Last night my partner of 32 years and I tried pulling each other off the couch using just one hand. I started it. I did not announce the game because I didn’t know what was happening until it was well underway. I just reached out my hand and he reached out his and I’m like “no go like this,” making a c-clamp shape, and then I locked on and pulled. He pulled back and I fell off the couch. He’s like “that’s your strong hand and this is my weak hand” and I’m like “no it’s not,” and I looked down and declared “this is my LEFT hand,” and he said “no it’s not,” and goddammit he was right. We tried it with the other set of hands and he won again. We have a child together, we’ve shared vows and toothbrushes and mortgages, we’ve hurled obscenities at each other for crimes such as breathing too loud, we have loved each other well and let each other down. But not until now have we had occasion to treat each other like siblings on a too-long car trip.
Fortunately both our jobs are do-able from home, so we have unlimited time and mental bandwidth for this new modus operandi. Next up my sleeve is “stop hitting yourself,” as I grab his wrist and smack his face with his own hand. Obviously BONUS if I can do it while he’s in a very professional virtual meeting.
Also on my bucket list is “I’m not touching you,” as I hold a finger near but not touching his face. Actually that’s the better one for during a virtual meeting, because then he’ll have someone to complain to that I’m touching him, which, clearly, I am NOT.
The Lovers say, hey wait, our vows said nothing about this. But then they’re like, oh waaaait, perhaps this is why all the old people were holding hands and also choking up at the wedding? Perhaps the vows said everything there is to say, about a time like this.
If you’re even THINKING about spackling or repairing a screen or even deep cleaning, STOP IT, because if The Emperor senses your shame we are all doomed and nobody needs that right now.
The Emperor is about our sense of place. When he’s in a good mood, you feel it in the form of security, stability, comfort, contentment with what you have and where you are. When he’s pissed, whether it’s your fault or not, you feel that too: Insecurity. Instability. Discomfort. Restlessness that verges on losing your wits.
You think it makes him feel good, when you flit around with a touch-up brush, squawking at his flaws? When some wall or windowsill that’s been perfectly livable as-is up until now, is all of a sudden unsightly, an embarrassment, a thing to fix? It does not. Nobody needs that. The Emperor does not want your criticism all up in his business, trying to make it look like people don’t live lives, here.
What he needs, right now, is for you to thank him for everything thus far. Thank him for still standing, for keeping you warm, for bearing witness to the best and worst of the life you’ve lived sheltered by these cracked, possibly dirty, perfectly lovely walls. He would not mind if you sat your ass on the couch right now. Maybe read one of your billion bookshelf books you’ve never actually read. The Emperor would not mind, at all, if you lovingly, gratefully, took shelter in your particular sense of place.
The Emperor says, be still and know that I am fine without you being all fixy fix-it right now.
Honestly I don’t know which he wore better, the daffodil/robin’s egg contrast of the tie with the shirt, or the thoughtful ownership of having said one thing one day and then announcing its opposite the next. The bookish-but-not-boring glasses, or the clear and graspable explanation of how historical data about pandemics is what’s behind decisions that might otherwise come across as irrational or excessive.
Actually I think Governor Walz wore a brick-red tie/white shirt at Friday’s briefing with the Minnesota Department of Health, but it doesn’t matter, because the guy’s style is consistent. Fresh yet classic. Seasonal, yet enduring. Compassionate, strategic, transparent, superfun pops of color.
But what if you don’t FEEL like making art right now because this isn’t some luxurious artmaking retreat for which you were specially selected. What if every project you ever started including enough Moleskine journals to choke a global supply chain, all of them empty due to stories you never finished or actually never started, what if now they’re staring at you from the shelf like some bitchy book club of books you don’t feel like writing. What now.
Now is when we explore the concept of creative destruction. Destruction as a long-game act of creation, making way for a new thing which is not necessarily going to happen right now. Right now, we enjoy the warmth and fragrance and machisma of a well-built fire, with past failures as kindling, nothing but kindling, sooooo much kindling.
The Empress is about creation up to and including destruction. Ahhhhh.
Good news! Your raging compulsion to cut bangs or use up that expired accidentally purchased wrong-shade of box color, or whateverwhatever, is essentially correct. This moment DOES call for change and these ARE drastic times but the change IS NOT to ruin your visage for longer than you’re stuck in isolation. Honor the urge itself, but then pursue a less damning option. Specifically, I am telling you to adopt a look totally different from your regular in-the-world look. For me personally this equals hanging-down hair and dark lips/bare eyelids. Also jeans. Jeans!
ARE YOU EVEN KIDDING ME, I thought to myself the first day of this. WHO EVEN IS THAT in the mirror?!?! Boom. Transfigured. Take that, new normal. If you live with people, you can ask them to play along, like if they’re like “what are you talking about you just still look like you” maybe be like “do you remember last time I cut panic-bangs and do you really want to live through that again” and then probably they’ll suddenly be like “whoa, wait, was that you just now in the kitchen?!?” Anyway. This is easier to accomplish if you’re usually overembellished like myself, in which case you just quit all that for now. If you’re less froofy, you’ll need to improvise, e.g.: 1) You’re a pants person, with no skirts in the house? Beach towel. Afghan. Curtain. Many household items make handsome sarongs. 2) You’re short-haired and often-baseball-hatted, no barrettes or pomades in your world? Vaseline. Spray starch. Maple syrup. I don’t care what you use, just start putting stuff up in there until you have a fauxhawk or whatever gets you to the point of terrifying/delighting yourself with your new, temporary, totally reversible, not-regrettable change. 3) Don’t own cosmetics? Sharpie will not kill you, as eyeliner. Same with melted crayon, licked lead of a colored pencil, paprika. You’re welcome for my lifetime of research to figure all that out. Honestly, the options are endless, and you can do this, and you WILL do this for the greater good. The greater good being that when we finally see each other again, in person, we might all be weirdly unfiltered, unable to not-blurt things like “what the fuck did you do.” There is hope, friends, hope of pleasant reunions despite atrophied social graces. But we‘ll only get there if we (wait for it) (actually I can’t believe I waited this long) practice scissor distancing.
