Two Bards.

Tuesday night, I had the chance to see Richard Thompson perform live. It’s a show I’ve had on my bucket list ever since I was introduced to him a few years ago — he’s an incredible guitarist, and watching him play is really an amazing experience. When I stopped being able to go out much for awhile, I was legitimately afraid that I wouldn’t get well enough to be able to see him play. I only learned about Coco Robicheaux on the day of his death, and I missed the chance to see Tom Waits (who doesn’t tour very often) perform when I lived in California; two things I consider some of the biggest missed opportunities of my life.

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I think my S.O. and I were the youngest people in the audience by close to twenty or thirty years, which made me a little self-conscious when we were finding seats. (‘Scuse me, sir and/or ma’am, biker punk and tattooed millennial with a shaved head coming through.) As soon as I sat down, though, I didn’t care. I still whooped it up and applauded hard enough to jam one of my fingers.

He’d just started playing “Valerie” when we got in, which is, bar none, my favorite of his songs. It was honestly a little overwhelming — I’m embarrassed to admit it, but my heart skipped a beat and I thought I was going to have a panic attack for a few. I teared up at “Beeswing” and “1952 Vincent Black Lightning,” just like I knew I would. (Lucky for me, I’d had the foresight to forego eye makeup for this exact reason.)

The songs were moving, tragic, and hilarious by turns. His voice and guitar playing were superb. His banter made the venue feel small, with the kind of warmth and humor that turns a show into an intimate gathering.

I loved every minute of it.

And then, the next day, I found out that Terry Jones had died.

He wanted to be remembered as a comedian, but I knew him best as an author long, long before I knew anything about Monty Python’s Flying Circus. When I was a kid, we had a copy of Fairy Tales. It was my favorite children’s book — as a kid, I think I learned more important morals there than almost anywhere else. Like Three Raindrops, which taught me that everyone’s grave is the same size, and there’s no point in wasting your life on comparisons. Or Jack One-Step, which taught me the value of collective bargaining. Or The Glass Cupboard, which, I’m fairly certain, is what turned me into a tiny environmentalist.

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And then there’s this guy, which I’m pretty sure figured prominently in my nightmares until I was ten. Artwork by Michael Foreman.

I loved Michael Foreman’s illustrations, too. To be honest, I can’t really overstate the impact they had on my imagination as a kid, or even on my artwork now. His watercolors were at once bright and soft and dreamlike, surreal and strange, occasionally with a subtly unsettling edge. They were the perfect accompaniment to stories like The Fly-By-Night and The Wonderful Cake-Horse.

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Illustration for Terry Jones’ The Wonderful Cake-Horse, by Michael Foreman.

I’m much older now, but the stories and illustrations still mean just as much to me.

Jones’ passed after a battle with dementia. As much as we like to think that “where there’s life, there’s hope,” there’s still a very particular kind of mourning that happens when someone passes from a brain disease. There’s the loss you experience when someone is no longer who they once were, and the final loss that comes with death. Sometimes, the hardest thing to deal with is that we might not think we feel “sad enough” when someone actually dies, because we’ve spent so long mourning the person they used to be. It’s something I experienced with my grandmother, as she declined from brain cancer. As hard as it was to handle her passing, I felt guilty for feeling relief. Not for myself — I felt relief that she was beyond the pain, confusion, and anxiety that her illness had caused her.

It’s something I’ve had to come to terms with, too. Intracranial hypertension causes brain damage, and it’s very likely that I will suffer a stroke at some point and either die, or have to fight my way back from that. Sometimes, you have to mourn for yourself. The important thing is to process this grief, then get on with the hard work of living. For Jones, that was raising awareness. For my grandparents, it was my grandfather feeding, dressing, and bathing my grandmother. For me, it’s working a little more every day to try to regain some ground before I lose more of it.

I guess what I’m trying to say here is that it doesn’t matter if you’re part of an artist’s primary audience. Life’s too short to miss the concert you want to go to, or to overlook a book just because it’s intended for children. Eventually, like the Three Raindrops, we all become part of the same big, muddy puddle. Draw inspiration and spiritual nourishment anywhere you can.

The Nine of Pentacles (Pretty Much Rocks)

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I love the Nine of Pentacles. In most Rider-Waite-Smith-inspired tarot decks, she just radiates peace and contentment. She’s in her garden, everything is lush and verdant, nobody’s bothering her, and the entire scene is the absolute distillation of serenity.

