Monday, November 29, 2010

Surrounded by Buffleheads

“We are now,” Captain Ronn announced over the Delphinus' loudspeaker, “surrounded by Buffleheads.”

I started to snicker. Hey, my whole week had been like that. And here I was out in the cold, bright sunshine of a perfect day for birding by boat on the San Francisco Bay, and I couldn’t get away from them even in the serenity of sincere birders and a diesel engine bubbling through the green waters of my famous bay.

Bobble Heads, I thought. I’m surrounded by Bobble Heads! No, wait, these are ducks, Buffleheads. I focused a minute and brought my mini-nocs to my eyes. “Hey,” I said to my dear friend Ronda and my dear husband John, “they’re pretty! Look!” They were, too.

Going on natural history trips is one of my favorite treats. Those of you who know me personally will understand when I say that I don’t exactly have an REI physique. In the rough-and-tumble world of the outdoors, let’s just say I spend a lot more time with tumble than rough. But I love outdoor adventures.

I must get it from my Dad. The itty bitty Colonel fancied himself a naturalist of sorts, Man Against Nature. Capital letters are required here, his being the Colonel and all. He was an engineer and architect and his orientation was that nature was both an obstacle to be conquered and a resource to be savored. He could identify birds by their songs while his hearing was still pretty good and trees by name. Dangerous animals like snakes were supposed to be killed and fish and deer were to be captured and eaten. It was a hairy-chested nature for him, very macho, very special-effects laden. Moles that dug up a lawn weren’t just captured in a trap; they were eliminated with explosives. Dad was a whole show in himself sometimes.

My orientation to nature was a bit different. I objected to killing things, except perhaps the giant cockroaches they called “palmetto bugs” in Florida. Aside from that small but important exception, I wanted nature for pets or at least to watch them be themselves. My greatest wish was to have a pet [fill in the blank with usually something furry with bright eyes and a wiggly nose, generally a kitten, but also raccoon, skunk, mouse, squirrel, rabbit, puppy, even bird or snake] that I could take with me everywhere who would be my very best friend forever. We had pet fish, birds, a rat, a snake, ant farms, cats, dogs and even entertained thoughts of (was Mom really serious about this?) a pet coatimundi for a while. When I went fishing, I would catch “cute” perch and sunfish with worms and an easy hook. I considered the fish visiting me, so I took them off the hook, kissed them and set them free. After a while, I didn’t like the number of fish who were harmed by the hooks, so I stopped fishing and just amused myself looking in the water. We had a frog “farm”. We had pet red-eared turtles and box tortoises. And there was the toad thing. I didn’t want to conquer nature; I wanted full immersion.

Fairly early I learned that I wanted full immersion without mosquitoes, no-see-ums, chiggers or any other buggy thing that found me edible. And no cockroaches either. So the idea of actually roughing it in the rough was, well, too rough for me. But that never kept me from my urge to slake my thirst for natural history. It just modified it a bit.

Fast forward to current times where I have an indulgent husband who is happy to follow my curiosity where it will lead and my good friend Ronda who loves birds and ecology. We decided a while back that our favorite gifts to each other were gifts of experience. We still make the occasional hand-knitted treasure (from her) or beaded and embroidered whimsy (from me), but we agree that our best presents are the ones that don’t take up any space. We go on Field Trips and we signed up for the Point Reyes Association’s Birds of San Francisco Bay Birding Boat Tour with John Klobas and his daughter Sarah.

Lucky us, not only John and Sarah and their love of birds and behind-the-scenes nature stories were our guides, but the owners and operators of our vessel Delphinus were Ronn Patterson and Barb, none other than the leaders of a little birding cruise up the Napa River the hubs and I had enjoyed a while back.

I’ve said before that I’m not a birder. I’m not. I don’t keep lists of birds I’ve seen. I don’t get excited at the sighting of a Black Oystercatcher perhaps the way I should if I were a birder. Instead I think of things like, “How fast does a bird have to be to catch an oyster anyway? They’re cemented to rocks, fer goodness’ sake.” I do connect with the fact that a very cool looking black bird with a bright orange bill foraging in the rocks I snapped pictures of in Monterey Bay back in 2008 was probably one of those. Ah, I think, a cool-looking bird. I like birds.

