Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Happy Families

Cousin RoseRed says she’s a bit phobic about the 10 of Cups. This astonishes most of her acquaintances since most people think of the 10 of Cups as that Happily Ever After card. The RWS (Rider-Waite-Smith) shows hale and healthy Mom and Dad arm-in-arm under a rainbow set in a clear sky with ten cups perched on the rainbow. Their two children laugh and play nearby, paying no attention to their parents’ happiness, no news being good news and apparently good news being no news either.

But that’s a little strange, isn’t it? Rainbows are created from rain in the sky with the sun shining on it. The drops act as a prism, like the suncatchers in windows, and split pure light into its separate colors. And yet our 10 of Cups shows a clear day. From this we could not only get the “happily ever after” interpretation but an indication, no matter how subtle or beautiful, that the rain still exists. Is the rain the range of emotions that turn our lives from black and white to techni-color? Is the rain the vehicle for the delivery of nourishment that would be forever stuck in the earth otherwise? But in this picture, the rain is actually stuck in the sky. We are shown the rain, the happy side of the rain, the colors, the hope, the promise. It’s like what I used to call the “OK music” that monster movies play after all the scary stuff is over and vanquished and the movie ends.

Our lives aren’t movies, though. Happily ever after, if you really mean ever after, doesn’t really exist. It’s great for stories and it’s better to tell the kids about a happy ending to a story so they have hope that at least sometimes things turn out all right. But our lives go on after the end of the “movie” or “story” we’re telling. Other things happen, some good, some bad. Ultimately, for all of us, our story is over.

I admit I take some vicarious pleasure at Cousin RoseRed’s horror of the 10 of Cups. I’m sure experiencing the full measure of it is not so much fun, so my immediate apologies, cuz. But it’s the same vicarious pleasure we take in watching scary movies or listening to scary stories. They are titillating and they are, importantly, happening to someone else. Maybe we tell these stories to ourselves to build a sense of emotional distance so that when it counts we can laugh or better yet stand up to what scares us. This is counter to what most of us think we and the rest of the world need. Why should we teach ourselves purposeful insensitivity especially at a time when being kinder all around is the clear need in our world? For survival, for one thing.

After all, who can’t appreciate the irony of having survived a plane crash only to die of a snakebite? Just because one hazard has been overcome, one sorrow has been survived, one evil has been eradicated, nothing says more trouble won’t come later. So that feeling of everything’s just perfect is unsettling to my 10-of-Cups-phobes who are pretty sure there’s another velociraptor waiting around the next kitchen counter. Anticipation isn’t always a pretty sight. But the 10 of Cups tells us that we need to enjoy those moments when everyone in our little community is happy, really feel them, even if the rain never hits the ground to be truly nourishing. That rainbow is still a wonderful thing, if fleeting.

Often the 10 of Cups means that the whole family is happy. I’m not sure I remember specifically a time in my childhood when that occurred but like the two kids playing at their parents’ feet, the absence of a remarkable and memorable bad time resulted in a vague and seemingly endless good time. Its memory is more of a feeling than the stop-action horror film that bad times could be.

I still have to remind myself and others that what makes one community or family happy does not always please everyone else. One could point to US politics for that. In our political scene here, what appears as the 10 of Cups Happy Family to one group of people can be a killing blow, say, a 10 of Swords moment to another and perhaps just an undue burden like the 10 of Wands to another. It feels cheeky to say that Happy Families are relative, but there you have it.

Without drawing on recent events that could bring out the swords or wands or cups or even pentacles as a reaction, I can point to one Happy Family whose rainbow was not everyone’s 10 of Cups.

John and I traveled to southwest Scotland years ago. “Roots tour?” our occasionally helpful good Samaritans eye-rolled to us. We nodded sheepishly. As far as I can tell, Cousin RoseRed and my common family lived in this part of Scotland along the Galloway coast. It looks a lot like the coast of northern California, trees, cows, green, fog, sea. California has this interesting thing called sunshine which happens sometimes along its north coast and a somewhat more interesting thing called earthquakes which, thank goodness, happen even more rarely than sunshine. Galloway has a pre-historic ring of standing stones called the Tor House Ring, a stone circle that would be a terrific calendar if the sky were clear enough to figure out where the sun, moon, planets and stars were. I’m pretty sure they could tell sometimes. Galloway also has, or rather had, Sawney Bean.

