Momentous Day

This is turning out to be rather a momentous day. Shortly after I woke up, I heard banging. I kept looking outside at the neighbors’ houses, trying to see what was going on. I even stepped outside for a minute to peek across the alley, but I couldn’t see anyone doing any sort of work.

The banging continued, and then I heard the sound of a pipe reverberating near my house, which made me realize the banging was in my yard. So I went back outside and walked around the house, and there was one of the people who has been sporadically working on my property. He was pounding in the metal edging between the path and the grass to make it easier for me to mow. It was supposed to be done anyway, so it wasn’t a special consideration, but still I was thrilled to see him doing the work today. It’s been a while since anyone stopped by to anything. (The last time was when they came to check the plumbing to make sure a leak didn’t account for my exorbitant water bill.)

He did a few other minor chores while he was here, and we talked about some of the work that needed to be done (apparently, this worker is one that my contractor trusts to do my work). He says he’ll be back, and I’m sure he will . . . some day. Still, I’m delighted that a bit of work was done!

My tarot reading amused me today since it seemed to reflect the work he did: “What was accomplished up to now gets an even greater boost.” A secondary meaning to my reading was: “Everything grows and becomes more abundant.” For sure!! Weeds, anyone? Lots and lots of weeds are growing everywhere.

Adding to the momentousness, today is the birthday of a tree in Denver’s City Park near where I grew up. Shakespeare’s Elm, a tree planted from a scion taken from the tree on Shakespeare’s grave, is 106 years old today. The tree was always special to me. In fact, a friend and I threw birthday parties for the tree many years ago. We’d sent out invitations to friends as well as the media and some city bigwigs, but the only people who showed up besides those we knew were a couple of cops. We made them welcome, gave them green punch and tree cookies, but they weren’t really there to party. They were scoping out the gathering, thinking perhaps it was . . . I don’t . . . some sort of drug rendezvous. Anyway, after about a half an hour, they looked at each other, and one said with amazement in his voice, “They really are having a party for this tree.”

Back then, it was a forgotten historical monument, but over the years, there have been several articles in the Denver newspapers and magazines showcasing that amazing tree.

So all in all, a momentous day, and it’s not even over yet!


What if God decided S/He didn’t like how the world turned out, and turned it over to a development company from the planet Xerxes for re-creation? Would you survive? Could you survive?

A fun book for not-so-fun times.

Click here to buy Bob, The Right Hand of God.

Decisive Action

I find it interesting how often, when I do a two-card tarot reading, that the keyword in the meaning of first card is repeated in the second card. For example, the first card of today’s reading was the Seven of Sceptres. (In this deck, the Ibis Tarot, the sceptres replace the wands.) The meaning of this card as set out by Josef Machynka (the Austrian artist who designed the Ibis Tarot) is “a victory” brought about by a person with “the necessary discernment and intelligence. Obstacles, arguments, and resistance are overcome by decisive action.”

The meaning of the second card I drew today, The Magician, is “a mature, spiritually developed person with sharp intelligence and great insight” who is “capable of acting decisively and correctly.”

So I acted decisively, and made plans to take a walk. I also took decisive action by calling a friend to see if she wanted to go with me. Later, I took decisive action and determined the route. It was no big deal — we had just naturally continued along the street where we met, and using my sharp intelligence, I noticed that there was a lot of traffic on the road, so I suggested we walk along an adjacent street.

When I returned home, I took more decisive action by fixing myself a meal, and then decisively reading on the couch while I ate. And then I took a nap. There was no decisiveness involved in that particular action, nor was there any intelligence involved. I simply drifted off. I suppose you could say it was the correct thing to do since apparently, I was tired after my time in the sun and wind.

And now here I am, poking around on the keyboard, being neither decisive nor particularly intelligent, though I am managing to do the correct thing and get today’s blog written.

Facetiousness aside, the Ibis Tarot is an interesting deck. It is about the width of a deck of playing cards, but a little longer, which makes an attractive deck, though the size feels awkward. It’s also the remaking of a much older deck, one that has been around since the nineteenth century. The original Ibis Tarot was the creation (or perhaps recreation of an even earlier deck) of Edgar de Valcourt-Vermont. The poor design of those cards kept them from being widely appreciated. Josef Machynka spent years researching ancient Egyptian culture and tarot-related topics so this Tarot is a combination of old Egyptian and modern forms as well as the commonly accepted elements of traditional Tarot.