I like birders, too. They’re quiet. They don’t want to scare birds. They usually don’t wear makeup or anything besides warm layers and the perfect shoes for the conditions, whatever the conditions. Most of all, they don’t want me to fix anything associated with computers, so they make the most delightful company when I want to get away from it all. Birders are, for the most part, scrupulously honest folk because they are keeping their own personal list of whether or not they’ve actually seen a bird. They really want to see the bird, whatever it is, and so will not allow themselves to have counted it unless they really saw it. That sort of integrity can be refreshing and blended with a lack of pretentiousness, almost as cute as the furry little thing I wanted as a pet or friend. They still have cool toys like killer binoculars with backpack-like elastic straps to keep the tools of the hobby handy without crashing into everything. They admire each others’ shoes for their practicality in all-weather conditions. They may branch off into woolen goods colored with natural dyes like mushrooms or windbreakers with the right amount of convenient pockets. They may also have cameras with enviable lenses and filters. They generally are willing to talk about these, in hushed tones of course so as not to disturb the birds. They are gentle, honest folk who want to see our wonderful world continue.

We did naturally see birds: Terns, Goldeneyes, Sandpipers, Osprey, grebe, San Francisco Giants-color-correct surf scoters, loons, great egrets with black feet and snowy egrets with yellow feet like flipflops at the beach, Merganser, Scaup, coot, Canada goose. I learned about Lipstick gulls and their kleptoparasitism of brown pelican. Basically, similar to an annoying practice common in the corporate world, a pelican will catch the fish only to have its closest companion the gull take the fish, like taking credit for the pelican’s work. We saw a pigeon that had strayed offshore, a land-based bird on holiday, perhaps. And we saw a single Black Oystercatcher. It was a glorious Two of Wands day, a day to hold the world in your hands and look out beyond your usual castle walls to absorb something new.

I learned that Buffleheads not only do OK in rougher waters, they seek them out. And something connected with my own life, some penchant for avoiding the easy path because I knew my life was going a different way. There is something about my tendency to hop into whitecap waters of the corporate world, a place where most people try to seek either the premium high-ranking roost or hope for some protected cove of glassy surface where a comfortable sameness provides security. There I was, surrounded by Buffleheads, a duck not out of water, in the tossy cold waters of the Bay, aware that I had the whole world in my hands.

Best wishes!


Hey, want to get away from it all in your own back yard or perhaps just a little farther away? Check these out:

JOHN KLOBAS is a naturalist who regularly teaches docent training and natural history classes at Santa Rosa Junior College. It is equally possible to find him knee deep in a tide pool, on the side of a mountain, observing and teaching about natural history and animals, or soaking in a hot spring. He is the leader of John Klobas Wildlife Adventures, specializing in birding, marine mammal, natural history, environmental education, backpacking, and mountain climbing adventures throughout California and the West. He is the author of Life Cycle of the Pacific Gray Whale and can be reached at

SARAH KLOBAS has been birding with her dad since she was five. She has a BS in Wildlife Biology from UC Davis and has studied birds in California, Mexico, and Washington. She works as a biologist with the Sonoma/Marin Mosquito and Vector Control District and is a GGRO hawk watcher.

More on the Delphinus and Dolphin Charters:

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Pennies from Heaven

Thanksgiving week is a busy one for most people in the USA, so I promise not to take up much of your time today.

First, applause! applause! to Theresa Reed, The Tarot Lady, for her contest to provide a FREE mentorship prize to some lucky young tarot enthusiast between the ages of 18-28. Here’s a link to her contest:

This is an incredibly generous offer since it is more than a one-time encounter but a full course with individual attention from one of the most respected tarot professionals out there. Thanks, too, to Donnaleigh de LaRose for sharing this link for Theresa’s contest on Facebook.

