Wednesday, April 25, 2012
Wonders of the World
Email after midnight: Anyone want to share a ride to the Met tomorrow?
Me: Sure, count me in.
Gina Thies and I made arrangements for a civilized hour to meet in the lobby. We had the common goal to go on Sasha Graham’s tour of the Metropolitan Museum of Art with Robert Place. Our topic, ancient tarot cards not usually on display with the beautiful and charming Sasha and the encyclopedic Bob. I was going to breathe in the same room with tarot cards from the 1500’s. I was jazzed.
I’m on vacation on my own in New York. It’s Readers Studio 2012, my birthday present to me.
Readers Studio is the east coast homecoming/family reunion for tarot students, professionals, artists and enthusiasts all over the world. Headed by Ruth Ann and Wald Amberstone of The Tarot School, Readers Studio has been a meeting place for those of us who love the topic for ten years or so.
I had miscalculated last year and had missed out on the trip to the Met to see the antiques held there. I vowed to myself that if I had the chance this year, I would go. Sasha organizes the field trip to time it with early bird arrivals to RS. I came early this year just to make sure I could make this trip.
This just happens to be a big time at my Day Job, too. I’m fortunate to be allowed to come at this time. I had to work extra hard, some extra hours too, to get everything ready at work so that I could be out on vacation this week. We have a big deal coming up Friday night. I brought, well, let’s just say more than one computer with me to my vacation to stay connected to work just in case they need me. I plan to work after the RS festivities on Friday night; my work night will begin late that night. I’m going to have to get some extra coffee to carry me through. But I’m ready.
My long day of travel Monday was a pretty smooth ride. I chatted with a handsome sales representative about the necessity for soft skills beyond the need for excellence in business concepts. I was entertained by Christian who will be 4 in June. Christian has an orange truck, new shoes and an irresistible smile. He’s going to see his grandma and grandpa and ride in the car. I showed Christian how he could help the pilot at take off by putting his hands out in front of him like Superman does. Sure enough, we had a smooth take-off. Christian could be a really good pilot someday. My last travel companion was a gentle Muslim woman who was, she explained smiling, not afraid. She was just praying. We agreed the lights against the night earth looked like the kind of material we’d like a dress made out of. We talked about best places to buy fabric, like the fabric district in Los Angeles. She has a dress made of material like the jewels of the nighttime. She has given it to her daughter to wear now. Neither of us was afraid of our flight; we landed like soft cotton.
Tuesday my husband had told me to explore, do something free-format that I would not ordinarily do. I didn’t quite follow his suggestion. I watched Water for Elephants on TV. I treated myself to the tomato bisque and the iceberg wedge for lunch. I listened to businessmen brag about their work to each other at the next table, secretly pleased that I understood what they were talking about. I was suddenly a lunchtime industrial spy for my Day Job, completely unplanned, amused at the spill of company secrets in a hotel restaurant in New York. I read a little more in my new book, Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter. It’s good. Seriously. Dinner was OK, nothing great, not really worth the price. Then back in bed with the TV and the vampire tale, I got Gina’s email.
What a relief, I thought. I hadn’t made any arrangements in advance for a ride to the Met. And I had hoped to get a chance to talk to Gina, too.
At Readers Studio, we feel we know each other and yet we are surprised by each other all the time. Ordinarily, I would cringe at the thought of being in a single room with 300 of my best friends. John and I were talking about a recent advertisement for a cruise line where we could get away on a ship with 1500 of our best friends. We concluded that this ad alone would convince me never to go on a cruise. The sheer terror of being with 1500 friends all at once would send me overboard. But at Readers Studio, we feel like homecoming, a family reunion.
Our driver Jose was as gentlemanly as Cinderella’s pumpkin coach driver. We met our group in the lobby and followed Bob through the maze of astonishing art to the second floor print room.
“No bags, no purses, no cameras, no coats, no pens. Pencils only. Leave everything here.”
I felt like I should have showered better. I was the alien entering the ideal temperature and humidity to preserve precious pigment and paper from the ravages of extremes, damp breath, dirty hands, tugs and tears. I was sure my glasses held paper-eating microbes in their hinges, some unknown hazard that could destroy artifacts of humanity. I found a chair, a pencil, my notebook and sat down.
Before us, Bob spoke while the museum employees displayed works I have only imagined. Uncut woodblock prints the Met purchased from somewhere in Hungary from the 1500’s. We approached, holding our breaths, inspecting with magnifying glasses.
“Why, there are animals,” someone whispered, reverence for the rarities muffling all our voices. There were. Playful snails, a hedgehog, the pelican in her piety, the sacrificial lamb, a razorback boar, an owl all graced the cards like shy creatures looking around protecting walls. We took notes. We looked at more. The cycle repeated. Was it already time to go? How could time have flown so fast when it was standing still?
We stood for a moment like the tarot World card, in the circle of infinity. We were in a moment outside of time, dancers set high in the sky among the four alchemical elements, just the right amount of gravity to keep us from flying away, grounded enough to understand that the little hole in that piece of paper meant a bug had done its little damage. I was so aware that even our presence raised the humidity, raised the temperature and thereby changed the environment.
Our presence does that. It affects everything around us. If we wonder why we are here, it is precisely that. It is to be. We are wonders. We are the world.