The Forgiveness Chronicles - Part VI: Fortunes
Updated: Dec 31, 2020
The Forgiveness Chronicles, Continued
Part VI: Fortunes
We were sitting at the round, wooden table in my mother’s kitchen. Pale yellow sunlight filtered in from the late autumn sun, highlighting a patch of the honey-stained wood. Wispy swirls of steam rose from the tea in the mugs in front of us. Marc’s green eyes were intent on mine, while he held the deck of cards daintily in his perfectly manicured paws. Something about him always reminded me of a lion; his curly hair, his regal stature, those eyes that saw a lot more than most everyone else’s.
“So?” I asked, impatiently. I never read my own cards. I was too close to the project and didn't trust myself to be objective.
He smirked, his turquoise eyes shining. “You know what? I don’t think I need these,” he said, setting the cards off to the side, a light chuckle escaping his throat.
Marc was one of those friends you meet in life and have an instant connection with. He and I came from the same place out there in the Cosmos; to me, places never quite felt like home, but people did. And, like me, ever since I had known him, he always had that one special deck of cards. Scuffed and tattered at the edges, faded from multiple years of use, each one bearing an enigmatic picture in one of four suits: cups, swords, wands, or pentacles.
My brow furrowed. “Okay,” I began, confused by the gesture.
“I already know what they’re going to tell me,” he said with flourish, rolling his eyes slightly, eyelashes fluttering, as he reached for his mug. He wore a pinkie ring that caught glimmers of sun from the bay window when he tilted his cup back for a sip.
“Yeah, and what’s that?” I challenged. I found his confidence unnerving and a current of static crept up my spine.
He paused for dramatic effect hovering in the steam above his tea. His smirk deepened.
“That you,” he said, pointing directly at me, “are going to meet your match.”
I sighed and looked out the window at the tree branches with the last remnants of colorful, dying leaves attached to them. Why had I even asked? I wondered. Every time I get a reading, it’s always something. It’s never, ‘Hey, good news, you’re going to win the lottery!’ It’s always about the challenges that lie ahead.
“Pay attention,” Marc said, drawing me out of my head. “Don’t go over-analyzing anything just yet.”
“I wasn’t –,” I started to protest.
He interrupted me, his dusty brown curls bobbed just slightly as he shook his head. “You know you were,” he said matter-of-factly, setting down his cup. “I know you.”
It was useless arguing. He was right. I shrugged and picked at my cuticles.
He stared right at me. “Really? No, just no. Stop.”
The static had inched its way to my kidneys.
“So, you are about to meet your match,” he resumed. “She’s going to be every bit as stubborn as you. You’re going to butt heads. She will drive you nuts. It will most likely be the biggest challenge you have ever had.”
My eyes narrowed. “Who is she? A friend of a friend? Someone through work?”
Marc only shook his head, a coy look in his eyes, his cheeks round at the thought. “Nope. Worse.”
“Worse?” I was perplexed. I thought a moment. Of course! A client! Yes…best to learn now what case I should avoid.
“A client!” I announced jubilantly, returning the smile.
“Hmm-mmm,” he hummed negatively, his eyes twinkling.
I was stumped. “Is it some kind of investment? Will this be a business opportunity of some kind?”
He lifted a perfectly sculpted brown eyebrow. “Sort of,” he said, clearly enjoying the suspense. “Once you meet her, the floodgates of opportunity will open for you. You have never known such abundance and prosperity. But it will be really, really hard work.”
The static was now in the middle of my back, right where my spine curved a little off to the left. I jerked my shoulder back slightly to shake it off. Persistent.
I shrugged. “Hard work doesn’t bother me.”
This time, he laughed heartily. “It will.”
I pushed away from the table and put my mug in the sink. I was growing impatient. The static kept creeping towards my heart. “When will I meet this person?” I asked, trying to keep my voice even.
“About two years from now,” he said assuredly, leaning back in his chair.
I took a deep breath and tried to suppress an involuntary shudder.
“I give up. I have no idea who it could be,” I said, leaning over the counter to steady myself against something.
He folded his arms across his chest with satisfaction, his beard broadening with a grin. “You sure you want to know?”
“Yes!” I said, throwing my arms up in exasperation. “Who could possibly pose such a challenge?” I jerked. The static had made its way to my shoulder.
His eyes bore into mine. “Your daughter, that’s who.”
I had hid in the woods in our unfinished cabin in the Ozarks for three nights before returning home. I spent the whole weekend hiking alone in the woods. No one really hiked down there; the trails had been cleared by constant four-wheeler traffic, mostly at night. The silence and connection with nature restored me enough to be able to work through some of the issues I was having.
