Holding the Boundaries

Art by Beth Weaver-Kreider and AI. Brightwing Tarot.

I’m trying not to engage in too wide-ranging a re-interpretation of the cards as I find my way through the Fool’s Wanderings in the tarot, so I want to be careful with cards like this one, which I have always found unsettling. The Fool leaves the arms of the nurturing Earth in the Empress/Matrix card, and now meets the Emperor. As I meditate on the meaning of this card and what the Fool needs to learn here, I find the martial and domineering nature of the Emperor to crunch too intensely against my own notions of peace and justice.

The Emperor is the boundary-setter, putting their own Will into the world and establishing the edges. Rather than interpreting this card as the selfish and greedy conquest of a power-hungry patriarch, I look at this boundary-setting as an incredibly important moment in the Fool’s learning process, when they realize they, too, deserve justice and respect. In my own recent crisis, I find that I must make a stop here in the land of The Protector (whom I might end up calling The Boundary-Setter), and relearn how to re-member my own boundaries, how to shore up the walls of my garden, and say, “This far, and no further. Here is my limit.”

And it IS a re-learning and a re-membering. It’s never a once and done thing. This Fool that is me has been here in this place before, learning about boundaries and protection of my insides. I thought I had completely aced this lesson in the past. Yet I find myself here again. Again. The assault on my inner realm this time has been more intense than I could have previously imagined. Time to re-learn this lesson. With the Emperor/Protector/Boundary-Setter, I say, “I will protect myself. I will hold fast to my inner truth and not feel shame.”

And this one pairs so beautifully with the work of The Matrix, in this case a binary pairing that dances together to form a deeper complexity. The life force of The Matrix is free of boundaries and rule-setting, and the soul force of The Protector creates healthy and safe boundaries. Too much of one or the other, and the Fool will lose her balance.

And how can I truly create brave and safe where others can feel belonging if I cannot protect my own inner world? One thing that the traditional Emperor does not seem to know how to do is to ask for help. I’m grateful to add that layer to my version of the card. This Protector knows how to ask for help in times of breached walls.

Here is my Emperor poem from several years ago. I find that it’s one of those moments when my own voice from the past has something to say to the me of the moment:

Setting the Intention
by Beth Weaver-Kreider

I will.
That should fill
the task list of the day.
Just say,
“I will.”

Then make that happen.
Make your will into a thing
Let it sing.
Give it ground.

Cast your boundaries around you:
east and south and west and north.
Go forth
and do your will.


Gratitude List:
1. Blue grosbeak. I know he makes my gratitude list every day now, but really, the sun twinkling off the deep cerulean of his feathers is such a revelation! I feel like Mother Mary is tapping me on the shoulder every time I see him. Such a Blue!
2. Safe and protected spaces, and the people who rush to help shore up the walls when they’ve been breached.
3. Father Richard Rohr’s words today on symbolic language for the journey of faith. I felt like he’d been watching my own story somehow. Powerful synchronicity.
4. Reclaiming my place.
5. So many Beloveds. You and you and you. Twice this past weekend, I met people in the flesh whom I have only known online, and I was so blessed to know and see their beauty in the real world. I can be really socially awkward, especially right now, but I love this sort of encounter! Balm to my soul.
May we walk in Beauty!


“Stars are an excellent medicine for homesick hearts.” —F W Boreham


“Radical simply means grasping things at the root.” ―Angela Davis


“If you put three or four disassociated ideas together, and created awkward relationships with them, the unconscious intelligence that comes from those pairings is really quite startling sometimes, quite provocative.” —David Bowie


“Dehumanizing others is the process by which we become accepting of violations against human nature, the human spirit, and, for many of us, violations against the central tenets of our faith.” —Brené Brown


“Earth’s crammed with heaven,
And every common bush afire with God;
But only [s]he who sees, takes off [her] shoes.”
—Elizabeth Barrett Browning


“I do not see a delegation for the Four Footed. I see no seat for the Eagles. We forget and we consider ourselves superior. But we are after all a mere part of Creation. And we must consider to understand where we are. And we stand somewhere between the mountain and the Ant. Somewhere and only there as part and parcel of the Creation.” —Oren Lyons


“The human soul doesn’t want to be advised or fixed or saved. It simply wants to be witnessed—to be seen, heard, and companioned exactly as it is.” —Parker J. Palmer


“Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.” ―Maya Angelou


This is how I would die
into the love I have for you:
As pieces of cloud
dissolve in sunlight. ―Rumi


Werifesteria: To wander longingly through the woods in search of mystery. (No one seems to know if this is an actual Old English word, as the internet says, but I don’t really care. It’s a word now.)


