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Posts by Jason

Tarot Ally #3


For this draw, which came a couple of weeks ago, I didn’t have a specific request from the cards. Just an ally for the week, a symbol to refer back to when I needed a reminder of…well, whatever it is that this ally has to teach me.

Ally Draw #3
Card: Page of Pentacles


Oh, the Pages. In some ways, they are my favorite cards because they seem to be absolutely in love with the symbol that is represented in their card. For this one, it looks like almost a religious reverence. The page is holding the pentacle aloft, focused completely on it.

It’s one of those things that I really never do myself. I’m so quick to look ahead and seek out ways to apply my gifts, if that makes sense. I’m a terrible apprentice, and that’s a shame, because if this card is any indication, it looks like a pretty good gig, to really fall in love with the tool before me.

So if this page is telling me anything, I think it’s a reminder to truly give myself over to a single task and a single desire from time to time.

“You contain multitudes, and your love is abundant. But for now, for this moment, embrace one thing. Your other loves are not diminished by your dedication to this one.”

Tarot ally #2


In my second weekly draw, I found myself in need of an ally for clarity around a few challenging conversations that needed to happen. Nothing terribly stressful or troubling, but those conversations were up for me when I was drawing the cards that Sunday.

Ally Draw #2: An ally for clarity
Card: Four of Swords

Newsflash: This image seems to be all about silence and space. We have four swords decorating a crypt, which seems maybe a little morbid, but actually kind of rocks. I’m good with words – I’m a decent writer, and an excellent speaker. Words are the tools I use to effect change in my communities and, in very small ways, in the world. But I know, too, that I can forget about the power of silence, of taking a breath and pausing from time to time. The image in this card is a needed reminder of that. I’ll take the opportunities to allow time to pass, to breathe and use my words more sparingly. Clarity isn’t just about making my own needs and messages understood, after all. It’s just as much about (or, if I’m doing this well, even more about) understanding others. It’s hard to do that when the only words I’m focused on are my own.

“Allow space. use discernment, and cultivate the gifts that can only come in the quiet places of your life.”


Tarot ally #1


Now that the remodeling is done at home, I’ve been feeling more time and space to relax and breathe. In addition to wandering around the apartment and saying, “Look! There are multiple rooms available to me!” I have started doing a weekly tarot draw on the weekends – just a single card, asking which ally I might work with in the week ahead.  I might not share all of those here, but it’s been a nice little practice for me so far, and I find that being more public about what I’m doing helps me continue to do it. This just started a few weeks ago, so it’s just a matter of making a few catch-up posts here.

As I’ve noted before, I am nothing like a Tarot expert, and my knowledge of what any given card REALLY means is accidental at best. My interpretation of these draws, such as it is, is very much through the lens of the lens of the ally I’m seeking.

So. Disclaimers aside, here we go.

Ally Draw #1: An ally for peace
Card: Queen of Cups

I am so fortunate in my life that when I talk about a time that isn’t peaceful, I’m not talking about physical violence, or a lack of survival-level resources, or housing instability, or anything like that. In my privileged existence, peace – or the lack of it – is very much connected to my emotional state. I’ve had some stuff going on of late, and it’s good to note that “stuff” for me isn’t major, terrible upheaval. But I’ve still felt disquieted, like there’s something on the horizon that’s concerning.

So I’d like some more calm and interior peace, if you will. And if I’m going to ask for advice or help, who better than this queen to approach? She is sitting on her throne, but so close to the water that is her domain. Is the tide coming in, or going out? Either way, what it tells me is that the emotion is not something that she is divorced from, that she keeps separate. Rather, she welcomes it and its gifts. They bring riches to her, and yet she remains who she is.

The queen is not emotion, is not water herself, but instead she accepts it – takes in what is needed, fills her cup for when times will be dry, and allows it to flow away in its own time.

“Stop trying to control, to corral.
Instead: trust, and accept, and have faith.
Do not forget who YOU are. You are a being of love and connection. You must allow the water to soak down and feed your roots as well as quench your thirst.”

In defense of the edge


‘Wheel never stops turning, Badger.’

‘That only matters to the people on the rim.'”