I feel a deep connection to mentoring because I remember being a confused teenager with so many paranormal and predictive moments. It was hard to know whom and what to trust in my experiences. I had only the briefest experience with a kind adult who recognized my situation and helped me learn how to focus. Most of all, he helped me feel normal at a time when nothing felt normal. Students, take advantage of a terrific chance to grow!


The Art Postcard Tarot and Victorian Trade Card Tarot are still available but, I’m pleased to say, going fast. The decks are $25 USD each plus postage. If you are interested, please email me at with your name and address and I will send PayPal instructions. If you’re wondering whether or not to get one or perhaps both, remember The Fool card says, “Just do it!”

The Fool from the Art Postcard Tarot
(c) Copyright 2010 Marcia McCord

The Fool from the Victorian Trade Card Tarot
(c) Copyright 2010 Marcia McCord


May you have a blessed Thanksgiving week. If you travel, travel safely. If you stay home, stay home safely. If you get a chance, whether under your breath or to their faces, thank someone for something. If they didn’t do it, you’ll keep them guessing. If they did, you might even make them blush.

Best wishes!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Taming the Lion

O frabjous day! Prince William has proposed to Kate Middleton and Anglophiles everywhere are a-glee. That includes me too, from a very American point of view. While I don’t follow the British Royal Fam as closely as some, my Inner Child is about to call a tea party with the teddy bears. My love of fairytales, princesses with long hair and short, and handsome princes disguised as frogs, bears, beasts and other forbidding exteriors is indulged with these two lovelies’ happy news. And it looks like we will be treated to the spring or summer 2011 wedding and all the controversy that goes with it.

By all accounts, the bride-to-be is a lovely person, and, while the fairy tale icon of being technically a commoner, she comes from a wealthy family who made their money on their own from a business of planning children’s parties. There’s something about being in the business of making people happy that seems to fit with being the future queen.

In my fairy tale mind, I have rosy images of this wedding being the happy resolution of the sadness of the life of Diana Spencer and her beautiful sons, hoping that the princes get to enjoy full, joyful and productive lives in the service of their family and country.

Modern fairy tales of course are fraught with annoyances like over-eager news reporters, skulking around to catch the Royals in awkward or at least interesting situations. My favorite human interest story about Kate Middleton is that she thought William looked “sexy” in his Navy uniform. This was perceived as a “slip.” While I can see that such a personal remark could conceivably be considered too human to come from a figurehead, I thought it was a lovely little personal insight. After all, if Kate thought William looked like a toad, people might call her a gold-digger and hope at least she fell for his wit. Instead, of course, nearly everyone thinks of them as being a beautiful couple, her model looks, his fresh-faced sincerity. We think he looks yummy in the uniform, too. It should be her purview to take that concept of yummy to the next step if she intends to marry him.

While it’s a “slip” for Kate to say “sexy” about William, of course the press is free to take all kinds of sensationalist potshots at the happy couple, risking lawsuits of harassment as one publication found. But generally, the press doesn’t get dinged for their nickname for her “Katie Waitie.”

OK, the girl has stuck around. She apparently thinks the prince is worth it. When you take into consideration the invasion of privacy, the pressure, the schedule, the requirement for being “on stage” your whole life, marrying a prince is a big decision. It’s not something you should enter into lightly. Perhaps more than a typical marriage, a Royal Wedding is not just marrying the guy but marrying his whole family. If the immediate family is the Royal Family, the extended family is all of the UK. Anyone with in-law trouble or maybe even just with in-laws can understand the need to approach with caution here.

A previous Queen of England, Elizabeth I, knew all about this. If Elizabeth had been dull-witted, the question of marriage would likely have been easy at the time and she would have fallen into relative obscurity, either producing an heir or not, and of course changing the course of history. But no, Elizabeth was a smart cookie, the kind that makes ambitious men quake in their boots, the kind that scared so many people about giving women the vote and any other privilege granted to males in western society. From the moment she became queen, the power brokers around her were pressuring her to marry some guy or another for purely political reasons, usually for reasons of personal gain. In Elizabeth’s day, the word ambition was actually a very negative word, not like the proactive, go-getter quality we think of today. It included the concept of scheming and back-stabbing, the “sell your grandmother to get ahead” slimeball characteristic we ascribe to villains. She was surrounded by these people who were looking out for her own good, so they professed. She was, in a word, alone.

