Sarah Maria Griffin reflects, through the medium of tarot, on a period of change, weird anniversaries and the Fool and their dog…
It’s been a weird week. In a year stitched together of 52 weird weeks, this one was truly the strangest patch. We’re in Pisces season, so if I were to look up to the sky for an explanation I’d simply tell you that we’re feeling everything so much more deeply at this time. It’s a watery, deep, emotional period. If I were instead to look at the internet, or down into the pit of my phone, I’d tell you what you already know: we’re a year into the Pandemic now. Day by day we hit tiny anniversaries. Last hugs. Last pints. Last gigs. Last time we saw our parents. Last, last, last. The news is hell on earth. The world has and hasn’t changed.
And here I am, unable to work with my cards, again. So I thought I’d start at the very beginning in my column this month and talk to you a bit about The Fool – the zero card. The very start of the story. A place in the tarot where one cycle has ended, and another has begun.
The Rider-Waite depiction of The Fool shows a figure, dressed beautifully, with a bindle on their shoulder and a white rose in their hand, about to absolutely walk off a cliff. The bindle is all of their earthly knowledge, and the white rose is their hope. The Fool has packed up everything they have learned until now and they are about to walk it all off the edge of the world and tumble into the unknown.
There is a detail in the card that I always focus on every time I pull it – the Fool has a dog. A tiny friend at their heel, barking, encouraging or warning – but either way reminding them that there is an audience. There is a companion.
On Thursday last, a long-awaited phone-call came, prompted by a sequence of coincidences – a good friend, a good word, a chance given. On Friday, a 3-month-old border collie pup arrived at our door, trembling and afraid. With her small, but strangely big, body in my arms, I felt myself plummet off that cliff. I had become used to my numbing, cerebral routine, my lazy nine-year-old cat. To look to the stares – I’m a quadruple air sign, and a double Aquarius, so I often struggle with grounding myself into my body, or the world. To look around me at how I’ve been perceived by friends and family – I’m a spacer. Suddenly, with this tiny animal, I was no longer floating, but feeling gravity. Back to earth, now. I was scared out of my mind, frankly.
All I could think of was how many ways there were to fail. Harm her. Give her bad habits. Make her neurotic. Become neurotic myself, then give her my neurosis by osmosis. Not meet her needs, or not be able to meet her needs. I cried spontaneously, for the first time since the beginning of the pandemic, every day this week.
Not from sorrow, just from some strange risen emotion I don’t really have a name for yet. The ground gone from under me. But, every time I look down, I don’t see the open sky and the hard stone rushing up to meet me – ever time I look down, she’s there. Snoozing at my feet, or my husband’s. Gnawing at the soft duck that squeaks, or a tennis ball, or a carrot. Just once, a phone charger, but that was my fault, not hers. I have never had a dog before, and thus, have never felt like this before.
She is a rescue pup. Found at the side of the road in Galway with five of her siblings, fostered, then passed on to us. We’re working closely with Madra, who have been on the other end of the phone or a text away when we’ve had questions and I am never anything short of awed by their generosity, their support, their dedication to the best possible outcome for all parties involved. Their trainer spoke to me for an hour on the phone as I feverishly listed all of the activities and structure I had built around the pup.
Her crate, which she sleeps in through the night. Her two fifteen minute walks, because her baby bones aren’t strong enough for big hikes yet. The toys I hide half of her meals in so that she uses her brain for food. The nose-bump and nose-high-five I’ve taught her so she knows to be soft with hands, her teeth like little needles. The trainer assured me, laughing, that I was doing a great job. My heart was speeding. How can I be doing a great job when I feel so stupid, so clueless, when I am falling?
During our journey through the pandemic, we talked a lot about getting a dog, and we watched as puppies filled the parks now that people had the time to spend with them. Already, social media is full of stories of these early-purchase or quickly acquired dogs being surrendered and here I am, at the end of the first year of the pandemic when the vaccines have begun, holding a puppy, in the knowledge of this system.
Eventually, the world will open again. Eventually people will return to work. Then there will be dogs that were good for the time that was in it, but not for the time after. I have thought of this more than I can tell you, and when the question finally came about taking a pup, I still said yes. Partially, this is because I know Madra are there for us, and for her, and to support us as we learn.
To be frank, there is just the sensation of stepping off a cliff – but otherwise, it’s all been extremely normal. Comparatively little has changed, other than I am up at seven every morning instead of feeling guilty, blearily dragging my depressed head out of bed at ten, unable to see anything hopeful about the 52nd week of the pandemic. My work has become focused, so that I speed up when she’s snoozing. My patience, it turns out, is bottomless: creating a quiet, chill space for her to grow a chill personality is paramount and also, helps me feel like a gentle world is one I can foster for myself.
Initially, we list names. We say, Spider. We say, Diane. We say, Ghostbusters. We say, Dana. We say Presto, Houdini, we say Peach and Libby and Jinx. When we say Ripley, as in Ellen Ripley, we like the story of the pup becoming a rugged space hero, bold and brave. The puppy also has to contend with Mo, our nine year old cat (who is largely handling the whole process quite well, all things considered) – who makes spooky, alien noises at her when they interact too closely.
We say Ripley, Ripley, Ripley for a few days but it doesn’t stick. We begin to notice who she is, her temperament. She’s docile, outside of her nippy periods where she needs focused stimulation. She has a thoughtful energy to her, like she’s thinking all the time. We say, what is under Ripley? Who is she under there? I look at the list on my phone. Presto, Jinx, Banba, Ripley, Weaver.
We say Weaver. How to weave is to bring together. To weave, to mend. How at first we thought she was Ripley and then we saw who was under it – Sigourney Weaver. Weaver. As I read through her Wikipedia article, language starts to pop out. She played Dana in Ghostbusters. She describes her tall teenaged frame as being like a Spider. We look at the puppy and say Weaver and that, it seems, is who she is.
It is hard, but it is a good, clean hard. I know what ugly hard feels like all too well. I know when I am actually out of my depth, and when I just feel out of my depth. Those are two different things. As I write, after this week of falling, I can feel myself landing. She is asleep, in the corner of the kitchen.
I still don’t know if I can meet everything she needs – but I do know that I can try. And in this strange week of lasts, where I can see the person I was dimming out of existence with the crush and strain of a world on fire, I am ready for a first – and there lies the Fool. The zero card. The beginning, and the end. A white rose of hope in her fist, and a dog at her heel.