It is Spring 2018, at the pinball arcade. Discussing the Hero's Journey and the Tarot, Alice muses to Lydia that she isn't sure if her story is Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland or Sylvia Plath's The Bell Jar.
"I hope it's Alice in Wonderland," says Lydia, clearly concerned. "Hey, I can be the Cheshire Cat."
"No, I don't think you are the Cheshire Cat," Alice replies. "Maybe the Mad Hatter."
She watches as Lydia, a regular at the arcade, skillfully catches the ball with the Tower in the Lord of the Rings game. She teaches Alice how to do the same, and so Alice learns that pinball, when coupled with a slight high, produces a zen-like trance.
"No, you're not The Mad Hatter, either. Lolita, the barista at school, is definitely The Mad Hatter."
I just want someone to say to me, whoa-oa-oa-oa
I'll always be there when you wake, yeah
You know I'd like to keep my cheeks dry today
So stay with me and I'll have it made
- Blind Melon
Most days at school, the first semester, Alice had Don't Stand So Close to Me by the Police stuck in her head. If you read the first parts of this book, you'll understand why. He stood too close, yo! Like, she actually wondered aloud to her friends if maybe he was like the Close Talker on Seinfeld. She'd love to blame all of this on him, but this journey started long before he came along. Long before eclipses in Leo and Aquarius in the late 90's, and long before prophetic dreams of cats in dryers and Prom at Arapahoe High School, and first kisses. Alice has always attracted weird things and weird people.
However, imagine her surprise, in June, on her trip to California with Pearl, when under a beam of light in the dimly lit gift shop of The Museum of Jurassic Technology, she sees a translation of Alice in Wonderland by Nabakov. Not the famous book by Nabakov, no. Hopefully this one.
Hopefully not The Bell Jar. Although she has read The Bell Jar, and it made complete sense to her, up until the part where the main character, Esther, offs herself. It was a little too close to home, and maybe Alice should read it again to see if she can pinpoint the moment where Esther cracks.
Because Alice is pretty sure she has cracked, and she is pretty sure it happened on the Thursday after Christmas. As she has been telling Carl, she is "one pissed-in milk bottle away from a diagnosis."
Those aren't the only Nabokov synchronicities, unfortunately, and the other one is, thankfully, in jail.
It is on this trip to California that she finds Goldschneider's The Secret Language of Birthdays, which leads her to The Secret Language of Relationships and The Secret Language of Destiny. The latter two fuel her interest in Astrology and psychology for the last six months, because the Relationships book is accurate with every single relationship she looks up for herself, or others. Two friends buy the books.
And this causes her to look back at her natal chart, and Carl's. The book captures their relationship perfectly. Big thinkers, passionate sex, and lots of happiness unless Aquarius II feels caged. It catches her relationship with her mother, her sister, her mother-in-law and sister-in-law. Her friends. In fact, she parts ways with a Libra who irks her for being stuck in a decade-long repetition compulsion. It says, "This friendship can work unless Aquarius II grows tired of Libra's inability to self-reflect," or something like that. Other friends had parted ways with this person years prior, but Alice hangs in there. Not out of enjoyment, but obligation. It is so freeing to leave - to ask this scientist friend what she thinks of astrology, and then send her the page, and be bid a friendly adieu. (Really, Alice could not have been released in a more compassionate way). She is also relieved of the compulsion.
She becomes fascinated with the book. She starts looking up her family members' relationships with themselves, which is fascinating because it seems to amplify both the light and dark qualities of the individuals in question. For herself, it amplifies tremendous light, and also the capability of drawing in great darkness.
"You attract some weird shit," says Lydia. Yes, this is her pinball-loving friend with tattooed knuckles, telling her she attracts weird shit.
Before Christmas, Alice can't decide whether to get Carl an e-reader or a night in a hotel for Christmas. For fun, she decides to "Ask The Tarot." This time, she uses the Golden Universal Waite deck, since Betsy of Fearless Intuition uses it. (OMG, how adorable is she?!). Alice often dissociates while watching Betsy, and Betsy always seems to know when she's gone away. "Come back, Aquarius! You guys always go away!"
She shuffles in the usual way, sitting on Sally's bed with her laptop. "Hotel room, or Kindle?"
Knight of Wands.
Well then, Alice says to herself. I knew that. But that is funny.
