Thunderbolts, Tarot Cards, Good Old Friends & The Courage to Sing

It was 2012 when an email landed in my inbox inviting me to attend a weekend workshop, “Dreaming & the Tarot”. My life was in chaos. We were packing up our house in the small town where we’d lived for a decade while remodeling a 1907 Four-Square in Portland.

I’d belonged to a dream group for years, but I’d never held a Tarot card in my hand. I scarcely knew what one was—but I signed up and drove north for the weekend. That weekend away would be respite for my husband, too.

More recently I learned that a college friend had become quite knowledgeable about Tarot and belongs to a Meetup group in the D.C. area. Julia knows the history and classical, symbolic meaning. She can talk extensively about what she sees in any of the 78 cards. I delight in her enthusiasm.  

On New Year’s Day she sent me the 12-card spread she’d laid out for herself that morning. This year she used the OSHO Zen deck, so the cards looked familiar since she had gifted me this same deck during a summer visit. Each Tarot deck is a work of art.

“I want to hear about this,” I texted back, and soon we were voice-to-voice, as Julia described her spread.

I decided to follow her lead: That afternoon I sat at our kitchen table and laid out 12 cards in a clockwise configuration.

For the month of January, my card is “Thunderbolt”—known in other decks as “Lightning” or “The Tower.” The gist of this card is a sudden falling apart of old ways, an upheaval out of our control which makes way for something new. Especially in January, this message and reminder feels worth noting.

I will reflect back on this 12-card spread at the beginning of each month during 2022. Every month I will consider the invitation to pay attention to my world from a certain point of view. Writers do this all the time: From which perspective will I tell this story? From which perspective am I listening?

Tarot cards offer no “answers” or a telling of my fortune. I interact with a card as I might a friend, a poem, maybe a song.

My husband and I have survived the move to Portland, and lately we’ve been pulling a card from the OHSH Zen deck each morning: It has become a moment that unites us. The illustrations in this deck are abstract and colorful though not obtuse. Each card offers a word, too, which we hide under a thumb until we’ve studied the images.

Up until he suggested we pull a card together each morning, my husband had made a habit of walking out of the room any time I opened a Tarot deck. But he made the move to try something that I found fun. I am grateful–and it’s been a delightful time of sharing.

After attending that workshop almost ten years ago, I was excited. I loved discovering this new way of storytelling. That is how I see the Tarot still—all about story.

I met a creative friend for coffee, excited to show her the cards. We often talked of books. I knew she’d want to hear about what I’d learned.

“Put those away!” she said, brow furrowed. She looked around the café to assure no one had seen her heathen friend’s misconduct.

I put the cards back into their box and into my purse and went silent.

I felt stunned. Eventually, I would wonder, disturbed, by my own fragility: After that encounter I didn’t share the cards anymore—and hardly looked at them for years.

At the chip shop in Glasgow

Seven years passed when I met up with Julia and other college friends in Glasgow, Scotland, where we had studied Blake and Coleridge, Robert Burns and Edward Bond. That’s when Julia’s reading of Tarot cards (on her cell phone) brought me back into this world of symbols and story that had so enlivened me—each an invitation to create and play.

Meeting Julia along her Tarot-reading journey invited me back into my own curiosities and the delight I’d experienced during that retreat.

I love to play and learn with multiple ways we humans make meaning in this crazy world.

Thunderbolts create fire everywhere! Things continuously fall apart. But, if they didn’t, how would we make room for what happens next?

I don’t mean I welcome destruction. Pain scares me—for myself and for others. But I know I must prepare. Courageous presence Frank Ostaseski calls it in his book The Five Invitations: What Death Can Teach Us about Life.    

Be here for what is, Debra. Know you’re going to screw up. Someone will find you offensive. In the middle of it all, breathe.

Keep listening. Keep loving. Learn always, and don’t abandon your own curiosities as if this will improve life for anyone.

Links you might like. . . — An interactive online tarot deck and gorgeous artwork. — a beautiful and feminine deck created by artist and writer Karen Hess (also a friend!) This is what she says. . .

“I don’t think Tarot should intimidate or be an oracle set in stone. I designed this deck specifically to be a tool for you to connect with your intuitive energy. You’ll discover new ways to approach life’s questions and challenges, finding your true voice so you can share your valuable gifts with the world.”

4 Replies to “Thunderbolts, Tarot Cards, Good Old Friends & The Courage to Sing”

  1. “ and don’t abandon your own curiosities as if this will improve life for anyone.” This.

    I love your morning shared “daily draw”. Keep pulling and reading, Debra, for as long as your heart is in it!

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