Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Looking Forward

While working too long this weekend on a job that is likely to invite me to leave if I don’t agree to move to North Carolina for a reduced salary, I mused that so many people including me want to know what’s coming up next.
Victorian Trade Card Tarot
(c) Copyright 2010 Marcia McCord

One of my clients has to know if a $100 investment would pay off because they really need the money. I hesitate to pull a card on that. Am I chicken or is it too much like financial advice, something specifically I won’t give, partly because of the day job and partly because of basic ethics: I’m not a professionally trained financial adviser? I pull a card. What a relief! It’s the Wheel of Fortune.

“It’s a crap shoot,” I tell my client. “Timing is everything.”

The $100 is a membership to be considered for work in a specific industry, the sales equivalent of buying leads, betting on some percentage of outcome based on your skills…and luck. I flash on Groucho Marx’ remark that he didn’t want to belong to an organization that would have him as a member. Something about that fits here, but can’t quite put my finger on it.

Knowing my client, they are going to do what they want to do anyway. It’s a free-will thing. I’m a big fan of free will. Little enough is up to us the way things are. I don’t like to see people give up their right to choose. My client doesn’t want to waste time and money on a fruitless venture. I sympathize, but I also think that when you focus on just one kind of fruit, you’re probably frustrated a lot. Maybe “fruitless ventures” are there to help us with some larger purpose.

Getting the Wheel of Fortune here at least validates my hesitation to say whether this will be a good deal or a bad deal. It’s a maybe yes, maybe no answer that maybe masks the real answer of there’s no sure thing in this life. That doesn’t keep any of us from wishing there were a sure thing.

People who are really good at what they do wish for a merit-based arrangement. The best should get what they deserve. People who suffer even a moment’s self-doubt wish for a stroke of undeserved good fortune. People want good things to happen for themselves and their loved ones. Sometimes good things happen; sometimes they don’t. And sometimes people who do what I do get an inkling of whether or not something will be a good thing. I don’t know why or how.

I don’t necessarily feel the need to attribute it to divine gift or the influence of evil, either, no more so than breathing, seeing, liking butter or being allergic to mold is a gift or a curse. It’s just a thing and, well, since I’m an optimist, I tend to think of all those things as some kind of gift. It takes less energy to say thank you than it does to spend time cursing. So, thanks, You Out There, just in case you intended my life to have these gifts and, well, thanks, too, if it’s just some accident.

I live in earthquake country in addition to wine country, agreeable weather country and any other description you might need. Because of that, I check out the USGS Earthquake site for recent activity, mostly because it interests me. While finishing up my degree in English, I nearly switched my major to geology, having become enamored of large systems and long-term cause and effect. In the end, I took a few geology courses and decided I needed the degree in the low-hanging fruit so I could get out into the workaday world. I still think it’s cool, though, that while people focus on, say, the devastating 1906 earthquake in San Francisco perhaps not realizing that what was really devastating was the resultant fire, unnoticed by most is that in the very few years (emphasis on very if you count geological time) around that event, there were major earthquakes all over the world. When it comes to plate tectonics, it basically works like that children’s song where all the piggies are in bed and they all rolled over and one fell out. It’s all connected, this earth, in a pattern larger than the burning of a city.

Of course, if the fire burned down your house, you’re going to focus on your immediate issue. If an entire economy is experiencing “piggy rolling” and you lose your job, you’re going to focus on that. You should. But larger patterns are likely in play, too. Sometimes the larger pattern is easier to see than the immediate effect; sometimes, the immediacy is all you can see. Reading cards can be like that too.

I have just as strong an urge to know what’s coming up as anyone else. So how can I be relieved that my reading for my client basically came up with, “It’s a crap shoot” for an answer? Maybe it’s because I’ve been working so hard on the microcosm all weekend, trying to get something done for Monday morning that in the grand scheme of things is not likely to prevent war, save homeless people or pets or cure even a case of the hiccups. But sometimes, it can be a comfort to focus on what’s right under your nose instead of being buried in the avalanche of what is to come.

What I do know is that I don’t want my client to be dependent on me as a card reader to be the determining factor of what they do in their lives. That’s my client’s responsibility, the burden, the obligation of free will.

The words we’re all searching for are “thank you”.