So, for December 30th and New Years' Eve, she and Carl meet their friends Tuff and Juniper from Colorado Springs in Fort Collins. They get hotel rooms near campus and walk downtown in the sub-freezing temperatures. They go to a speakeasy for the mood, drinking vintage cocktails, before heading to The Rio for a late dinner. Alice and Carl haven't seen Tuff and Juniper since the Lunar eclipse in Leo on August 11th. On that day, Alice had insisted that she and Juniper go see a tarot reader, because the previous eclipses had been so upsetting. The reader told Alice she could make art either for personal therapy or for money, and noticed all the water in the family. She identified Sally as talented and intuitive, and Nolan as brilliant (okay, she used a stronger word). She read Alice's palm and noticed a long life line and one and a half marriage lines.
"This one is shorter. Maybe from when you were younger? Did you have a serious relationship or marriage then?" the reader had asked.
"Um..." Alice replied, thinking that if her rape showed up on her hand, that was a sick joke. Maybe it was the year she spent as a hag. That felt fucked up too, she decided. "Not really."
Juniper came into the room with Alice, but did not have a reading. She used to hang out at that particular metaphysical store when she was in high school. After the reading, the women go back to Tuff and Juniper's house and Alice fills Juniper in on everything that happened in her life since she started attending community college. Everything.
It was a little scary, because Tuff is Carl's BFF. Alice wasn't really sure how Juniper felt about her, because Juniper is pretty quiet. But now she knows that Juniper was born in the week of the Loner, and everything makes sense. They have a comfortable ease with each other, and that is what makes time with her so wonderful. Alice and Juniper are satisfied chatting, shopping, cooking or even just watching Netflix.
So on New Years' Eve, now that Carl and Alice are on the same page, they fill Tuff and Juniper in together. Tuff and Juniper each have a 5mg portion of a THC gummy on the way to the restaurant. The stories are crazy. And the stories that Tuff and Carl usually tell together are pretty crazy, but they don't touch the insanity of the stories Alice has now from her journey to find her life purpose in the 12th House.
Alice excuses herself to go to the Rio restroom and while in there tinkling realizes that if she wants to study the unconscious, she is one step removed from someone who does so professionally using ayahuasca to heal trauma. Excited, she hurries back to the table to let the rest of them know, and of course it's out of left field and the rest of them are high, so none of them get it. Carl resumes the story he was telling, and all of a sudden Juniper announces that she can't hear him very well.
Alice thinks it is odd that Juniper would suddenly say this when she appeared to have been listening the whole time. Carl continues talking and all of a sudden Juniper's eyes roll back in her head, her mouth falls slightly agape, her head pitches backward.
Alice's first thought is that these stories are too much. Juniper is possessed by the Devil. It is Capricorn season after all.
Tuff masterfully reaches behind Juniper and supports her head. For somewhere between 30 seconds and 2 minutes, she is flopped like that. Or she looks flopped.
"Is she rigid?" Alice asks, and Tuff replies that she is.
The two men and Alice sit there in silence, worried, staring at the beautiful Juniper.
Then, as quickly as it started, Juniper looks as if she wakes from a nap. She has no idea anything has happened.
"Are you okay?" Alice asks. Juniper has no memory of anything. She says she feels a little foggy and still can't hear very well.
Alice wonders if maybe they should call an ambulance, and neither Tuff nor Juniper want to call an ambulance. Tuff and Juniper's son has epilepsy, and they have thought it may be brought on by THC, so Tuff and Juniper are satisfied on some level that their son may be correct. Alice asks if they have had DNA tests done, because she also doesn't react well to THC-only edibles or lots of sativa. She needs to balance with CBD or at least some indica, and she believes she needs to take hydroxocobalamin (coenzymated B12), too, since she has the catechol-o-methyltransferase (COMT) polymorphism, which is associated with schizophrenia and involved in dopamine metabolism.
Ultimately, they end up taking a Lyft back to the hotel, and part to their separate rooms.
Carl and Alice are terrified. They have never witnessed a seizure before, even though Carl has had one. They talk about how they can't sleep and aren't in the mood for sex. So much for the Knight of Wands. Ultimately, Alice decides to consult the Tarot to see how things might play out. The Knight of Wands shows up in reverse in the present for their relationships with each other. So, nobody's having any sex. The Five of Pentacles shows up in the future for Alice and Carl, and Alice worries that she has gotten too weird for her friends who both studied metaphysics.
She decides to ask the Tarot how things will play out if she suggests they go back to the house, and the Ten of Cups shows up in the future.