“Keep open and aware directly to the urges that motivate you. Keep the channel open. There is no satisfaction whatever at any time. There is only a queer, divine dissatisfaction, a blessed unrest that keeps us marching and makes us more alive” ―Martha Graham


“When Paul said, ‘Help those women who labor with me in the Gospel,’ he certainly meant that they did more than pour out tea.” ―Julia Foote


In Japanese (again, according to the internet), tsundoku means, “the act of buying books and not reading them, leaving them to pile up.”

Mater and Matrix

So, the Fool has embarked upon adventure–unprepared but winsomely present to each moment on the road–has learned the elemental mysteries of the universe from the Medium, and has studied wisdom and lore from the Secret Keeper. The next two characters the Fool meets are usually called The Empress and The Emperor. By renaming the Empress Matrix, I haven’t actually managed to entirely pull this character out of the gender binary, for matrix is the source, the womb from which we are born, the fertile Earth, the rock bed on which crystals are formed. This is the birth-giver, the bringer of life: fecund, nurturing, fruitful, generative. The German word mater, from which we get the word mother, comes from the Latin matrix.

This Matrix, unlike Neo’s computer simulation, is the source of all life, the life force that pushes dandelions through concrete and pulls forth the greening of the spring, draws forth the flower, and brings flower to fruit. Then the Matrix locks up that life force into the hard shell of the seed to begin the cycle all over again.

After acquiring knowledge and power from Medium and Secret Keeper, the Fool must take time to grow, and to carefully observe the cycles of life, to feel the Life Force that feeds the Fool’s own self. The Fool learns to tend and nurture life force in the presence of the Matrix.

Here is a poem I wrote several years ago about The Empress:

Message from the Empress
by Beth Weaver-Kreider

In the grove over the ridge, the trees
have broken into a flourish of pink,
lascivious against the rain-wet green,
a thousand mouths seeking a drink.

Let us riot too.
Let us fill our thirst.

Let us spread our blooming fingers,
opening our mouths and hearts, dancing
away ruin with bloom, lingering
with simple beauty, with aching fragrance.

Let us waft.
Let us be wanton.


The Matrix/Empress has no time for rule-making about bodies. Here is where the Fool learns about Embodiment, about Being a Body. Unlike certain strains of Buddhism and Christianity that stress transcending or mortifying the body in order to reach enlightenment or purity, The Matrix knows that the body is pure and right and holy. “Your body is a temple,” we were told in Sunday School, and were expected to hide and contain and control it. “Your body is a temple,” says The Matrix, “and it is meant to be celebrated and inhabited and experienced.”

How do you experience life in a body? Is it painful? Uncomfortable? Shameful? Joyful? Ecstatic? Primal? What meditations and movements, what breathing and noticing, can you do to more fully experience the deep sense of belonging in a body?


Gratitude List:
1. People who get it, who understand your story even when you need to speak around silent spaces. People who See you even when you feel like parts of you have become invisible.
2. Textile arts, particularly crocheting and knitting–how amazing that we can take one or two little sticks, and a piece of string, and make such amazing things? Knot and twist. There’s a life lesson in that, isn’t there?
3. Wood thrushes calling in the woods at Sam Lewis Park this evening.
4. Disc Golf. I didn’t play because we only have two sets of discs, but it was such a delight walking through the course as the boys played. Child 2 said to Child 1, “You’ll have to hurry up and get your license so we can do this whenever we want!”
5. Blue grosbeak, a constant visual presence at the feeder, and oriole, a constant aural presence in the holler.
May we walk in Beauty!


