See the Cripple Dance | Embodying the Fool & finding beauty in the escape

I was recently able to travel for the first time in four years. While I was in a city I’d never been to before, I drew the Fool as my daily tarot card three days in a row. I feel childlike sometimes in the way I’ve been building a life of small joys and finding magic wherever I go – often in unnoticed corners and innocuous places, in what is seen as ordinary or common.

The Fool has been re-imagined as a road trip more than once.

In Cristy Road’s Next World Tarot, a tattooed figure in fuchsia boots sits at a bus stop, apprehensive but ready to go. A graffitied transit sign frames their face, and their dog howls by their side, keeping them company. They’re carrying a grey backpack and pink lunchbox. Leaves, scrolls, ticket stubs, petals and charms fall around them, creating a wreath. For now, their destination is unknown. No one else appears to be joining them at the bus stop.

I used to visit other cities for zine fairs, and I’ve traveled or toured throughout multiple U.S. states and a very small amount of Canada for zine fairs and readings. Once my sickness took over, I didn’t know if I’d be able to do so again. And after my passport was stolen, I wasn’t able to afford a replacement. Eventually, I began to accept the possibility that I might never again be on the road or in the air. I cultivated a deeper sense of home and place, and I tried to suppress my wanderlust, my desire for escape, my dreams of adventuring through other landscapes and environmental climates.

This was a vacation, one of two I’ve taken in adulthood. The first time (which was the last time I traveled) was to Winnipeg, Manitoba in Spring 2014, when I crowdfunded my way to the Writing Trans Genres conference. Back then, I was a week or two out of a coma after a suicide attempt; I was in withdrawals from an antidepressant and antipsychotic after being forced to quit by a doctor I’d never met before nor after; and I’d been using my cane, a black one with Hello Kitty stickers, for only a few months, suffering without one for far too long. That season was so painful, I still haven’t revisited the fifty pages of notes I took throughout the panels and workshops.

Despite not being in the same headspace, I was worried about those feelings being triggered – the sickness, loss, pain, ostracization, existential shit. It helped me to think of this trip, not as a destination, but as part of my healing process and creative process – a chapter of a longer story. I also tried to unburden myself of my expectation of experiencing a revelation or epiphany while I’m away from home – something I often pressure myself to do, and stress when it doesn’t happen.

In Pixie’s Tarot, the Fool is dancing to the edge of a cliff. They’re holding a flower in one hand, and a bindle in the other, all their belongings held in a brown messenger bag tied to a stick. When I drew myself as the Fool in issue #40 of my zine, Telegram, I repurposed their belongings, which became my cane, my backpack, and a key.

In Vancouver, the climate is different from Toronto. The city is on the sea, surrounded by mountains. There was no snow. The air felt different. Strangers were kind. I walked a lot, and when I used transit, I never had to ask to use the seats reserved for disabled people – they were empty already or given to me as I entered. I finally replaced my broken phone before I left, and I took over four-hundred photos. I pressed flowers in my diary again, something I always look forward to once the snow melts. I kept my routine of early bedtimes and early mornings, refusing to be shy about making coffee in my pajamas in a stranger’s kitchen. The windows were open. Every morning, I woke up to the sound of raindrops and birds chirping.

Although I looked at maps, I felt confident hopping onto transit with no destination in mind, stepping off the bus when a street that looked like somewhere I’d like to be came into view, or if I noticed a diner that looked like the kind that’d be cheap and let me sit for as long as I wished. It felt like something the Fool would do.

One day, I went to the Botanical Gardens, which were close to the room where I was staying. I paid $8.50 to walk along a self-guided tour. Though almost nothing was in bloom yet, I didn’t mind. There were all kinds of trees I don’t get to see in my everyday life, moss and lichens growing on everything, and the plants were labeled in multiple languages. The only flowers in bloom had words like snow and winter in their names. I didn’t pick any, but pressed a few that had already fallen. I wandered the garden for two hours. My fingers were numb. I didn’t want to leave, but the rain was becoming heavier.

Another day, I followed the sidewalk to a bridge, not knowing how long and intimidating it’d be until I was too far along to turn back. Ahead of me was concrete, ugly condos, the city skyline, and a horizon of mountains. Below me was the sea, as well as a children’s amusement park and a concrete factory. I’d never felt a fear of heights until I was on that bridge. By the time I reached the end, I felt dizzy, and my knees were shaky – even with my cane. I felt like I was walking as if I were drunk.

Every day, I went somewhere new-to-me. And each time I went out, I promised myself that if I needed to sit down, to eat or drink or write, I would find somewhere unfamiliar. I would not give up and go to a Starbucks or a fast food chain. I would not panic if I felt lost.

In The Collective Tarot, the Fool is represented by a hitchhiking Pippi Longstockings, sticking her thumb out on a sunny day, an open suitcase at her feet and blackberry brambles growing behind her. She wears a flamboyant yellow ribbon in her hair, and striped stockings with a black cape draped over a dress that looks like a nighttime sky. If she holds anything in her hidden hand, we can’t see it, but we can imagine what we’d bring with us in her place.

Although I knew it’d give me trouble carrying my luggage home, I allowed myself to enter precisely one bookstore. Used, of course. And I did not allow myself to wander each aisle, because I gathered too much right away and had to put some back lest I have to mail them home. On the plane, I read The Encyclopedia of Trouble and Spaciousness by Rebecca Solnit, and while I was in Vancouver, I read one of my used bookstore finds, Collages by Anaïs Nin. In one of the stories, the narrator describes an artist she’s observing as she falls for him:

He was impatient with sequences, chronology, and construction. An interruption seemed to him more eloquent than a complete paragraph.

After traveling more than 4,000 kilometres, I chose to spend most of my time alone, and much of that time in libraries. In my diary, I wrote: “I love being alone, but I guess I (still) feel fucked up about it.” And: “Maybe poor people are more innovative with language and forms, and that’s why we are unacceptable / unaccepted / outside.” Like my last trip, I went to another writers’ conference. Unlike my last trip, I’ve been able to revisit my notes. While I’m still processing much of what I experienced there, I won’t begin to recount it here.

Instead, I’ll keep your attention on the Fool, the traveler, the one who is leaving and entering at once; the naïve, the hopeful, the adventurous; the loner and the rebel.

When have you felt like the Fool? Are they someone you’d like to be again? How can you invite feelings of the Fool into your daily life?

Decks features: Collective Tarot, Next World Tarot, Rider-Waite-Smith (Pixie’s Tarot)

5 comments

  1. Cathou
    Cathou says:

    I draw the Fool a lot. Even though its energy is a bit everywhere, I know I still need some time to BE the fool. Your article is an inspiration towards it.

  2. that was really inspirational, thank you!

    I travel a lot but spend most of it running around for work, and in my free time, I stick to familiarity and routine to keep me grounded. This results in lots of travel, but no wandering, not allowing myself to just be, or for new places to amaze me.

    Thank you again, I will ask myself more often ‘what would the Fool do?’

  3. Michael says:

    Beautiful stuff – thanks! I had a similar experience in Vancouver – one of the best Saturdays of my life – just wandering through the city, getting lost on purpose, music and mind both on shuffle and pulling up all the best sounds and thoughts for each turn of the corner or newborn thought. The Fool was with me (or was me)that day for sure. Always welcome.

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