The Ibis Tarot is certainly visually appealing, and the tiny handbook that comes with the deck is as detailed as the bigger companion books that are often sold with other Tarots. (That sort of book irritates me. They seem as if they should be chock full of interesting information or mystical insights, but mostly they include long descriptions of the cards that anyone can see at a glance, with only a brief guide as to the card’s meaning.)

I still haven’t found “my tarot,” the one that will talk to me and tell me things not included in the handbooks, but this one seems closer than most.


Pat Bertram is the author of intriguing fiction and insightful works of grief.

Today’s Tarot Cards

I’m still doing my daily two-card tarot reading, and will continue until July when I begin a three-card reading. I still don’t know what I hope to gain from the study of the tarot. It isn’t a great prognosticator; from what I’ve read, although the tarot is used for cartomancy (fortunetelling using cards), it isn’t supposed to be a fortunetelling tool. Which is good for me because I really don’t want to know the future. Obviously, I will know the future when I get there (though we can never really arrive at the future because “the future” is always ahead of us), but I don’t see any benefit to knowing either the good or the bad before it happens. All I can do is the best I can do each day, and hope those myriad small decisions lead me to where I need to be.

A lot of people use the tarot to help them make decisions, but again, that’s not something I need help with. At least not now. So many of the important decisions in my recent life have been made, such as where to move to, what to do once I get there, if I should buy a house, if I should get a job. The little decisions take care of themselves.

The real purpose of the tarot, or so they say, is to offer insights into our lives, to help us see our thoughts and behaviors (both past and present) more objectively, and to give us a better understanding of ourselves to help create a better future. It’s like an in-depth discussion with yourself, or if you’re doing a reading for someone else, the discussion is between you and that person. Although the tarot makes sense to me in this regard, it’s as little help to me as using the cards to tell the future or make decisions.

So far, in the almost two years I’ve been doing a daily reading (first, a one-card reading and now a two-card reading), I don’t think I’ve learned anything about myself that I didn’t already know. I’m sure there’s much that I don’t know — to be honest, I think there is much we can’t know — but so far, the cards haven’t been helping me reach any deeper understanding. Part of the problem, I suppose, could be in the question I ask. Since I don’t have any questions (I’ve pretty much given up on asking the unanswerable questions, and the answerable questions are easy enough to find answers to), I stick with “What do I need to know today?” And the answer often seems to be, “not much of anything.”

I do find it interesting that at times the cards seem to reflect what I am thinking (though that can be more a matter of my reading into the cards whatever it is that I am thinking). More often, they repeat themselves. For example, in today’s reading, the Six of Cups is about wish fulfillment. It’s also a reminder to see the beauty around us, to find pleasure in simple things, and to become more appreciative of the world. The Empress is about abundance and creativity. She calls us to connect with beauty to bring happiness to our lives.

Admittedly, that’s a nice reading, but does it tell me anything or bring to the fore any new insights? Nope. I already try to see the beauty around me, to find pleasure in little things, to appreciate the world with its beauty and bounty, though I suppose a reminder to continue trying to do so doesn’t hurt.


Pat Bertram is the author of intriguing fiction and insightful works of grief.


I’m getting over a rather severe allergy attack that kept me idle all weekend — a lot of rest punctuated by ginger-lemon tea and reading. Normally such an attack comes when I’ve let the furnace filter go too long without changing it, but that wasn’t the case this time, so I didn’t think it was the culprit. I changed it anyway. As it turned out, the filter was dark with dust, darker than normal, but I’d changed to a filter with a higher MSR (Micorparticle Performance Rating), so perhaps this filter does a better job of collecting dust than the previous one I used. Maybe, now that the filter is changed, my allergies will settle back down and give me a respite from the aggravation.