-Malcolm Reynolds and Badger, Pilot episode of Firefly

I’m about seven months into a Wheel year, which means that, from a numerological standpoint, the year that started on my last birthday has been (is being) ruled by the number 10, which corresponds to the Wheel of Fortune card in the Tarot (if you believe that stuff, which mostly I don’t, but sometimes I sort of do). This is a card that usually, to me, at least, invokes some feelings of anxiety and worry. That wheel goes round and round, and it’s scary out on the edge, man.

One of the things that I’ve been told about dealing with the Wheel in general, and a Wheel year in particular, is that you want to stay in the center to take advantage of the stability there. And I think that is a wise thing, for sure. Standing in the center isn’t about ignoring the change that manifests with the Wheel (or, rather, the change that’s always going on, but perhaps seems to be magnified during this time) – it’s about being in a place of centered stability, from which I can engage with that incessant change without being flung off the side.

Here’s a thing, though. What if the change that’s happening needs to be engaged with differently?

For the past four months, our home has been in various stages of a remodeling project. So: decision-making, packing, culling, demolition, rebuilding, finishing, culling, unpacking, more culling, swearing, more decision-making, and so on. It’s felt like an immense project, and for me it’s been at least as much emotional labor as it has been physical (to be clear, professionals are doing basically all of the physical work with the exception of packing, unpacking, etc). When we moved here in 2010, we had intentions that turned out to be wholly beyond our ability to manifest. A combination of factors have contributed to that – circumstance, personality, foolishness, shifting priorities, and good old-fashioned overconfidence and naïvete. So the place I’m living won’t be a lot of things that I had hoped for – it’s not going to be a housing cooperative, and we won’t live here with a family of choice that treats the space as shared and communal in the way that I hoped (and sometimes still ache) for. Instead, it’s a place that in the long term is as much an investment as a home for me. And that really makes me sad, a lot of the time. The improvement of the physical space, as welcome as it is, also serves as a reminder of that fact, and of that failure. This whole process has been – still is – very difficult for me.

All of that is true. What’s also true is that the change, the transformation, the shifting of the physical space to match the reality of what is true and what will be true for the foreseeable future is a crucial thing. Hanging onto the symbols and trappings of that dream-that-was has made me ill, made me angry, made me feel the loss and sting of failure all the more.

There is a grief that runs under all of this for me. I’ve had other grief in the past few years, and I’ve discovered something about how that works for me. I don’t process grief from the center of the Wheel. Other people can, I know, and I imagine that it’s a better way of approaching the whole business. But as much as I might wish that that was true for me, it’s just not. It’s a sort of change, of loss and sorrow, that I need to lean into. I need to let it be, let myself be, and step away from the center, at least for a little while.

So I think that’s what I’m going to do for the rest of this scary year. Stop fighting my way back toward the center and hang out on the edge. Lean in the direction of change and know it’s the only way, for me, to begin to turn loss into something else. Wheel

Talking about the p-word


In the wake of the grand jury’s decision not to indict Darren Wilson in the killing of Michael Brown, I find myself very much at a loss for words. I’m not surprised by the decision, but I had hoped that the jurors would make a different choice. As the testimony and evidence are made public and we see how the prosecutor elected to present the evidence to the grand jury, I am even more angry. This post isn’t really about the killing of Michael Brown, and it’s not about the grand jury’s decision either, but those events provide the context for where I’m coming from today.

I’ve seen a lot of conversation lately about privilege in general, and white privilege in particular. Certainly this isn’t a new topic of discussion, and it’s also not surprising that it would be discussed more openly now. I think that’s a good thing, because it’s incredibly valuable to examine our understanding of how the world works through the lens of that privilege. My experience of the world is, to an immense degree, shaped by things outside of my control. And it’s not just my experience of the world – it’s my understanding of how the world works. My story of What Is isn’t objective. It can’t be, because my world is a product of where I am, who I am surrounded by, what resources I have, what I look like, who I’m attracted to…any number of things.

And, of course, my choices and my actions do play a significant role in my experience of the world, too. To be clear, I have never met a person who would argue that personal choice and action aren’t important and that they don’t shape one’s experience. The point is, they don’t tell the whole story. There are a huge number of variables that built the weight and momentum of my life before I made a single conscious choice. To argue that those variables simply don’t matter is hopelessly naive at best.