Best wishes.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014


Uncharacteristically early for a rendezvous with the relatives, I sat down at a large round table on the back porch of the coffee shop. There would be at least six of us. The HUBS was parking the car, no small problem. Apparently, we in the SF Bay Area like to drink the morning after a sad defeat for our San Francisco 49-ers and we drink coffee.

We had met with Patti and Bob Saturday night in San Francisco at Capp’s Corners. Capp’s is just a block off busier Stockton Street, near where Chinatown and North Beach bump up against each other like the tectonic plates along the San Andreas Fault. In this case, the plates are often more of the culinary sort and no matter which neighborhood you’re in, the food is delicious.

Capp’s is in the same block as Beach Blanket Babylon and has an almost-fixed price menu for dinner, pasta is something like $18.50 and other entrees are something like $21.50. Dinner comes with minestrone soup and a salad, both served family style on checked tablecloths. It’s like being at home in a way, but home is a place with a lot of noisy people after 7 pm.

At about 5 pm, though, I was the only one there besides a regular named Tommy who was leaving. We were supposed to meet at 4 pm but one thing led to another and we are relaxed with each other mostly. I wasn’t sure if we had reservations. I had my cell phone, checking for messages. I ordered a Zinfandel. I enjoyed it.

After a while we caught up with Patti and Bob and then Andy and his adorable friend Jeannette from New Zealand. She’s an orthopedic surgical nurse and we agreed that talking about her work in detail at the dinner table was probably not the best. She did confirm that tourists fall off mountains and drive on the wrong side of the road just often enough to keep her quite busy.

I had steak.

Andy and Jeannette had to drive to southern California the next day, so by Monday, holiday for me, breakfast in Alamo near Danville was at a place called Cherubini near the creek. It’s January after all so they had the outdoor overhead heaters on, but they weren’t really necessary.

We’re in a drought this year. Water is so low in the local reservoirs that they are talking about mandatory rationing. The newscasts are talking about the droughts in the 1970’s, before I came to California, but when I moved here in 1989 there was a drought too.

Every toilet flush, every glass of water at the restaurant, every load of laundry or shower was something to be mindful of. House-proud new homeowners in bedroom communities like Benicia saw their expensive lawns dry up to crackling. Xeriscape lawns became the rage, with stones and benches and wooden slat overhead trellises to create shady earth and the illusion of a cool retreat from the unrelenting sun.

Adding to the drought’s bad effects on tourism was the Loma Prieta earthquake in October 1989. In Monterey the following January, Cannery Row was a ghost town, the natural disasters having shooed vacationers to “safer” places. While I was there for a week, tagging along on HUBS2’s business trip, I had what everyone in California wants: I had the place to myself. I started conversations with otters and harbor seals. I continued them with gulls and ground squirrels. I watched the two scuba divers fiddle with their gear and waddle into the seaweed jungle of the bay. For a brief moment that week, time stood still again. But there was a drought, true enough. I had arrived on Thanksgiving Day 1989 in pouring rain and I didn’t see a drop until May the following year. I thought I was in heaven.

Now I’ve lived in California long enough to worry about the day-after-day of “perfect” weather, the low reservoirs, the anticipation of a bad fire season. I sat on the too-warm deck behind the coffee shop and waited for HUBS3 and his sweet family to arrive. I would wait to get something to drink. It’s a drought year.

I looked toward the creek nearby, wondering at the flowers blooming in January. I used to be startled at January flowers, having suffered too long in Missouri and Illinois winters whose only colors were white, and ice and grey and sometimes charcoal where a tarred road lay scraped and still treacherous or where dark tree trunks lined with clinging frost and snow slatted the edge of my sight. Color here in January may be white and green and pink and red and sometimes yellow. It is the time after fall and not yet summer here. It is the time when birds eat.

Art Postcard Tarot
(c) Copyright 2010 Marcia McCord
It was a quiet time, as if January had taken a quick breath and held it for a moment. A few coffee-lovers nodded at me on the way to the bathroom, questions unasked about why one person sat alone at so big a table. And yet, wasn’t this the California everyone wanted? The one all to themselves?

