the ground, temperatures in the fifties, and when I was outside walking I noticed how every bit of the world touched by sunlight was shining:  Individual blades of grass, the little green leaves still clinging to a slender young tree, flecks of mica in the sidewalk, even the old brown dead oak leaves littering the ground were all shining as if sending out their own light; there were stars of light on car hoods, reflections blazing in windows.  Sitting at my kitchen table later on the same day my ex-partner’s twenty-seven-year-old son, who’s majoring in electrical engineering at the University, explained to me that scientists used to think that electricity, that mystery that produces light, was made up of electrons but now they think it’s something like a cloud and at the same time also electrons.  Which seems to me like the cards and even like life itself, part dream, part hard-edged reality, sometimes one thing, sometimes the other, all interspersed with no real the boundaries between them.

The interesting thing I see in the Lust card when I look at it now is the way the naked woman riding the lion, leaning back as if metaphorically slayed by the light, the power, the energy of what she’s gotten on top of, is holding a chalice full of orange light, like the sunrise, up to the horizon.  Up to the horizon because she and the beast with many heads and the squiggly circles around them (representing old troubling thoughts according to Angeles Arrien), are all below ground.

The heads on the beasts look like faces you’d see in a dream or maybe a nightmare.  Quite a few years ago, when I had my first round of struggling with being an author in the world, with being published and where I thought it would take me and was afraid it wouldn’t take me in my life, I had dreams fairly regularly that three lions came into my house through the back door.  They were enormous and powerful, I knew they could tear me to pieces at any moment, but here they were paying me a visit, showing me forbearance, giving me the gift and the miracle of their presence, letting me know that I was special enough to have lions in my house.   And that reminds me of a dream I had last night, where I was in a place (some dream landscape or building) and King Henry the VIII in his later years was there, fat, puffed up with self-importance, scary, all powerful, someone who could destroy you in the blink of an eye if he wanted to—but, for the moment at least, he kind of liked me. 

What all of this is telling me there’s no way to know.  The meaning is just as mysterious and impossible to translate as the card and the dreams themselves.  But I hope it’s saying I’m going to get another chance to ride on the back of the big old beast of luck and fate in the form of publishing and have it take me somewhere, or at least give me another chance to encounter the dream faces inside myself, my hopes and fears and the projections of my ego—my little piece of the universal ego. 

Once in a zoo in Chicago I saw a glassed-in exhibit of long-dead garter snake with two heads.  Both heads had a brain, it said on a card under the snake, but only one of the brains was capable of intelligence.  And ever since then I’ve thought of the ego as something like that second head on the snake, a second, stupid head that grows up automatically on your neck when you have some success.   Which, now that I think of it, is kind of like the creepy grinning animal or maybe snake head on the Lust card, with a small second malformed head staring out of the base of its skull.