let's go

today's card is one that always brings me a bit of anxiety, and a lot of expectation: the two of wands. and while this is not a welcome card for me, there's so much to unpack and sort through as i consider the why. traditionally, the two of wands is a card of determination, IMG_0304willpower, potential, embracing power, taking a big step forward. horizontal lines indicate stability and power, but all those colors of the rainbow remind us of the limitless promise here - all that energy can be focused just about anywhere. there's so much possibility here, taking the fiery energy and opportunity present in the ace and harnessing it into something concrete. having the fire and the passion to get excited about something is a great start, but without channeling that energy into something specific, it can fizzle out, fade away, or simply get lost. we have to be willing to reach out and grab those wands, point that colorful, vibrant energy towards something, and get going.

for some, i imagine this is a really exciting card. new ideas! a call to action! potential for greatness! but for me, i simply see pressure. there's so much expectation when starting something new, so many challenges to get things right, that i'm afraid to even start.

i've written before about the stories that we tell ourselves, the way that we view our personalities and strengths and experiences, and how that often looks very different than the way others perceive us. i think that's a fundamental part of the human experience, that no matter how self-aware we strive to be, we will always see ourselves in a specific way that may not align with the way we appear to the world around us. my view of myself has always been fairly specific, both in terms of what i am and what i'm not: hardworking, but not ambitious. creative, but not a creator. passionate, but not goal-oriented. interesting, but not unique. i am someone that can help people achieve their goals, craft their art, support their dreams, but i don't have lofty ambitions or life-long objectives of my own. i'm artistic, but i'm not my own artist - i can contribute and complete, but i don't have enough ideas to actually start something.

...which makes a card like this, that's all about learning and building and focusing, feel impossible. what could i make, say, create, that hasn't already been done a hundred times? why would my struggles, my lessons, my thoughts matter to anyone? how could i express myself that wouldn't feel redundant, or simply ridiculous?

the answer is that i don't know. i'm more comfortable in a supporting role, but this card is not about comfort. this card is about taking all those swirling ideas, those niggling fragments of inspiration, those random scribbles in notebooks and hastily-written, half-finished stories, and channeling them into something real. whether or not anyone sees it is not the point - the purpose is to actually make or do or say the thing, to craft it into something that matters. the point is the process, the journey, the attempt. simply making the effort isn't the first step, it's the third or fourth in an long series - and it can be the hardest one.

i'm not sure where this is going yet, but what's clear is that it's time to get started.

offerings

as i spend time with family, with all of the emotions and plans and struggles and confusion that goes along with traveling with lots of adults and small children, i find myself a bit drained. california is beautiful and sunny and mellow, the kind of bright, optimistic energy that everyone seems drawn to. and yet getting here was exhausting, there are a lot of people to meet and connect with, and i haven't slept well in too long. today's card is a reminder to be kind, both to others and to myself: the two of cups. IMG_0333two elegant goblets, identical in form and size, rest on a dark table. roses cross over them, evenly spaced so that both cups can share in their beauty and radiance. everything about the card is symmetrical and simple, with balance and reciprocity and the sharing of something truly sweet. this is a card of love, of connection, of true soulmates.

offering a cup, a gift, an open look into one's heart and soul, takes a lot of trust. it's not easy to be completely honest, to offer the good with the bad, to surrender to emotion and acknowledge all the messy things that come along with connections and relationships. but true friendship, true love, true empathy and loyalty and generosity only happen when we strip everything away and aren't afraid to reveal our true selves.

it feels that for the last month or two i've been so introspective, focusing on my personal goals and sharing secret parts of myself with those that i trust. it takes a lot to give so much of me away, and i'm still feeling the impact. but there's a freedom too, a sigh of relief. i can just be myself now. i had to extend that cup, with all of its fears and joys and fierceness and mystery, to others. and now perhaps i can find some quiet.

 

dual meanings

as i continue to reflect on what tarot is and why it's important to me, i was delighted to pull a card for my daily reading that seems to embrace all the beautiful difficulties and contradictions of this practice: the two of swords. IMG_0289this powerful card features two dark swords, identical in strength and size, locked together. a fiery eclipse hovers over their meeting point, with dark lines of energy pulsing away from their crossing.

this depiction in the wild unknown is very different from the more traditional images of a woman standing blindfolded, holding a sword in each hand, contemplating and considering what she cannot see. where the wild unknown image feels like conflict or a stalemate, the original image feels peaceful, contemplative, like the woman featured is pushing other things out of the way to focus on what matters. i love the duality of this card, the variety of meanings that can be drawn from it. two opposing forces clashing, with no one able to move forward, all that energy stalled by an contradictory force. but they could also be unified, lending one another strength, joining those strong forces together to achieve a common goal or purpose. there's such focus, a beautiful balance and symmetry that speaks to a completely different energy.