Look, I’m a white man in America. I’m functionally heterosexual. I’m married. My family struggled financially when I was a kid, but I never worried about being able to eat. These days, I’m solidly middle class. I own my home (well, I actually own an almost imperceptible percentage of my home, but you see my point.) I have been fond of saying, of late, that I am very bullish on the future of white males in America.

Now, do these facts about me tell the whole story of who I am? Of course they don’t. But they lead to a number of assumptions that I can make about the world – about MY world.

  • In my world, race doesn’t really matter a whole lot, because I am the sum of my actions, not my background.
  • In my world, gender doesn’t matter much either, because there are basically no jobs where someone like me would seem out of place.
  • In my world, there are jobs to be had if you look hard enough. Unemployment is a temporary thing – scary, sure, but not a permanent state of being.
  • In my world, most people look like me and speak my preferred language, and when I’m in a situation where they don’t, it stands out as being a notable experience.
  • In my world, the police will show up pretty quickly if I call 911.
  • In my world, the experience of being photographed and fingerprinted is the precursor to starting a new job.
  • In my world, the neighborhood I live in is a choice I get to make.
  • In my world, it’s silly to worry about being harassed when walking down the street. Sure, it’s POSSIBLE that someone will approach me with an unwanted sexual advance, but if it happens it will be so completely out of the ordinary that I’ll be talking about it for weeks.

The vast majority of these truths about my world don’t have a whole lot to do with ME as an individual. They have a lot to do with what I look like, where I come from, what gender I am, what resources I have access to.

A lot of folks are expressing what I think is best described as “privilege fatigue.” The argument, essentially, goes like this: “It’s unfair to reduce me to nothing but these facts about me. I’m an individual, not a collection of these characteristics. Aren’t these generalizations what we’re supposed to be getting away from? And besides, there are OTHER things about me that work against me, so it’s not quite as simple as you’re making it out to be.”

And you know, I can see part of that argument, particularly the last bit. I mentioned a number of advantages before, but there are a few things on the other side of the ledger, too. For one, I’m of below-average height. That makes a difference in how I’m seen and treated in the world. For another, while I’m married, I’m not monogamous. That makes a lot of things more complicated, and not just in my personal life. And as far as religion is concerned, I identify as Pagan, or at least Pagan-leaning agnostic. That’s a pretty invisible place to be, and there are a lot of advantages that people who identify with a religion that is more culturally recognized have. So for sure, I resonate with the idea that it’s not as simple as “White, straight dudes have it made.” But surely we can agree that white, straight dudes MOSTLY have it made, right? Life’s a lot easier for me in the here and now because of that status. I’m accorded the benefit of the doubt in ways that are so pervasive that I have to actively look for them in order to see them at all. And while there are a few ways in which I come from a less privileged position, those are largely not visible unless I choose for them to be. My relationship orientation, my religion, my politics…all of these can be kept as close to the vest as I like. And because I’m a white, straight dude in America, I can choose to be a little more free with those other aspects of who I am without worrying too much – precisely because I have the weight of all of that other privilege.

Think about that for a moment. I have sufficient comfort and advantage that I can actively choose to make my life harder, and it doesn’t really matter.

As far as the other parts of the privilege fatigue argument are concerned…well, sure. We’re “supposed to be” beyond making generalizations about people based on certain characteristics. But let’s not kid ourselves here – I’m not being victimized by these generalizations that are made about me. I’m…inconvenienced by them. I find them annoying. Tedious. They make me decidedly uncomfortable. In other words, I think it’s safe to say “boo fucking hoo.” The day that the sort of discomfort that I experience is in the top, like, 500 things that are wrong in our society, then I’ll accept that argument. Until then, I think I’ll shut the fuck up about how I wish people would engage with me as the unique individual I am.

As is pretty obvious, I am in no way a race or class scholar. I’m nothing close to an expert in any of the issues that are the foundation of these issues. I don’t have the first goddamn clue how to make some of those truths about my world that I mentioned above into things that everyone can assume to be true in their world, too. What I CAN do, for starters, is acknowledge that the world my experiences have led me to believe in is true for ME, but it’s not true for many other people. I can seek out more of my unexamined truths and shed some light on the potentially harmful assumptions that are underneath them. And most of all, I can listen more carefully, learn from others, and accept that the discomfort I feel doesn’t harm me.