She had the advantage of observing the mistakes of others. Most of all, her strongest personality characteristic was her ability to postpone announcing a decision or revealing her feelings.

For someone like me, whose personality seeks closure of issues in order to move on and the sooner the better, this would have taken the utmost strength of character. And yet, like the Strength card in tarot, the strength it took Elizabeth was not in being the arm-wrestling champion of the junior high two years in a row (fodder for another entry in the future) or otherwise pounding her subjects into the ground to do her will. It was the strength to remain detached and maintain a gentle and noble exterior. She adopted her persona of the Virgin Queen finally, declaring she was wedded to England and could not in good conscience distract herself from her duty to her people by fulfilling some personal desire for domestic bliss in a conventional marriage. She picked the noblest possible reason for retaining control over her own life as the reason. And by doing so she became one of the greatest monarchs in history.

I suspect Elizabeth had several reasons besides the official one. I would just love to talk to her.

Instead of making fun of Kate’s wait, I think we should applaud it. She shows the strength to endure, not force a situation. As a wife, an in-law, a public figure and a leader, her maturity, resolve and spirit are clearly visible through this one act of gentle persistence. It gives me hope for success in the future, no matter what the role of the British monarchy becomes. I suspect there will be ample opportunity for her to display her strength of character in the years to come.

Best wishes to the happy couple! And to all of you.


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Monday, November 8, 2010

You’ve Got Your Troubles; I’ve Got Mine

“I’m afraid to have my cards read! I don’t want to get that Death card.”

OK, nobody wants the Death card to show up. Or the Tower. Or the Devil. In fact, some telephone hotlines tell their tarot readers to take those cards out of the deck for their client readings, something I consider unethical or at the very least a disservice.

Let’s review: Death doesn’t have to mean death, like what we see in murder mysteries every night on television; it can mean change, an ending and a beginning. If you think about it, there are plenty of things in your life you would just as soon be done with and never have to think about again. So Death doesn’t always have to be bad news because it isn’t always physical death. In fact, it’s most likely not physical death. If you’re reading this now, you probably aren’t dead (I leave room for error here) but you have probably gone through changes in your life, true? So, just playing the odds blindly, what’s more likely to happen in your life in the next week? Physical death or some change in your life? OK, so resume breathing normally.

And the Tower. Yes, it’s a big building falling down after being struck by lightning and people falling with it, at least in the RWS (Rider Waite Smith) tradition. Yes, it can mean that, like Mary Chapin Carpenter’s song that goes, “Sometimes you’re the windshield. Sometimes you’re the bug,” this time you’re the bug. But it also means the *GREAT ZOT!!* of realization that changes everything you based all your assumptions heretofore upon, the foundation of your logic or thinking or belief crumbles because it was going to anyway. It’s the “A-HA!” moment, the eye-opener, the Eureka shriek, even thunderstruck love at first sight. Think Publishers Clearinghouse knocking on your door. Away go your previous assumptions, swept away by sudden realization. And it’s the Big Do-Over. Sometimes do-overs are called second chances. At one time or another, we’ve all wanted a second chance at something.