I read somewhere that the Ace of Pentacles was the most fortunate card in the deck. It is the big round reality, the essence of material comfort like the sun’s big gold coin in the morning sky, like the big round table all to myself on the back deck of a cozy coffee shop with its good smells that made the air taste like omelets and pastry and java or cappuccino. Being here right now, that was the Ace of Pentacles. This one thing, this disc of the world in its tactile form, this table here was the Ace of Pentacles. I reached out and touched the edge of it in wonder of the tactile universe.

“I got you a coffee,” the HUBS said, setting the Cherubini’s mug with its corseted form in front of me. “I put in the cream but wasn’t sure how much sugar you wanted.”

I was only briefly startled and smiled. I picked up the mug and sipped.

“It’s OK,” I murmured. “It’s sweet enough.”

Best wishes.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Lost Treasure

While out for a reading and running errands Saturday, I saw a big blue box where people deposit clothes and shoes for people who need them.

“Just the thing!” I thought with relief, and popped my new camel coat with the hood , tags still on, into the bin. Well, yes, there’s a story there.

Now, I don’t mean to brag about my great generosity. I would probably have given the coat to someone I knew if I thought it would fit them. But that was exactly the problem, you see. I wasn’t sure exactly who would find it the perfect fit.

I had fallen prey to optimism again, one of my favorite afflictions. I bought a coat online. By all descriptions, it seemed like it should have fit. I loved the camel color, just what I was looking for, and the hood was a real plus. It shipped so quickly, too, all the way from the United Kingdom. But it didn’t fit.

All that and it didn’t fit. I won’t go into details, but let’s just say the ship of state has a notable prow and the coat was inches away from buttoning, no matter how enormous the size tag said the thing was. In fact, I had been concerned at first it would be too big, since the company had sent one size larger than I had ordered. I think perhaps they knew something though. All I can say further is that if worn it would have provided a notable gap in coverage.

With much of the country in the grip of worst-ever cold weather and so many sad and amusing photos of pizza shops suddenly converted to drive-in restaurants by uncooperative vehicles and all, I decided I wanted a decent coat. I haven’t had one since I left Illinois and that was a very long time ago.

Just before tossing it into the bin, I checked the pockets for treasures. It’s a habit. I put things in pockets and leave them there. These were at least still sewn together, still factory fresh in its never-worn condition.

I’ve been concerned that I’ve lost some things by leaving things in pockets. I can’t be sure, you see, because if they are never found, you never know where you put them. Right? That’s some law of the universe, like socks missing from the laundry. But knowing my habit, having found enough important things stuffed in my pockets in the past, I check pockets for cash, important papers, driver’s license, credit cards, jewelry, keys, electronic gizmos. Someday I expect toads or something like a naughty child’s pockets betraying the fun of the day.

When I found that the coat didn’t fit, I did look up the information to get a refund. The seller does have a refund policy but requires that the less-than-satisfied buyer return the coat through shipping with tracking. This is inexpensive and easy when the item is purchased in my own country, but annoyingly, international shipping with tracking costs a king’s, or at least a princess’ ransom. Calculating that the cost of the return shipping with tracking would easily approach the cost of the coat, I decided it was not worth the trouble to return it with a net gain of … well, not enough to buy a pizza. People here need coats. Give it to someone who needs it. They merely have to figure out the annoyance of ignoring the size number on the tag.

I bought a new camel wool coat, no hood, alas, but nice quality from a company in my country so just in case I suffered the same fate of misplaced optimism I could at least return the thing. Coat 2 fits, just scrumptious, thank you, and as I had hoped the “mid-calf” estimate of its length, true for most mortals, is the desired ankle-length on my Hobbit-like frame. When the red gloves I ordered came in, of course I stuffed them in the pockets of the coat. I am, after all, true to pattern. I expect I’ll find the gloves there when I need them.

Online shopping has its downfalls, but for the most part I like it, except for purchasing books. So while nosing through lists of things for sale that I hardly intend to purchase I found myself in the jewelry section. I remembered I am looking for two items that have been mislaid.

One has been missing since 1998. I know this because that was the time that I cleaned out the closet in that bedroom in the rental house I was moving out of in preparation to move to my current house. I had taken that opportunity to cull some items from my wardrobe and taken them to a women’s shelter, then discovered that a pin I had had made from other jewelry was gone. I had checked pockets! I had! I had checked lapels too. Had I checked underneath a lapel? Would I have pinned a pin underneath a lapel to hide it? I might have. And is it gone? Or, did it fall into a box of doll furniture? I miss it terribly.