On gratitude and space pirates


In about three hours, I will pretend to be a space pirate with a group of strangers. Tomorrow, another group of strangers and I will dare to ask the question: What if the United Nations was attacked by axe-juggling clowns in the midst of a diplomatic crisis? It will be the culmination of some of the hardest personal work I’ve done in quite some time.


This is one of those stories that probably suffers from context, but somehow it seems necessary anyway, so…here goes.


A few weeks back, a group of friends and family decided that I ought to take a trip to one of the nerdiest events on the planet, GenCon (it’s a gaming convention – role-playing games, board games, that sort of thing). I’ve been a number of times, but not for the past 3 years or so. Money has been tighter than usual this year for a few different reasons, so I wasn’t going to be able to make it. The aforementioned friends and family had other plans, though, and contributed to what I am calling the “Jason Is A Giant Nerd Foundation,” collecting enough (way more than enough, in fact) money for me to be able to take the time off of work and run off to the glamorous city of Indianapolis for 4 days. It’s seriously just about the nicest thing that’s ever been done for me, and the fact that it came from a whole group of people? For me, it’s like that moment at the end of It’s A Wonderful Life, minus the singing.


I promised above, though, that there was some personal work buried in this story. Here’s the thing…when I was asked if I would be willing to accept help in making this trip, I sincerely, desperately wanted to say no. Not out of a feeling that I didn’t deserve to do something fun, or out of a sense that it was too frivilous a thing for people to do for me, but because I knew that if it actually came together (something that I was in no way confident about), I would feel intensely…something. Intense emotions are not new to me, of course, but over the past couple of years, I’ve found myself increasingly risk-averse. I don’t mind feeling something intensely, but an unpredictable feeling…now that’s something that I’ve been trying to avoid, and as such I have sacrificed surprise on the altar of getting by (a trade which, honestly, might be necessary sometimes, but really sucks when it’s made all the time). I don’t know if it’s a product of aging or a response to how the last couple of years have gone or a combination of the two, but that risk aversion nearly cost a couple of things. One, the aforementioned opportunity to make believe that I’m a space pirate. And two, the opportunity for my friends to do something good and generous. So this morning as I look at my finally-finished stack of thank you cards to send out, I’m reminding myself that a gift is a good thing for all parties involved, and that sometimes the unpredictable thing is exactly what I need.

The definition of a "good problem": Having a whole damn lot of thank-you cards to write.

The definition of a “good problem”: Having a whole damn lot of thank-you cards to write.

Inigo Montoya would not agree


But I kind of like this line. It’s from a new book (released on Tuesday!) that I’m pretty geeked about. The Chicago library has exactly one copy on order, and I’m at the top of the list to get it.

He liked waiting, though. There was a holiness to it. Waiting was admitting that yes, you had done everything in your humble power – ate, dressed, packed, fed, raked, tied, bridled, and saddled – and entrusting the rest to God. 



Arianne “Tex” Thompson, One Night in Sixes

Freshly inked


So…this happened recently.


It started, as such things sometimes do, with a dream. In fact, I think I briefly referenced the dream on the blog sometime last year…yes! I did, appropriately enough in this t-shirt post.

The dream, which took place early in 2012, was simple enough – I had Tolkien’s quote, “Not all those who wander are lost” tattooed on the inside of my left forearm. I remember it being there, specifically, because I wanted to be able to look at the words when I needed a reminder of them. The dream was vivid enough that I was actually surprised when I woke up and discovered that I did not, in fact, have that tattoo. As the only person in my home without ink, and someone who doesn’t typically have dreams like that, it was a surprising experience.

This quote has always been special to me, because it serves as an important reminder that I don’t really know anyone else’s story, no matter how close we are or how insightful I imagine myself to be. It’s a good tool to give myself a nudge to practice compassion for the people around me. Even so, I spent quite a while feeling like the quote wasn’t the whole thing here.

