DON’T CAUSE AN EARTHQUAKE
OR: TAKE YOUR PANTS OFF CAREFULLY
For want of a nail the shoe was lost,
For want of a shoe the horse was lost,
For want of a horse the rider was lost,
For want of a rider the battle was lost,
For want of a battle the kingdom was lost,
And all for the want of a horseshoe nail.
DREAD, AND I’M IN TROUBLE
Last night I was overwhelmed by dread. Tsunami-like fear. Gut-heavy. About an adult offspring. Are they safe? Are they, unknowingly, consigned to the padded cell of a mental asylum, calling softly Mummy will come, it’s okay, Mummy will come.
Is this normal? I’m not the only one—I know, because I’ve sat with you, and tarot, for an hour or more—and you know it. You too, without being classified with the brutal and often debilitating dilemma called (because everything has to be categorized, doesn’t it) OCD (without the D). But many of us, many, many of us/you repeat the same gestures every day. Is it mindless? Am I aware that I do it? Are you aware that you do it?
I strip off a pair of trousers, before bed, left leg first. And for the past few weeks, while microscopic critter viruses color our idea of the known world with difference, fear or denial, I’ve become aware of doing this. Of the exactness of routine. At how I put just enough filtered water in the kettle, light a low gas flame, and let the steam relax into the kitchen while I perc the coffee, just in case I’ve overfilled the bowl that holds the grains, and the brew is bitter. I’ll be able to top up the glass of newly-poured coffee with the hot water, you see? Logical.
And on it goes. I’m breaking patterns just now (before heading off to the gym) to write this to you.
Last night I was filled with dread. My breathing shallow. Brutal, gut-twisting. What if…
For years I couldn’t wear jewelry. If I even attempted to put an earring in one ear the events that followed, even mere minutes later, had me rushing to extract the tapu item. That began in 2007. I wrote an article called The Year the Soul Fled and posted it online. That year was dreadful, and some of you probably remember. Many of you walked from a demeaning relationship, your mother died, you walked out of a job for no other reason than that you could no longer cope with the fact that the insurance company, that employed you, robs people whose houses burned to soot, and who lost everything of importance to them in the summer bush fires.
An acquaintance of a few years moved into where I was living in 2007. I thought nothing of it, except to allow them space to recover from a partner of a few years who was talking them to death. Sure, they drank quite a lot of red wine, and occasionally embarrassed themselves, and made other people feel uncomfortable when they fell over on the concrete; laughing because they’d broken the side of their face when they smashed into a telegraph pole and were, consequently, embarrassed, had the cops searching, after their pantyhose and handbag were delivered to us by a scared and bewildered stranger who lives three blocks awa. But hey, they’re a friend. You put up with stuff like that when you care.
What had that to do with the seemingly OCD (without the D) certainty that if I popped a bangle on my wrist the world might end? Everything.
Fast forward nine years and I’m living with a mage (a friend of forty years) here in Melbourne. And that same broken person who moved in with me back in 2007 when I stopped being able to wear jewelry in case I killed someone I love, is also here. They are now dying from the indolence of alcohol and a lack of the need to work for their supper or anything else—not that they seemed to need to eat at all, really. Or are they already dead but still animate? When do we really know which is which? I take them to hospital, despite protestation, because they won’t live another day. All their organs are shutting down. They are a 34 kilogram condescending, arrogant, violently ill, impossible drunk… friend… A forty seven year old, once beautiful human being, now stale and, really, shredded and smashed of shine.
And the curse lifted. The person who came home from that hospital was not the same person who had been a friend. Does that make sense? That friend died. This is a doppelganger. A golem. What has that to do with trouser legs, earthquakes and jewelry?
I knew. Do I have to explain what is impossible to explain? That I had been complicit in their death? I had, you know. I had chosen not to judge their behavior because I’m nice that way. There’s a but, and here it is: If we don’t judge we’re crazy.
I am slathered, now, in ornamentation: the kind I like. The weird and the cravenly exotic. The blatantly and personally mine. And nothing. No one dies, no world tipping inexorably towards a wobble, no sun going nova. Oh, wait… Lore, stop it. That has nothing to do with your turquoise 20 mm earlobe plugs, and now, when I’m going to bed at night, I pull off the trousers, left leg first. I’ve tried doing it the other way, thinking be flexible, c’mon! but that was only one night’s rebellion.
