April 9, 2018: Two of Wands by Mary Allen
The two of wands is my current card of the month. It has been for a few months now because for various reasons Tania and I haven’t been able to write about our cards and pick new ones. Tania’s mother died at the beginning of January. I fell and broke my shoulder on February 17 and I’ve been dealing with that ever since; I had shoulder replacement surgery on March 14. I have to wear a brace until the end of April so I still can’t type with two hands and right now I’m using the voice recognition on my computer to write this. During all that time I’ve had the two of wands sitting on my mantelpiece and I’ve been wondering what it could be saying to me. I’ve also thrown the cards a couple of times and gotten the two of wands in those readings.
My first thought about the two of wands is that in the Thoth deck it looks like bones—two bones crossing—even a tiny bit like the shadowy broken bones in the x-rays of my shoulder. (Ha ha: Here’s what the computer voice recognition did with “Thoth deck” and what I said after it: The fuck deck fuck the heck ha ha Tania said pickles the fuck Dexter fuck Dick.)
In the Rider Waite deck the two of wands shows a man in a red cape and astrakhan hat standing between two wands anchored in the ground on either side of him; he’s holding the world and gazing off into a distant vista of water and mountains and trees. At one point, when I was sitting in my recliner, idly staring at this version of the two of wands (I have lots of time to idly stare around the room these days), it came to me that it might be saying something about carrying the world on your shoulders and being forced to put it down. Angeles Arrien says the two of wands is about balancing inner and outer power. This time is teaching me many things about personal power, where it begins and where it ends. Mostly I’ve learned we have a lot less of it than we imagine we do. And there’s another kind of power that comes in accepting that.
I read online this morning that the two of wands is the card for partnerships, two people working together successfully, and that makes sense to me in terms of what’s been going on since I’ve had this broken, trying-to-heal shoulder. In October my old friend John came from Washington, DC, with the idea of trying out Iowa City to see if he wanted to move here. He was going to find a place to live but in the end he just ended up staying with me, and when I broke my shoulder it seemed like a miracle to have him here in my house. He’s had to help me in all kinds of ways and he’s done it graciously and generously and without complaining. In the beginning I couldn’t get into or out of bed by myself—it turns out it takes two shoulders to get in and out of a bed, although I can do it now and I still have only one working shoulder.
But in the beginning I had to call his name at four o’clock in the morning and he would be in my doorway instantly, come around my side of the bed, take my hand and help me get up so I could go to the bathroom and take another Percocet. One night when the pain was especially bad he sat on the edge of my bed and read me an essay by Emmett Fox. He read another one to me the first night I had to sleep in the recliner after surgery—we stayed up till one in the morning in my living room, him lying on the couch across from me, reading aloud in the lamplight. (I slept in the recliner for eight days, then moved to my bed, where I recline every night on a huge nest of pillows. John says I’m like the princess in the Princess and the Pea.) He’s cooked for me and done the dishes and brought my laundry down to the basement. For the first two weeks after the surgery I had to stand there in the kitchen while he taped Press and Stick Glad Wrap over my shoulder and upper arm so I could very carefully get into the bathtub and wash my hair without getting my bandage wet.
Everything has felt shaky and tentative ever sense I slipped on the ice without warning, crashed to the sidewalk, and found myself in this incredibly vulnerable, trapped, and painful place. I could never be doing it without John here. Now he mainly has to take my brace off so I can go in the bathroom and carefully change my shirt—I wear tops my friend Anne made for me, with snaps on the left shoulder for easy removal and replacement. When I’m finished changing I stand in the middle of the kitchen floor and John helps me back into the brace. He adjusts the straps, pats me on the back, and says, “Now you’re ready to go out into the world and do stuff.”
It’s a joke, of course. I can’t go out into the world right now. All I can do is sit and hold the world in my hand, stare out my window at the house across the street and the gray sky and the bare tree branches, and wait for spring to come.
April 9, 2018: Ten of Swords, Four of Disks by Tania Pryputniewicz
When Mary and I pulled cards in January just two weeks after my mother died, I pulled the Ten of Swords, “Ruin” with its image of ten sword handles ringing the periphery, points poised to pierce a central heart, the main and thickest sword breaking apart. I didn’t want that card for the month and tried a Mary tactic: I chose a second card. I’m grateful Mary has taught me it’s ok to do so. You could interpret the action conversationally a number of ways, as if saying to the Tarot deck, “I don’t want this card,” or, “Show me another version of the same message,” or “Can you give me a different lesson right now?”
So I pulled the Four of Disks—a relief! But since I couldn’t entirely let go of the memory of having pulled the Ten of Swords, I kept both cards out all month. And both spoke to me as is often the case. I love Angeles Arrien’s phrase for the Ten of Swords, “Fear of ruin,” specifically love (the heart image) and finances (the scales at the top).
In the evaporative state following my mother’s passing, I lost confidence, certainly retreating from the world with a bruised heart, more prone to succumbing to fears in a Ten of Swords way, passing through the initiation of a myriad “firsts” as a motherless daughter—everything, from sleeping to cooking—no task too tiny to haul up the free-floating anxiety: Here I go into another part of my life without my mother. The hospice nurse forewarned us that it is natural to take for granted the loving net of mother presence. And then all of a sudden, she said, When you lose her, you wonder, “Can I do this without her?”
In counter to that worry, the Four of Disks in the Thoth Deck (aptly named “Power”) never fails to give me a feeling of serenity. We see a structure made up of four linked towers ringed by a moat. There’s a wide sunlit path leading to a shining golden inner courtyard. I experience that sunny safe feeling here in our Southern California home which is situated on the bend of the street, backyard sanctuary where I write ringed by tall fence boards. In the front yard, we enjoy perpetual summer: the yellow rosebush blooming and a blueberry bush offering up its blueberries all year long.
The smallest actions are the ones that heal the heart gradually, nothing fancy. Like walking in the late afternoon sun in the San Diego desert, stepping around boulders, lizards fleeing, turkey vultures wheeling overhead as my youngest scampers up and over the boulders. My middle son uses a rock to chalk a giant treble clef, claiming his love of music. My husband hikes ahead and uses his phone to look up the names of the peaks surrounding us.
I don’t mind hiking nameless hills as long as I’m with my family. I can handle this level of visibility in my role as a mother. It’s easier than the daughter-self haunting me at night, the way the dreamtime I used to love is just another time during which unwelcome and unanticipated questions rise: You lost your mother…where is she now? And I wake crying from Ten of Swords dreams replaying it all back to me, still burning off the scenes of my mother suffering as we cared for her the best we could.
Better the waking world of agency, gradually overlaid with present activity, where I sand down our rusting mailbox, primer it, and fend off my husband’s suggestions for how to do the job. I kindly remind him I’m the daughter of a piano tuner/wood-worker, and carry on, tape off the bronze medallion where the letters spell, “MAIL”, then primer it rust brown, and best of all, put on a top coat, a rich and glossy forest green.
It is a tiny symbol of my willingness to engage again, spiffing up a box that holds words, mine going out and letters from editors coming back in the slow old-fashioned way. Soon I’ll feel up to stepping out past the perimeter of our gate and back into the world, but for now, it is a beginning: Stamps ferry my words to and from my green mailbox while I stay behind my own front door.