In short, Sawney, his wife, and maybe 50 children and grandchildren lived in a cave or caves (you’ll see why the reports aren’t particularly clear) along coastal Galloway and were known terrors of the travelers.

Before I go into more detail, you should know that the word “scot” means “bandit” and getting away “scot free” is something more like that 7 of Swords thing, meaning the bandit mugged you, took all your stuff including your clothes and left you for dead, which you likely were if you lay there overnight because it gets cold in Scotland.

Sawney and family took this concept a step further. In short, they ate people. Invoking Sawney’s name was basically to call upon the boogieman of southwest Scotland and scare children into being careful if not good. But think of things from Sawney’s point of view. A fat traveler in finery traveling alone or perhaps in a small group is overcome by a family of incestuous cannibals. I’m sure Sawney and family were delighted. Roast tonight! Their 10 of Cups was very much the travelers’ 10 of Swords.

Now there are sources that say Sawney was a real person with a real family who lived in real caves, born in the late 1300’s and preying upon travelers in the 1400’s, coincidentally about the time that the Tarot was starting to become popular with the common folk. There are others who maintain that Sawney was a scary story invented in the 1700’s to strike fear in the hearts of outsiders traveling through this often difficult and disputed territory. Most agree, though, that things were desperate enough in Scotland from time to time that cannibalism did occur.

Sawney’s story, in fact, inspired such schlock-horror as the movie “The Hills Have Eyes,” which countless teenagers have screamed and laughed at. Sawney’s story proves at the very least that family happiness is relative. You do need to know whether you’re having dinner or being dinner at least.

Within our lives, families can be horror stories or a place of loving refuge. They can be familiar evils or remote fairy tales. The 10 of Cups can be the ultimate of an emotional cycle, a happy ending, the realization of hopes and dreams for more than just yourself. It can also be the last time we were ever together and happy. Every family has its rain suspended in the sky. It is up to us as family members to concentrate either on the positive or negative face of the family with the understanding that we cannot have rainbows without a little rain.

Best wishes.

***

My heartfelt sorrow and sympathy to the friends and family of slain Vallejo police officer Jim Capoot.  He dedicated his life to making ours better.  May he rest in peace and may his family take some tiny comfort in knowing that he was loved and will be remembered by the community he served so fully, so selflessly, so freely, so kindly, so well.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Straight Face

“My little sister ate my homework.”

The worst problem I had when I was student teaching was keeping a straight face. I had defaulted to majoring in English in college and figured I wanted to teach. Junior high, I thought, was a lot like combat duty. You get all the thrill of a fidget in overdrive, raging hormones, defiance, a couchful of insecurities for each person involved, budding senses of humor and a crack of dawning civilization. They can be more adult than most people you know in one minute and sharing variations on the theme of rude noises the next. Combat duty, I thought. I’ll teach the little rascals some English. I had no idea they were going to be so funny.

I did my student teaching in a small town in southern Illinois. The State of Illinois is long enough that the northern part has little in common with the middle part and the middle part is fairly divorced from the southern part. When I lived there in the river bottom land, it was still a pretty good place for people hiding from authorities to hide until the heat was over. It’s woodsy with lakes and extensive limestone structures including caves. It’s more like The South than people think although my trips just across the river to Paducah, Kentucky convinced me that no horse money had made it across the river to southern Illinois. Paducah’s finely manicured lawns were a stark contrast the mining and farming towns at the bottom of Illinois.
Tea Tarot
(c) Copyright 2011 Marcia McCord

I was compulsive about trying to bring new, concrete experiences to young people to widen their horizons anyway. I wanted to give them something they didn’t already have. The urge is a Queen of Pentacles thing in me more than the Hierophant. I never felt I was the keeper of all knowledge spooning it out to acolytes in the small doses they could handle. I wanted to give them the whole wide world, to show them the wonder of this life. Maybe it was subversive in a way, but I wanted them to love this life and their world so that they didn’t have to cling to religion as their only respite but could choose it with joy as a supplement to their beautiful world. I wanted to teach them how to hope and how to make hopes real, that they could with their own choosing make their lives better.

