Thursday, April 20, 2017

The Empress and the Knight of Cups

April 7, 2017: The Empress by Mary Allen

My card this month was the Empress, the third major arcana card in the deck.  According to Angeles Arrien the Empress is about love with wisdom.

The Empress isn’t one of the cards I associate with myself or particularly relate to, although I love how it (she) looks in the Thoth deck:  A crowned female figure holding a lotus, her face viewed from the side, two moons and a bower of green leaves surrounding her, a swan and a shield with a double phoenix on it at her feet.  Except she doesn’t really have feet—her lower body is green—the whole card is predominantly green and pink, she’s wearing a pink top covered with symbols—and the green striped lower body might be a mermaid’s tail.   At first glance I can’t figure out what she, and love with wisdom, had to do with the month I just went through.
I spent two weeks in the desert last month, on a writing hiking vacation with my friend JoAnn.  We stayed in the same Air BnB house in 29 Palms we stayed in last year, sat across from each other at a formica table on the sun porch and wrote every morning and then went for a long hike somewhere in Joshua Tree National Park every afternoon.  I decided to write about the vacation during the vacation, which made me notice everything, made me more mindful more often, than I would have otherwise. 

I love the desert, love Joshua Tree, love hiking along the stony sandy trails that wind among the huge ancient tan granite boulders in the park, I love that house and the bedroom I’ve slept in there for two weeks, two years in a row now.  I love the sound of the oleander scratching on the window at night when I get into bed, I love sitting on the back patio in the sunshine every morning looking out across the sandy yard dotted with cactuses to the mountains in the distance, I love the air, the light, the cactuses, the mourning doves that roost on the clothesline and the hummingbird that sips and sips from the hummingbird feeder at the corner of the house.  I loved every single thing about that vacation, and I suppose you could say that by writing about it while I was there I loved it with wisdom.   Knowing I was going to write about it made me feel, if not exactly wise, then awake, aware, which I suppose is a kind of wisdom.

I don’t see the desert in the Empress, the way I could see it in the Prince of Wands with his golden corona and vehicle of fire, which I picked as my card of the month a couple of years ago during another trip to the desert with JoAnn.   The Empress is a watery card rather than a fiery one, all those pinks and greens and lotuses and water birds.  But the empress herself is resting in a bower of her own making, an inner bower made of peace and loveliness and happiness, and my desert vacation rests in my memory as a time of airiness and peace and happiness, and the desert with its fierceness has a kind of loveliness of its own.

A couple of days before the end of our vacation, JoAnn and I hiked a steep trail up one side of a mountain and down the other side to an oasis, a place where forty-nine ancient enormous palm trees grow in a fold among the rocks, fed by a spring.  We sat there for a while on a large flat piece of granite, eating almonds and drinking bottled water, listening to the wind rattle the flat dry leaves of the palm trees, breathing the cool, green, moist, pure air.  The green and pink Empress sitting in her leafy bower makes me think of that cool green oasis resting in the middle of the hard tan desert, and of our vacation opening like a window of summer in the middle of our winters.

April 7, 2017: The Knight of Cups by Tania Pryputniewicz

Oh the birds of San Diego are happy, warbling over one another’s songs in elaborate riffs and rounds! I’m sitting in the sun at a new wooden rectangular table on our back patio. At first I was sad to move aside the old weathered round umbrella table where I usually write, but the new one affords me room to scatter out my sketchpad, colored pencils, and my Tarot book library.

Before we hung up to write, I asked Mary where she’d be sitting. I can see her in my mind’s eye at her kitchen table in Iowa. How cheerful to be so vividly bridged these mornings, to be “taroting” (the verb Mary coined for our tarot play), together again.

For two months now the Knight of Cups has presided over my altar. A pair of heart-shaped shadows catches my eye first. They form the bottoms of the horse’s hooves as he kicks up his heels. This white horse with a blue bridle bears a rider with blue wings that echo pale blue shell-shaped sweeping waves, foamed, and one ethereal blue peacock at the card’s bottom.

I love most the rider’s wings. I’ve often thought the wings belonged to the horse, but the wings spring from the shoulders of the green-armored knight. The knight holds a chalice to the sky, a red crab emerging at cup’s rim. He’s offering up his heart and the heart’s questions. In the image of the crab I see a layer of protection, the color red so vibrant, a salute to the passionate heart.

The images suit the heart work I engaged in this month. On the heels of completing a cycle of poems about the commune I lived on as a child, I started mining the material again in prose. I’m still excavating divorce, loss, geographical and psychological moves—not in order to blame, but to understand motivations. Like every writer, I must balance heart concerns for those I write about with concerns for younger versions of myself. I need all three tools: chalice of open heart, sheltering shell of the crab, and wings for aerial perspective. 

Alejandro Jodorowsky puts these words in the mouth of the Knight of Cups: “My sole desire, to realize this endless talent with which I’ve been invested, is to survive so that I may remain within its service” (with Marianne Costa, The Way of Tarot: The Spiritual Teacher in the Cards). The part of this quote that interests me most is the line: “to survive so that I may remain in its service.” In other words, to write about difficult things, but to not get lost or feel eclipsed. To survive, thrive, and be of greater service on the other side of whatever I discover.

When my husband and I walk the dog at 6 a.m., usually the sky and sea mirror back blues. But this morning found us under a light pink sky, ocean’s surface beveling towards us in gentle silt grey and light pink waves. Near the parking lot we passed a crab. Upside down and yards from the tide line, it glittered wet and bright red as the chalice in the Knight of Cups card. My vote: dropped by a fisherman. My husband: dropped by a bird. I love that the crab showed up scant hours before today’s Card of the Month writing.

I also see in this Knight of Cups my husband and I offering up our hearts like parallel knights in pursuit of our loves. He spends hours swimming in the sea and running on land and mentoring others to bring their bodies to peak performance. And I spend hours writing and when I can, mentoring others to find their words. As the Shadow of Oz deck so beautifully states in relation to the Knight of Cups, you must find a way to appreciate, “The overwhelming beauty haunting your situation.” For today, I carry on, blissfully haunted by colors from the blue prairie snow skies of the past to the sunrise pinks of now.

Upcoming on-line class taught by Tania: