Looking at the Ace of Pentacles gives me a sense of solace and solitude, comfort and consideration.
I think of home, body, and growth. Words, routines, and structures. I think of the safety offered within cozy corners and comfortable armchairs, and the succour provided by particular books. I think of the strength and flexibility of willow trees, and the simultaneous solidity and softness given to our bodies when we hold onto stuffed animals or animal companions.
I think of the multitude of forms of interdependence that create the spaces we live within.
Where I live, in the province of Ontario, in the so-called country of “Canada”, an election was recently held.
Despite not receiving my Voter ID card in the mail, I dressed up cute and walked through the park to get to the polling station, a gymnasium in a public school, to vote in the morning. I wanted to cast my ballot as early as possible so that worried thoughts wouldn’t keep me distracted all day. Not just rumination on the outcome of the election, but of the accessibility of the space, and fear of being turned away. Until recently, I didn’t have enough government-issued ID matched with proof of address to verify my existence. On top of that, I legally changed my name nearly a decade ago, and I’d had some kerfuffles at polling stations because of it since then.
I was in more pain than I had been for a while. Although I was told that all polling stations were accessible, I know through experience that that word’s got a lot of meanings to a lot of people, and in a space organized by non-disabled people, the word “accessible” can be almost meaningless. While wheelchair-users were thankfully taken into account, people who use other mobility aids – like canes or rollators – were not, as is so often the case. My body does not allow me to stand in line-ups for long. Using my cane leaves me with only one free hand. I’d only voted in apathetic small towns before, so I didn’t know what kind of crowd to expect in a city. And this was a particularly contentious election. A lot was at stake – not only for people and communities I live in solidarity with, but for myself, too.
The Ace of Pentacles shows a hand emerging from a cloud in the sky, holding onto a golden, glowing coin.
Though the hand seems delicate, I read the coin as containing substantial heft. Not in a way that implies encumbrance, but something of significance, of worth. There’s a garden beyond the hand, and a gate wreathed with ivy. White lilies are foregrounded, while a mountain appears in the distance beyond the arched gate. Of note is that this entrance/exit is relatively accessible. The path winds, but it’s flat. There are no stairs, no latches, and no closed doors.
The New Vision Tarot shows us the same image reversed – we see the other side of the clouded hand that descends from the sky, and we see the fields and mountains of the terrain leading to – or potentially blocking – the gate of ivy. Beyond this landscape, a castle is built in the hills.
On Election Day, I drew the Ace of Pentacles as my daily card.
This’ll be good luck, I thought. It’s the first card I got tattooed on me, and the one I usually draw as a daily card each birthday, so it’s one of those ones that seriously carries a lot of import when it appears. Magic in the mundane is how I live. When I say I walked to the polling station, I mean I hobbled defiantly. For me, walking is so often not just walking. I like to create new terms for the way my oft-crooked body moves. Anyway, I’d taken a Tylenol 3 for pain and a Xanax for anxiety (mixing as-needed meds this way has been discouraged by my doctors, but interestingly, I discovered the efficiency of this concoction while creating something to help me cope through medical appointments), and I was pleased when I was greeted at the door, and when a volunteer held the door open for me.
As I approached the line-up, another volunteer asked if I had any access needs they could help me out with. It was a rare moment when somebody a) bothers to ask, and b) does so in a way that makes the situation seem as ordinary and commonplace as it ought to be, and in a way that makes me feel seen, rather than talking down to or around or through me in ways that are infantilizing or paternalistic. I was surprised.
I told the volunteer that, yeah, I’ve got access needs, I can’t stand in line-ups for too long, and I couldn’t find this issue addressed in any of the official guidelines on accessibility, but that I was feeling relatively okay in the moment. They offered to bring me a chair, which I politely declined, mostly because I knew it’d be too awkward and painful to adjust every time the line shifted, but also because my anxiety sometimes gets triggered if I’m seated at a lower height than a crowd around me. I’d noticed there were wooden benches lining the wall of the gymnasium, and figured they’d suffice. I also knew that I could’ve called ahead to have this issue addressed, but I get so sick of calling ahead whenever I want or need to go anywhere.