There were a lot of people who went into teaching with ideals like this. I was the tail-end of the hippie generation and bought goodness and peace hook, line and sinker. I had seen what kind of transformation opportunity and positive thinking could bring to people, how fairness, justice and encouragement were fundamental. I still think those things but my own Queen of Pentacles realizes these things move ever so slowly, ever too slowly.

I had tried to show kids interesting stuff all my life including leading biology field studies for the little kids on my block when I first started college. What they learned wasn’t so much about the diversity of nature in the woods of south central Missouri then. They learned that if their gerbils escaped to hide in the sofa, they could call upon me to reach my hand into the foamy depths and risk getting bitten by the indignant little squees, all to save the neighbor kids from punishment when their parents got home. Gerbils have sharp little teeth. Teaching is a learning experience too. We all lived happily ever after that day, but I approached all future gerbil emergencies with caution.

Mrs. N was the regular English teacher at the junior high in the small town in southern Illinois. She was a sturdy, self-assured and practical woman who had hoped to expand little minds into public speaking at some point. She smoked the thinnest possible little cigars, saying she had to get all her smoking done in one preparation period, so a concentrated experience was required. I soon learned that getting the 7th and 8th graders to speak was not the problem; it was getting them to say something repeatable that was the challenge.

I had picked junior high for the challenge, thinking also that I had half a chance of being as tall or taller than the kids. I was right about the challenge, wrong about the height thing. It wasn’t that I needed to tower over them. I just wanted to see the kids in the back of the classroom. Quickly I learned that meant standing all day long and I adjusted my meager wardrobe to include the thickest-soled foam scuffs I could find in as many colors as I could find. They looked stupid, but at the end of the day my feet had not turned into something like pizza, cheesy, hot, bubbly, and seared.

But no one told me they were spit-your-drink-out-your-nose funny.

“Where’s your homework?” The condemned child looked forlorn and shuffled his feet. Apparently there was a story here. He answered.

“Your little sister?” Tears brimmed in my eyes which might have been mistaken for allergies in pollen-rich river bottom land. I did my best to keep the Queen of Pentacles’ calm but fact-based face as I looked at him.

“Can you bring your little sister in tomorrow as evidence?”

My student looked confused. Apparently no one had demanded proof before of the homework-eating toddler. I thought an experiment might be a good idea. After all, if she ate his homework, she might eat something else. The kids could write about it. It could be a lesson in how everyday life provides plenty of fodder for exposition and thoughtful reflection.

“Bring her in tomorrow along with your redone homework, but try to keep the homework away from her this time.”

The child blinked and nodded, still unsure of his ability to produce the human paper recycler. I moved on to the lesson of the day.

Mrs. N was right. Whatever you had during the one-hour of preparation period, you needed enough of it to last you the whole day. Instead of tiny cigars, I usually had to go to the teachers’ lounge and laugh until I cried.

The assistant principal frowned on this. We weren’t supposed to be having this much fun. We were supposed to be terrified of school administration and pass that terror along to the children. He had a line-‘em-up-and-shoot-‘em policy with the students. He was known to select one student teacher a year and pick on them until they broke. He picked me that year. He broadcast my classes live over the speakers in the principal’s office, hoping to get me fired before my student teaching stint was up because I couldn’t line anyone up, let alone shoot them. He didn’t get me fired but I think the office got a good laugh out of it. I know I did.