I had come to the realization that there was no point in expecting my career to make me happy, my clients to provide me with fulfillment, or my husband to bring me joy. It was entirely up to me, and if I chose to go the route of a malcontent, then I would also have to accept the consequence of a lifetime of rolling around in the mire of my own self-pity. If I desired change, I couldn’t expect it to just happen or that someone would come along and wave a wand to forever transform my life into my vision of an ideal utopia. It was up to me to take the initiative necessary to change my own life. And in that moment, an epiphany came: I did not have to know exactly what I wanted or needed, and I didn’t need to agonize over my purpose. I just needed to decide to be happy and grateful and then dedicated enough to commit to maintaining that frame of mind. The rest would follow. I wasn’t sure how I could be so certain of that last bit, but I guessed it was that special ingredient everyone else referred to as “faith.” I had to let go of my need to control situations; a very difficult thing to do as a lawyer. Any control outside of ourselves was only an illusion anyway.
Great Spirit isn’t going to save me. Government isn’t going to save me. No one is gonna save me, I realized. I must save myself.
Simple accomplishments meant more to me these days than the complicated hurdles I somehow cleared. With simple accomplishments, there was the joy that came from not just the achievement, but the simplicity of it. When something more complicated was conquered, there was only relief that the struggle was over; the relief was rarely accompanied by a sense of joy. More often, the relief was nothing more than the absence of anxiety and a momentary euphoria at being rid of such an intense burden.
There was a Native American medicine man named Lame Deer, a Sioux from South Dakota. Lame Deer, in his book Seeker of Visions, wrote that, “I think white people are so afraid of the world they created that they don’t want to see, feel, smell or hear it.”
That one sentence struck me in my core. I saw proof of it everywhere.
Why had we built a concrete world so removed from the beauty of nature? What was with all the wires, devices, and complexity? Why did we need so much stuff?
Lame Deer continued, “[t]he feeling of rain and snow on your face, being numbed by an icy wind and thawing out before a smoking fire, coming out of a hot sweat bath and plunging into a cold stream, these things make you feel alive, but you don’t want them anymore.”
I had cried when I read that because I was devastated by its truth. My spirit longed for these things, and it had always longed for these things, and yet…the expectations I lived under were completely contrary to what was in my soul. The rain, the sun, all the things Lame Deer described were relegated to a sliver of my life that existed before the childhood trauma. Back when I was still free. My spirit longed for that freedom again. I was torn.
Maybe most Americans just didn’t realize what they were missing; there was a collective reality that somehow, living with all these modern comforts was better, superior. Or maybe they realized the need for a deeper connection with the Earth, but were just truly contented by distraction and preferred it. Americans perpetuated this perverse connection with Mother Nature by driving gas guzzling vehicles called “Tundra” and “Forester” and “Outback.” It was ironic; I didn't know anyone who owned a Tundra that had actually been to a tundra. It was all just too superficial for my taste. I wanted to go deeper. I longed for the connection to be real.
It never ceased to amaze me how the more things changed, the more they were the same. Nessmuk, writing in his classic Woodcraft and Camping, thought that Americans had created a culture of overwork, resulting in a compromised nervous system. The cure was to disengage, head into the woods for relaxation, where money was of no use and for those who were savvy enough to appreciate their surroundings, everything that was needed to enjoy life was available. This was his philosophy over one hundred years ago, when his friends belittled him for paying over ten dollars for a hatchet.
More recently, in her documentary The Forgotten Wisdom of Trees, scientist Diana Beresford Kroeger explained that forest bathing is a thing. There are energies, chemical compounds, and other elements humans need from forests. I knew I wasn't crazy. Intuitively, I could tap into spirit and know exactly what I needed. Left brained society had a way of convincing me it was right and my spirit was wrong.
I could relate to being overstimulated, overstressed, overworked, and attempting to keep up with maintaining the constant and instantaneous demands imposed by modern life and all its “comforts” and “conveniences.” It was true that every moment spent in the modern world earning money represented a purchased standard of living. Rather than growing and hunting my own food, I went to a farmer's market or a store to buy most of it. And rather than hiking to the nearest stream for food, bathing, or beverage, I paid for municipal water, sewer, and for a vehicle to drive and maintain to obtain these things. To keep a roof over my heads, I paid a mortgage, utilities, and constantly purchased housewares. There is no question that with technology, survival has become exponentially more complicated. While most people would argue that our standard of living has improved, I’ve never been as certain; everything is many steps removed from its purest, simplest, foundation. Nessmuk thought that living in the modern world was “roughing it” and camping was “smoothing it.” Considering the endless paper chase of modern life, I tended to agree.