And the other piece, a gift from a friend far away, a lovely pendant that was a very special present. It’s here. Somwhere.

Where the heck are they??

What’s a card reader to do? Pull a card, of course. So I did. 7 of Wands.

Hmm, I thought, at least this means there is some hope of finding them because the 7 of Wands is a card of success after all. The kind of success it means is peculiar to it. I would say when I find them, optimist that I am but also reading the card, I shall find them one at a time, perhaps stumbling across them while I’m doing something else. My success will be with effort and I will not necessarily be well-prepared for the task. This should be no surprise to me as I am seldom prepared for anything in the realm of housework. Last, while 7’s have a somewhat magical quality about them, I reflect how wands are fire and specifically wood. Perhaps, in the bottom of some treasure box with other goodies, in a drawer in a dresser, in a box of…hmm, furniture for dolls… perhaps. Best to clean out my dresser drawers anyway to get rid of clothes I no longer wear, mismatched socks and all that. And perhaps, I’ll find them.

Best wishes!

&&&^^^&&&^^^**** =^-^=****^^^&&&^^^&&&

Looking for a friendly Lenormand class in San Francisco? Coming soon Feb. 22, 2014!

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Welcome 2014

2013 sure had its ups and downs for me, almost the epitome of why, “May you live in interesting times” is called a Chinese curse. Yup, interesting times. There’s a lot of uncertainty out there and 2013 as the year of the Lovers was more like trying the find the puzzle pieces after the Tower fell down just to get something back together. Stability in work, relationships, finances, governments, health, even Show Biz was questionable all through the year.

Sometimes, all you’re looking for is just one more donut before you walk into Weight Watchers, you know? And yet, on the police scanner, there’s a report of someone sitting in their car for ten minutes eating donuts behind Target. Now, this in itself says a lot about life today and how the year might pan out for 2014.

When you have a New Year’s Resolution, you might want a really good swan song for that thing you’re trying to change.

I know that if I were going to give up donuts in 2014, and I haven’t quite committed to that although, in my own defense, I can’t remember the last time I had a donut, I might sit in my car for at least ten minutes savoring the last dozen or so. You can see that right? Kind of that 9 of Cups moment before the King of Swords takes over with good sense, you see?

So, yeah, I’m not doing the last dozen donuts thing but I did get this cool app for my iPhone to track what I eat. I know the pitfalls of this whole thing though. If you lie to your food diary, it doesn’t work as well. Why you’d do that is beyond me, but I recognize the phenomenon. Heck, I’ve been guilty of it myself. The levels of self-sabotage in improvements efforts are, to paraphrase one of my favorite philosophers, Sandra Boynton, without number.

Slimming down isn’t my only goal for 2014. If I had my druthers, I’d just as soon a few areas of my life regained some kind of sanity, like work, relationships, finances. Oh, and I need to gas up the car. Yeah, the mundane seems to have gotten a bit out of hand for me lately, too.

At least I’m not alone in the effort to resolve and re-resolve, refocus for better resolution and, if possible, avoid revolution. The cats’ personalities here at the compound have their own proposed 2014 resolutions.

Eleanor, who is a tremendous coward much more timid and terrified than any lion from Oz, has become a tiny bit braver lately. She’s black and white and scream all over, or she used to be. She’s still black and white but the volume of screams has reduced over time. She actually let me pick her up for a while the other day. This is a breakthrough because in the last 6 or 7 years being picked up and cuddled was obviously the precursor to being devoured by monsters. Or something. So this time she was on a purr-fest from being brushed and talked to specifically. A pet psychic said we should think more positive thoughts about her to boost her self-esteem. What could it hurt, right? And it seems to be working. So in the midst of this happy moment, I tried picking her up and I think we were there something like three whole minutes.

From this and from Eleanor’s recent ventures from the kitchen into the dining room and living room, I conclude her 2014 New Year’s resolution is, “I shall endeavor to be braver.” When you say this in your mind, you need to picture her with a hat and gloves seated for tea somewhere in the Midsomer Murders’ summer country in a sunny room waiting for the Detective Chief Inspector’s next question about what happened last Thursday.