The Nine of Pentacles has big “The Merchant’s Wife at Tea” energy, and I am extremely here for it.

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The Merchant’s Wife at Tea, painting by Boris Kustodiev.

I didn’t have anything weighing that heavily on my mind when I drew this week’s card — really, I just wanted to see what’s coming down the pike. Honestly, I couldn’t be happier.

In virtually every respect, from love readings, to health, to spirituality, the Nine of Pentacles indicates that a reward is coming. In the RWS tarot, the woman stands in front of what appears to be a garden, indicating that the blooming pentacles are the reward for her toil and tending. Since it’s a nine, it isn’t the ultimate culmination of the suit’s cycle, but it’s very close. The hard work is appreciated, the foundation is stable and the growth steady. The reward is on its way.

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Aura moon from The Promote Peace Shop. Big Herkimer diamond from The Elusive Herk Shop. Cards are the Crow Tarot.

Even in terms of advice, the Nine of Pentacles says to remember who got you where you are. You put in the work, and you reap the good that you sow. Your discipline, work ethic, and sacrificing is what got you to this point.

Lately I feel like I’ve been doing a lot of waiting again. My partner and I have completed a lot of writing, so now it’s up to editors and beta readers. I’m still waiting to hear back about my coursework. Other aspects of our lives are up in the air now, too, waiting on a rubber stamp or the stroke of someone else’s pen. The Nine of Pentacles is a sign that this waiting isn’t a waste of time — we’ve put in a lot of hard work, and the fruits of our labors are coming to us. That’s something I’ve felt, and something I’ve wanted, but didn’t really want to get my hopes up about. Getting a message that spells it out so explicitly is a really, really good feeling!

 

 

Turmoil and the Ten of Cups.

I’m not going to write on the state of the world right now. In the words of Dave Barry, “I don’t want to write it, and you don’t want to read it.” It’s impossible to create a picture of my internal landscape without looking at the externals, though, so suffice it to say that we’re on the brink of war, an entire continent is on fire, and to many things suck to even begin to list here. Worst of all, many of them are things that were predicted would suck in this exact fashion, so even just existing is a bit like being given the Ludovico Technique using a slow-motion train wreck.

Internally, I’ve been working on adjusting my dose of antidepressants. I’ve finished my Dedicant Path work, so all that remains is to have it reviewed and see what needs to be corrected or elaborated upon. There was another(!) leak, this time in the building’s gas room down the hall, and getting it fixed involved calling emergency maintenance in the middle of the night on New Year’s Eve, waiting, being not-terribly-surprised when no one showed, and then calling the gas company and hoping they’d be able to find a way into the gas room the following afternoon. They did, it’s fixed, and now all that remains is to wait and hope that the new management company will see fit to replace the ancient, inefficient, leaking fixtures and appliances.

With the oven and gas room fixed, I can finally cleanse and bless this place the way it should’ve been a month ago. Constantly smelling gas didn’t seem to be a super great omen for that, however, so I’ve been putting it off.

I’m getting stronger day by day. I’ve been able to do things I couldn’t before, and my physical endurance and mental fortitude are improving greatly. I will always have some degree of disability, but it constricts my world much less than it used to even just a few months ago.

I’ve been working on creating my own tarot spread, cobbled together from the spreads I most commonly use, and the kind of positions I inevitably end up tacking on for clarification. I like it so far! There are a few things I may change, but that’s for Future Me to worry about.

I’ve also been doing a small, meditative ritual every day, and regular trancework. Writing it down has been interesting — the way I usually receive and process information from these jaunts is generally very coherent and linear, even the metaphorical bits, so I never really felt the need to jot things down for further exploration. Journaling hasn’t so much changed how I receive or interpret the messages, but having a record of them makes it much easier to pick out sychronicities from journey to journey and elsewhere in my life. I’ve gotten a lot of water lately, but that’s a subject for another time.

So, amid this mix of good news and bad, I was a little hesitant to draw a card this week. I didn’t last week, for just this reason — there was too much unresolved, demanding too much energy, for me to sit down and put down a coherent string of thoughts about it. I think I’ve said it before, though I’m honestly too tired to check: Don’t ask questions you don’t want the answers to.