The kicker for me was an article I found on “fight or flight,” the body’s natural response to stress. The article stated that prior to modern society, “fight or flight” was only triggered in truly stressful situations: encountering a dangerous animal, getting bucked by a horse, childbirth. In modern society, with constant stimulation and a deluge of negative media (violent video games, negative news reports, fear-based television) and the high-pressure demands of instant gratification (constant emails, texts, phone calls, deadlines, and packed schedules) most people are living in a high-stress state of fight-or-flight, causing adrenal overload and trashing our immune and nervous systems. The inevitable conclusion was that modern life isn’t healthy, and to ditch the stress, the article suggested adding meditation, additional sleep, and exercise into an already time-strapped daily regimen. Who is able to find time to cram all that shit into a schedule that is already crammed full with outside obligations? The pace at which a person must bust ass to maintain a decent standard of living and save for retirement has exponentially increased with the amount of debt we have to incur to prepare us for adulthood so that, you know, we can adult. And since when did “adult” become a verb? Adulting is nothing more than a shame spiral of feeling indebted and working your ass off as you claw your way to the hope of a “better life” that no one really has a firmly developed vision of. Its just some nebulous concept of “you know, better.” To me, “better” never really meant “more”; to me, “better” meant downsizing and minimizing the amount of stuff I had to deal with.
Why not minimize what’s on the plate rather than heaping more on? Perhaps my time in the woods was better dedicated to figuring out how to simplify my life rather than slapping a bandage on my stress-induced unhappiness.
But something tugged at me.
Great solution. Do that. But just remember, you’re not really free…yet. The debt kept me tethered.
Nevertheless, I was refreshed, nostalgic, but no longer as confused. I needed to identify my fears, ditch them, make a choice, and stick to my choice. Life was a marathon. It was not a sprint. Once I chose and began my journey toward that objective, stayed focused on it, and became more mindful, my life would unfold. I needed to get out of my own way. I pulled the pretty, smooth stones I had gathered up along my hike out of my pocket. At the trail head, I set each rock, one on top of the other, at the base of a straight, tall oak tree…and remembered all those who had failed to choose wisely and had perished in their plight. I had made it this far. I figured I might as well keep on going and see what happened.
Two weeks later, I was sitting in a parking lot in Westport finishing lunch with a cigarette. Clarence’s case had gone to trial that morning; or rather, I had sat through another entire docket before the officers again had failed to show up to give testimony and so the case was grudgingly dismissed. It was a lackluster “win.” Clarence didn’t feel like it was a win and made it clear he didn’t want to pay the rest of the bill, because, you know, he never should have been prosecuted in the first place. I didn't want to pay the parking ticket I had gotten last time in court, but I had gone to the window like a good plebe and paid it anyway...the last thing I needed was getting a letter from the Bar threatening to yank my law license over a parking ticket warrant.
I didn’t care about any of it that afternoon. At that point, I was glad it was over with good result. I was always – without exception – relieved when a case was over. The day was warm, and I turned my face to the sun as I exhaled. A purple neon sign across the street caught my eye. PSYCHIC, it said, inviting those of us who were teetering on the edge of certainty to pay fifty bucks to pull back the curtain and grab a peek into the future. I didn’t feel like working that afternoon, wanting to savor the freedom that came with ending a stressful case, so I bit.
Paula’s shop had Navajo artifacts from her other location in Sedona, Arizona: woven baskets, tiny clay pots, and figurines. Paula’s olive skin, wiry black hair, and loose-fitting dress reminded me of Georgia O’Keeffe. The shop – which often doubled as her house – was drenched in the thick herbal haze of frankincense, myrrh, and sage. Candles flickered everywhere, even though the sun was bright outside. There were mirrors on every wall, all reflecting in on each other. Loose translucent curtains hung over windows and lamps.
“Sit,” Paula gestured to a seat at her old, antique-looking table. “Touch the cards,” she instructed, sliding the pack across the table.
Strange images of pentacles, swords, wands, and cups flashed across the cards as I shuffled through them. I sat the deck down in the middle of the table. Paula picked them up, divided them into three unequal piles, placing the first pile in the middle, the second to the left and the third to the right. Present, Past, Future. She drew the cards out one at a time from each pile, placing them in a circle.
“This,” Paula began, a heavily ringed finger pointed at the eight of pentagrams, “indicates that very soon, you will enjoy great abundance. Wealth is coming your way,” she said resolutely.
