IT’S FRIDAY. THE INFLUX OF WORK HAS ABATED. After hitting send on the last edit in the queue, I pack up three tarot decks, two spiral-bound journals, a small herd of mechanical pencils, a bag of raw pumpkin seeds—and a plan.
I’m going to drive the twenty-five miles to Writing Wench’s house out in The Actual Freaking Country, where she lives with her husband and fifteen cats (give or take; she doesn’t count them, she says, because she really doesn’t want to know how many she has).
Once there, I will hunker across the yellow Formica table from WW, and we will write, she, revising a chapter in her novel-in-progress; me, drafting a blog post for September—about tarot’s Hermit card. I hope.
I continue to underestimate the plague that is Central Florida traffic, so I get stuck on Red Bug Lake Road near Tuskawilla Road, albeit in a drizzly rain that drops the temperature from a brutal 93 degrees Fahrenheit (do I need to qualify that as “brutal”?) to a semi-bearable 87 degrees. At the side of the road, where traffic has entirely halted my progress at the entrance to Willa Springs Village shopping plaza, a young man holds up a neatly Sharpie-markered cardboard sign: Homeless. Food. Clothes. Anything. Please help.
His not-quite-shoulder-length blond hair looks clean (not that it needs to; just a point of fact), as do his face and his long-sleeved chambray shirt. Drastically bowlegged, he pitches side to side as he walks along the berm, as if his pelvis has been broken at some point.
I roll down my passenger side window. “Can I get you something to eat from Publix?” I call. He lurches over. His face, I see now, is softly freckled, his eyes, pale blue. He looks young. Misplaced.
He’s not hungry, thank you, he tells me, but would really enjoy a bottle of whole milk.
(Whole milk? How wrong is it that I wonder for a moment if whole milk is somehow used to cook or otherwise prepare a drug I’ve never heard of? Probably pretty wrong. On the other hand, what do I care—even if it is?)
I pull out of the snarl of traffic and into the relative calm of the Publix parking lot, heart lifted because I have a mission. Inside the supermarket, I dismiss the idea of getting the young man organic grassmilk—milk produced by grass-fed cows—as it might taste too “green” to him, a bit sour. Instead, I settle on a quart of whole, homogenized T.G. Lee Dairy milk: Our Farmers Pledge NO Artificial Growth Hormones. I also get five dollars in cash at check out.
In the fifteen or so minutes it’s taken me to get back to the young man at the side of the road, the drizzle has stopped and the heat returned, so that, when he thanks me for the quart of milk and the five dollars, sweat is beading on his forehead and a rivulet trickles down his nose. After a moment, in which I realize there is probably nothing more I can do to help, I wish him the very best I can wish him and go on my way.
At Writing Wench’s table, tea steeping, cats occupying various perches, I take out the Hermit card from each of the three decks I’ve brought and start to consider my blog post. But after a few minutes, it’s clear that all my pen wants to talk about is the young man at Publix. So I let it. Because, while by the bright light of this mid-afternoon sun I can’t see how that story connects to the Hermit, I suspect it does—and that tonight, by the gentle light of the seeker’s moon, I’ll see exactly how.
1) Plan a (modest) solo journey.
2) Embark. Along the way, allow for interruptions. When one finds you, be curious. Lift the lantern of your heart to see what there is to see. And if you happen to meet the Buddha on the road, in whatever disguise, don’t kill him. Instead, ask how you can be of service. Then, having done what you can do, continue on your journey.
3) Once you reach your destination, pour a cup of tea and write about where you’ve been.
This post was inspired by the Hermit of the tarot deck. The Hermit, a loner, is often shown cloaked, in the moonlight, holding up a lantern to indicate a search for spiritual understanding. The Hermit’s quest, of course, can take him inward, as well as on the road. Ours, too. Because all of life is a quest and we, perhaps, all Hermits, seeking our truth.
This contemplative Hermit comes from THE PHANTOMWISE TAROT, by Erin Morgenstern, author of the hauntingly beautiful novel THE NIGHT CIRCUS.