So, the next day, they suggest going back to the house, and Juniper is not having any of it. She and Tuff have been looking forward to the fun they are going to have. The mood is tempered, for sure, by everyone's worry that Juniper will have another seizure or be sore, but she seems fine. It is more tempered by the bitter cold. The couples go to the Foothills Mall and look for a heavier coat for Tuff, who has forgotten his. Alice notices that every twenty feet, there is a different song playing in the department store, and thinks that must be sheer torture for the employees.
In the evening they go to a brewpub for dinner, and then head toward the jazz lounge, which is closed for a private party. In the bitter cold, they decide to head toward the Aggie Theater where they will see Blind Melon. It is so cold they stop at a bar on the way and have hot drinks. Alice has coffee. She is worried about the negative mental filter brought on by alcohol. It is not her friend. If she's going to have delusions, she'd like them to be optimistic.
They go into the concert venue and stand behind the sound board. Alice explains that the sound is optimized for that location. She likes watching the techies do their thing, because her father is a techie, too. After a while, a man comes up behind Tuff and Carl and offers them a toke on his vape pen. Carl declines, saying that Alice takes care of that stuff for them. The man offers Alice his pen, and she tells him it's not allowed in the theater (not because she hasn't, but because he is so obvious about it).
"They'll kick you out if they catch you," she says.
"So, don't get caught," he says, waving it in the air.
She shakes her head and turns away from him. He's from Utah - he made that clear, and he doesn't blend. His hands are all over Tuff and Carl, and he kisses them. Juniper and Alice are wearing cat ears they bought at the mall earlier - Juniper's are honeycomb patterned, and Alice's have moons on them. The couples must have looked like a good time.
The women talk and Alice tells Juniper she realizes how she is different from everyone else - that her parents raised her in a little bubble of safety and so she believes that the world is inherently a good place, and people are inherently good. And it's buried so deep in her programming that she can't extract it, and it causes her tremendous pain. Alice notices tears in the corners of Juniper's eyes, and she starts to cry, too. They hug, and the guys ask what is happening.
"Were you having a moment? We missed it!" Tuff says.
"It wasn't like that! I know how your mind works!" Juniper says to him.
Now, this is a new development, Alice thinks. They have known Tuff and Juniper for about 15 years.
Later she asks Carl if he heard that, and his response is, "The world wouldn't mind if Alice and Juniper kissed."
Alice knows how Carl's mind works, too.
Their Utah friend gets kicked out of the theater when the security catches him taking a toke.
All I can do is just pour some tea for two
And speak my point of view
But it's not sane
Shortly after her conversation in June 2018 with Lydia about the Hero's Journey, she buys her first tarot deck, the Ethereal Visions deck by Matt Hughes. She had done a report on Alphonse Mucha for her Art History class the previous fall, and had visited his studio/museum in Prague with Carl, long after she purchased the Mucha Foundation's biography. So, an Art Nouveau deck seemed like a good first choice. The visit to Prague was for a business trip, which was planned before she took the Art History class.
She pulls her cards in secret, a past member of the Skeptic's Society, fascinated by magic like many of them, married to an atheist engineer.
Six of Swords.
Things are bad at that time. She knows this.
From this point forward, the cards become her friends.
She is addicted.
It is validation in a stack.
A dopamine bump.
They save her, and they save her marriage.
In the intervening months, she shares moments of magic with her mother, her sister-in-law, Carl, Pearl, Sally, and of course, Charlotte. She has predicted things accurately for Lou's romantic dealings, too, and has pulled cards for her over text. She shares moments privately, intimately, with her friends. They are sacred moments which bind them together. Her mother had bawled, asking her if the readings are always so profound.
Yes, they are.
So, it is strange, on two separate occasions, when she, Carl and Charlotte draw cards together, and there are now two witnesses who can share their perspectives with each other.
She has always known she was different, but she didn't understand just how much.
Thursday after Christmas, she has recovered from the flu, and Carl is convalescing in bed. She is trying to figure out how to respond to the smoke signal she thinks maybe she received on Christmas, when she was feeling particularly delirious from fever. She pulls so many cards they cover the whole floor in her sitting room. She always takes pictures of her spreads, but without any notes of the questions she asks, she can't tell you what they say.
However, she can tell you that she has a little kewpie doll from when she was a child which her mother returned to her in a big box a few years ago. She found the doll shortly after reading the story of Baba Yaga in Roberta Estes' Women Who Run With The Wolves. The doll has a white dress and a pair of panties with 40-year old Colorado-fied elastic, which are now missing. So, in the back of her mind, Alice has been wondering if all these things that happened in November during the Divination Project were actually due to her Intuition losing its panties.