On the opposite end of the psychopath scale in our little feline household is Pixie a/k/a Baby. All famous crime lords (ladies?) have nicknames, so it seems natural that our own little innocent-until-proven-guilty would have one too. Baby’s actually softening up in her adult years. She has only once in recent memory taken a flying leap and landed with all four paws full of claws on the HUBS’ back. He’s almost healed now, except that spot on his arm. And she only once tried setting the house on fire, knocking the iron off the ironing board and onto the floor, melting two of the floor tiles. She did this so well that the automatic shutoff didn’t engage because the iron landed plate-side down, like an iron should. One new iron and two replaced floor tiles later, plus airing the house out to get rid of that melted rubber smell and things are like new. I always did like Mr. Wolf in the movie Pulp Fiction, the guy wiseguys had to call when something unexpected happened, like accidentally shooting a guy in your car, and you need an expert to clean things up before the wife gets home.

Baby has actually gotten a lot cuddlier. She used to try to take my hand off after about the third stroke when I was petting her. She really likes the dog and the HUBS but not really anyone else. This is a heartache to me because I rescued her, one of my many little efforts to find a kitty a home that ends with the new home being mine. We naturally took her with us on vacation a scant two weeks after I took her in and I hoped it would be a bonding experience. It was, sort of. Two out of three ain’t bad, as Meatloaf sang, the dog and the HUBS. For some reason, she’s got the mother-daughter blues, a gentle reminder of the “Seven Years War” my mother and I had. Mom and I became good friends, so I hold out hope for Baby.

Lately she’s been letting me pet her more than just the three strokes and I’ve learned the subtle cues that mean enough is enough, like that banshee wail that starts out as a low rumble. And she does respond to gentle baby-talk and kind wishes, although I hasten to add that even the dog, big softie that he is, occasionally has to growl at her for eating his food or just getting too close. He does not do this to Binket, his other-species paramour; she can smear her whole self on him and he nudges her with his nose, gives her typical doggy sniff and the occasional slurp. It’s the picture of true love with those two.

Baby is destined to have more of a struggle in life, mostly because of her need to defend herself before a threat has emerged. I know people like that. But if the kitten can get better, there’s probably hope for the world.

Wherever you are on the psychopath scale, oh, let’s call it the empathy scale, hmm? That’s so much more upbeat. Anyway, wherever you are, if you make a New Year’s resolution, try to take the long view. Like the 3 of Wands, when you launch the project, look out beyond the horizon to the positive end. That way, if the boat tips a bit here and there, you’ll have something bigger and more important in mind than day-to-day ups and downs.

Happy New Year and best wishes!

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Lovecraft’s Just Dessert

At the moment when my proposed literature advisers helped me make an enormous career decision, I wonder if there was an alternate reality, a parallel universe where I would have made H. P. Lovecraft my life’s work. Would I still be tickled by H. P. Lovecraft and his weird stories? Would I still be both amused and sadly empathetic with the odd man from Rhode Island whose marriage had resolved itself with the suggestion that he and his wife continue their relationship by correspondence?

I’ve been listening to the works of Howard Phillips Lovecraft for a few weeks lately, like revisiting letters from an old beau, one that fate in this reality determined would drift away from the intimacy of post-graduate study. I had found him in a treasure-trove of some strange young man’s library gutted, no doubt, by his mother’s final disgust with his hoarding of the outrĂ© and merely speculative fiction. I was in junior high, pawing through the wreckage of the many libraries unloaded on the junk man in my small town in New Mexico. I learned to look for anything with the young man’s name written on the inside cover.
Tea Tarot
(c) Copyright 2011 Marcia McCord

I had wondered then if he had died. It was such a huge collection of sci-fi and horror and I could not imagine he had given up his books willingly. The books were cheap and I brought them home in shopping bags, much, I think, to the junkman’s delight. There were, of course, mainstream science fiction, if (I protest) there is such a thing: Asimov, Bradbury, Clark and delicious Heinlein. And then there were the odder items, Lovecraft.

My luck lay in having been moved, much to howling protest, to eastern New Mexico, a place that was not beautiful nor lush nor friendly to a child whose chief source of amusement at age 11 was to read every book in the compact but fairly well-stocked public library. I had always been a bookworm but the severe cultural and climate differences drove me to bookishness, so much so that even my mother, bookish herself, complained that I did not “go out and play,” whatever that meant. Was she concerned that my skin was pale like a frog’s belly in spite of the unrelenting New Mexico sun? The summer after my sixth grade year I read all the books in the library, just a few blocks from my mother’s antique shop, sometimes reading as many as four books per day. I absorbed whole Dewey Decimal sections including those covering the paranormal and mystical in hopes of explaining my own gelling talent for “fortune telling.”

