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Probably I would not have chosen the name "Wonder Girl" for my dog. That was the name she came with from the woman who rescued her. But it's a delightful name, and it fits her great curiosity. And it fits the experience I have so often when I walk with her on the country roads near my home. Ideas, and speculations, and even stories just seem to rise up from the trees and the ground as Wonder Girl and I (and if I'm lucky, my good friend Zoe Matoff) take time out from our day just to walk, and I can look around, and think about possibilities. This column gives me the chance to set down some of those wonders as they come to me. Right now the Shining Tribe website is still getting into shape (with the help of superb artist Josh Neufeld). When everything is really going I hope to do a new "WWW" at least once a month.
To be fair, not all the ideas discussed here will come from walks with Wonder Girl. Sometimes an image seen in a book, or a story, or a dream, or a conversation will inspire a subject. The truth is, we can discover wonder anywhere. Many of these columns will feature Tarot, or use the Tarot to explore some subject in myth, spirituality, or esoteric thought. In my book The Forest of Souls I referred to Tarot as "the instrument of our wisdom," a kind of investigative tool to help us see, and understand, the wonders of life all around us.
To me, the Tarot does not so much give us answers as provoke us into deeper questions. In what I call wisdom readings we ask the cards such questions as "What is wonder?" and "How do we discover it?" and "What does it ask of us?" (More about this in a moment.)
Some columns might concern writing, for I recently joined the faculty of the Master of Fine Arts Creative Writing program at Goddard College. Among its many excitements, this work gives me the chance to think about what we do when we write, about where stories come from, and how we develop them. As it says on the fiction page of this site, I wrote stories before I ever saw a Tarot deck. Now, however, the two have entwined in my imagination, in my art, in the way I look at the world. I have used cards drawn at random to create stories, or to deepen characters, and I often look at my style of reading as oral storytelling. I think of stories, like Tarot cards, as openings to mystery.
Columns might explore some of my favorite characters from myth, such as the Greek seer Teiresias, or the Biblical Joseph, "Lord Viceroy of Dreams," as I call him in a short story I wrote some time ago. Now and then WWW might feature a work-in-progress (as James Joyce called Finnegans Wake over the many years he worked on it). I may even write about hobbies, such as the joys of writing with antique fountain pens, or the spiritual truths hidden in the game of poker.
And now for that reading on the wisdom of wonder. I used my own Shining Tribe Tarot, whose name I have borrowed for the title of this web site. I thought of three questions, "What is Wonder?" "How do we discover it?" and "What does it ask of us?" The cards that came up were the Seven of Rivers (Seven of Cups in traditional decks), the Emperor, and the Knower of Trees (Knight of Wands). You can see them below.
What is Wonder? The Seven of Rivers is a card of fantasies. There are boats, and mermaids, and golden spirals, and imaginary creatures, and a giant fish with a glyph of a joyous person inside. Along with the seven streams, there are seven cups or bowls, for fantasy allows us to drink from many sources. Wonder, then, is the richness of possibility and mystery. The Puritan heritage in our culture pushes us to denigrate fantasy, to consider it a waste of time, even sinful. But only when we allow ourselves to fantasize can we touch the wonder of life. All change begins with fantasy.
How do we discover it? The Emperor is a surprise here, but surprise is one of the reasons we do readings, to allow the cards to show us ideas we might not come up with through our regular pathways of thought. The Emperor is strong-minded, a builder, a champion of reason. Doesn't all this seem the opposite of wonder? But notice the two black squares on the card. They represent the power of abstract thought to go beyond the immediate reality of our senses. We discover wonder through the courage to look past "reality" to some other kind of existence.
What does it ask of us? The Knower of Trees tells us to embrace all of life, its sorrows as well as its joys. The picture embodies paradox, for the leaves fall, as if in Autumn, but the flower blooms. She does not just accept the world, she becomes it, for the pathways and vines grow on her body, the river runs through her, and the stars shine in her face. Wonder asks that we open ourselves fully to experience, in all its many worlds.
And how here are the cards: