Thursday, April 2, 2015

The Eight of Swords and The Prince of Wands

March 24, 2015: The Eight of Swords: The Blood Fold by Tania Pryputniewicz

“Good luck,” Mary says each time before we hang up the phone to write to our cards of the month. This bit of warmth makes it possible for me to pick up the pen, for writing is hard work. We’d been joking, laughing, Do we want to write? No. Will we write? Yes. Mary’s love, like a neck scarf, trails me into the tunnel of alone, the part of our shared Tarot writing journey we do separately, bright promise of her voice on the other side of our twenty-five minutes when we will read our reflections back to one another.

It is not one of my favorite cards--this March’s Eight of Swords, Interference in the Thoth deck--with its purple background and jangle of red lines and triangles, six scimitars and sickle-curved, jagged swords overlaid by two long, straight swords as if set just so on top to bring order to the unruly six.

In my mind’s eye, I see the Rider Waite image for the Eight of Swords: a blindfolded woman standing in front of a row of blades anchored in the ground. A typical Tarot response is that the woman could step left or right in order to cut herself free. Victimhood stars in this interpretation, since she could end her bondage if she chose. What is she gaining by stasis, though, might be a kinder question.

Alejandro Jodorowsy, in The Way of The Tarot: The Spiritual Teacher in the Cards, has an even kinder take: “the mind has ceased to identify with its concepts. It is a powerful orientation, a trance state or deep meditation in which the duality of opposites dissolves in celebration of the present. The solution to problems becomes obvious, beyond the powers of reasoning.”

I want this calm interpretation to be the one I lived. But instead it was a month of withstanding interference and overcoming obstacles to book doctor’s appointments and meetings with the school, counselors and more for my teen-aged daughter in crisis. And trying to understand why—given the myriad good measures we’ve taken to help her--we are still standing in the kitchen at 1 a.m. arguing.

I’m raising my voice, But I am on your side. She persists, No, you’re not. You don’t understand.

My husband emerges woolly with sleep to intervene, can we keep it down, he’s getting up at 5 a.m. to supervise tomorrow’s dive. Our sons at the opposite end of the house begin their fidget awake which means soon they’ll take refuge in our bed. The raw ire now encompasses my husband; we’ve done it again: the family swords are out in the air spinning and glittering for the taking.

I long for the day before when we walked, Husky leaping between us over the kelp washed seashore, where I find a blue plastic sea-horse sand toy and the littlest, a green Miami dolphin baseball cap in wearable condition. My husband finds a canister go-pro, the kind you wear on the side of your head. He’s already turned it on and records a pan of the four of us on the side of the sand dunes comparing treasures.

So destructive, this interference of the mind, the pain families cause one another with the things we say. You don’t understand. I’m on your side. I negate my daughter's words: I do understand. She negates mine: You’re not on my side.

The argument started earlier in her bedroom. Frankly, I am in the wrong--her room is hers. I should know better: When I come in to say goodnight, say goodnight. Resist the urge to restore order: leave the wet towel, the empty mug. You are the only person in this house with your own room, I still can’t help blurting. It isn’t helpful. My daughter remains anchored and I muster the strength to go, abandoning us both to our separate truths. My husband retreats to our bedroom, boys blinking sleepily behind him.

In the logjam of our bed, I think about our house up north where I had a writing cabin with a desk, pastel sketches, sculpture of a man’s torso bearing a poem, sculpture of a woman poked with serpentine holes so the light inside of her rayed out in faint spokes, a painting of a Midwest barn glowing with the surreal blues of winter snow, and a futon where my daughter and her best friend loved to sleep. With a wooden tray of tea and chocolate, I’d cross the chilled deck in the dark and over the gravel drive to knock on the door, the outside bulb wreathed in moths and every other gangly, amber winged creature seeking light.