The last laugh happened later when I graduated, applied for jobs and got a job offer to teach at a small Catholic school 45 miles from my house. The school was in the process of closing but they advertised the job as a “foot in the door” for someone who wanted teaching experience. It was all subjects for kids in 7th and 8th grades with a student population in those grades of fewer than 10. The pay almost but not quite covered the gasoline to drive back and forth to the school.

At the same time I had been offered a position as a legal secretary at an established law office less than a mile from my house at nearly twice the pay. I caved, true to my Queen of Pentacles theme, and went for the bucks. Once again, I had been hired for my grammar, the product not of my college education but of the patient nuns at a Catholic grade school years ago.

And I never looked back, except to laugh. I never met that kid’s little sister.

Best wishes!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Bugs

That high pitched screech you hear when I hit my high note at the sudden and unexpected encounter with an insect is something I call my “Bug Scream.” I’m a soprano, not the TV mobster kind, just the natural pitch of my vocal range kind. My choral director in Sweet Adelines once told me, “Marcia, only dogs can hear notes that high.” OK, maybe.

Let’s just say that I like to be properly introduced to bugs. I like to work up to a relationship with them and not have bugness thrust upon me, so to speak. Sometimes the dog comes in from a patrol of the back yard and brings in a hitchhiking baby slug. If I see it first, I feel quite calm about getting a tissue to transport junior to the back door (or to the toilet for a good flush if my husband isn’t home). My husband tends to name the snails and slugs that we encounter. I do not. Being surprised by one and getting advance warning are completely different experiences when the slimy-footed types are involved. After all, I love seashells and those are just seagoing slimy-footed types.

No, it’s the solid exo-skeleton bugs that give me the screeches. One thing I’ve noticed about living in northern California is that the bug thing isn’t as much of an annoyance as it is in other places in the US. Of course there are startling exceptions in California, like the potato bug. The first time I ran across one of those was in Copperfield Books in Petaluma. I was browsing through a spinning rack of interesting greeting cards, picked one up and woke my new friend up from its nap. Very shortly after that I woke up everyone within about a block, including the dogs. It’s just the one noise I make but it’s startling and completely involuntary.

Victorian Trade Card Tarot
(c) Copyright 2010 Marcia McCord

I have a typical Knight of Wands reaction to little crawly beasties. Although I have never stood on a chair swinging a baseball bat at a bug while screaming at the top of my lungs, the urge has been there. I don’t mean to be unkind to them. I have this roach phobia from my childhood in Florida and I’m horrified every time I think that they apparently can survive quite a while without their heads [ed., she refrains from drawing any analogies to politicians here] and are likely to survive a nuclear blast. When it comes to bugs, I tend to have a “don’t think, just do” approach.

We’re certainly not bug-free here in California. There are fleas. This year was especially flea-ful since there was just a bit more rain. My vet told me that people were resorting to dosing their critters twice a month instead of the usual once-a-month treatment for the back-of-the-neck flea and tick killer. The dog and cats greet this treatment with the same enthusiasm the Occupy crowds have when told they need to disperse. They of course do not like the fleas any more than I do so we came to a compromise. The agreed not to take my hand off at the ankles when I put the flea stuff on them as long as they can grouse about it and I have to comfort them in their distress but only if and when they want it. Strong prima dona strains run in the cat family here.

The diva thing doesn’t prevent me from trying to teach everyone to hunt and eat bugs so mommy doesn’t stand on a chair and scream. They have so far shown moderate enthusiasm for this activity. What if a cat were too warm to move? Or too comfortable? Or bored? Or well-fed? Or engaged in some debate with one of the other cats? One could not be bothered with something as mundane as a Daddy Long Legs in the bathtub.

And we can’t forget scorpions. Seriously I’ve only seen the one but it was the sports spectacular version at the river house with my friends. But we do have them. There are pillbugs, aphids, ladybugs, moths, butterflies, mosquitoes, stinkbugs and spiders. This was a really big spider year too. They all began making webs early around July; usually September is their season. Usually they are what we used to call “jumping spiders” which helped you judge your distance in observation. The “garden spiders” (these are not technical terms, for you arachnophiles) were the big web-builders this year and there was one hum-dinger out on the patio, about the size of a half-dollar if you include the leg-span. My husband deposited that one in the agapanthus. After all, they eat other bugs so I don’t really want to kill them.

