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Last weekend at the Saturday Market there was a new vendor I felt compelled to meet. Something about her was positively bright and full of color, even as she huddled under mounds of blankets to stay warm. I planned only on introducing myself, and chatting with her, but as we talked about her craft of reading tarot cards, Ian began whispering insistently in my ear, then saying aloud, “Why don’t you have her read cards for you, Mama?”

I wanted to snap back, “Because we don’t have extra money for things like that, Ian,” but I thought the better of it. Because, for one thing, I’ve had a question in the back of my mind for about a week — a big question, a crazy question, a question perhaps ready-made for a tarot reading. What the hell, why not? What’s $20 for accessing the subconscious wisdom within, when it’s $60 to do something as mundane as filling up the car with gas nowadays?

“Do you have a particular question in mind for the reading?” Joanna asked me after I shuffled and cut the tarot cards. “Well, yes. I’m wondering if there’s a book I need to write, one about the past, not a memoir, but stories from my journey of the past fifteen years.” Until last week, I thought all my writing was to be about my present life in the “land of milk and honey,” as I like to think of our little slice of heaven in Oregon.

While what we are living now is instructive in taking up the challenge of creating an authentic life from the inside-out (as opposed to the variety that is marketed to us from the outside-in), even this may not explicitly enough help people to prepare for the challenges ahead, challenges we all feel coming at us, but when, and in what form, no one fully knows.

What I have dedicated myself to learning these past fifteen years is how to be inwardly happy, no matter what comes my way. I certainly am not all the way there yet, but what I learned from the vast chasm that separated my successful and privileged outer life, from my sad and desolate inward life, was that no amount of stuff, no amount of worldly acclaim, no amount of worthy social service, even, was able to heal the inconsolable void I carried within.

We are only as much help to the world, as we are whole. We are only as prepared for disaster, or the unexpected, as we are skilled in seeing the love that surrounds us in every moment. We are only able to be of service insofar as we are able to hang on for dear life to whatever gifts, growth, or learning today brings.

We are not well-prepared for the unexpected when we have stockpiled all the gold or food or land we can grab, yet easily lose our cool when we are inconvenienced, or worse, are shattered by the inevitable tests of life. Better to have stockpiled our inner resources, instead, by nurturing in oneself an abiding talent for seeing the goodness in life, deep satisfaction in the opportunity to be of help, and a well-tested belief in the friendly nature of reality.

We will always lack something we need when the chips are down. Count on it. But if we have our wits about us, our common decency intact, a sense of humor, and a twinkle of joy within that cannot be put out, we can find a way. We will make a way.

The first card in the tarot reading signified the “present” and showed a woman with a child (hm, who could that be?) in a freezing snowstorm, surrounded by swords. Lovely. Can I leave now?

“This is the transition card,” Joanna told me. “It’s a bit like being a snake who has just shed its skin” — an experience that is cold, uncomfortable, and a wee bit scary. The good part about transition, of course, is that like a snake shedding its skin, you are leaving a stage of life behind that no longer serves you, has grown too small, and restricts your forward movement.

As I go in my little life, so goes our nation, and our world. We are all in a time of transition. “It’s a good thing.” Keep reminding yourself of this as you press forward in the midst of snow and sword.



It just occurred to me that some of you might want to contact Joanna Brook for a reading of your own. She reads the symbolic poetry of the tarot with eloquence.

Here's a link to her website:


the your wonderful and wise words. I so miss our talks.


Why do I feel like you are channeling Ralph Waldo Emerson? Keep up the quest, sister.


Thank you for sharing this link on my site. I so deeply agree with what you write...we must find joy in our hearts, no matter what, to help others through the great change. Good luck to you....Shannon in wet and windy land.


Love all of your posts, but I think this has to be my favorite. Such wonderful reminders and words of wisdom! I want to be like you when I grow up.


I just came upon this and I have to tell you it filled me up. I loved the wisdom of it. Thank you.