One thing I was remiss in changing is my water filter. I always let it go a couple of extra months because there is just me drinking the filtered water, and I haven’t been doing a good job of imbibing the stuff straight. I just use tap water for making tea, which I think is okay. The water here has a pretty good rating now, though once upon a time it was terrible — terrible tasting and terribly high in naturally occurring radioactive particles as well as contaminants from agricultural runoff. I hedge my bets by drinking tea with tap water, filtering the water for drinking, and occasionally buying bottled water (mostly because the bottles are easy to stow in a pocket or a purse). A water pipeline bringing water directly from the mountains has been in the works for decades, which is great, but by the time it gets all the way out here, I’ll be gone.

Since I’m talking about all the things I’ve changed today, this first day of the month, I might as well mention that I’ve changed tarot decks, too. This deck, I Tarocchi delle Stelle, is much more pleasing to me than the one I used last month. The cards have a good feel — both physically and psychically — at least compared to last month’s cards, and even though they are much larger than playing cards, I can still shuffle them without too much trouble.  The instruction booklet is written in an archaic dialect of Italian, which seems a bit ludicrous since the deck was published in 1991, but I can use the meanings I’ve collected from various sources to interpret the cards.

To my amusement, when I googled these cards trying again to see if I could find a translation of the booklet, I found a previous blog post of mine: I Tarocchi delle Stelle | Bertram’s Blog

In case you’re interested, today’s cards are the seven of wands and the king of pentacles. The seven of wands is about obstacles and overcoming opposition. The king of pentacles indicates that the way to overcoming is by being practical and methodical. (Actually, even if you’re not interested, those are still today’s cards.)

These are all the changes I’ve made today. So far, anyway. Most of the day is still to come.


Pat Bertram is the author of intriguing fiction and insightful works of grief.

Strife, Strife, and More Strife

This is one of those perfect days: clear blue skies, bright sun, light-jacket temperatures, still air. Admittedly, there are a lot of such days throughout the year, but there’s something even more perfect about such a day appearing between two glacial fronts. You delight in the warmth when coming out of a cold spell, and you make a special effort to enjoy the day when more cold weather is on the way. (Tomorrow will another warm day, but desperate winds will be blowing in a new storm that will drop the temperature more than 60 degrees tomorrow night.)

In memory of the cold weather we just had and in preparation for the cold to come, I am making chili, which also adds to the perfection of the day. I like to cook but I don’t often feel like making big batches of anything, so there will be enough to last a while. Also, this is Jeff’s chili recipe. It took me almost a year after he died before I could make it (even the thought of the meals we shared made me sick to my stomach). It’s been two years since the last I made his chili, though I don’t really know why except that I haven’t been cooking much of anything that takes an effort.

I have also the windows open to air out the place. It never smells musty, which is interesting for such an old house, but the air coming in makes the house smell sweet and clean.

Considering the perfection of the day, it’s odd that my two-card tarot today was all about strife. The first card, the five of wands is about violent strife and contest, boldness, and rashness. The second card, which is supposed to temper the first card, is The Emperor, which in this deck is about war, strife, war, conquest, and ambition.

Admittedly, my question “what do I need to know today” is so vague the response is not necessarily about me, so although I am planning on taking care of myself and keeping calm so there’s no strife in my life today, I can’t do anything about what is going on in the rest of the world — strife, strife, and more strife. I’m not sure why I need to know this, but I do know it anyway. Even if I didn’t want to know (which I don’t) it’s hard not to learn of such things.

I suppose it’s possible the tarot is telling me to enjoy my strifeless time as I do the interval between two winter storms, because like it or not, there will always be strife.


Pat Bertram is the author of Grief: The Inside Story – A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One. “Grief: The Inside Story is perfect and that is not hyperbole! It is exactly what folk who are grieving need to read.” –Leesa Healy, RN, GDAS GDAT, Emotional/Mental Health Therapist & Educator.

Ritual Tarot

The tarot cards I am using this month are The New Dawn Ritual Tarot. The deck is based on the traditional teachings of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn. It touted itself as the tarot deck of the 1990s (it was published in 1991), and was geared toward people who wanted to get back to the basics of Ceremonial Magick.

I’ve waited this long to use this particular deck because the cards never appealed to me. The cards themselves seem to be cardboard without any sort of slick coating to make them easy to shuffle and deal, which is bad enough, but the designs are also off-putting. Still, I have the cards as well as an oversize 230-page book, so I figured I should at least try to learn something from this particular tarot. So far, the only thing I’ve learned is that my original assessment holds true: these cards don’t at all appeal to me.