It’s a pitfall of reading for yourself, or even someone whose situation you’re very invested in. When we’re too emotionally bound up in the answers, they’re difficult to interpret truthfully. I don’t find this to be the case for a low-stakes one card reading, but, if something’s weighing heavily on me, I’m more inclined to ask someone else to read for me — or at least compare their readings to my own to find the commonalities. When I feel like this, highly invested in things that seem to be spinning out of control, it’s usually a challenging time for me to read for myself.

Anyway, without making a long story longer, I drew the Ten of Cups.

The Ten of Cups is one of the most positive cards in the deck. It’s come up for me before, when my S.O. and I finished writing a book. We just recently finished posting the first leg of Ane’s circus caravan’s journey on Phoenix & Rook, and I did also just finally finish my Dedicant Path work… So I’m really beginning to wonder if this card’s going to turn up for me every time I finish a big piece of writing.

No complaints here. I could some some peace and fulfillment — as could we all.

And then we all almost blew up.

So, in Monday’s post I briefly touched on walking into our new place and smelling gas.

Sometimes I smell things. I have a very sensitive sense of smell.
It’s a mixed blessing. It definitely came in handy when I worked in a laboratory, but is markedly less so in, say, a dive bar bathroom.

I called my S.O. in to make sure I wasn’t hallucinating phantom smells, but he agreed — there was definitely a sulfur smell in the air.

(The sulfur smell is mercaptan. Natural gas has no distinct odor of its own, so the gas company adds mercaptan to it before pumping it into homes in order to help people notice leaks before enough gas builds up to explode. If you have gas appliances and you smell rotten eggs, don’t fuck around.)

(Have I mentioned how much I hate gas, by the way? I do. A whole lot.)

My S.O. called the maintenance guy, who showed up to fix a minor plumbing problem and test the air in the kitchen for a gas leak. Nothing showed up on his detector, so, naturally, we did what anyone would do in this situation.

We assumed it was something else and ignored it for a week until I couldn’t stand it anymore.

“I’m telling you, it’s gas. It still smells like ghost farts and if we don’t figure out why then you’re going to go make coffee and blow the entire building sky high,” I explained, as I crawled out from halfway under the refrigerator.

If it wasn’t mercaptan, then it had to be another source of sulfur. Since we don’t have a cabbage-loving grandma here, I figured it had to be a dead thing and had gone in search of it, to no avail. Not that I would’ve been super stoked to find a rat corpse under my fridge, but I can handle dead things more easily than explody gases.

Thirty bucks later, and we had a shiny new gas detector. This is something that places with gas appliances should have anyway, but, more fool that I am, I had assumed that this might have been included with the smoke/carbon monoxide detector slapped up on the ceiling. I turned it on, warmed it up, calibrated it, and waved it around the stove like Jean de Florette looking for water.

And it immediately lit up and emitted a guttural shriek that could wake the dead.

Fuck,” I said.

To make an already-long story short, the gas company came out twice — once to repair a corroded valve, then again to tighten another one. (Fixing the first valve released enough gas into the air that detecting the loose one would’ve been impossible at the time.) I, meanwhile, sat in the bedroom fuming. I knew something was fucky. And I was unimaginably pissed off that I’d allowed myself to be convinced otherwise.

For real. I’ve worked with poisons, herbal and otherwise. I collect perfume. I can use one whiff of a water sample to calculate the proper dilution for a B.O.D. I’ve spent a lot of time in trancework and journeying. I’ve spent too much damn time with my senses to let some guy with a faulty detector make me to doubt them. (And then maybe blow up.)

In a way, this rage is a positive thing. A few months ago, I wouldn’t’ve been able to feel it; I would’ve been having a panic attack instead. Sure, it doesn’t feel great to sit with a rage because you might’ve been blown up in your sleep the second your refrigerator’s compressor kicked on or one of your cats got a bit staticky, but still. Having enough neurotransmitters to be pissed off with is real nice.

So, if there’s a moral to this madness, it’s this: Have a gas leak detector. Know how to calibrate it. Your gas company’s emergency line is (probably) free, and they have a team of very nice people who’s entire job is to make sure you don’t die. Lastly, ward and protect your place, whether it’s a house, apartment, or van down by the river — but don’t mess around with gas leaks. 

That said, there’s only one problem. We had trouble with a gas leak coming from one of the burners in our old apartment around October. The emergency tech shut off the gas line leading to it, but the maintenance guy re-tested it and didn’t find anything. If he was using the same leak detector then as he did this time around… Has my old apartment been leaking gas for the past three months?