In Dame Darcy’s Mermaid Tarot, a mermaid delicately adorned with pearls, stars, and seaweed looks down at a collection of seashells, starfish, and other oceanic treasures gathered on the table before them. At first glance, they might appear to be holding onto the pentacle-engraved coin, but upon closer look, it is held close to their heart by nothing visible to us, as if that is where it belongs, no assistance needed. Instead, their fingertips are pressed together, turning gently. They’ve gathered what they need and they’re ready to make magic.
After twenty minutes (of standing, mostly, but also doing stretches and bends that no longer make me feel self-conscious in public), a pregnant person near the front of the line looked back and noticed me, and asked if I’d like to move up in front of them. It’s usually those who know pain who offer to help. Yes please! Everyone else in line had maintained personal space and not gotten pushy, which is another rarity around here. So I was a bit less stressed, thus less tense, but obvs I still wanted to just vote and get outta there.
When I got to the front of the line and took a seat at the table to (re-)register to vote, I was greeted by another disabled queer. We’re everywhere, yeah, but this felt like more good luck, and validating of my own presence, not being the only one, especially in an election that’ll undoubtedly affect the material, day-to-day realities of disabled queers.
Minimal paperwork, voted, left. On my way out, the previous volunteer checked in with me to make sure that my experience had been accessible. Yep! I wasn’t even overwhelmed by scented products that give me headaches and nausea in public places. Kindness is cool. I’m not sure if I can recall having somebody check in with me like that before. (Oh, and one person at a panel at a feminist literary festival! Because I did get sick from scents that time, and had to wear a mask and hover on the edge of the room near the windows to remain, then live through a day-long migraine afterward.)
Voting as harm reduction is why I showed up.
It’s not a system I wanna participate in, but it’s not one I can fully extract myself from either. As we continue abolishing the system, I choose to vote for who I think will hurt me, my friends, and my human and earthbound affinities the least, for who will cause the least damage.
From there, I took a bus and then a subway to a medical appointment, and then I went home and compulsively checked election updates with the limited data plan on my phone, even though I’d told myself I would not throw my day away doing so. And I retreated to one of my own safe corners.
In the After Tarot, the golden-coin remains upright on the ground while the hand holds onto a scarab beetle. When my pain was more debilitating, I used to imagine creating an exoskeleton to enhance my mobility, hold me upright – the structure existed in my mind, armour on the outside, massaging memory foam on the inside, and I’d visualize this protective structure on my body wherever I went. I even came to identify with cockroaches, those strange, ugly, loathed creatures who seem to survive everything. I wanted a shell like theirs to hold me together.
Thirteen minutes after the polls closed, the winner was announced. Nightmare conservative old rich white man, cuts to services, social destruction, harm harm harm. Fear, anxiety, despair.
The next day, I drew the same card.
My memories of the era the newly-elected government is currently being compared to are grim. I was raised with my twin by our single mom, who worked at a low-paying job that was constantly at risk of losing its funding and ceasing to exist. I remember being uninterested in ‘politics’ as a child because it looked like a bunch of well-dressed old white men yelling at each other on TV. Even back then, I knew that system couldn’t be for me, but I didn’t know how deeply those heartless strangers with too much power affected my upbringing. We lived in low-income housing, ate food bank donations, and were allowed to choose one or two new t-shirts each school year (none of which I felt comfortable in).
We didn’t have access to childcare, and we couldn’t participate in extracurricular activities that cost money. We didn’t buy books. We ate a lot of Happy Meals and Pizza Hut because our mom was too tired to cook. Our dad rarely sent the child support he owed us.
The Next World Tarot shows clusters of raw crystals emerging from the earth. Amethyst, malachite, vanadinite. Glittering and glowing in their crooked, unpolished beauty. Cristy Road writes:
In order to find stability, your work can be a bridge between logical commitments and whimsical dreams.
After the election results, those feelings of safety, stability, and magic in the mundane feel tremendously more necessary. To have drawn the Ace of Pentacles at this time helps me imagine the possibility of being cared for, of caring for myself, as I and so many others are reminded of just how much we are despised, how much we are viewed as worthless, how necessary it is to find care and nurturance wherever we can scrounge it up, and to provide these things whenever we can, too.
The poet nayyirah waheed writes:
be a scar. do not be ashamed of living through something.
Yes, be a scar. And a cockroach, and a kind stranger, and a deeply rooted cluster of seaweed that caresses righteously angry friends. Be a safe corner, an unpolished beauty, and a whimsical dream. Be a gate, a bridge, a protest, an altar.
Be a sign of tangible, material good luck to come.