The High Priestess says, honor your intuition but maybe don’t let her walk you off a cliff.
Magic is a basic human right and if you have to conjure it from a Diet 7-Up carton rescued from the recycling bin because the world needs Isolation Edition tarot RIGHT NOW, then that is what you do. That’s how I made this deck, never mind that I probably had regular paper, this was a random act of resourcefulness and I’ve been ready for a long time to start whipping those out.
You can’t tell me you haven’t been waiting your whole life to do the same, like, that thing your grandma talked about with the waxed paper from butter sticks, freezing it for future pan-greasing. Or for moisturizer. Maybe moisturizer right now due to all the hand-washing. I don’t know what your cuticles look like but mine are freaking out. I don’t care if you have actual hand cream, now is the time for butter residue, or the grease from an empty bag of chips, or WD-40 which you should find anyway to fix all the things you’re thinking you should fix right now. Try it all. How else are we going to prevent a future lotion ration. How else are we going to learn every lesson history ever taught us, about necessity and invention and moisturizing and the value of a decent manicure in discouraging times.
The Magician says, get friendly with the idea that you have what you need.
I don’t know about you but the action I’m taking right now is to pluck my eyebrows. It started the night before last and that was prior to the Governor’s announcement that basically everything would shut down, so I was ahead of the game, mystically anticipating a period of isolation where things could grow back without much public scrutiny. Last time I went at my brows like this was 1981. There was no crisis then, except I was in seventh grade and my eyebrows were among few things I could control. So control them I did, like, really close to the mirror, in hindsight probably too close as in not once did I step back to check along the way and so we had this.
For comparison, here is that year’s unfortunately timed school photo (right) and the previous year (left).
If you’ve done something stupid just prior to a social isolation, congratulations, because now you have time for things to grow back. Or maybe you did something stupid a while ago and now you can revisit it more thoughtfully, like, step BACK from the mirror every few minutes, remove only the STRAY brows and not NEARLY ALL of the brows.
The Fool says, the unknown isn’t some great gift unless you make it that. Unless you need a great gift right now. Give it a shot. Back away every few minutes to check your work and then, then, keep going.
Well at this point the sumac looks dead but sources say that’s just fine the first year. Next fall, the red should show up, the roots should take hold. I am good with the wait. I’m excited to see it and possibly have something to say to it by then. You are welcome to come look. You are welcome to come bury parts of yourself in the same ravine. You are welcome to come take cuttings of the vines which are now wrapping themselves in and out of the fence, or twirl around in colors you’ve never worn before. You are welcome to bleed lines off the page for 100 days straight. Maybe someone will see them and make something new out of them. Maybe you will shed something, lose some things, take a new job, dye your garments crimson, fill up a space. I am telling you right now that we just keep going.
The World says it always starts over but this time you know more, each time you know more.
By Peggy Draheim. I don’t know what she titled it but I’m calling it “How Right Now Feels.” Comes see it as part of “Art Works Over Five Decades: A Retrospective by Peggy Draheim,” through August 24 at the Arts Center of Saint Peter.
The Judgment card says it’s best to know what you’re doing but even if you don’t there is such thing as midcourse correction.
By now I’m on my third round of cutting vines from around the yard, putting them in water to root, then planting them around the fence. (Planting was another thing I did in the wake of the most ekphrastic hysterectomy in human history.) Third round because the first two were failures. I had planned to wing it without reading up in advance, for fun, but that didn’t work and left me with a large fence full of dead sticks and wilted leaves. Turns out you need to cut the bottoms with a sharp blade, wound the buds, give them time and water to recover from shock, then plant. But you can still space things out based only on where you think the vines will look good, where they seem to want to be, where you think South is.
The Judgment card says gather data but then actually truly trust your intuition and your sense of style as valid decision-making tools, and go ahead and stick stuff in the ground.
The Sun says drop everything and find your thing, especially on days you’re technically scheduled to do otherwise.
I don’t know if you’ve ever killed time decorating a chain-link fence with strips of fabric, preferably whole bolts of it on clearance, but I recommend it. Not just because the results are visually glorious and serve as some kind of daily weather indicator — sun-fading, precipitation, obviously wind — but also because the act of tearing of fabric is some intense pleasure. I will go so far as to call it joy. The physical act of it will leave you sore in the shoulders and chest which I mean you can’t help but feel your literal heart widen after an afternoon of that. The noise of the tearing is equal parts violent and soothing. I recommend satiny fabric, for maximum satisfaction. Also I ultimately feel like this is a service to birds, as in, next spring there will be plenty of shiny fibers for them to harvest for nest material.
The Sun says spend time in joy, senseless joy, whatever it is you have access to right now that gives you the same feeling as when you were a kid and absolutely did not want to come inside at the risk of peeing your pants out there digging in the dirt or whatever. Find your right-now equivalent and spend time in that zone. It is not senseless. It keeps bothersome parts of you quiet, and good parts of you will wake up because of it. Find your thing and hide if you have to but definitely do that thing.