All right, then there’s the Devil. OK, I admit, evil that likes to torture you and doesn’t really care about you or the entertainment value of your suffering is pretty tough. However, the Devil is also that little voice in your head that says, “Buy me!” when faced with the [new, latest, shiny, red, pretty, fast, bigger, smaller, sparkly or other adjective that grabs you and won’t let you go] thing. It can be devastating like the chains that tie us to a destructive relationship or habit that we fear we just can’t quit. It can also mean you’re having your own devil-may-care moment of unbridled fun, the dancing on the tables and shooting out the lights kind, the kind you hope doesn’t make it to the papers, the kind you don’t take home to mom, the kind you hope you get away with without ruining the rest of your life. You get the Devil and Temperance, you have your evil and calm down. You get the Devil and the 7 of Swords and you probably get away with it, whatever it is, except that thoughts of it may plague you after the dust settles. You get the Devil and the 10 of Swords, o woe and consequences! So while the card itself can, in various decks, look really scary, there’s a range between “Cute Li’l Devil” and the kind that needs an exorcist. I recommend the cute end of the spectrum myself, but that’s just me.

Those aren’t the cards that scare me though. OK, I’m not a big fan of the Tower, mostly because I hate surprises, something like the premise of the now defunct show Dead Like Me where our main character meets her untimely demise as the victim of a falling toilet seat. I have plans.

No, there are other cards that scare me. They have to be in the “right” context of course.

For instance, I have a bit of an aversion to the 6 of Wands. I don’t like to be paraded around like a hero. I’m just like you. Or at least I try to tell myself that, while at the same time relishing how different I am from everyone else. But all that attention in the parade and stuff, that’s so not for me. Give me fortune, thanks, and leave the fame to the photogenic, I say. Take me to the pub and let’s tell stories together but don’t try to make a hero out of me. Queen for a day, I’m not. But who listens to me?

The cards that give you the heebie-jeebies are likely to tell you something about yourself. My 6 of Wands thing started early, when I was 3 or so. It was centered around fashion. Mom loved clothes and had the kind of figure that could wear just about anything, trim, great legs, long neck, deep set eyes. Did I mention I take after Dad’s side of the family? She was thrilled to have a little blonde baby girl to dress up in mother-daughter outfits and put me in little girl fashion shows. I hated it. They poured me into frilly panties with a big fat red heart appliquéd to the butt, scratchy dresses with scratchier petticoats and, at 7 or 8 years old, the ultimate indignity, a leopard print one-piece bathing suit. I looked like a speckled jellybean. Of course this particular moment was mixed with my brother’s Cub Scout den pointing, laughing and calling out, “Me Tarzan, you Jane!” That was so it. Make them stop looking at me. My modeling days were over then and there. I was prepared to bite people if they tried to dress me up one more time. Mom gave in and I retired from the runway.

6 of Wands from the Art Postcard Tarot,
(c) Copyright 2010 Marcia McCord,
all rights reserved

I found that it got no better even if I were recognized for something I enjoyed doing. I began fainting, offstage at least, after piano recitals. Who knew piano lessons could be so hazardous? I was given the surprise and dubious honor of being the valedictorian of my junior high class. When the principal called out my name, he mispronounced it. “Mar-see-uh McCord.” I was just uncomfortable enough, just angry enough, just embarrassed enough, to shake his hand, then lean into the microphone to say, “That’s Marcia, sir, just like you say Marsha.” It’s a mistake anyone could make but my finest hour to date was marred by misidentification, compounded, I reflect, further by my correcting him in front of the whole school. Well, it was an award for having the correct answer but no one cared. Seriously, the whole thing would have been better if they had just mailed it to me. I did at least remember to say thank you.

Toastmasters International helped me with speaking in front of others so the public aspect of my work isn’t so dreadful. Public recognition, though, was still a problem.

I sang in a Sweet Adelines quartet in Illinois, tenor, spokesperson, comic relief. We had a pretty good sound there for a little while. Some guy even came around and asked if we wanted him to be our agent. We didn’t. No, even “worse” accolades were to come. At a county fair after our performance, we were mobbed by little old guys in their 70’s who wanted our autographs. It was a nightmare. And I laughed. I should have been flattered. I should have had stage-fright. But no, I had after-stage-fright.

