Thursday, March 5, 2015

The Ace of Disks and The Princess of Swords

February 2, 2015: The Ace of Disks by Mary Allen

I kind of cheated when I pulled my card of the month last time:  I fanned the deck out on my coffee table and was about to pick a card from somewhere in the middle when I suddenly felt drawn to the card all the way on the right hand end.  I turned it over thinking I would put it back if I didn’t like it.  But I did like it – it was the Ace of Disks, one my favorite cards in the deck – so I kept it.  Then to make up for the fact that I kind of cheated when I pulled it I picked another card, which turned out to be the Prince of Disks.  I kept that card too, but all month long I’ve kind of felt like my card/s of the month weren’t exactly…  I don’t know … legitimate, as if there could be such a thing with a tarot card.

         The Ace of Disks in the Thoth deck represents the wings of the Archangels, or at least that’s always how I describe it when I’m reading the cards for someone:  There are layers on layers of deep blue-green peacock-feather like wings, and there are some brown rings like the growth rings of bark in a tree, and at the center is a circle with two pentacles, one inside the other, inside it, and inside that are three little disks, which, I read somewhere recently, represent actual money, the angel’s wings and the bark representing layers and levels of spiritual growth and gifts.  In the Rider Waite deck the Ace of Pentacles – they call disks pentacles in that deck, which I’ve always loved – is a picture of an arm extending out a cloud, the arm of God, and cupped in the palm of the hand is a golden disk.  That card always reminds me of a dream I had during an earlier era of our lives and our tarot-card reading together.  In the dream I was in a magical place – some spiritual realm I’ve never visited before or since in a dream although I long to -- and you were there with me, Tania, and I knew that you were my spiritual teacher.  In the distance on the horizon were mountains, like the mountains in the background of many of the Rider Waite cards, and resting along the top of the dream mountains was a big arm, and balancing in the palm of the hand at the end of the arm was a golden pentacle and while we watched it rose up into the sky and became the moon.  I told you I was afraid to be there in that place and you said, in your exact everyday Tania voice, “Then think of yourself at home and you’ll find yourself there.” 

I did, and I woke up, in the dream, not in my own house which in real life I had already bought by then, with money I got from a book contract, but in my old apartment in the house owned by my landlord, where I was always aware that I was living in someone else’s house. “I used to live in your house, but I have my own house now,” I said to that landlord once, very definitely, in a dream.  But the truth is that it’s taken me many years to feel like my own house is my own house, to really feel in any way like I own my own life and my house and I can do with it what I want.

         I had my kitchen redone last month, after years and years of living in my house and the kitchen getting shabbier and shabbier and me not having any money to fix it and also somehow feeling like it wasn’t okay for me to fix it, wasn’t okay to call someone up and employ them to fix it for me.  I had some money I inherited from my sister (there’s the Ace of Disks) and I used it to change my kitchen:  I picked a paint color, sort of a celestial blue, and paid a handyman, my handyman, whom I’m not afraid to ask to do something for me, to paint the walls, and I had new floors put down and I bought a new stove and had shelves put up on the walls and now, as I sit here writing this, I find myself in a newer nicer landscape than I used to inhabit in this house, a kitchen that belongs to me and where I feel like belong, which is clean and pleasant to be in, where I feel at home.  I do believe that, now, if I should find myself in that magical place again with you, dear Tania, my beautiful spiritual tarot teacher, and you told me to think of home and I did, I would find myself here, in this house that belongs to me instead of in someone else’s house – in my new spiritual house instead of back in the old tired not safe belonging to someone else house.  And maybe I wouldn’t even be afraid in that magical spiritual place any more, maybe I could stay there with you and the cards and the hand of God lying across the top of the mountain and the disk that rises up out of it into the sky and becomes the moon.

February 17: 2015 The Princess of Swords by Tania Pryputniewicz

I’m always drawn to the green light in the Princess of Swords. I was going to say that the green light shrouds her, but it doesn’t—she is green, thighs and arms and face lined gold due to the light emanating from behind rubble of dark clouds substantial enough apparently to brace her two slippered feet. Her sheer blue gown drapes off her thighs in swordfish pleats through which the green gold of her body permeates. Her helmet is the same dim blue as down-facing sword she holds in her right arm. She's just finished a decisive swipe at the sky. The loose infinity loop of light could be something she wards off or it could be the energy created by her act of protection.  Her other arm rests on a grey altar, the kind I’d imagine used to sacrafice an animal. Smoke drifts up from it and most of her body leans away from the altar.