week one of beth's alternative tarot course includes a lengthy list of questions, all centered around tarot, including history, meaning, purpose, abilities, and how that connects to me as a reader. and when i consider what drew me to tarot in the first place, this card is a perfect example: i love the duality, the hidden meanings, the way that every card feels full of possibilities. obviously the suits and courts, the major and minor cards, all have patterns and inherent symbolism that lends each card to specific meanings. but all of that is open to interpretation, allowing individual readers to listen to the cards and hear their message.

mother-of-cupsthe appeal of the beautiful mystery and elusive nature of tarot is what compelled me to choose the mother of cups as my personal card for the duration of this course. it was a strong influence in my reader's reading a few days ago and is a card i've written about many times already. her wisdom, natural intuition, empathy, solitude, and psychic abilities are appealing and inspiring to me, and represent much of what i hope to gain from learning tarot. this card makes me feel powerful and strong, reminds me to listen and find wisdom in stillness, and gives me courage to trust my instincts and my intuition.

 

beauty & balance

of the four suits in tarot, pentacles are the one i draw the least - by quite a lot. i relate deeply to the emotional cups, love delving into the mental space created by the swords, and seek out the crackling, fiery energy from the wands - but those earthy, grounded pentacles rarely come up for me in readings. today's card is one of the few in the suit i've drawn before: the two of pentacles. two-of-pentaclesstrong and bold, with large, beautiful wings balancing two pentacles, this butterfly is powerful, open, and full of stable energy. the most obvious interpretation here is balance, with her asymmetrical wings and those pentacles delicately sitting on her massive wings. the rainbow lemniscate connecting the symbols adds the only touch of color, but keeps everything tied together beautifully. but this card can also indicate inevitable change, as the butterfly herself goes through a complete transformation in order to acquire those glorious wings. she may look fragile, but is much stronger than she appears - she's able to quickly change direction, catch a slight breeze and use it to her advantage. there's an unexpected strength along with easy flexibility that makes her unique, dynamic, and able to balance change in a beautiful way.

pentacles are tied to work, home life, possessions, finances, and earthly matters, so i can't help but consider my career prospects whenever they come up. i have a busy week, packed with a variety of shooting gigs - live music for a singer/songwriter friend, my regular work with restaurant menus, a queer women's cocktail event for pride, and social media images for a catering business. i love weeks like this, that push me to constantly adjust my style and perspective, forcing me to grow and adapt as a photographer, but they can also be challenging - every day is more different than usual, and it can take more energy to do everything well. this card can remind us to stay flexible, prioritize what matters, and embrace changes that may come along the way.

of course, this card could also be speaking to other types of change - perhaps a new job opportunity is coming, or another move is on the horizon. but it feels to me that balance is the message today, remembering to honor all of my commitments and approach every task with purpose, flexibility, and creativity.

release.

as i work through and process some difficult things, it was such a gift to pull today's card: judgement. i actually received this card a few weeks ago and found it very comforting, but today it feels like a push forward.IMG_0372 there's so much in this card, beauty and truth and freedom and soaring towards the light, release and understanding and pure hope. this dove is so strong, fleeing that tangled darkness below to reach the bright open space above. and so often, ugliness is created by us - fear, guilt, pain, anxiety, depression. we spend so much energy worrying about what might happen when we finally release those secrets and fly free, but the dove is so much more powerful now, having shed the dark and embraced her strength. and this card feels like an incredibly powerful symbol to me, that perhaps it's time for me to embrace my strength too.

today is june 1, the first day of pride month. as a bisexual woman, raised in a very religious family and church that was vocally anti-homosexual, pride and judgement are difficult topics for me. it's taken me a very long time to own my identity, and to admit that while i don't all the answers, i can no longer deny who i am. i only came out a few years ago, after i'd already been married for some time, and it was a shock to my parents and many who'd grown up with me. other friends were much more supportive and loving, including my husband, and for that i'm incredibly grateful. but there are some very important people in my life who still don't know about my sexual identity, and in this month of pride, and this impossible political climate, it feels more essential than ever to come clean and stop hiding.

IMG_0304the cards aren't always this on-the-nose, so i gave myself a clarifying card to make sure i was moving in the right direction: and pulled the two of wands. a bold, goal-oriented card of determination, focus, and strength... that happens to have a colorful, vivid rainbow in the background.

i think that we bring a lot of our own baggage to tarot - it can be hard to clear my mind and not project everything i want to see into my readings. but i've been worrying non-stop about telling these last family members about my orientation, feeling isolated and alone, and these cards give me so much strength. it will not be easy, but i can't keep hiding in the darkness. it's time to reach out and grab those wands, face my truth, and release some of the secrets.

it's time to find some pride.