Tarot cards are just bits of paper. As material objects, they don’t have intrinsic power. But their images and symbols as well as the accruing of meaning over centuries can make of them guides and instigators for connecting with the extraordinary, the mythic, the great forces that run under our everyday lives.
On the Saturday before the June new moon, I took a walk in one of my usual places. It was an ordinary walk, but I was carrying cards with me associated with the place on the Wheel of the Year where this moon would renew itself and start its journey to fullness.
One of these cards, the Two of Cups, seen here from the Melanated Tarot, evokes the gifts of love and companionship that flows between two people when they offer something special of themselves to each other.
Midway through the walk, I turned on the spur trail that runs along the edge of the Mill River. The trail is well trough. The dirt packed smooth. But the knotweed spread its large ovate leaves over the path. I was swimming in a green sea, gently brushing with my hands in a kind of breaststroke through plants and air.
Ahead of me I saw a man in a white shirt with a nearly bald head. Just tufts of white over the ears lifted into the breeze. Attached to his belt was a leather pouch, well worn. I imagined it once held tools, but guessed that it was now repurposed for a cell phone.
We continued forward and I saw there was a woman ahead of him. Her shirt white, too, and her hair that touched her shoulders.
Moving a bit faster than they were, I was close as they stepped from the trail to the open area of a small beach in the bend of the river.
I’m not sure who reached out first. Maybe the movements happened at the same time. But then they were clasping hands.
I smiled, held in the circle of their acceptance of each other. The poignancy of the moment heighted by their age. Very close to them now, I could imagine them being in their 80s.
I wondered if they knew how lucky they were.
A memory surfaced from nine years ago. I was sitting in my Bereavement Group. The six of us had all lost our partners recently. We were raw. Our meetings exhausting but needed. We said the things to each other that we wouldn’t speak to anyone else, that we hadn’t heard anyone else confessing.
We were ready for the woman’s question: “When you see two old people holding hands, don’t you just want to scream at them? Don’t you want to run them over with your car?”
It was a horrifying image. We all nodded.
Then we laughed a dark little laugh, the signal that we knew she didn’t mean it literally, but it was still a truth we all were willing to embrace.
Nine years later the accute pain that trained imagination to murderous scenarios is drained. Instead I feel a joy rise within me seeing this couple because my beloved’s long absence has been my strange teacher about how precious their love is. Precious for them. And precious for me too as I walked around the edges of its power.
I pased in front of them. The man said, “It is a beautiful day.” I concurred and watched them settle themselves on a bench.
I walked further to my usual spot for river reflection: the rocky bank looking toward a circle of boulders in the middle of the river. I call them the wisdom rocks. I often meditate here. I sometimes pull a Tarot card. This day the Lovers emerged. How can you not believe in synchronicity?
This is the Lovers from The Shining Tribe Tarot
Returning I found the couple still seated on the bench. I approached them from behind and as I drew nearer heard music. I knew it must be coming from a cell phone but it was grainy like a record playing. I heard plainative words in Spanish and the strumming of a guitar.
The man seemed to be translating the words for the women. At the moment I walked by I heard, “My love, I am dying.”
In those words braiding love and death and life together, I heard the answer to my question: Did they know how lucky they were? Yes, they did.