I’m just a little disappointed that there are no fireflies in California. Of all the bugs from my years in the Midwest, fireflies were my favorite. They hover like little votive candles over the ditches and meadows on a humid evening, looking for a date. On a trip back to Missouri, my husband thought he was suffering from fatigue-induced hallucinations. He was relieved when I pointed to the ditches full of ditch lilies in the twilight and laughed, “No, honey, those are BUGS.”

My Big Bad Bug encounter this year was with the yellow jacket on September 11 as I patiently waited for the firemen and police to come for coffee and cakes. I can barely see the scar now, which is surprising since I was pretty sure at the time my finger was going to fall off. The encounter did bring up some creative thinking about a new cartoon super heroine called Yellow Jacket who was completely into must-have fashions and of course ridding the world of meanness, one sting at a time. I figure my super-heroine has a thing for chocolate. Well, it got me buzzing; I could see the fantastic array of yellow jackets she would wear. Why stick to just one super costume?

It doesn’t seem to be such a huge logical leap that much of my professional life has been dedicated to the finding, eradicating and preventing of bugs. Well, that’s in software at least. I used to keep a trilobite fossil next to my keyboard at work. Just the thought of a time when the whole planet was literally crawling with these scuttly critters is enough to give me the heebie-jeebies. As a touchstone, it helped inspire my own “Spidey Sense” to find and fix problems in software intuitively. I’m so grateful that I’m not the only person in technology who does this sort of thing. One of my best friends admitted, although she can remain anonymous here, that she too has spent a career of having people ask her, “How did you know that was the problem?” and having to answer with a shrug. Heck, just had that crawling sensation over here in this section of the system…well, it’s hard to explain. But it brings out the Knight of Wands in me although I do tend to suppress the whole “primal scream with a weapon” when it comes to working on software.

Yet, I’m still grateful for all the critters (ok, I don’t see what possible positive impact a cockroach has but I’ll bet someone will try to tell me) and I encourage bees in my yard with some bee-attracting plants. I’ll buy a box of live ladybugs at the garden center in the spring to set upon the aphids if need be. I must say I’m not looking forward to the annual migration of the tiny ants, which are fair-weather ants at best. When the winter rains come they come indoors and forage for the interesting things in the carbs section of the cabinets. If you hear high-pitched screaming and rhythmic crashing coming from my house on a rainy day, don’t worry. That’s just my inner Knight of Wands expressing itself freely!

Best wishes!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Meaningless Harassment

Just saw a Facebook post that said that a politician’s actions of sexual harassment were considered “meaningless.” Yeah, that’s probably right. After all, no one actually gets hurt being harassed, right?

Bullies are everywhere and sexual bullies are just another type of bully. No big deal. It’s just the dark side of King of Wands, the abuse of power and energy. Happens all the time, right?

Victorian Trade Card Tarot
(c) Copyright 2010 Marcia McCord
After all, these people don’t really mean anything by it. It’s all in fun, isn’t it?

That’s why parents are getting together with schools to institute anti-bullying programs, because it’s no big deal. So what if your kid gets teased to the point of suicide, right? They should have been tougher stuff, probably. After no one on your side of the family ever had that kind of problem or dealt with it that way. Did they?

Take racial prejudice, for instance. Why, no one had a problem in the old days when everything was OK and people knew their place. Musicals like South Pacific contained songs like “You Have to be Carefully Taught” because those show business people aren’t like regular folks anyway. They’re too sensitive, for one thing. And a lot of them, well, nice people just don’t talk about that of course. It’s just too bad if parents didn’t like who was coming for dinner or didn’t want to call him Mr. Tibbs instead of “boy.” That’s their choice, right? A person is entitled to their opinions and it’s nearly obligatory to share those opinions because where would this country be without the freedom to hate anyone you choose?