The Lion, The Fool, and The Devil.

First, I want to apologize for the brief hiatus I took a week or two ago. We received word that we could move into our new apartment on the day before Thanksgiving, and so we had to pack, clean, find movers, figure out why the toilet didn’t work, figure out why we kept smelling gas, yadda, yadda, yadda, nobody exploded and everyone is fine now.

Anyway!

During this time, I also didn’t do any tarot readings for myself. Didn’t really want to, to be honest — we’ve been unpacking, cleaning more things, calling the gas company, calling Poison Control because I accidentally had grapefruit this one time, it’s been a whole big thing. I’ve been too busy to really formulate questions to ask, and, of the questions I’ve had, I don’t really think I wanted answers to them.

(If I had to come up with one, I’d say the first rule of reading tarot is this: Don’t ask questions you don’t want the answers to.)

So, this week, I decided to draw three cards. I didn’t have a particular plan for the three — I didn’t intend for them to be explicitly Past, Present, Future, or Problem, Obstacle, Outcome, or anything like that. Just a three-card snapshot.

First, I drew Strength.

Strength is, much as its name implies, associated with strength. Inner strength, outer strength. Courage, bravery, confidence, and mastery over one’s emotions. All things considered, this tracks. I’m doing well with therapy, as far one can gauge that kind of thing. I’m being more active, albeit slowly, here and there. Strength. Booya.

Next, I drew The Fool.

The Fool is freedom and innocence, but also a fair amount of naive dumbassery. He’s youthfully spontaneous, but also… Well, foolish. He symbolizes new beginnings, often those that require a leap of faith, of sorts. While most readers interpret The Fool as a positive card, as cards that symbolize beginnings often are, I’ve always viewed him with a little suspicion — Aces are beginnings too, but they don’t have the same careless energy as The Fool. I’ve been taught that The Fool’s backpack contains all of The Magician’s tools, and he could use them to do and be whatever his heart desired, if he only knew they were there. To me, The Fool symbolizes a new beginning with a hidden element, something that needs to be sussed out before taking that leap of faith.

Last, I drew The Devil.

I was initially taught that The Devil signified a manipulative person, but I don’t generally get a big “person” energy when I read tarot. Few of the cards I pull really seem to stand for an actual individual, though it does occasionally happen. In most cases, I see The Devil as something that someone’s given away their power to — it could be an addiction, or even something less severe. People give away their power to things that offer the illusion of safety, even if that “safety” is purely because the manipulative person/situation would make it dangerous to leave.

There are a number of things in my life that could be The Devil. There are things I’ve given power to, or adopted in the name of safety. I don’t use anything stronger than herbal tea and prescribed Zoloft anymore, so it isn’t a substance I can think of. I’ve been careful to root out the people who were unhealthy for me, so it isn’t a person I can name. Manipulation isn’t always obvious, though. Neither are the ways in which we lose our power.

Look at habits. To call me a “homebody” is… euphemistic. I’ve spent a long time managing a chronic illness, so going into environments I can’t control is daunting. Will it be too hot? Will I be dehydrated? Will there be fresh air, or strong smells? Will there be a crowd, or bright lights? A chronic illness isn’t a thing that you really get to choose to give your power away to, but am I managing it in a way that’s really healthy, or just easier?

Or the internet. I’m trying to furnish a living room, a place for my S.O. and I to relax, something that reflects us and the things we enjoy. Do I really want that sofa, or do I just think I want it because it looks just like one from this Pinterest post that some influencer made, even though they actually hate it and would never have considered it if they weren’t being paid ten grand to pretend they don’t? How much of my power have I given away to shitty advertising?

Not every kind of manipulation is overt. Not every addiction is to drugs or alcohol.

Of course, maybe The Devil isn’t here in a negative aspect. Sometimes, he has a positive role to play — like a devil-may-care attitude. He can be entertainment, laughter, sex, and rock’n’roll.

I drew an extra card, just in case. Three major arcana cards is a pretty big deal, the majors carry some strong energy. I got the Two of Wands.

The Two of Wands shows up when two paths diverge in a wood. It can signify a lack of contentment, but cautions that the grass may not be greener on the other side. In the deck I typically use for myself, the Crow Tarot, it’s an urging to leave your comfort zone.

That… That makes sense.