Most of you are aware that I foretell the future, and you all understand how spooky that is, and how seemingly-impossible, but that it works and is real and, as one of this person’s son’s—an absolute pragmatist and anti-theist—is prone to say, Yeah, all religion is lame, but what is tarot?
Last night I was in a miasma of dread. Is it the oil spill in Mauritius? The uprising in Belarus? The blast in Beirut? Corona, doing her death dance in Mexico? An Aboriginal child being slammed behind stark metal doors: another black death in custody that this government is probably annoyed about because the news of such disturbs their snorting of that extra-special line of imported cocaine? Is that adult kid of mine really in a padded cell, calling for me in a delirium of uncontrolled psychosis? They don’t answer their phone, so who knows?
THE BUTTERFLY EFFECT AND CHAOS THEORY
The Butterfly Effect? Earlier during that same day I’d stitched a talisman into a dreadlock. An old thing. A spiral of carved bone. As the anxiety roiled wisdom’s guts, I finally took the scissors and, in defiance of any OCDness (yes, still without the D), I cut off the offending item. Instant relief. Fear gone. I’d fixed it.
Before you think, Oh well, there goes the relationship I thought I had with this favourite tarot reader, just remember, or consider, whether or not the smallest thing anyone—human—does that deviates from a norm (because most… all… other species don’t deviate unless they are in spontaneous evolution) does cause an earthquake. This is one earth. ONE EARTH. And everyone/thing/every, everyone/thing is conjured from when we discovered we could orbit a sun. We just differentiated; you see? We owe consciousness and awareness to that, not some irrational and probably perverse deity, invented by that council of nicaea, supposedly omnipotent so what, then, is it doing causing the sixth mass extinction and the disposable face mask, and not informing us that it’s a bio-hazard?
It used to be thought that the events that changed the world were things like big bombs, maniac politicians, huge earthquakes, or vast population movements, but it has now been realized that this is a very old-fashioned view held by people totally out of touch with modern thought. The things that change the world, according to Chaos theory, are the tiny things. A butterfly flaps its wings in the Amazonian jungle, and subsequently a storm ravages half of Europe. —Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman, Good Omens
Tarot is the art of interpreting patterns. I use a well-thumbed pack of cards. Do I read patterns in everything? Yes. The older I get the better I get. That’s annoying, by the way, and I’ve almost learned to shut up about it, but give me a kellogg’s corn flake box and I’ll tell you what you don’t know. It’s that overwhelming at times. I’m ragged in crowds, even personal book launches.
I was on the phone, a week ago, to the wife of someone I’d never met, but who is related to me through a so-called father I have, also, never met (for another story, yes there is one. A freedom story). Her husband (84 years old) was in the background. He didn’t want to speak to a person like me. What did he call me? A fruit loop. Ah, yes, the name-game used to humiliate those of us who are considered, by some consensus, to be thought of as “different”.
Then, I had a typical bolt out of the blue and said, Who’s the smoker? Lung cancer. Now. Today. Death, good buddy. Sorry for the loss.
Profound silence. Then the woman said, Nobody.
After another ten seconds she said, Oh god… Again, I waited. My sister died a year ago today, of lung cancer. From smoking.
I had the old man’s attention in the background (I was on speaker). What else do you see, he mumbled, unsure of his sarcasm now.
An older man, I answered, with a blonde moustache stained at the bottom by tobacco. He’s got a riding crop in his one hand a flask of whisky in another, and I smell horses.
Well, that was his father, who, yes, was a horseman out back of Bourke. He had a photo of his grandfather, also, who looked the same, but who had died at the battle of Beersheba, in 1917. He was of the 4th Light Horse Brigade. That went on for an hour. It was like watching an inner movie, and it turned him from being a nasty, misogynist old ratbag to a deeply implicated conversationalist. Not that I wanted him in this current life, so I excused myself from the call and, half-jokingly, said to the old guy, You owe me $150.
Is there a moral to this story? Yes. Don’t be afraid to be right. As long as you do no harm (that you intend, or that you know of) you can accept being meticulous. You can turn the key in the lock seventeen times. You can check on the hens at 3 a.m. when there isn’t a sound because… if you didn’t, and Goanna does get in, you’ll slap yourself next morning when all the women lay dying in what you thought was a safe, secure chook house.