“If you feel thirsty, then
drink from your cup.
The birds will keep singing
until they wake up.”
—Franz Wright


“Holding on to anger is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.” —attributed to Buddha and to Nelson Mandela


“Let fury have the hour.
Anger can be power.
D’you know that you can use it?”
–The Clash


“In order to write the book you want to write, in the end you have to become the person you need to become to write that book.”
― Junot Díaz


“Fiction is the truth inside the lie.”
― Stephen King


“let me live, love, and say it well in good sentences”
― Sylvia Plath

The Happy Medium

After setting out on the journey into the woods, or to the cliff’s edge, or through the deep and shadowy valley, the Fool encounters a series of individuals, wise mentors who offer the Fool help, advice, skills, and wisdom.

The first of these is traditionally called The Magician or Mage. I like the term Mage, because it reminds me of the three Magi of the legends that came from the “wise men from the east” who visited the Christ Child. I am also enamored of Madeleine L’Engle’s Happy Medium, who can see into the patterns of the cosmos. For now, I am calling this one the Medium. This advisor to the Fool has ready access to all the tools of water, earth, air, and fire, and has a deep spiritual capability to visualize the change they wish to see in the world, and then the inner fortitude to make it happen. The Mage or Medium doesn’t just let life happen to them; they happen to life. So the Fool, who has set out without any real planning or purpose other than adventure, receives here the training to develop a vision, to make a plan, to create what they want in the world.

I feel a little like I am the Fool seeking the Medium’s wisdom right now. How can I use the skills and tools that I have to draw to myself the Next Thing? How can I put my own thoughts and ideas into the world, envision a future, plan for what I want, and make it happen? All while maintaining the winsomeness of the Fool.


Here is a poem about Magic, for the Magician:

The Magic of Language
by Beth Weaver-Kreider

Listen to the wisdom of the sage.
“What is language, but a kind of magic?
Here am I, in my own organism, my tower of Self,
and you there in your own lonely keep,
and how shall we bridge the gap between us
but by language? These webs of sound
we string together, we cast them through sky,
drawing out threads of meaning,
as with a wand, fiery threads of sense.

“We build this bridge on air,
scratch symbols on a page with feathers,
and stories flow like water between us,
borne on gossamer strands
of word on word on word.
We manage and tend our loneliness
by weaving cloths of language.
How can we find each other in the shadow
but for the flow of speech we offer
and the magic of these words upon the page?


Gratitude List:
1. Well duh! That was no indigo bunting! It was a blue grosbeak. I should have known that. I’ve seen and identified both in recent years. But my brain blipped, much as it does when it mistakenly equivocates unequivocable things in math-world. So yay! Blue Grosbeak!
2. I love Kindergarten! I love the stories. I love the shining eyes. I love the wiggliness. I love the dreaminess. I love the restfulness. I love Miss Nikki and Miss Abby, and I love being Miss Beth.
3. Putting Difficult Things behind me. No, I’m not going to start repressing Big Feelings, but you can only spend so long looking at the devastation of the wildfire before you start to clean up and replant and rebuild.
4. Foreacre Furfamily! We HAD to do something about the barn kittens yesterday. This is the second time a cat has given birth in the barn (that we know of). I think people drop off their cats at farms, and then the feral population burgeons. Last night we had a near tragedy involving some of the kittens and a mower, so we put out the call for someone to come take the kittens and the Foreacres responded! They have all five kittens safely cared for, and they even took the mama after we trapped her, so she can be fixed. I love people who care for animals.
5. Energy. Today is the first time in a long time that I haven’t felt a pressing need for a nap.
May we walk in Beauty!

*#4 is really a rant. Please DON’T abandon your animals at farms in the country. Yes, there are mice in the barn for a feral cat to eat, but there are also bird’s nests all over the woods, and baby bunnies, and we want to enjoy the birds and the bunnies. And when you abandon your cat, someone else will have to be responsible for dealing with the offspring, and for getting the animal fixed.


