Red Wulf laid out the cards I had selected on the table in front of us. He sat in the lotus position in the chair to my left, his brown plaid cotton lounge pants clashing with his tie-dyed T-shirt. The adobe-colored yurt was filled with books and paintings and colorful Navaho fabrics. The structure was set slightly apart from the private campground and cafe located a dozen and a half miles west of the continental divide in New Mexico. The whole place had a soothing effect, as intended.
I shuffled the first deck, the traditional tarot deck, and selected my cards. He placed them face down in a celtic cross layout. Next, I chose two cards from the Animal Medicine deck and finally one last card from Archetypal deck. Each was turned right side up in a particular sequence. Red Wulf gently explained the meaning of each card in its distinct position and allowed me to take notes. He gave me the time and space to ask questions, of which I had none.
The final two cards to be revealed were the Animal Medicine cards, one representing the masculine spirit within and the other my feminine spirit. I have long understood the duality of our beings and accept without reservation that we all have both masculine and feminine sides to us. The principles of eastern philosophy and the concept of yin and yang come easily to me. I have a Yin-Yang tattoo that too often requires me to explain its meaning to those who see it.
Red Wulf turned up the first of the two cards, the masculine card, to reveal an elk. I’m a native New Yorker and am only familiar with the white-tailed deer and stories of the occasional moose slowly finding its way back to the wilderness of our upstate forests. The meaning of the elk needed some explanation. The elk is a traveler, a great traveler, and while I have never considered myself as such, I was at that moment in the midst of a solitary trip around the country and poised to start yet another chapter of my life in Thailand with the Peace Corps. The elk is noted for its stamina and perseverance and seeks out the company of his brothers, like-minded individuals, to spend time with, characteristics of its spirit I can relate to. Further reading says that even though we may not be the first to finish something, we will finish, and we will do so without burning ourselves out. I was liking what I was hearing about the elk spirit in me and I was feeling comfortable with what was being revealed to me about me.
As I came to understand this masculine side of me and nodded my acceptance, Red Wulf reached for the last remaining card to be exposed, the one indicating the feminine spirit within. It was a hummingbird. My mind raced as I glared at the frail, flighty image depicted on the card. I took a breath and let Red Wulf explain the spiritual nature of this little bird. He said that this was my emotional and intuitive core, that the hummingbird denoted joy, was a powerful warrior and had the ability to respond quickly to troubles. The hummingbird was resilient.
Red Wulf tried to make me comfortable with his explanations of my inner spirits, but I was vexed by the silly bird. I had watched many a hummingbird in my day, watching the tiny things flit from flower to flower, never staying in one place long. I wasn’t like that at all; I had never been comfortable flitting, sticking my long beak everywhere.
A couple of days later, at Canyon de Chelly, a young Navaho man was selling rock etchings, jewelry and pottery in one of the parking lots overlooking the canyon. I had recently downsized my life, giving away, selling and donating most of my things and wasn’t in the market for any new gewgaws or trinkets. But something caught my eye, one intricately painted adobe vase among the two dozen sitting on the blanket on the ground. I stopped and the man knew instinctively which piece I was looking at. His girlfriend had painted it, he said, and he eagerly explained the meaning of the artwork. The hummingbirds painted around one of the upper borders drew me in and I asked about their meaning. He said the hummingbird symbolizes peace, harmony and joy. It was his words that finally made me comfortable with the idea of having a hummingbird spirit in me, as my emotional and intuitive core.
I left Red Wulf and New Mexico and headed west to Arizona. After a long day driving through the desert, I wound my way toward the eastern entrance of the Grand Canyon. Early to bed, early to rise and I was in the car before 6:30 AM driving to the Park’s central hub a half hour west to begin my day exploring this natural wonder. Not a mile from where I had slept, my masculine spirit appeared to me along the side of the road. My first elk, alone, his head buried deep within a small tree, concentrating on his breakfast.