Then, in the cold weather of junior high I found Lovecraft and the world of science fiction, horror and weird.
My brother and I had long been fans of space movies, Star Trek and “Thee-ater X”. Rod Serling’s Twilight Zone and Night Gallery had been our delight. Occasionally, a story was too frightening but I began to notice that my brother was always first to turn off the scary stuff while I complained that I was still watching. I always lost those arguments, my mother never comfortable with anything that wasn’t based in tangible reality. It seemed natural to me that diving deeper into the genres would happen for both my brother and me; we squabbled over ownership of the complete works of Poe which made its way from one bedroom to another and back again.

Even in grade school he and I discussed the pros and cons of scary stories and television shows. I was not a “monster movie” or “big bug movie” fan. These were popular in my childhood, evidence of the nervousness about the long-term effects of the atomic age. Accidental resizings or rearrangement of parts through misuse of technology struck me as carelessness and not the least bit interesting. Godzilla and Mothra could duke it out elsewhere as far as I was concerned. But the unintended consequences of ego, assumption and curiosity, ah, that was always my interest. Who was to say we, as a species, were so smart? What if, for all our moonwalking and Tang, we didn’t actually know everything there was to know?

I was never anti-technology. No, I was more interested in the story of Icarus, a lesson in anticipating problems and avoiding them and what happens if we do not. I wanted to experiment as my own little inner mad scientist but I wanted to live through the experience too.

What if? It was the next natural question after the ever-present Why?

The message of the World in Tarot is fulfillment, arriving at the answer, resolving all the problems, dancing within your environment, surrounded by the energies and resources and even antipathies of life, dancing in your place, your time. And yet, to have arrived and never moved on to start a new cycle is more death than Death itself. Dance on your laurels but do not rest on them; stagnation is to cease to exist.

Over the years, I have continued to love H. P. and to become sure I am not a character in his stories, certainly not the main character. H. P.’s main character is certainly not the same person all along, but his protagonists have commonalities: they have assumptions about the stability of their world only to have that removed by the discovery of something…else. Often, his heroes protest they were never interested in anything remotely “other”; in fact, they are almost uniformly repulsed and horrified by anything I might consider an adventure. They are quietly racist, xenophobic, clear about what was beautiful and what was bizarre, certain they were advanced and cultured compared to “savages” in their world, only to realize that large, powerful, strange, ancient and indifferent beings from “otherwhere” and “otherwhen” were interested in the noble human for their own need to exploit resources and survive. Lovecraft’s monsters where those who understood dimensions man could not imagine, lived in colors and sounds man could only barely sense. They were wise and old. And man was, in spite of his hubris, young and stupid, a weak victim of a conspiracy beyond his ken.

In spite of Lovecraft’s often laughable overuse of adjectives, almost a lesson in what not to do in current writing style, despite the weight of overwrought veneer of man’s idea of his own civility and cultural achievement, somewhere in between the “big words” and vague descriptions, he gets down to one idea common to us all.

In our lizard brains, we know: There’s scary stuff out there in the dark and it might eat us, considering us as nothing more important than a potato chip. He may not realize he challenges us to ask which is true madness? Is it expecting the indifferent powers to respect and admire human cultural constructs and advancements? Or is it the scientific delight in finding something new without the understanding of future consequences? And for that his work is horror, even in spite of itself.

Ah, Howard. You can miss what you never had after all.

Best wishes!

Thursday, November 21, 2013

The Tree Is Dead

This is the third and, I hope, final session that the tree removal people will have in taking down the neighbors’ poplar tree. I loved that tree and I mourn its loss. It was tall, provided lots of shade and shelter to birds in the neighborhood. It bloomed in the spring, a tulip poplar, they call it.