And what if your kid is some kind of freak, right? Like they have something really goofy going on, like maybe a life-threatening disease or a life-altering accident or maybe they were just born that way? Maybe it’s a birthmark or the kid flinched and they could tell he was afraid. Maybe she wasn’t as pretty as she should have been at 13 or 14 by all our Western standards. Maybe she liked science or math and not girl-subjects. What if he wanted to dance?

Isn’t it a person’s right to point out the truth that your kid is, well, you know, different, like a puddle of oil that a person should walk around so they don’t stain their shoes? So what’s the fuss all about in schools with the bullying anyway? Let those kids buck up and take the real world for a switch instead of being coddled and told they are loved and told they can actually do something because everyone just knows they can’t. OK, so Stephen Hawking is maybe an exception or probably a fraud, you know? But that’s not like the usual brand of goofy.

I mean if a kid switches his letters around, he might just not be worth a person’s time. Or why on earth spend the money on an adult literacy program to teach people who don’t already read or speak English very well or, heaven forbid, have some kind of developmental disability? Just because Sue’s daughter is now reading to little kids when people thought she and her fellow clients at the ARC would never learn to read at all, I mean, is that any reason to invest any money in folks with problems? Of course, if they had jobs and paid taxes, that would be different. Oh, hey, right, OK, some of them do. Come to think of it, they are all consumers of some kind, if nothing else clothing and electricity and water and other stuff. That’s the stuff that gets taxed. So, yeah, they pay taxes, I guess. Somebody buys gasoline to cart them around. Now, that’s a lot of taxes, right? Hoo boy!

But, seriously, sexual harassment? I mean that’s just flirtation where she changes her mind, isn’t it? Aren’t they all like that? Then they turn on you. Doesn’t a girl know how to get places anymore? They pretend they are shocked or something when they know the score.

Take me for instance. Well, don’t, actually. But I could be an example, let’s say. So in my youth, I was a vibrant young lass. Sure, I got offers. I turned them down. After all, why sit on the Operations Manager’s lap for a cuddle when all he was offering was the chance to be his secretary. I mean, that’s a lateral transfer, for goodness’ sake. Or one of the Engineering Managers who sat on my desk and wouldn’t go away, even when I told him if he were the last man on earth and I were the last woman, I’d give myself to God: Just because he interrupted my work, the work I needed to do to pay my rent to live and just because the Operations Manager was ticked that I didn’t take him up on his offer, was that any reason to feel like the Boys’ Club was going to vote me out of the treehouse if I didn’t play along? I was such a risk-taker. I said no.

Or how about the attorney who was about twice my size who kept blocking my way in the hallway, trying to cop a feel? Meaningless, right? I mean I could always go to my boss and, well, wait. He was one of my bosses. It was all in good fun so why wasn’t I having fun like I was supposed to? I did make something of a game of it. I worked to find out what scared that guy the most. It turned out that he didn’t fear bruising of tender parts, the loss of his reputation, the possibility of disbarment or sanction, the disapproval of his senior partner, or even the wrath and heartache of his wife. I was pretty stunned that none of these things seemed to faze him, considering he was an up-and-coming young attorney with a reputation for putting deals together and being sharp. Nope, but I did find out what he was afraid of: his mother. She came into the law offices at least once a week just to see her baby. Something about what she knew about her baby made him think twice about having (more?) reports of sexual harassment by this successful, young, intelligent husband and father with a comfortable career and a thing for investing in larger carat diamonds. It was meaningless, right? I mean, what possible importance could I have in the scheme of his career? Oh, and never mind about what it would do to mine. After all, I was just a secretary then, nobody. I’m pretty much still nobody, so what’s the harm?

After all, it’s not like these guys were like the stalker the police picked up in the public library one afternoon after the librarians noticed he was following me as I went from ancient history, to antique glass, to metaphysics, to Agatha Christie in rapt attention to the books on the shelf, paying none to the sex offender in the green Army Surplus jacket. That guy just wanted to get to know me. That’s what he told the police. He only had a knife after all and the police escorted him away from the library. I mean, sexual harassment and bullying isn’t like that, is it? It isn’t the strong preying on the weak without empathy or regard for the other person, without understanding that the object of their attention is actually a person, like them. Is it?