As for the book, it gives the history of the tarot, an account of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, an examination of the principles of the Qabalah (an ancient mystical system that more or less parallels the tarot), and explains a variety of rituals and divination procedures specifically “designed for magickal work with the Tarot.”

Mostly, the book describes in great detail each card, telling us what we are seeing (though why they need to point out the red and yellow and black parts of a card when the colors are obvious even to the most disinterested person, I don’t know). The book also describes what each part of the card signifies, how the card relates to the Qabalah, what the cards significance is to the earth and the solar system. Two pages to describe a card, but when it comes to discussing the meaning of the card itself, all they can come up with is a brief phrase. In other words, that huge book says nothing more what the booklet that came with the cards says.

I suppose for those who are deep into the mystique of the tarot, all the intricacies of the card are important, and perhaps someday I will be interested enough to delve further into the cards, but for now, all I need to know is what they mean.

Today’s cards are the six of pentacles, which means “success and gain in material undertakings,” and the ten of swords, which means “ruin, defeat, disruption.” An interesting combination, right? The cards seem to negate each other, though I suppose it could also mean that I will find some sort of success today followed immediately the ruination of that success. Or . . . something.

I’m still searching for a tarot deck that speaks to me, one that I might care to learn about its intricacies beyond the few divinatory words that usually pertain to the cards, but this is not such a deck.


What if God decided S/He didn’t like how the world turned out, and turned it over to a development company from the planet Xerxes for re-creation? Would you survive? Could you survive?

A fun book for not-so-fun times.

Click here to buy Bob, The Right Hand of God.

Dark and Dreary

It wasn’t a dark and stormy night, but it was a dark and dreary day, which is almost as bad. I’d planned to clean today, but in the gloom, the dust wasn’t visible, so I put it off. As a friend said, the dust will still be there when I’m ready.

I did go for a walk, but it was just a walk. A grey walk. Skies were gray, streets were gray, the buildings I passed, despite their color, all seemed gray, too. You’d think with all this talk of gray, my perceptions were gray, too, but no. It was truly the lowering clouds that created the gloom. I’m fine, though come to think of it, I am dressed in a gray jacket to help stave off the chill. The house does keep its temperature, but there’s always that spell when the temperature drops and before the heater kicks in to remind me of the cold.

The only thing in my mind of interest — to me, anyway — is my ongoing study of the tarot. (If a few minutes a day can be called a “study.”)

The card I picked today to represent my situation was the 11 of Trumps. In some decks, this card is called Justice, while the 8 of Trumps is called Fortitude. In some decks, the 11 of Trumps is called Fortitude or Lust, while the 8 of Trumps is called Justice. In this deck, the card is called Lust for Life, because supposedly Aleister Crowley, the occult scholar, who updated the tarot at the beginning of the last century, thought that naming the card either Strength or Lust would limit its function in the eyes of many to the material plane. In essence, though, the card is about spiritual strength (linking up with spiritual roots), mental strength (courage and fortitude in the face of difficulties), and physical strength (stamina, resistance to ailments, and applying effort with joyful purpose — hence, Lust for Life).

To me, all this shows the rather arbitrary nature of the tarot. It seems as if most people are okay with the shifting sands upon which the tarot is built, but I need more of a foundation. Without a foundation, one can only blindly follow those who have gone before, who have blindly followed those who have gone before, who have . . . etc, etc. Then you get to people like Crowley who don’t blindly follow, but recreate everything according to his own mystical and “magickal” (the word he used to describe himself) inclinations.

If, as so many books about the Tarot say, that they are a help for mediation, then shouldn’t any stack of cards help? Christmas cards, birthday cards, get well cards — I bet there are enough out there to create a “Hallmark” version of the tarot.

And for those who use the simple explanations of the cards, such as justice or fortitude or strength, when doing a reading, then shouldn’t a plain deck of cards with just those words on them mean the same as the “official” picture/symbol cards?