Fast forward almost 16 months. Just before the retreat I took in June, I was reflecting on the image of a labyrinth, thinking about cycles and the frustration that I often feel when I realize that I don’t know where the hell I’m headed. This is, I should note, not surprising material given what’s been going on this year. It occurred to me, finally, that that labyrinth is, for me, a more self-reflective version of the Tolkien quote. It reminds me that my path is never going to be a straight line and perhaps I ought to practice compassion for myself, too, if I feel or appear to be lost. At last! The labyrinth image and the quote needed to go together…somehow. I was resolved to figure out the details and get it done before my birthday.

Being the person I am, I promptly filed that resolution away and didn’t do anything about it until about a month after my birthday. Then I finally reached out to Bek, an extraordinary tattoo artist near Chicago, and said, “Um, I’ve got this idea, but I’m not sure exactly how it goes together. Maybe something with the quote running along the outer edge of the labyrinth? Any other ideas?”

We went back and forth a few times, with several almost-right sketches being sent over. Finally, though, I remembered that what I love most about the labyrinth image is that the path isn’t straight. If you measure the space between the entrance and the center, it’s so short as to be almost negligible. But if you measure the steps it takes to get there, it’s suddenly much, much longer. Wouldn’t it be nice to have a reminder, from time to time, that I’m headed in the right direction even if the way ahead is unclear?

Ah-ha. When do I need the reminder that Tolkien’s words provide me? Not before I enter, but while I’m in the midst of the journey. I need to hear them as I walk, when I feel the most lost and uncertain of my path. In other words, I need to stumble across that message right in the middle of the freaking path, or I won’t notice it at all.

Once that was settled, it was just a matter of making sure the words were spread out enough to not run the risk of interfering with each other. After a handful of minor revisions, we had the final version. I just got it done on Sunday, and removed the high-tech bandage a few hours ago, after the requisite 3 days. I really couldn’t be happier with the way it looks, and I’m excited as hell to have finally gotten it done.

(By the way, if you’re local to Chicago or close to it, I can’t recommend Bek’s work enough. Look her up at www.tattooheathen.com if you’re so inclined.)

Tarot Draw 14


Back in June I spent several days at Christ in the Wilderness, a retreat center in western Illinois, spending an intentional period of quiet and solitary self-reflection. As far as I know, there were three people on the land – me, one other retreatant, and the part-time caretaker who was filling in for the nun who is otherwise there, and was away for meetings of some kind. I stayed in a hermitage named after Paul of Tarsus, which included a twin bed, one chair, a small but functional kitchen, and a bathroom, all in a very open floorplan that reminded me of the first apartment I lived in by myself, if you removed the bedroom from that apartment and put the bed in the living area.


As for the land itself, there are several miles of paths through the extremely hilly woods and around the two large elevated meadows. I started keeping track of the chairs, tables and benches throughout the paths, but gave up after I reached twenty. There is also a screened in gazebo, a lovely small chapel, and a building called the Granary that reminds me of the chicken coop where I grew up (sans chickens, but with the same old wood smell and the same rather frightening number of wasps). In the hermitage and the Granary, I found several notebooks filled with words shared by previous visitors, and at the main house there is an extensive library of CDs, tapes and books in the library, most (naturally) of a spiritual bent. It is, very clearly, a space dedicated to the idea of solitude and contemplation. I could see immediately why it was recommended to me. The place is absolutely stunning.


My experience was, in a word, excrutiating, and I mean that in the best possible way. It was necessary the way setting a broken bone is necessary, but that in no way makes it a pleasant experience.


Other than my own thoughts, my most constant companion was music. I brought a number chant recordings on my phone, and listened to them a lot during the drive, in the hermitage and while walking the land. I was familiar with most of them already, having been present at events where they had been written (or at least where they were used for rituals). One that was new to me is called “Who Did I Say I Would Be?” Give it a quick listen, if you’re so inclined.


I found myself fascinated by the two alternating questions – “Who did I say I would be?” and “Who am I?” during one of my long walks, and when I got back to the hermitage I drew a card for each of them.


Who did I say I would be?:


Who am I (
and I assure you I am not joking)?

So, you know. That happened.

Since this is a different sort of draw, I thought I’d look at the cards together and compare and contrast them.

First, how are the cards similar?

  • Water, unsurprisingly, features rather prominently in both cards
  • Both the King and Queen are holding big damn cups (another shocking development)
  • Both figures are sitting on thrones
  • The cards share a similar color scheme (though certainly not an identical one)


Well, all of that makes sense. The differences between the cards, though, are really interesting.