It was between my neighbors’ house and the house to the north of them. I liked to look at it through my office windows and other windows on the north side of my house. Blackbirds and crows, finches, tits and the occasional hawk would perch in it. Doves would call from it in the evenings.
Picture Postcard Tarot
(c) Copyright 2010 Marcia McCord

Yes, I have hugged a tree, lots of them. When I had the choice between taking down the live oak in my back yard and taking down the remnants of the summerhouse competing for space, I chose to keep the tree. There is something sacred about a tree that can never be matched, even if the summerhouse had been rebuilt. I would prefer the birds and squirrels, the acorns and the occasional spider.

When I had the chance to go back to my grade school in Orlando, it was a Sunday afternoon so naturally no one was there. No one, that is, but at least one of the trees that had been there when I was a child. Oh, welcome friend! I could not only rub the coquina-rock steps with my hand, a place I had stood and had my picture taken long ago, steps I had run down too swiftly only to halt at the curb, cautioned by the crosswalk guard, then walked purposefully away from to fly like a lark on the tall swings and leap from the highest arc to fly, for a moment, to the sand and grass below. I could not only touch those stone steps but I could also rub the bark of the old trees that shaded my memory palace.

I would hug trees, talk to them, hide my secrets in their branches, build tree houses and tree forts, respite from the weight of the earth below. I would stretch out on a sturdy branch and snooze, like a cat or a squirrel, and only come down when I had to. I would haul great pieces of wood, the bones of other trees, to make my sacred spots among the branches. I would apologize for my awkwardness, that I was not a bird or anything else more graceful or grateful than a child.

I climb no trees now for I am less graceful than a child, but more grateful for trees. So I mourn the tulip poplar I have watched from my office window for so many years. There is a reason to kill a tree, I understand. I just don’t understand what it is.

I am more pleased than ever that I chose as my ten-year work anniversary gift the planting of ten trees somewhere, anywhere, of any sort whatever. The tulip poplar had somehow grown to be a burden to the human world, too big a tree near too-close houses. My apology is the hope that new trees planted somewhere else, like the Ace of Wands, will someday inspire someone else to plant more and mourn the death of one tree, someday to learn its language to tell the others how sorry I was for the loss of my friend.

The uninterrupted sky is no welcome sight.

Best wishes.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Old-Fashioned Halloween

A long time ago in southern Illinois, it was Halloween in a place that was known for tearing up the town, literally, in the celebration of the season. I lived in Carbondale, Illinois. It was generally known while I lived there that the store merchants downtown could not get insurance to replace their storefront plate glass windows because of a tendency for the celebrants to destroy said glass windows each year on this festive occasion.

Yes, my college made the Playboy list of the top party schools in the nation when I lived there. It was something of an embarrassment because I wanted a seriously good education. I was lucky and had been identified by the Dean of Liberal Arts as having had a good grade-school background in grammar, bend it though I might now, and because of that and her own personal pet peeves, I was granted not only a tuition scholarship through to graduation but also a job working in the English Department at SIU-Carbondale.

The only thing that seemed worse than attending the current Party Central of the nation was the fact that a footnote had been published in Playboy’s list stating that the university where I had spent my first two years of college, then known as the University of Missouri – Rolla, was not included in the top ten list because Playboy was considering only amateur partiers. Zeesh.

These designations made my fellow students proud of their ability to bash with the best of them. While I was not a stick-in-the-mud about parties, I never attended the Carbondale Halloween glass-breaking festival. Broken glass just never was my favorite medium. Neither was senseless destruction of other people’s property, even if in the spirit of the season. I know, I know…partypoop.
Art Postcard Tarot
(c) Copyright 2010 Marcia McCord

Now, generally Carbondale was a pretty good place to live the other 364 days a year or so. Sure, the first day of snowfall, I swore it snowed LSD because people would inevitably drive the wrong way on one-way streets, disoriented by the winter wonderland and seemingly taken by surprise in spite of fairly accurate weather reports. It wasn’t a social agreement to do something counter-cultural the way Halloween glass-breaking was. It was just a mass confusion of senses that resulted in automotive chaos. Things would calm down by the second or third day of snow and people would resume their usual level of driving acumen, which wasn’t always worth the ride anyway. But at least they remembered after a while what “One Way” with an arrow meant and things were a little less treacherous.

Instead of joining the revels downtown, I always chose what my friends and I thought to be a safer Halloween, usually a party at one of our houses. The year I remember best, the party was at Melody and Monica’s house.