And if the cards are about getting in touch with our own spiritual roots, then . . . I don’t know. I’m obviously missing a big part of the big picture when it comes to the tarot. I suppose if I stick with it long enough, something will click, and I’ll suddenly get the whole tarot thing, but so far, that’s not happening. Maybe when I find the deck that speaks to me (this particular deck definitely is not it) and stick with it for a while, I might start sensing some of what I am supposed to sense. Meantime, it’s a good daily discipline, as is writing this blog even when (like today!) I have nothing to say.

I do have one thing to add to the “nothing to say.” Not about the tarot but about the gloom. There’s no more gray to this day, no more dreary. Night fell while I was writing this post, and now it’s dark, or as dark as it can be with all the outdoor (and indoor) lighting.


Pat Bertram is the author of intriguing fiction and insightful works of grief.

Being Right . . . and Wrong

I was right about being awakened at midnight last night by fireworks. At first, still groggy from being half asleep, I worried something was happening to my house. Being responsible for a house is still so new to me (even though it has almost been three years since I moved here) that I panic at every strange noise. Admittedly, there aren’t as many strange noises as there used to be since I have come to recognize most of them. Still, banging noises do give me pause. But then I fully woke, realized people were celebrating the new year, blew a few wishes for all of you into the wind, and eventually went back to sleep. But not before I noticed there was a bit of snow coming down.

It’s still snowing, and has been all day, so I was wrong about my guess that we’d get a negligible amount of moisture. It turns out I was right to make the effort to plant my wildflower seeds yesterday. Those that didn’t get blown away will be firmly bedded for the rest of the winter, especially since it won’t get above freezing for a couple of days, and then only for two or three hours before the temperature plummets again.

I was also right that despite having a feeling of finality for the end of the year, I don’t have a similar sense of beginning for this new year. I do have a new calendar, though, with empty squares to fill with plans for fun and adventure, so that’s a beginning of sorts.

I also started with a new deck of tarot cards, one I haven’t used before. I never liked these particular cards, which is why I haven’t used them. They seem too bizarre to me and unmagical despite their name “The Magickal Tarot.” [Apparently, I’m wrong about not having used this deck before. While adding tags to this post, I happened to discover a previous discussion of the deck on my blog here: The Magickal Tarot]

This change of decks isn’t a new year sort of thing but a new month thing — every month I change the deck of cards I use, trying to find one that speaks to me. The Magickal Tarot is not such a deck. In fact, it dislikes me as much as I dislike it. The cards it fed me today are the seven of pentacles (Lord of Failure) reversed and the five of swords (Lord of Defeat).

Yikes! Talk about a bad omen for the new year! The first card of my two-card reading denotes the situation, the second card is the challenge I will face. My question was “What do I need to know this year?” and apparently, the cards think I need to know that my hopes will come to naught, and my challenge will be to deal with sorrow and loss and treachery. Oh, my!

The interesting thing to me about this reading was the reversed card. I make sure to keep the cards always in an upright position; I’ve even learned to deal the cards so they always face the same way. And yet, somehow, this one card, for the first time in the 18 months I have been doing a daily one- or two-card reading, was upside down. You’d think that a reversed card of failure would be the opposite of the upright card, but that is not true. If the card were upright, it would mean only delay and success unfulfilled, but reversed, it’s even worse.

I’m not worried about the prognostication. Most of my readings don’t seem to have anything to do with me, so I’m sure this reading is the same.

I hope I’m right about that!


Pat Bertram is the author of intriguing fiction and insightful works of grief.

A Reflection of My Thoughts

Today’s two-card tarot reading was The World followed by the Ten of Cups.

The meaning of The World in this deck (The Ancient Egyptian Tarot) is completion. The final achievement of all one’s objectives. The attainment of harmony. A sense of satisfaction and fulfillment. The end of an era.

The meaning of the ten of cups is also completion and satisfaction (complete satisfaction, actually) along with contentment. It’s about living for today, with no regrets over the past and no concerns for the future.

The first card in my two-card readings tells me the situation. The second card gives further information about the situation, so it seems to me that the cards are saying that this is the end of an era, but that I am okay with it.

