Last Thursday, we celebrated the autumnal equinox here in the Northern hemisphere. Traditionally considered the beginning of the fall season, this day is also known as Harvest Home, the Feast of Ingathering, Mabon, Meán Fómhair, or Alban Elfed. It is celebrated as a time of harvest and balance when day and night are equal (though we must tack the modifier "almost" in front of that "equal"—the equinox itself is a moment, specifically the moment when the solar terminator (the "edge" dividing night and day) is perpendicular to the equator.
That moment occurred on Thursday at 10:21 AM EDT. So I am a little late getting to my equinox reading this week. I've been busy-busy-busy. Not like the proverbial bee either. Bees never seem to be in much of a frantic rush. They move from flower to flower with mindful attention, each blossom encompassing the whole of their world for as long as they are there. They don't look at all the hundreds of other flowers and go, "Jeez, I'm gonna be here all day! How am I gonna get to all those flowers? It's already noon, and I've barely covered the roses, much less the ginger lilies and the frangipani."
No, bees do not do that. People do. And when they do, the Ten of Wands shows up in their lives. As it did in mine.
The Ten of Wands describes a burdensome situation. The figure in the card is striving to carry a massive bundle of wands. This does not look to be an easy task, and he is struggling. The Wands are the suit of passion, and as such, they can lead to over-enthusiasm, over-commitment, over-loading. All the over-things.
Luckily, there is much to learn in this card. Every wand in that bundle is there because we picked it up. We may regret some of those decisions (that Facebook party we signed up for); others we are happy to have made despite the hard work (like that workshop we taught or supportive e-mail we wrote to a struggling fellow writer). The wands we carry are the products of our choices. We can put some of them down. We can learn to be more discerning in what we pick up.
But how do we know a beneficial wand from an overwhelming one? How do we spot the tipping point before it's too late? The next two cards are the key: The Sun and the Ace of Pentacles.
The Sun is also a simple card (it last graced our presence only a few weeks ago, here, and also rose during the winter solstice, here). It brings illumination, enlightenment, optimism, and good cheer to our situation. Follow your bliss, Joseph Campbell instructed us. The Sun lights the path to it. Just turn your face—and your talents—toward that which warms you, that which energizes you, that which nurtures you.
Because the Ace of Pentacles is here to remind us that good productive work is one of the truest forms of bliss. It last showed up here, a smack-in-the-face reminder that I needed to get to work. But this week, it has a different message.
There is a saying attributed to Thomas Mann: A writer is a person for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people. As the suit of material concerns (think job and home and finances and health), the Pentacles describe how we integrate such practical needs into our spiritual practice, how we find joy in the mundane.
The Ace represents the energy of this suit in its clearest, most distilled, most potent form—pure potential. In the same way that all matter is really energy holding hands real tight, the Ace is both right-now and all-that-might-be. When you do good work—and only you can know what that is—you are tapping that potential. Your potential. Where the finite meets infinite possibility. And there you are, surfing on the edge of the wildest of the wild waves.
This week, take a breath from all the busyness that you are surely caught up it. The equinox is a moment, and so is this reading, a snapshot of place and time. Remember your bliss. Connect to your joy. Do your best work right now. And in doing so, prepare for the next season.