But now I wonder about that merging of psychic fields. Should I have kept that cabin separate? Maybe. But letting my daughter use my studio for sleepovers during the ups and downs of salvaging my marriage was often what I had left to offer. Under the roof of the healed marriage, it is my turn to respect her room, be-hair-banded, be-shoed, be-littered as it may be from empty plates to her clothes-pinned water colors draped above the desk, all hers to keep or clear. Maybe that awareness of the dance of merging and separation is the celebration of the present of which Jodorowsky speaks.

Or maybe the card shows how our daughters see us as we grapple with how to deal with them. Come on Mom, take off the blindfold. Come on Mom, don’t be so stupid, free yourself. But give me what I want, at all costs.

I know that craving well. To be mirrored. Loved. What she doesn’t know is that my blindfold is a blood-fold, a living web I see through before I make decisions regarding her, weighing needs vs. wishes across years of living she doesn’t understand littered with compromise, marriage, childbirth, and persisting with my passion to write.

Or, to step one more time into the figure on the card, maybe I am the blindfolded daughter standing in front of the Eight of swords linked inextricably to the Major Arcanum VIII, Mother Justice card. She sits on her throne with eyes open, unafraid, sword of truth in one hand. Scales in the other. Impenetrably aware of the next right thing to do, without personal attachment--something I struggle to relearn in the presence of those I love when they crave something from me. I’m learning Mother, still learning, how to withstand my own unmet cravings. Help me to teach my daughter to withstand hers.

March 24, 2015: The Prince of Wands by Mary Allen

My card this month was the Prince of Wands:  male figure in a chariot drawn by a lion, everything in shades of red and gold, the boy/man (he doesn’t really look like a boy or a man), the lion, the wheels of the chariot, the corona of flames coming out of the boy/man’s head, the flames all around him, the spears of flame coming up from the bottom of the picture – everything is red and gold.  The prince is holding a set of reins loosely in one hand, a staff with a bird’s head in the other, and there’s a kind of fountain of watery flames leaping out of the front of his chariot, like something you might see on a pedestrian mall except there would be no fire involved.

This was the perfect card for me this month.  I went to Tucson with my friend JoAnn; we stayed in a rented house in the desert and wrote and hiked on trails in the Saguaro National Park.  The colors of this card are the colors of the desert and the sunburst around the prince’s head looks vaguely Southwestern.  He’s moving, being drawn along across an abstract tan landscape like the desert floor – the way we were constantly moving throughout the trip, zooming through the sky in separate airplanes to get there, walking every day along tan sandy hiking trails, burning through the ten-day vacation, our time in that magical red and gold place getting shorter with every passing day -- and around the figure on the card, I see, in the spaces between the flames surrounding his head and the flames surrounding his body are little black things that look like bees. 

There are bees in the Arizona desert, it turns out, Africanized ones; you read about them at the visitor’s center before you go up on the trail – if you have an encounter with them run, it says on a laminated poster, and I did encounter them at one point, in the form of a loud, loud, getting louder and louder helicopter-like buzzing coming from the left and passing over and behind me and then heading off to the right as I started running up the path toward my friend, who was at least a half mile up ahead of me on the trail.  Those bees gave me pause, to say the least.  But in the end they didn’t stop me from going back out on the trail the next day.

Angeles Arrien says the Prince of Wands is a card for “mastery of unlimited creative expression that is totally inspired from deeply within” – that the fact that the prince holds the reins loosely in his hand, while the lion charges ahead pulling him in the chariot, means he’s allowing creativity to take him where it wants to go without restricting it or restraining it, and I would say that that’s an apt metaphor for my month too, my ten days in Arizona.  

JoAnn and I wrote every day, sitting across from each other in a sunny room, the door cracked despite the threat of flies and errant bees wandering in, to admit the warm Arizona air, trying to let go and let the language come out of us, to let the writing pull us along to the images and the meaning.  That kind of writing does feel a little like sitting in a chariot being pulled forward by a lion, a fountain of flames leaping in front of you, something growing inside a circle in your heart like there is in the boy/man’s chest, and maybe some scary bees flying along beside you.