Mary speaks of this card as doing battle with the universe, the mental aspect of the swords. I’m wondering if the opposition is real or imagined, as in worries the mind has created that arc back, revisit, in the guise of truth. The greens of the card feel youthful, spring-driven, blue behind the smoke cheerful. Engaged fully, The Princess of Swords appears confident though her cloud footing strikes me as tenuous or risky.

In a month during which I’m feeling internally alarmed by the external alarm comprised of my 14 year old daughter trying to maintain equilibrium, this vibrant image gives me strength. Aswirl with anxiety, I’m guilty of projecting my worst fears onto my daughter. The particulars of her stress belong to her, but I just know when I was her age, in hormonal overwhelm and confused by my parents’ divorce, I ran away one long night, wondering if it mattered to live. The turmoil felt real and “forever” at the time but I survived just fine.

If I can take this Princess of Swords with me into this time, put on her light blue shift and blue helmet, I can begin to see the accretion of tiny decisive actions I’ve taken to help my daughter as creating something tangible, like that gold partial mobius on the card. I’d like to close that loop of gold, keep one for me, and and trust she has her own. I buy her a CD player and relaxing CD music to help her sleep. In the doctor’s office, I open my purse and take out my pocket Georgia O’Keeffe; we thumb through the flowers. I read her a passage from my pocket Pema Chodron while we wait for the pediatrician.

My girl is furious and loving by turns, as I am with her; many midnights in tandem exhaustion we spar. But the sun comes up and we try again. I don’t understand what the billowing dark clouds beneath my daughter are truly comprised of, but they feel formidable and real to both of us. Most likely, simply worries grown larger than us both, normal teenage hormones, normal responses to body and mind stresses beyond both of our control.

The lithe green girl here on the card still has on her ballet slippers. As a child I loved to dance; the shoes remind me that even dancers in delicate shoes are powerful and that this phase of stress is a dance. The Princess of Swords will at some point run down the bubbles of her trouble cloud and into the forest, where her toes will again be surrounded by violets, forget-me-nots, and ferns. She is neither mother nor daughter, but some kind of intermediary. Perhaps a neutral, loving party able to see this time as a temporary test lined with love and possiblity to grow closer.  Angeles Arrien calls the Princess the “mood-shifter” and perhaps this is what I’m struggling to teach my daughter (since I am still learning myself)—how to let emotions come and then to let emotions go.

The altar for me represents traditions of sacrafice…perhaps structured spiritual paths. Just as the Princess is off the altar, to the side, I too feel off-kilter, no book learning or tradition to fix our lives. Because no-one has been exactly where we are in time, with our tangle of now: getting in the car perpetually late to school with two cups of hot tea--peach for me, honey chamomile for my daughter--spilling across our hands, the Husky, two little brothers, my make-up bag she’s borrowing these days, my eye-shadows banged loose of their color panes into crumbled bronze dust as if off back of butterfly wings, her backpack, a stack of books and outfits for kickboxing strewn behind her she’ll assemble as we jockey back and forth in two-lane traffic backed up into town in our low-slung four door with cracked windshield and side mirror under easy scrutiny of the four-wheel drive trucks and luxury cars as we lurch along at 5 miles an hour for the half hour drive to school that should take ten minutes.

On the way to the car, I’d found an apple under our hedge, the fourth apple I couldn’t find when making lunches and burning the littlest’s oatmeal ten minutes beind the time we needed to leave. We pass the Hotel Del at 8:50, hard-pressed to make it. Somehow I manage to drop off the big kids just before the tardy bell, the littlest throwing on his socks and shoes as we round the bend to his school. It is the first day in a couple of weeks all three of the children have gone to school.

In the quiet of the house, in a stupor, I take photos of the cat brushing up against the Husky, feeling guilty for not doing more but it is all I can do before turning to face the day’s tasks, the Dr. appts to schedule, the counselor to email, the socks to match, the garage to call about the van repair, the electrician for the lights in the bathroom that seem to have shorted out again. I sit in the stripe of sun and love these unlikely friends--cat and dog--rubbing noses so affectionately, just like the day last week my daughter plunked down shoulder to shoulder in the sun with me, just because, “Hi, Mom,” she said, “Hi.” “What? What do you want?” I asked, feeling grumpy and beholden, bracing for the next crisis.

“Nothing, nothing,” she said. And we went on from there, taking selfies and fighting over who would take the photos, a string of photos I'll look at before turning out the lights on my way to bed, heart lifted and mood shifted.