However these cards are read, it’s a great fortune, but what I found most interesting is the cards seem to tie in with the feeling I’ve been having of things coming to an end, though not necessarily in a bad way. This end could be the end of the year. It could be the end of this particular “era” for me. Or it could simply be a feeling that means nothing. But whatever the feeling is, it seems to be reflected in the cards, though I don’t know whether the cards are saying that I am right about my feelings and this is the end of something or they are picking up on my thoughts and reflecting them back to me.

This reflection of my thoughts happens quite frequently, though I don’t see anything particularly mystical in it. It could be that I interpret the cards through the screen of whatever I am thinking or feeling.

After all this time — a year of one-card readings and six months of two-card readings — I still don’t have a feel for the truth of the cards. It could be that my logical mind rebels. A person who is learning the tarot is supposed to study the cards and see what she intuits, but all I can see when I look at a card is a picture that is someone else’s (the artist’s) interpretation of what the card might mean.

It’s possible that a logical yet intuitive (or do I mean intuitive yet logical) person can never really get more out of the cards than the superficial meanings I am finding. So far, I am not learning anything about myself that I don’t already know, and if I am learning anything about the future, I don’t particularly want to know what it might be. After all, I will know for sure whatever the future might bring when I arrive. (Though the fallacy here is that there is no future because when you arrive in the future, you are in the present.)

Despite my continued reservations, I am sticking with my tarot studies. After all, I have a long way to go. The first year was for a one-card reading, the second for a two-card reading, the third year will be for a three-card reading, and so on until the end of my interest.

Hmm. There’s that word again: “end.” It makes me wonder if when this year has ended and a new one begun if I will have a sense of new beginnings. I guess I’ll find out when the new year arrives.


Pat Bertram is the author of intriguing fiction and insightful works of grief.

Inauspicious Day

This was another long day at work, and it turned out to be a good thing, not just because of the extra money but because this was not an auspicious day to do much of anything.

For one thing, last night I dreamt that the neighbor’s tree, which creaks horrendously in the wind, fell and destroyed my garage (even though in actuality, if the humongous branch would fall, it would be his garage that would be destroyed, not mine). This morning, before I was fully awake, tree trimmers came and started working. They were trimming a different neighbor’s tree, but I did not like the coincidence of both the dream and the reality.

Even worse, my tarot card today was the ten of swords (called the ten of weapons on this particular deck) followed by the nine of wands (nine of staves.) The ten of swords is not a good card to get because there is nothing remotely cheerful about it, speaking as it does of misfortune on a grand scale. The second card was the nine of staves, a card of great strength and denotes being prepared for any contingency.

My preparation for the looming disaster was simply to go about my day as planned.

One good thing about a tarot reading (beyond the fact that the cards I turn up so often have nothing to do with me) is that the effects last only until the next reading. Which means tomorrow is a whole other story.

Speaking of story . . . when I was at my client’s house, I read an excerpt from a book where the character mentioned that the tale of how she met her husband was different for each person she told it to. I thought something like that — telling the truth, but picking different elements of the truth to focus on each time you told it — would work well in the small-town novel I am thinking of writing. Perhaps each person in town thinks they know the truth, but since they assume everyone knows the same truth, the salient points get buried until our hero (me!) starts asking questions and sees the variations of the truth. I guess it would be sort of like the folk tale from India about blind men “looking” at an elephant. Each person who touched a single part of the elephant found out a truth that reinforced their own belief, but it was only when they put all the concepts together that they came across the greater truth of what an elephant was.

In a way, I suppose, all mysteries are like that, with every character believing they know the whole truth but only knowing part of it, so perhaps it wouldn’t be such an interesting idea after all. And anyway, I am no closer to writing the book now than I was when I first started thinking about it, so I have plenty of time to figure it out.

Meanwhile, I missed all the commotion of the tree trimming even though the woodchipper was parked in front of my house because I left to go to work. Luckily, the tree was trimmed without any damage to my property except for a few small twigs in my rocks that did not get swept up. I’m back at home now, safe from whatever dangers lurked out there for me. And tomorrow is a new day . . .


What if God decided S/He didn’t like how the world turned out, and turned it over to a development company from the planet Xerxes for re-creation? Would you survive? Could you survive?

A fun book for not-so-fun times.

Click here to buy Bob, The Right Hand of God.