Favorite Excerpts from Mary’s Tarot Writing Practice
January 14, 2014: The Moon
My card this month was the Moon. The Moon has always been one of those cards I never quite knew what to make of, and when I pulled it as my card of the month the last time we met, I thought it would be sort of an average month and when the time rolled around to make sense of the Moon’s place in it I wouldn’t quite know how. But in the end I had a very strong clear lesson in what the Moon means last month. I feel that I know the Moon very well now and I won’t be forgetting it any time soon.
The Moon in the Thoth deck is like a depiction of the entrance to the underworld; there are those two Egyptian dog-headed soldiers guarding the entrance, a kind of path between them ending in an opening; inside the opening appears, like a shy moon showing itself, a beautiful blue ball, the ball has cloudlike pinkish purplish swirls and is bisected by a wavy red ribbon. The ball looks like the earth as seen from outer space. Someone, I think it was you, said once that this looks like an image of birth, like what you’d see when you were coming out of the birth canal into the world.
My sister died this month, on December 29. She had ALS and she took her own life, with morphine, because she was getting to the point where she would be totally disabled and could no longer do it. I found out what she was going to do on December 27, two days before. I wanted to fly to Massachusetts and be there with her and started looking for emergency flights. I was scared to go and it was going to cost a bundle but I had thought all along that when she died I would be there. I knew she was going to die soon, even knew she was probably going to die like this because she told me not long after she was diagnosed that someone had given her morphine for when the time came. But somehow I thought that there would be plenty of time before that time, that I would get to spend her last month with her and be there with her when she took her last breath. But when it came down to it she said that she would rather that I not go there now, at the last minute. Her daughter and her daughter’s husband were with her, visiting her from Montana, and she wanted to keep it simple. So I said of course that of course I understood. I did understand, I didn’t mind at all.
But I was left with my own little private trip to the underworld, all by myself. Except that I wasn’t by myself. My boyfriend John and I had planned to go to his parents’ house, a couple of hours away, to celebrate Christmas from the 27th to the 29th. I found out my sister was going to die on the 29th the morning of the 27th when John and I were getting ready to leave for his parents. I just happened to check my email before we left and there it was, an email from her with the heading, “sad news.”
Once I figured out I couldn’t I couldn’t go to my sister’s I decided to go to John’s parents’ house, with him, because what was the point of staying home and spoiling their Christmas celebration. John said his parents had the Internet and wi-fi. I went thinking I could email my sister, and get any emails from her, while I was there, before she died on Sunday. But John’s parents didn’t have the Internet; his mother had gotten it turned off a few days earlier. So there I was at their house, watching TV, talking, eating ham and other things I never eat, and at the same time living in my own private underworld, contemplating what it must be like for my sister to stare down that path between the dog soldiers at that other world, that mysterious blue and pink other world peeking out through the opening, knowing she was going there soon. Except my sister didn’t believe in that other world. I did, I do, but the other world I was staring into the face of, on her behalf as well as my own, wasn’t blue and pink and full of light, as it is in the picture and probably truly is – I do believe it, I believe there is another world and it is full of happiness and light and goodness and it’s only those dogs that are guarding the doors that are frightening and ferocious -- but the underworld I was looking at, living in, over that weekend and for a couple of weeks afterward, was something dark, cold, terrifying.
My sister died shortly after 2:30 eastern time, 1:30 my time. I know that’s what time she died because when I got home we exchanged a couple of emails and in my last one to her I asked if she knew what time she was going and she wrote back telling me her time was then. That’s what she called it: “my time.” I opened my email and found out when she was dying, exactly when she was dying. I felt incredible terror, imagining her leaving her body so consciously. I went upstairs and sat in the chair where I meditate. I cried long and deeply, I rang a Tibetan meditation bell John gave me for Christmas – and a few days later I got sick, really sick. It got cold here too, horribly cold, fourteen degrees below zero one day with a wind chill factor of minus forty. For about seven days, because of my flu, I coughed and coughed all night and because of the coughing I kept waking up in a half waking, half sleeping, nightmarish state. Now it’s warmer here, at least it was yesterday, and I feel better. I told a couple of people that I felt like I had just taken a short trip to hell – to the underworld, to somewhere else anyway, maybe to the moon -- and now I’m on my way back up to the regular everyday world; it’s still wintry here, but the sun is shining and this place is still full of ordinary pleasures.
July 1, 2014: The Queen of Cups
My card of the month this time was the Queen of Cups: a veiled figure surrounded by swirls of blue, water above and below, lily pads and reflections in the water below, a pelican, a lotus, and a genie-bottle-like shell above. I read the meaning of this card as, as above, so below; the queen sees herself in her reflection, she knows herself, the water is clear. A few significant things happened in the month that passed. I’m not totally sure what this card has to say to me about them but maybe I can figure it out.
I went East for nine days this month, to visit my friend JoAnn on her birthday and attend my sister’s memorial service. The first thing that happened when I got there was, JoAnn said to me, “I’ve been thinking a lot about you in the last few days,” and then she pulled out two articles on maternal mental illness that had been published, two days in a row, in the New York Times. I read the articles and saw what she had been thinking: These pieces were about mothers who had the illness my mother had when I was an infant; these articles had a lot to say to me – everything to say about everything that had happened to me in my whole life -- and I had something to say about them. I decided to write about them and set about writing a short piece that summarized my entire life, that boiled down my circumstances and my emotional development and all the rest, in 1200 words. Then I sent it to the New York Times to see if they would publish it as an editorial, pasted it into an email to the generic address they provide on their website. If they did publish it, that could make a big difference in my publishing life, draw attention to my poor second book that got passed over and rejected.
I didn’t hear back from the New York Times in three days – on their website they say if you don’t hear in three days you should consider your opinion piece rejected and send it somewhere else – and then – I was back home by now – I sent it with a nice email to the editor of the Opinion pieces, whose email address an agent friend of JoAnn had given me. More silent rejection. (If they were going to take it I would have heard from them by now.)
Then there was the memorial service for my sister. It was a two-hour drive either way and JoAnn drove me there and back, on Sunday, June 22. I have many things to say about that service, way way more than I can write in my remaining six minutes, but I do want to say that I saw myself there, through the eyes of some of the people – people who’ve known me for many years, for example, my best friend when I was in the eighth grade -- I saw that those people were looking at me in a way I rarely see myself, as a published author, someone who’s made it in the world when they haven’t: When I said to my old friend Margaret, whom I have kind of kept in touch with, and who was taken over as a close friend by my sister when I moved to Iowa, that she was the second smartest girl in my class and I was next in line, she said, “But you were the one who did something with it.”
I suppose I saw myself, my whole life, in fact, more clearly than I ever have before during that memorial service, and also when I read those two pieces in the New York Times and wrote I my own piece about my story, in 1200 words. Saw myself as someone who grew up to be a writer, a normal functioning succeeding and even sane person – someone who made herself into a sane person and all the rest – after having a mother who didn’t like her, maybe even wanted to kill her. And now I have to remember that that’s who I am, that sane successful person, whether or not I can get the New York Times or anyone else to pay attention to me and that.