The beaver incident

Major Arcana XIII, or the Death card, is not to suggest that I read Tarot cards.  Well, not anymore anyway.  The Major Arcana Card XIII is a feared card not because it signals someone’s death, but because it symbolizes change.  In short, it symbolizes:

Ending of a cycle — Loss — Conclusion — Sadness
Transition into a new state — Psychological transformation
Finishing up — Regeneration — Elimination of old patterns
Being caught in the inescapable — Good-byes — Deep change

Last week, I attended the wake of a woman I didn’t know.  It was still a profound experience.  But at the time, I embraced that experience as a learning lesson for my son, not thinking that it was a lesson for me.  I think now I may have been wrong.  I think that lesson was for me.

Today, this afternoon specifically, I killed a beaver.  I was devastated.  I didn’t mean to.  In fact, as I was driving my son #2’s friends home, I saw these two beavers — clearly a couple — starting to run across the street as I was driving.  I slammed on the breaks, let the beavers cross, and was happy that they made it from the left side of the street to the right.    As I looked through my passengers side window to make sure the two of them had made it to the lawn, I started to drive away.  Unbeknownst to me, one of the beavers, at the last second, turned around and started to dart under my car.  My heart froze as I felt my car run over the beaver.  What the HELL???!!!!  WHY would it turn around and dart back under the car when it had just made it to safety???!!  WHY turn back and put yourself into harm’s way??!!!  Stupid beaver!!!

Stupid me for not waiting long enough to make sure the beaver was actually safe.

I came home and son #1 asked me why I looked so sad.  I lost it.  Started crying like an idiot because I killed that beaver.  I felt terrible.  My son put his arms around me and just held me, told me it was ok.  He said, “Don’t be sad, Mom. You tried not to kill the beavers and at least one made it.”

Once my son left the room, I contemplated how I could have been so stupid, so careless, so rash.  And then I started to think, maybe it was a sign, a message.  Something made manifest in the external world to make me become more aware of me and my life.

And then I thought, maybe, just maybe, this beaver incident was a metaphor for my life.

Maybe, even when I try my best to keep myself safe and insure the good outcome of choices, the reality is I can’t control life or my future.  I can’t help the endings of things.  And maybe, maybe I actually need to learn how to really end things.  How to really let go.  Maybe this beaver incident was my Death card made manifest, a sign that a cycle was ending and I was transitioning into a new state.  Maybe I need to eliminate the old patterns, say goodbye, and allow myself to under through the Deep Change.

It scares me, but someone recently told me that we can get anything and everything we want, it’s just a matter of what form it arrives in and how we get it.

Today, I got the beaver incident. Today, I got the Major Arcana XIII, and upon reflection, I think I may actually be ready for what’s next.

primum moven

I took my son to his first wake this past Friday.  His friend from school, an only child, had just lost his mother.  Blod clot to the leg, 49.  My son, who is squarely in the throes of adolescence, surprised me.  “I want to go to the wake, Mom.  I want to go and be there for my friend.”

Of course, I said.  We will go and pay our respects.

On the way there, I told him in no uncertain terms that if he were to act in any way that was inappropriate, I would be dragging him out of the funeral home by his ear. (Old school, I know, but there are times I embrace the metaphorical wooden spoon and grembiule of my grandmother’s child rearing methodology.)  I understood he had no idea what to expect, but I felt it necessary to make it clear that this was a tragedy and it was no place to act inappropriately, irrespective of his underdeveloped prefrontal cortex.

“When you go in, you’ll shake their hand and say, ‘I’m sorry for your loss.’ Got that?”

“Yeah, yeah… Sorry for your loss.”

We pulled into the parking lot of the funeral home and went in.  There were easily 15 boys aged 12-13, milling about the lobby.  My son signed the guest book with his friends and, since no one seemed to know what to do, I told him to follow me in to the Visitation Room. We would be the first to kneel at the casket and say a prayer.

Kneeling, my son says, “What kind of prayer should I say?”

“A Hail Mary. That would be just fine.”  And staring at the deceased woman in front of him, he did just that.

When finished, we went around to his friend and his friend’s father who were waiting to receive us.  My son went up to the father, put his hand out and said, “I am sorry for your loss.” Then he turned to his friend, repeated himself, and embraced his friend.

He then  sat with his other friends in the back and stayed for a while, knowing it was a good thing to just be present, to be there for his friend, to show his support.

When we left, he turned to me and said how strange it was to see the deceased, to kneel in the presence of someone so still and quiet.  I said, “That’s life.  It’s so short and we just never know when our moment will be our last.  But isn’t it better to live in a world where you believe that there is God and where death is not the end?  Isn’t better to live in a world with hope rather than despair?”

Yes, he said.  Yes, it was.

And as we drove back in silence, I hoped that I myself actually believed all that I had said.

Trust the dream

Lev Vygotsky, born Nov 1896 and died June 1934, was the founder of cultural historical psychology. The development of the intellect, he maintained, was a social and cultural construction. Language, symbols, artifacts derive their meaning within the context that they emerge and from which they are transmitted.  Knowledge and thought was a product of the individual in interaction with his environment.There is a comforting pragmatism in Vygotsky’s theories that understanding human nature can be obtained beyond theories and measurements, but through mere observation and reflection of one’s own experiences.

Charles Horton Cooley, in his book Human Nature and the Social Order (1902), proffered the metaphor of “the looking-glass self,” meaning, that to an certain extent, people develop their identities, their self-concepts by integrating the reactions and opinions of significant others in their lives.  Cooley and Vygotsky are similar in acknowledging this significance of the social construction of knowledge.

To tease this out a little farther, one could argue that the choices we make about the company we keep, how we spend our emotional capital and time with other people is an endeavor we should engage in with solemnity. It means that the quality of person or persons with whom we spend our life’s journey with should matter deeply.  If the people we surround ourselves compel us to live an untruthful existence and lead an inauthentic life, perhaps we should consider metaphorically how Matthew 5:30 can liberate us from a life of emptiness and shadows.

For in the exorcism of darkness comes light.  And it is in the communion with others who have fire in their hearts for truth and compassion that will empower your spirit to grow and prosper.

This is not fantasy talk.  This is what it means to live and grow into a fully realized human being.

“Trust the dreams, for in them is hidden the gate to eternity.” – Kahil Gibran

Trust your Truth, and surround yourself with people who speak Truth.  Only then will you find peace.