My last great horror of recognition happened eight years ago. I was working for a large financial corporation in San Francisco that will remain nameless, a place I mistook for the Everyman company. It was a wonderful place to work, too much to do, great people to work with, pieces of a giant puzzle to solve. I absolutely loved my work. I got awards, an entire credenza full of them, for technical and customer service achievements. I was proudest of those I won as part of a team, thinking I could bury my 6 of Wands phobia of the spotlight in a crowd. And then the party was over. No matter how many awards I had won, “Exceeds Expectations” reviews I had received or what I had achieved as an individual or team member, I was among one of the great waves of people laid off. I had a short time to pack my things and go. And I left the credenza-top full of those awards, that bright fame that meant nothing, that recognition of air and smoke.

For me the 6 of Wands is nothing but an uncomfortable spotlight on accomplishments little understood. The parade ends. The parade sponsors feel good that they have shown all that they can reward wonderfulness but nothing really deep and meaningful just happened.

But it’s not all awful between the 6 of Wands and me. Why, just last week I had a great time at the San Francisco Giants parade through the City of San Francisco. Down on the street, being about a foot shorter than most of the crowd, I caught great views of the undersides of hats and the occasional display of nosehair. Up in our friend’s office on the 8th floor, high above Market Street, just far enough from both the heroes and the crowd, I thrilled to the sound of “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” and watched the orange, black and white confetti fall like plum blossoms in a spring storm to cover the streetcars and vintage autos and adoring fans. And I cheered for the Giants as they celebrated their moment of victory, home from their World Series win. And I noted how quickly after the parade was over and the cheers had died down and the crowd had moved away, the City street sweepers began their cleanup, as if nothing had happened at all.

Best wishes!


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Monday, November 1, 2010

No Soy Bruja

I don’t speak Spanish. I wish I did. I feel I’m missing out on so much of the world because I, like so many residents of the USA, am fluent only in English. My favorite musicians are the Gipsy Kings who speak something between French and Spanish, close enough. Think of all the music I could enjoy.

I know there’s always been an argument in my country, somewhere on the “love it or leave it” end of the open-minded negotiations spectrum for some folks, that people who live here should speak our language. I beg to differ. There is no such language as USA-ish. Or maybe it exists only in text messages, license plates and advertising. Wsh u cd b here 2.

Oh, sure, there was a moment when our official language was almost German. Ich auch spreche klein Deutch. Or something like that. I like German as a language. Purely from an outsider’s point of view, I like the way they do nouns. Why create a lot of new nouns for new things when you can splice a couple of good well-used nouns together to get the idea across? It’s kind of a green language that way, recycling a couple of words to create a new one. And, back when we used typewriters instead of computers and printers, I thought the liberal use of capital letters, say with nouns for instance, at least assured a more even wear of the typewriter keys. It seems like a balanced and reasonable language.

One of the things I like about Spanish is the written part, especially punctuation. For instance, when we say something in an excited way, we might write it as, “Wow!” We have to wait until the end of the word or sentence to know how loud we say it. It works fine in English if the message is short. Certainly, “Wow” is a whole different feeling from, “Wow!” Or even, “WOW!” And in one of my favorite all-time Marketing flops when the Ruffles people tried that grease-substitute stuff (for those of us who wish we could eat all the crunchy things and still look like a runway model) and called them “Wow,” my husband and I felt a certain different message was actually the true result of the, er, um, sudden dyspepsia caused by the inability to digest this wonder-grease. We called them, “OH, Wow!” So I don’t mean that English isn’t expressive.

But in Spanish, you know up front if you’re excited when you read something. You’ve got an upside down exclamation point at the beginning of the sentence and a regular one at the end. At least you don’t have to back up and repeat yourself more loudly to make it sound right. It’s nice being prepared for excitement. It kind of builds the excitement.

In grade school, a priest visited our third grade class and started to teach us Spanish. It was fun, uno, dos, tres. When I moved to New Mexico, I found that Spanish was even handier to know since about one third of the school spoke it. I took two years of Spanish in junior high from our very scholarly teacher who was from Deep in the Heart of Dixie. Her Spanish was more standard, according to local ears, than her English and I reveled in being able to repeat useless phrases like “Lobo rueda la bola” both with an Atlanta accent and something closer to my classmates’ tongue. It solidified my lifelong love of regional dialects since I had been teased by my New Mexico classmates for my “British” accent from deep in the heart of central Florida.