If you've read the story of Baba Yaga (also Vasalisa), the protagonist carries a doll with her that resembles her Intuition. So, Alice's Intuition has no panties. It's on her list of things to do - go through the boxes in the garage and find her Intuition's panties. You'd think by now that would be a priority.
So the last spread, which she did with the Tarot of Sexual Magic, which she bought for Carl for Christmas, is the answer to the question, "What happens when my intuition loses its panties?"
The answer was quite funny, and in a nutshell, it was "Lots of Lust."
So, that night, Alice learned that The Universe, The Numinous, or whatever has a sense of humor.
She hopes you do, too.
"You guys, I don't know if there is such thing as Free Will," she tells Charlotte and Carl on the 2nd of January, 2019.
They sit together on the floor in the basement guest bedroom and each take some oracle cards. Each one is eerily accurate, enough that Carl and Charlotte exchange some words about how strange Alice is.
Alice had shared her own reading with Carl the day before, and it caused him to totally freak out and decide that he did not want to work anymore. Alice has decided that not everyone is ready for what she has to share. And Sally and Nolan are worried about where the food is going to come from.
Carl and Charlotte are the people outside her biological family who know her best.
They confide in each other that they struggle to keep up with Alice.
It is difficult to watch them connecting, her on the outside.
Again. Always on the outside.
"I've written at least once in my book that Alice is usually right," says Charlotte, and Alice feels a strange validation for being alone in her thought, but also respected.
They have had quite a bit of G13 and Golden Strawberry from the water pipe. They confide in each other that they are worried they have cracked, too.
Okay, maybe I'm not so much on the outside. At least I have witnesses sharing my experiences.
They are pulling the Supra Oracle cards, and Carl pulls the Magic card.
It explains that cards are chosen by a person's aura, and that answers the question they have been asking. How can the cards be so perfect?
After asking about her Intuition's panties, Carl asks Google the same question. Google gives him a picture of a pair of lost panties, and Alice explains that one of the first Instagram accounts which followed her when she posted the synchronicity of a banana peel on the ground was one from a person in Indiana who posts pictures of lost things. @nanatatv
Alice then goes downstairs to write, and what flows from her is frightening.
She can't explain it at all, and she's afraid to post it, because it certainly makes her look crazy. But this is certainly the point at which she cracked - when she really started questioning if there is Free Will.
This 12th House, unconscious stuff, is scary - the stuff of madness, for sure, but also an unending
Well of Creativity.
She was really just trying to purge the rest of the contents of her head related to a certain smoke signaler that night, and things got weird. So there's some stuff in there she really didn't want to go out as a smoke signal, but couldn't be rewritten in such a way as to maintain the integrity of what happened without sharing more than the "vulnerable artist" Alice really wants to share. Unless said smoke signaler is dying to see. But he has to ask. She already read it out loud to Charlotte, who thought it was great.
And, ironically, or not, he's probably the best person to help her navigate this crazy space. Maybe. She really doesn't know, but suspects, that he may be very familiar with the 12th House and the question of Free Will, and she's officially beyond where her closest friends can help, because they are worried they are cracking, too.
So, like, um, help me, please?
Even this post is an answer to her horoscope for the day. And she knows she could have chosen to not do anything, but she's also wondering, if you enact Free Will, does the magic stop? Do you lose contact with The Well?
Today she is feeling particularly ungrounded, just like all the tarot readings say she will feel. It's been a rough go for Aquarius, after all. All the energy readings say to hunker down, and do self care, which she had decided to do, anyway. She is a little afraid to leave the house. She has signed up for a class on Akashic records, and if that works out well, she will do Reiki training, too.
Writing usually helps, but everything that comes out just seems extra crazy. But, Alice wonders, maybe it's the kind of thing going on in Stephen King's head. And she imagines all the words, their pointy letters, scratching the inside of her skull.
She and Carl decide to go down to the basement and draw some oracle cards together. Alice either has some sort of gift, or is totally cracked.
They each pull a card from her favorite decks, and she pulls three independent cards saying the same thing - Seer, Gnosis, Heaven Sent. Other cards saying to Leap, that there is Protection, and to have Gratitude for the journey that brought her here. I have, haven't I?
Carl's cards tell him it is time to play. Time to let himself feel pleasure. Time to ask for what he needs. This is a big month for Leo. Lots of changes coming, and an eclipse to cap off the season on January 21st. Will he quit his job? Will we be able to eat? Sally and Nolan are worried.
Both kids were conceived within two days of eclipses in their signs, and if the last two years are any indication, there are big changes on the way. Good ones.