It’s not like my own father who, when informed that one of his grandsons was gay, announced that the grandson was not welcome in his house and that there’s never been anything like that on his side of the family.

Not even when I replied, “Daddy, what makes you think they would have told you?”

Nope, nothing like that. It’s pretty much meaningless.

**Please note that if anyone somehow mistakes my point of view for one of trivializing bullying, sexual harassment, political dissembling, stalking or hate crimes, please re-read for content and understanding.  There will be a test.  It's called Life.

Best wishes.

***

Just had to share this TV Broadcast on PZTV where I was the guest speaker!  That cat pin on my jacket was created by the lovely and talented Sharon Bloom, so check out her site if you love whimsy and need to buy a fabulous gift...even if it's for yourself!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Fool’s Jamba Juice

What a huge weekend! I was so glad to be able to take Friday and Monday off my regular work. I didn’t realize how much I would need it.

The Tarot Collectors Forum 2011 Collaborative Tarot decks arrived from the printers mid-week last week. Andrew and I made plans to set up our little shipping and handling factory at my dining room table for Friday. A lot of people have paid but a few people haven’t so we wanted to make sure we had the list and addresses correct.

Apparently mail from the USA to New Zealand gets pounded to a pulp and my New Zealander asked for extra wrapping. We can do that! I’m always amazed at mail delivery anyway. That may be why I based two of my own decks on postcards. Can you imagine it actually got there? I have one of my 1903 picture postcards on my desk right now, my favorite Argentine gypsy card which is the cover card of my Picture Postcard Tarot. Her tinted scarf and heavy silver earring and beautiful profile tell more of a story than her August 26, 1903 postmarks in Buenos Aires. Someone thought of someone that day and reached out.

And one person no longer lives in France so we made sure we had the right address and the right country. We packaged, we boxed, we taped, we addressed, we filled out little-box customs forms, and we piled them into the colorful African woven market baskets I bought as my Ft. Bragg souvenirs. We did all this until well after the Post Office closed.

But I had a deadline to stop that Friday night, too, because I was scheduled to read tarot at a Halloween party here in town. The Halloween House was not too far from own house on a street I had never driven down before. It was a steep hill and I, dressed in my long black lace dress with my frog-handled cane, stepped carefully out of my car in the darkening nightfall. I made it to the house with my tote full of cards and walked up the luminaria-lined drive. Robin had gone all out with turning her front and back yards into a Halloween Haunted House, a benefit for Bay Respite Care this year. She’s been doing this for years to bring Halloween to her daughter who has a fatal form of multiple sclerosis.

By the time I was barely settled in the gazebo with the comfy wicker couch and chairs, shabby chic d├ęcor, incense and candle light, I had readings booked to last nearly to midnight. I met wonderful people, drank a gallon of water and read tarot in the flickering candles. It was a perfect evening and I was glad to be able to be part of it.

Saturday was busy too. The Berkeley All-Blues women’s rugby team hosted two rugby matches out at our rugby pitch. John wanted me to bring my tarot cards there to read too and had set up my favorite Italian-style tile-topped table and my two good folding chairs under the trees. Wine tasting! Now there’s a benefit of Northern California! A winery had hoped to ply us with their whites, reds and a lovely muscat. The white was buttery, the Zinfandel robust and I cut it off at two tastes. I don’t like drunk tarot reading any more than I approve of drunk driving. I had just one “customer” for my complementary readings, a career-path discussion that showed promise. There were happy dogs and happy rugby players, but I had to go at 4:30 pm if I were going to do everything we had planned for the evening.

Each year the last weekend of October, our local Catholic high school holds a Trivia Night. My friend Nancy asks us to come because John and I tend to know a strange and diverse bunch of factoids. Along with our trivial minds, we were also to bring goodies to share and wear costumes. This year, the theme was Hawaii.