“The Word is not a pet. The Word is the wildness behind creation, the terror of a black hole, the atomic violence of burning hydrogen within a sun.” —Madeleine L’Engle


“I stand before what is with an open heart. And with an open heart, I dwell in possibility.” —Macrina Weiderkehr


“The way to right wrongs is to turn the light of truth upon them.”
― Ida B. Wells-Barnett


“Somewhere in the world there is a treasure that has no value to anyone but you, and a secret that is meaningless to everyone except you, and a frontier that possesses a revelation only you know how to exploit. Go in search of those things.

Somewhere in the world there is a person who could ask you the precise question you need to hear in order to catalyze the next phase of your evolution. Do what’s necessary to run into that person.” —Rob Breszny


“Pain travels through families until someone is ready to feel it.” —Stephi Wagner


“The object of terrorism is terrorism. The object of oppression is oppression. The object of torture is torture. The object of murder is murder. The object of power is power. Now do you begin to understand me?” ―George Orwell


“Each time a person stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, that person sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring, those ripples build a current that can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.” —Robert F Kennedy


“The ultimate weakness of violence is that it is a descending spiral begetting the very thing it seeks to destroy. Instead of diminishing evil it multiplies it.” —Martin Luther King Jr


“The limits of tyrants are prescribed by the endurance of those whom they oppose.” —Frederick Douglass


“Only if we understand, can we care. Only if we care, we will help. Only if we help, we shall be saved.” ―Jane Goodall

The Fool Sets Off

The Fool Sets Off On the Journey, Brightwing Tarot

In the tarot, that ancient tool for exploring the journey to the center of the self, the Fool sets off on a journey. She’s naive and eager to court adventure. He’s unafraid of dangers that may lie in his path. They dance on the edge of the cliff, follow the trail of butterflies, and seek out that which is fresh and new and exciting. Anything could happen, yes, but anything COULD happen! With Walt Whitman, the Fool sings: “Done with indoor complaints, libraries, querulous criticisms, / Strong and content, I travel the travel the open road!”

This is how the fairy tale begins. You are the golden child, innocent, hopeful, full of promise. Tabula rasa, a blank slate. Anything can happen.

You live on the edge of a great wood, a forest beautiful and terrifying. You live in a warm, inviting cottage. In a poor but tidy little hut. In a fine and well-appointed house. In a castle. In a dirty, ramshackle hovel. In a high tower.

With warm, nurturing, and protective parents, or a family struck by despair and dysfunction. With a gentle and forgetful grandmother. With your father, a benevolent but distant king, and his wife, a smothering overprotector. With the vain and hostile wife of your loving but absent father, a traveling merchant. With a terrible witch who stole you from your family. With a kind witch who has rescued you from your suffering.

One thread runs through all the tales: You are admonished not to go into the forest alone. There is a set boundary, a garden, a lane, a wall—a line that you must, for your own safety, never cross. For the wood, while full of calling birds and bright butterflies, can also be a place of fear and danger, where a child could be lost or eaten by wolves. Both the beauties and the dangers are very real.

And the wood is exactly the place that your adventure must take you, for the forest is the landscape of your own adult life. Perhaps, like Red Riding Hood, you made your first steps into this wood on your own with the firm and gentle guidance of a loving parent who gently set you on the most known pathway. Perhaps, like Hansel and Gretel or Vasilissa the Brave, you were set into the wood without supplies or direction, pushed out of childhood innocence before you were ready. Maybe, like Goldilocks, you followed a trail of bright flowers or a shining ray of sunlight into the wood, against all the cautions of the adults in your life, and your own curiosity drew you into the trees.

Aunt Eliza’s Advice for Lost Children
by Beth Weaver-Kreider

Once upon a time there lived a golden child
who followed a trail of bright flowers
deep into the heart of the forest.

That’s you, in case you hadn’t picked it up,
and the forest is the life you are wandering in.
This is the story you chose for your own
in those rainbow days before you were born.

Oh, for most of us, and much of the time,
the forest is fairly navigable, and not too scary.
But sometimes we get caught in the brambles,
overwhelmed by the shadows, befriended
by suave and creepy fellows in wolfskin.

We forget how to find our way,
forget that we are the main character,
the child of the glorious day,
forget our identity,
forget our destiny, our star
forget how to follow our guides,
forget who they are.