My beautiful and adorable friend Melody was a hippie who loved home arts and was in my earth science class. Science was not Melody’s strong subject so I had made it a point to get her through the class and actually understand it. I figured out the trick for the treat: Put the class principles in terms Melody already understood, and she would get the scary science part too. So, since Melody was perfectly comfortable in the kitchen, all of our earth science experiments took place there. I hooked a hose up to the kitchen faucet and told a story about the rain falling in the mountains and running underground (under dishes in the sink) and popping up as an artesian well farther down the mountain. Melody was also good at helping me clean up the kitchens, either hers or mine, after these lessons, but she made a decent grade in the class.

It was a wonderful example of how to bring a message to someone who is initially intimidated by the topic in the first place. Of course, we didn’t actually create a volcano, but discussed the pros and cons of lava cake and the different ways candy will cool, crunchy and crackly or smooth and gooey. It made earth science a tasty lab class for us.

Melody and her drop-dead gorgeous older sister Monica hosted the Halloween party this year and it was a fun success. People came in costume. I came dressed as my black cat, complete with her turquoise collar and bell and stayed in “cat character” the entire time, meowing instead of talking, hissing for no, purring for yes. Well after midnight, both Melody and I got our second wind when most of the crowd had thinned out and we retreated to her room with cups of tea and girl chatter, planning to talk well into the night.

The living room grew quieter and quieter and even Monica and her then boyfriend, an equally drop-dead gorgeous dark blond from Saudi Arabia named Sultan (it meant “lion” he said, and went with his fabulous Fabio-like mane), had retreated to sleep after the happy partiers had left or at least collapsed on the living room couches and chairs.

As we gossiped quietly into the night, we realized we both heard the sound of running water. But it was from the wrong room. Melody’s room had a door to the living room and a door to the bathroom which then led to the kitchen in their rented bungalow. The running water was coming from the living room.

Like children afraid of monsters under the bed, we hesitated, then knew we had to investigate. Melody, more timid than I was, chose to eliminate the positive possibilities of the bathroom and kitchen. I headed straight out to the living room. We entered the living room about the same time in time to see the source of the sound.

A young man, someone neither of us knew, a friend of a friend of a friend, a casualty of the earlier celebrations, stood at the window in a moment of need, a call of nature. Unfortunately, he had hit both couches, the coffee table, the rug and the walls, in fact, everything but the open window he aimed for. He was, in short, terribly drunk and soon to be dead drunk meat.

The 7 of Cups in Tarot can represent self-delusion. Tell yourself that you’re OK when you’re not. Your eyes are bigger than your stomach. You may be unclear about what your next choices should be. Confuse yourself about what you desire. Drink to oblivion, until not only your eyes and your brain are numb, but your heart as well. It’s one thing to dress in a costume; quite another to lose yourself in the character you have created. In the 7 of Cups, you can lose your way. But it doesn’t have to be permanent; the hangover may be painful but there is a way out.

“Out!” we screamed. He looked at us dully, attempting to zip up with partial success. “OUT!!!”

He was starting to get the message but it wasn’t clear to him yet. Monica and Sultan heard the fuss. Sultan was horrified on many different fronts. First, he was awakened from his romantic snooze with the woman he was not going to marry. Second, he was awakened from his own moderate drinking, but drinking nonetheless. Third, and most horrifying, he was presented with the most undignified example of his gender that he could imagine, a man who had made a dreadful, horrible, fool of himself as a guest in someone’s home. While our watery stranger outweighed Sultan, the power of indignation turned Monica’s sleepy sweetie into our Super Hero. Sultan frog-marched the unfortunate to his car and cursed him on his way home, to his wife and children as we found out, comparing notes.

As we set about in the small, dark hours of the morning cleaning up after the Bad Guest, we suddenly realized we had unleashed the outcast on the unsuspecting driving public. We started to imagine, as we scrubbed away to rid the house of the urine of a stranger, that we would see horrible photos of the automobile accident that must surely ensue from the impaired driver.

Dawn broke on November 1. I rode my bicycle home in the sunrise, my hands red and raw from cleaning the living room and then cleaning myself. Apparently, the Bad Guest had made it home or somewhere safely and we all wished a silent prayer for his wife and children, realizing this was not the first nor last episode and hoping they were all well-insured.

Please have a very safe and happy Halloween and may all your treats be treasures.

Best wishes.