A big part of why we moved is because having stairs to climb made things more difficult (believe me, my dudes, you don’t want to fuck with a tile staircase when you’re having vertigo and your vision’s gone all sparkly). Now that I’m here, I’m enjoying the comfort of more space, and a new, cozy living room… Which would make it very easy for me to do the safe thing, to succumb to the self-deception that tells me that I should make a comfy nest here to nurse myself, instead of using the tools I have gathered to actually help myself. Zoloft and therapy have helped me gain mastery over many (though certainly not all, of course) of my negative emotions, so there’s Strength. This is a new beginning I should embrace with enthusiasm, but not carelessness, so there’s The Fool. I want to stay here, where it’s warm, comfortable, and spacious, and enjoy myself rather than putting these tools to the test and embracing a much less comfortable freedom, and there’s The Devil. I’m not content right now, because illness has hampered my life. I have to use the gains I’ve made to leave my comfort zone, and there’s the Two of Wands.

Heck.

 

The Page of Wands (flaps again)

During my last therapy session, my psychologist and I talked about the Wheel of Life exercise. It’s a relatively quick — yet surprisingly in-depth — bit of self-evaluation designed to help you see where you are in life, figure out where you want to improve, and design a plan to get there. Initially, I thought it felt a bit more “life coach-y” than therapeutic, but, having finished it, I can definitely see the value in doing so. I consider myself fairly introspective, but it’s still a valuable framework for translating self-awareness into action.

(I’m not gonna subject you to a point-by-point analysis of my answers and my action plan here, but, suffice it to say, it’s a worthwhile endeavor if you feel like your life could use a little growth.)

Anyway, all of this is to explain that I drew this week’s tarot card with the desire to get some further insight into my findings from the Wheel of Life exercise. I know where I’m satisfied, I know where I’m behind where I’d like to be, I have an idea of how I can get from point A to point B, what else?

Luckily for me, I drew the Page of Wands.

This card is all good news, inspiration, creativity, motivation, and youthful energy. It’s an exciting card, full of motion, ideas, and playfulness. In an advice context, the Page of Wands tells us to seek out the opportunity to learn, to seize the chance to discover things we didn’t know before.

The Page of Wands has come up before, you might remember him from my Libra new moon reading. There, he was something I needed to be open to. During that cycle, I had plenty of good news and opportunities to learn about myself, so I’m eager to see what this holds. Even though the Libra moon has come and gone, it may also be that his hour has finally arrived — new moons are when we sow the seeds we hope to harvest later, so this “openness” may be coming to fruition now. Great!

 

The Seven of Wands and Wild Hares

When I draw cards for myself or others, I always read the “wild hares.” These are the cards that seem to slip out of the deck of their own volition — not through careless shuffling, but seemingly without provocation. You can be shuffling just fine, and still end up with a loose card or two… and sometimes they’re significant.

Some readers use the wild hare as the first card in whatever spread they’re using. Personally, I don’t. Rather than placing it in the spread itself, I set it to the side and use it for added context. These cards generally don’t change the entire tenor of a reading, but they’re often very insightful.

This time. I drew the Seven of Wands. This card generally signifies a struggle against some form of opposition, whether it be a competitor or a challenging circumstance. In the Crow Tarot, the Seven of Wands specifically indicates that though you might be on top of things at the moment, there are always forces ready to topple you.

Lately, I’ve been feeling it. Things are coming together for me, but I can feel physical and mental fatigue tempting me to rest on what I’ve already done. I should work on increasing my dose of sertraline, I need to keep on top of the exercises my psychologist has prescribed to me, but, since I’m feeling better (not well, but certainly much better), the temptation is always there to let myself become lazy. My shop exists now, but I should work on adding new things to it and helping more people find it. I need to keep working on shoring up my finances. There are plenty of places where I’m doing well, but I need to keep doing if I’m going to maintain that.

And, as I shuffled, the Nine of Cups slipped free. I have a bit of a history with Cups and Wands — tons of them have been appearing in readings for me, not that that’s really a surprise. The Nine of Cups is fulfillment, optimism, joy, and positivity. It’s a fantastic card to pull (whether you’re actually drawing one, or just have it sneak out at you).

In this context, it seems that things are continuing to look up for me. I am in a place of happiness and good things, but I’ll need to work to keep them. I’m not surprised. The kind of minor successes and small, comfortable miracles I’ve had lately are things that come with effort, and disappear with a lack of it.