So step into the clearing, Dearies.
Have a seat by the fire.
Here’s a little advice:

Keep following the flowers,
the butterflies, the little birds,
whatever drew you in here in the first place.

Go ahead and flirt with the wolves,
but don’t give them Grandma’s address.

Breaking and entering is still
breaking and entering, Sweetie,
even if it’s a cute little cottage.
You never know what’s in the oatmeal.

Listen to the doll your mother gave you.
Your mother’s voice inside yourself
will always lead you true.

Beware of riddling with old women.
Always remember your manners,
and always be kinder than necessary.

There’s a happily-ever-after
right around the bend,
but you might have to travel
half a lifetime and complete
three impossible tasks
to reach it.


More Advice from Aunt Eliza
by Beth Weaver-Kreider

It doesn’t always have to be so,
but it seems to be the way things go:

When the sunny trail ends at that dead ash tree,
when the sweet-scented grasses turn to brambles,
when the radiant butterfly flits into shadows
and out from behind the tree pads the wolf–

That is when the story really gets started.

Epiphany can be those shiny angels,
those glittering kings bearing gold,
but it also comes in shadows and cobwebs.

One day you are sleep-walking
through your dreamy life,
not paying attention to where the path leads,
and epiphany comes in the form of a crow,
calling your name from the topmost branch
of a lightning-struck oak.

Or you find the sweet cottage
but wake up surrounded by bears
or tossed head-first into the furnace.

Or an old woman in tatters and rags
swoops into the clearing, chattering,
demanding to know who you think you are,
demanding your service, your heart.

And that’s the key, isn’t it?
Who do you think you are, meddling in this story?
Can you give your whole heart to the process?
What are you doing here, in the heart of this forest,
this landscape of your life?
What is your real name?
Are you ready to fight for it?
To go on a quest, answer the riddle,
do the three impossible tasks,
risk your own dissolution, your death,
just to claim it as your own?

You thought you were so brave,
following the path to explore the woods,
though you’d been warned,
though your skin prickled,
though you knew the stories
of those who never returned.

Now is the time for bravery.
Now is the time for fierce
uncompromising joy.
Now the real exploration begins.


Gratitude List:
1. Symbols for the journey
2. Good coffee
3. Art-gallery-hopping
4. Adventure
5. Fairy Tales
May we walk in Wonder!


“One of the greatest tragedies in life is to lose your own sense of self and accept the version of you that is expected by everyone else.” —K.L. Toth


“Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.” —Oscar Wilde


“Believe me, you will find more lessons in the woods than in books. Trees and stones will teach you what you cannot learn from masters.” —St. Bernard of Clairvaux


“A woman with opinions had better develop a thick skin and a loud voice.” —Anya Seton


“The best teachers are those who show you where to look, but don’t tell you what to see.” —Alexandra K.Trenfor


“It doesn’t interest me what you do for a living, I want to know what you ache for. It doesn’t interest me how old you are, I want to know if you are willing to risk looking like a fool for love, for your dreams, for the adventure of being alive. I want to know if you can live with failure, yours and mine. It doesn’t interest me where you live or how rich you are, I want to know if you can get up after a night of grief and despair, weary and bruised to the bone, and be sweet to the ones you love. I want to know if you can be alone with yourself and truly like the company you keep in the empty moments of your life.” —Oriah Mountain Dreamer


The Bridge

In a trivial gesture, in a greeting,
in the simple glance, directed
in flight toward other eyes,
a golden, a fragile bridge is constructed.
This alone is enough.

Although it is only for a moment, it exists, exists.
This alone is enough.
—Circe Maia
translation from the Spanish by Jesse Lee Kercheval


“If you have good thoughts they will shine out of your face like sunbeams and you will always look lovely.” ―Roald Dahl


“To live in this world, you must be able to do three things: to love what is mortal; to hold it against your bones knowing your own life depends on it; and, when the time comes to let it go, to let it go.” ―Mary Oliver


“What should young people do with their lives today? Many things, obviously. But the most daring thing is to create stable communities in which the terrible disease of loneliness can be cured.” ―Vonnegut