I had learned through my metaphysical studies that eight was a number associated with wealth and prosperity, and I had drawn an eight on a card and kept it in my wallet. It had been a recent habit, so the reading seemed to pick up on the fact that I had been heading that direction with my occult practices. I had plans. If I could get out of debt, then I could be free to disappear into the wilderness the likes of Emerson and Thoreau.
She pointed to another card. “But this warns that the abundance will not find its way to you until you unblock your basal shakra,” she explained. “This is the first shakra, root, red, the source of creation.”
I looked at the card. The Hanged Man. I would be lying if I said that seeing that card didn’t affect me. In Paula’s deck, the Hanged Man was dressed somewhat like a jester, and hung upside down from his legs from the branch of a gnarled tree. The image struck a chord that was both serious and sacred within me. There was an important message here, one that I would ignore only at my own peril.
“You’re going to have to let go and surrender to the experience you are living through and gain an emotional release,” Paula continued. “Accept what is. You must suspend action to gain a fresh perspective. Changes in perception will shift your state of mind.”
This was the kind of loaded, cryptic language that most people branded as too vague to accurately predict anything and dismissed offhandedly. Most people would assume that at this point, the psychic would ask follow up questions to try and eek juicy bits from their client in an effort to concoct a prophecy that will con the unsuspecting superstitious rube back to her den for further sessions.
I had always assumed that I would know what I was surrendering to before I agreed to surrender. But the Cosmos doesn’t always work the way humans assume that it does, and Paula’s craft was to read the energy, not necessarily the details.
“The Tower,” Paula continued, tapping the next card, her bangles jangling against the table top, “tells you that when a sudden change occurs in the upcoming months, you must allow yourself an emotional release to clear the fog that may cloud your ability to see through illusions. This will result in a necessary disruption of the status quo. You will break through long established patterns and habits, but the process of being born, dying, and then the rebirth is never without its mess.”
After watching my mother give card readings at our kitchen table beneath a blue haze of cigarette smoke as a kid, I had a special appreciation for this language. An abrupt change was coming. Whatever car I was currently riding in would slam on its brakes and I’d find myself on the side of the road for a moment before I realized I would have to figure out which route to take next. I’d then have a bout of severe insecurity and fear before choosing a path and trudging off into the vague and looming future, plodding along alone in the dark, kicking away rocks, and finding myself pretty thirsty before arriving at the crest of a large hill overlooking a lush valley. I knew that this particular moment, the right now, as well as the months to come, would be a bumpy wagon ride into new frontier. But if I could manage my emotions, I would possess sufficient clarity to recognize the right opportunities when they presented themselves. In other words, there is zero shame in pressing pause in order to take in the lay of the land before diving into another day of bushwhacking new trail. If I just did that, one day at a time, a new and glorious chapter would open up ahead of me. I nodded in comprehension.
“Go on,” I urged.
The next card was the Star. A large, glowing pentagram hung in the sky above a lush field. “In this process, you’ll regain hope and faith in the future,” Paula said, looking up at me and giving a little smile. “You will be most inspired in moments of tranquility and because of that, you’ll find harmony amid trouble if you remember to maintain your generosity.”
Translation: when I am feeling it, I need to meditate on how best to give back and then do that.
I looked at the next three cards: the strong aspect (or nature of the issue); helpful energy; and the weak aspect (or undercurrent). The first card was the King of Swords. A handsome man with flowing hair and beard stood atop a perch of rocks, his sword gleaming and lifted triumphantly towards the sun.
Paula paused here, tapping each of the three lightly, and nodding her head slightly. She was piecing the message together. An unpolished, shortly trimmed nail pointed to the first one.
“Swords are warriors, and I sense a warrior in you. When your moments of transition are hardest, draw upon your inner strength and morality. Be prepared to spring into action and harness your courage,” she nodded with approval.
The next card, helpful energy, was Death. Most people looked at the Death card with foreboding, but it was never literal. It was a transition card, and I wasn’t surprised to see it.
“You will have to close the door to your past and begin a new chapter,” Paula confirmed. I knew what was next. “You will transition out of the old and excessive and everything will be swept clean for your new beginning.”
I need to get out my broom and bag some shit up for the local thrift shop, I thought.
It probably also meant I needed a round or two of smudging and some basil window washes; by then, I had gotten into the practice of gathering fresh basil, steeping it in hot water, and using the tea to clean and clear away the negative, stuck energy where the light entered our home.
She picked up the final card and cradled it in her palm. “The Ten of Cups reassures us that you will ultimately attain serenity and peace, success, happiness, and contentment in this next chapter,” she finished.