I learned just enough Spanish for a couple of key moments. One of them was filled with that sense of karma, that feeling that I’d gone to Catholic school as a non-Catholic to learn to count in Spanish from a priest and had been uprooted from my Wild Kingdom in Florida to the dust of New Mexico precisely for this moment.

I was still in junior high and Spanish, whether Atlanta-accented or not, was still fresh in my ears when a very dusty, tired man perhaps my father’s age, perhaps older, cautiously approached me one searing afternoon. He asked me, in Spanish, where Roswell was, basically, how to get there.

One of the benefits of reading too many books and loving study and language and other bookish things was that I tended to drink in the circumstances, the context of a question. I realized this man was taking a terrible risk talking to a young Anglo girl and knew it. He stood sideways to me at least 10 feet away, his head bowed, his eyes pleading. I recognized that he was likely illegal, sorry he was so far from home, beaten down by false promises of economic opportunity. His hands were rough and split from field work. His shoes were dusty and cut. He had no baggage other than that of his soul. I was touched by his plight, his longing, his dread, his fear, his hope, his exhaustion. He was Don Quixote without the horse, the armor, the best friend or the mission in life. He was lost in a lot of ways. I knew just enough Spanish to tell him to take the highway going south, 90 miles, you can’t miss it, not in that part of the world. I hope he got a ride.

I don’t know what help I gave him. I know what it did for me.

Last night was Halloween and one of my favorite treats is giving free tarot readings for folks who walk up with their kids who are trick-or-treating. I do it once a year, dress up in some gypsy-Zigeuner-Gitana getup with thick socks and a good wool wrap and Birkenstocks. This is Northern California, after all. My husband helps me set up my tent, drape the supports with jack-o-lantern lights and hang the elastic sparkly spider web as atmosphere. This year I had a couple of extra treats for the décor. We had gone to a fund-raiser where the clients of the ARC-Solano and residents of a retirement home had joined forces to create giant heads made of papier-mache covered balloons painted and decorated and set on stands. These were auctioned off along with other fund-raising activities and I bought two of them. One was an irrepressible Happy Ghost with a big grin and rubber-glove hands on either side of its ghoulish face, clad in seasonal white gauze, just the thing for the special specter. The other I dubbed The Eye of Zohar in honor of a vintage tarot game recently purchased by Thalassa of BATS fame. Finally, towards the end of the evening, a neighbor brought me his artfully carved pumpkin, all the fun and none of the goo.

The majority of people I read for last night just happened to be Spanish speaking. Luckily, I had translators handy. One of my young neighbors next door assisted with a couple of readings, so I read for Edgar too when we had a break.

I started out my readings with a very hesitant, “No soy bruja.” They smiled and nodded. Edgar smiled and nodded. “Did I say that right?” I asked him. He smiled, “Yes.” Good, I thought. The last thing I want to do, especially on Halloween, was scare people. And then I laughed at the nonsense of that on so many levels. But at least it was a true statement.

The daughter of a family out for the treats translated for another set of readings. I really focused my message in my attempt to make sure in the simplest language possible the point of the readings would be conveyed. It was hard. It was good. It was exhilarating. I finally folded the tent about 9:30 pm.

Edgar’s parents, Miguel and Martha, were sitting on their steps in the night as I carried my candy cauldron up the steps to my front door.

“You should learn Spanish,” Miguel called. “You could get a lot of business.” I thought for a moment about the time it would take to become really conversant, to talk about all the range of events and emotions and hopes and fears that clients talk about in a tarot reading.

“How about I work out a deal for Edgar as translator?” I called back. “He could use the money, too.”

Like the Page of Wands, that’s how inspiration and the communication of a new project can work. Suddenly on a dark night in October, someone brings a candle to roll back the darkness. This just might work out.

Best wishes.