I’ve never been there. I know muumuus, leis, Hawaiian print shirts, flip-flops (as opposed to thongs and You Thong People Know Who You Are), grass skirts and flowers at your ear. I figured that this is what everyone else knew about Hawaii too. As I drove to the grocery store to get the pineapple pieces and Hawaiian Kettle Style Potato Chips and anything else I could think of as island food, a picture began to form in my mind. Boy, was John going to be surprised when he saw my costume!

The Fool is usually placed with the Major Arcana but his number is 0, Zero, Null, blank. In the same way that the ancient tarot decks portrayed the Fool as the scary, crazy homeless guy, the picture of the way the unfortunate were treated in the 1400’s in Italy and everywhere else, the Fool is outside of the Tarot “society” and therefore can roam freely if randomly through it. Our more modern portrayal of the Fool is more like a court jester, the cartoon-Kokopelli amusing the court, speaking the truth without penalty, appearing foolish. He is the beginning of the journey, incompletely prepared, without a plan or support structure, save the dog (or weasel or cat-like creature nipping at his heels or a bit higher to tear his breeches). He does not understand consequence and is usually depicted as having benign intent. He is often shown about to step off a cliff and in the Tarot, in spite of his foolish leap before looking, he is protected by the forces of the Universe who are probably amused and nod knowingly as he progresses through wisdom.

Picture Postcard Tarot
(c) Copyright 2010 Marcia McCord

Ah, I thought. In Hawaii, the Fool would be the Tourist, the idiot who came prepared to live a Hawaiian lifetime in a week, despite the impossibility of that. And so my costume emerged: I faked a wet-suit from black tights and t-shirts, wrapped a beach towel picturing a surfer around my middle, put on pearl and seashell jewelry, donned swim-fin flippers and diving mask and I was almost ready. All I needed was Tourist Sunburn. Familiar with decades of my own sunburn and instead of that luscious tropical tan, I faked the Coppertone near-death blistering burn so familiar. Yeow! I grabbed my dip-net, a sand bucket, a bag of seashells and I was ready. All I had to do was walk downstairs in flippers. Right.

I made it in one piece and John was properly stunned. Nancy’s mom Geraldine laughed out loud. I bent and folded myself into the back seat and we were off to Trivia Night. Sadly, we did not win the trivia prize this year; we flubbed the music section but John got some amazing answers in especially the basketball question. During one of the breaks between rounds, I noticed a tall good-looking guy from the next table staring at me in, at the very least, disbelief. I had to acknowledge his unvoiced thoughts. I pointed to my husband.

“Just think how he feels!”

My “fan” laughed out loud. And I won the prize for the women’s costume contest! It’s a gift card at Jamba Juice. Something in pineapple, perhaps?

Sunday was a little more restful although I had evening tarot readings in the back yard. Monday was the main event, though. This year I had help from my friend Andrew and his friend Patrick. Patrick and John put up the tent in the driveway while Andrew and I grabbed some dinner for everyone. The boys set up speakers with a Spooktacular playlist and featured a Deal or No Deal game where the prizes were, alas, not millions of dollars but extra candy for the kids. The Eye of Zohar and my Friendly Ghost papier mache props had survived their year of storage in the garage. The evening was perfect in its weather. I readied my brass cauldron of candies and shuffled my Tarot decks. I warmed up by offering free one-card readings on Facebook. Then, we were invaded! Spidermen, princesses, Minnie Mice, a Baby Bunny Wabbit, Iron Men, teens professing to be nerds, all wanted candy. Their parents came too, some for tarot readings.

“Uh, yer gonna wanna get that looked at by a professional,” I recommended to one dad with fake blood streaming down his chest from a “wound” in his Zombie neck. He laughed aloud. Even Father Steve came by for the entertainment and stayed to talk about travel long after we ran out of candy. It had been a long four days in the weekend, long but fun. We’ll do this again next year.

I Can Haz Jamba Juice!

Best wishes!