  • The figures are facing in opposite directions – the Queen is facing to the left, the King to the right.
  • The King is looking away from his cup. He holds it in his right hand, and is looking up and to the left. The Queen, conversely, is looking directly at her cup, which she holds in both hands.
  • While both characters are on thrones, the King’s is on what looks like a platform that is floating in the water. The Queen’s throne is right on the beach, with no extra barrier.
  • Their cloaks are also interesting. The King’s is yellow and green, and some of the green is reflected in the water around him. The Queen’s cloak is blue and white, and on her right side it seems to trail right down into the water. It blends perfectly into the waves.
  • We can see the land in the Queen’s image – she’s sitting on the beach, and there’s a cliff face behind her. The King is surrounded by water. We can even see a ship in the background.


So, what does it mean?

Comparing these cards is really interesting. People who know about such things have told me in the past that the Queens are about internal mastery of their suit, while the Kings are about outward mastery. The inward/outward focus feels really apparent in these cards. It looks to me like the King uses the water. He’s floating on it, and he holds his symbols (including the cup) in a way that indicates action somehow. The Queen, conversely, is of the water. The water flows over her, even though she’s on the beach. It looks like it’s washing over her and through her in a way that isn’t true for the King.


Something I hadn’t thought of before…this shifting focus thing seems to be true with the Page and Knight cards, as well. When I look at a Page I find that my eye is drawn to the symbol – the big damn cup, or sword, or whatever. The Knights are more action-oriented. Looking at the Queen and King, my sense is that the Queen is dedicated to the cup and the water that it represents, and the King intends to use it to accomplish his goals.


It seems like these two cards, in combination, suggest that I am oriented to see how my gifts may be of use, perhaps to the detriment of truly dedicating myself to those gifts. That’s not all bad, I don’t think. While I could say that the King’s orientation could turn the Water (or anything else) to his own ends, it could also be that he turns the gift to the ends of the people he serves. To his family, his community, his people. But while that is certainly a noble aim, I think it’s also one that might bring about a more surface-level relationship with that gift. The image of the King seems to say, “I know how to use this tool to do my work.” The Queen, I think, is all about depth and dedication. In this image, she’s entirely focused the cup she holds. If I want a model for using my gifts in service to others, the King looks like a good mentor. But if I want to dedicate myself and be in service to my gifts, then I think the Queen is the model that I should be drawn to.


Happy fun grieving times


So, some folks have asked how I’m doing, and…well, I guess I got around to asking myself the same question tonight. Oops.


The hardest thing, I find, is that I am pretty much incapable of being around strong emotions. I feel like a toddler, at times – picking up on the hurt and anguish around me, but seemingly unable to behave as though it is happening to someone else rather than happening to me. So when someone close to me is upset, I’m not empathizing so much as I’m feeling the same fucking thing. This does not, as you might imagine, make me an ideal person to be around.


And music…damn, there are times when I hate music. Did you know that lots of music is about feelings? And that some songwriters are really good at communicating those feelings? And some of them are not only good at communicating them through lyrics, but also through the music itself?


To wit, I offer Nickels and Dimes (go ahead and click the link below, I dare you) which I am apparently incapable of listening to without crying now. Not because of the subject matter, because…well, I’ve listened to this song for years without similar effect. Nathan Davis was a serious songwriter (he died tragically a few years back, because of course he did), and his live album ranks up there in my music collection, but even so. Addiction hasn’t ever been my cross to bear, and this track didn’t really get to me the way that, say, Still Rock And Roll did.


Now, though…geez. Apparently when the universe kills off my dad, I get all emotional or something. So we have this song, with the lyrics at the end that repeat over and over…and it’s not just the repeating lyrics, it’s Davis’ freaking delivery, building like he’s sacrificing his voice on an altar of sound, as if he can communicate everything inside of him over the course of that last 2 minutes of the track. Somehow it all just combines to hammer away at my resolve to focus on anything other than grief until that resolve falls away, at least for a few minutes.

I got no alibis, my excuses are over.
Nothing to hide behind, I’m gettin’ sober.
If I could dream of a reason to leave me,
There would be none like the reasons you gave me.

It’s good for me, I imagine. And damn, I hate that shit.

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