She stopped abruptly and slapped her hand down to the table. She paused for a long moment.
“You are an old soul,” she whispered. Her eyes were fixed on something far away, in another dimension. “You were once royalty, in a life long ago. You were stuck in an engagement for an arranged marriage when you were 16 or 17 years old.”
I inched towards the edge of my seat, riveted. I hadn’t been expecting this extra delve into the past. She knew the information was good and reveled in putting on a show, or she was having a moment of mediumship; I couldn’t quite tell. I watched intently.
“You had fallen in love with someone else and didn’t want to go through with the forced and arranged marriage. The man you loved had no money. Despite this, you chose love over money and began your affair with the other man despite being forced to follow through to the marriage of the prince. You were pregnant with the prince’s baby, a baby you had not wanted. The Prince had violated you in order to secure the marriage; you were treated as damaged goods so that you could be controlled. Your lover vowed to raise the baby as his own,” she continued to gaze intently into some distant time. “You told a confidant that you were having this affair, but the confidant betrays you. Your love lived far away, and you were intercepted trying to leave to be with him and take the heir to the throne with you. Your love waited for you for years, but when you did not arrive, his despair grew to be too heavy and he hung himself. He mistook your absence to believe that you had chosen your life of royalty over his love,” she finished. “It is a true Romeo and Juliet story,” she said, still holding her gaze, her voice still at a whisper. “Your husband is the lover you never united with in that prior life. This is the karma, and the reason your base shakra is blocked. It is the unresolved issues from a past life where love went unfulfilled – for you both, as well as the baby you were to raise.”
I had so many questions, but I waited patiently. Her long, gauzy sleeves billowed across the table. Tendrils of incense wove together at the ceiling.
“You arrived in this current life two years too early,” she continued, as if seeing something new. Her eyes were nearly closed. "If you are drawn to money in this life, it is because of your most recent past life. Lack of money – on the part of the lover you were to escape with – resulted in a tragedy that this life is meant to correct. Everything in this life is on a two-year delay,” she said, maintaining her whisper. “You’re never going to battle a fatal health issue, but, if you don’t clear that base shakra, the repression will cause chronic illness and a few close calls; these close calls are signals your body is sending you through your intuition to wake up. They will arrive at critical choice points in your life. You should have had a child already, and you will definitely have one child, maybe two. You must remove the block in order to conceive. The energy blocking you is feminine.”
I tried to maintain my control. Me? A mother? Of course Marc had been right. The feminine blockage? It was probably just me getting in my own way. Or at least, that is what had been most logical and easy to believe at the time.
“In your job, you will experience a lot of jealousy from others. You will build a very successful practice, but it will be taken from you by those who don’t understand your worth and more importantly, don’t understand their own. You will find that a shift from what you do now to what you do in the future will be to become a healer. You might get involved with a nonprofit. The process will start in twelve months and will take years. You will have a lot to learn. More schooling may be necessary. Money will never again be an issue for you, even when you do lose your practice,” she finished.
There was no universe in which I could see myself going back to school or getting into nonprofit work full time, but I allowed the fortune to sit.
Her eyes refocused and returned to the table in her dining room. She smiled at me. “That will be sixty, please,” she stated abruptly, as though that last bit had never happened.
Stunned but trying to maintain myself, I rummaged through my purse and pulled out three twenties. I handed them over. She held onto my hand. “There’s a meditation retreat next month in Sedona,” she started. “Two nights, three days, $5,000.”
“I’ll have to think about it,” I said, pulling my wrist back. “But thanks.”
I grabbed my purse and headed for the door.
“Get your base shakra cleared,” she said behind me as I left.
As soon as I got in my car, I yanked a yellow notepad out of the back seat, flipped to a blank page, and began to furiously scribble notes. Later, I would record the events in my journal.
Paula’s predictions clung to my psyche. What was this change? Why on earth would any soul pick me for a mother?
A peculiar thing had happened a few months after Marc’s prediction. I had a very vivid dream. In it, I had been hugely pregnant. I was communing with the baby’s soul. The love I felt had been the most intense love I had ever felt before in my life. The warm fuzziness of bliss had washed over me like a tidal wave. I had asked the baby her name, and she had told me. When I awoke to a flat belly, realizing that everything I had experienced was just a dream, I had been so deflated I had sobbed my way into the morning. I had never wanted children. I had never thought I could have children. And yet, here I was, recalling these moments, linking them together, and left to wonder if I would become a mother and what it meant to heal the root shakra.