Your Most Pressing Question Upon Returning to the Heartland: A Three Card Spread

by | March 2021 A (Day 1)

The Most Pressing Question Upon Returning to the Heartland: A Three Card Spread

  1. First Position: Past Influences

The Dollar General

One of the major arcana cards, the run-down Dollar General is the a symbol of the Heartland. The Dollar General is the gathering place, the hearth, a place where neighbors can congregate and bargain hunt together, in community. If you look closely at all the details of this card you will see many symbolic aspects: Notice the halo or aura around the yellow lettering and how it is also reflected in the woman standing in front. Notice the way she does not meet our eyes, the extra-large soda in her hand, symbol of waste and ignorance. If you look in the distance you will see the scene is set against a field of monocrops, and the sides of the card are decorating with cows in feedlots. The baby cows are a reminder that this scene will go on and on, into eternity.

If you have drawn the Dollar General card it means you are the kind of person who can disappear out here, who can live an entire life without making a mark anywhere. You are the sort of person who will die quietly, with just a handful of friends making the trip. There will be little said at your funeral. You are just one of many cogs, many thrusts of blood pulsing through the heartland, and like the cows, your life is not meant to be individual or unique.

If this card is reversed it means you may be trying to leave this place but it continues to pull you back.

 

  1. Second Position: The Present Situation

The Mansion Bed and Breakfast

The Mansion Bed and Breakfast sits on a hill overlooking the rest of the town. Most people think it is haunted and/or inhabited by vampires. You’ve never been inside though you’ve lived in this shitty town all your life. The Mansion, while beautiful, is deceiving—its crumbling façade is only a patina of respectability, the good china saved for guests.  Notice the crumbing sidewalk in front, the cat in the upstairs window bought solely for indoor ambience. Though the sky appears to be sunny in this card, notice the clouds moving in from the top left corner. They remind us that beauty is ephemeral and the storms will eventually make us all equal.

If you drew this card you are a person who sees themselves as separate from others. You have big dreams, and you might be beautiful now, but that won’t last. The Mansion is crumbling, just like your dreams. Maybe you are a housewife or have found yourself in the service of others. The Mansion make remains stately from the outside but remember: no one has ever been inside. If you draw this card it could be a warning—as the mansion decays, the stories become more fantastical the haunting more obvious. The process completes itself. You may see yourself as having escaped all this—but have you? You can’t escape your own death, and your beauty will leave you, is leaving you. This card is asking you to surrender to your own ghosts.

 

3.Third Position: The Future Situation

The King of Big Gulps

The King of Big Gulps, seen here seated in his living room, has been your best friend for over 30 years. In this card he is in a lot of pain, sitting uncomfortably in his easy chair. Notice the pack of cigarettes on the table next to him, a symbol of self-loathing. He is dressed in the traditional garb of the town—dirty jeans, old t-shirt stretched across his massive bulk. His hair is going white, a symbol of his maturity and wisdom. The King of Big Gulps asks us to question our illusions. Through the King is clearly suffering, clearly at war with his own body, he is still surrounded by the aura of light, the same aura seen in the Dollar General card.

If you draw the King of Big Gulps, he may have called you six weeks ago to say he was dying. To ask you, as his oldest friend, to throw him a memorial. You might have both wept on the phone, separated by miles and a decade of time. You will always remember the King when he was young, controlling the wind, his laughter like seeds where flowers accidently grew, bench-pressing logs for fun. A Zeus, stripped of power. Notice in the card the ankle and wrist cuffs he wears. He appears to himself to be chained here but he wears the key to his own salvation around his neck.

Receiving the King of Big Gulps is ultimately a symbol of healing—how we choose to heal and how we don’t. The King asks us the hard questions: how do we keep ourselves in our own chains? How do we find the keys hanging right on our necks? If you draw this card you may find yourself driving 10 hours across Kansas and Missouri, a place you haven’t seen in 12 years, to say goodbye before it’s too late.

If the card is reversed, he will live.

 

 

12 Comments

  1. Meg Tuite

    Hi Nancy,
    “If you have drawn the Dollar General card it means you are the kind of person who can disappear out here, who can live an entire life without making a mark anywhere. You are the sort of person who will die quietly, with just a handful of friends making the trip. There will be little said at your funeral. You are just one of many cogs, many thrusts of blood pulsing through the heartland, and like the cows, your life is not meant to be individual or unique.” Absolutely laughed aloud through this beauty!!
    Such great choices for cards! “The King of Big Gulps” Outstanding! This is a winner! LOVE!

    • Nancy Stohlman

      Thank you so much, Meg! I have a feeling I could keep going on this one…make it a full 12-card spread at some point…

  2. Dennis Holmes

    Nancy, this was really a great read! What a terrific idea to use the Tarot cards as your hermit crab shell! I wish I’d thought of that. Also, I like your idea of expanding this project into a lengthier one. Go for it! Might also be cool to use some abstract images for the “cards” themselves?

    • Nancy Stohlman

      Thanks so much! And yes, since writing this I have all sorts of ideas for other “cards”–thanks for the encouragement!

  3. Sara Comito

    Hi Nancy, I agree it’s a brilliant idea to use a Tarot spread as a shell. The way you’ve written it, even those with limited experience will understand the reveal of the cards. I’m struck by the compassion of the speaker toward their self, and all the characters that come up. And you’ve pinned some great local regional color, from the storm scape to the dysfunctional monoculture ag scheme, to the feeling of being stuck or limited by circumstances, to that Dollar General yellow. I just returned from a small road trip up the middle of Florida, where a lot of food is grown, yet many if not most residents rely on DG for groceries. I so hope the King of Big Gulps card is reversed. Beautiful.

  4. Martha Jackson Kaplan

    Hi Nancy, This is a magnificent “call it as it is” read, and ready to see the world. Just everyone else is saying, great idea using Tarot and wonderful choice of cards– The Dollar General, The Mansion B&B, and, fantastic “The King of Big Gulps.”
    Feels like you have nailed this culture and the world of hope as well. Thanks for the read. Can’t wait to hear you read this in person someday. (Remembering Portland!)

  5. Trent

    Cool idea, Nancy~
    You could mod these into an actual deck, I think!

    Section 1 in particular. Poignant.

  6. Freesia McKee

    Hi Nancy,

    There’s a great tension here between esoteric tarot cards and the mundanity of fast food, the Dollar General, etc. I am also so intrigued by the close reading of each of the cards. I have a tarot deck, but I haven’t memorized the meanings, so I always have to look in the little booklet. Reading this piece reminds me of that.

    Interpretation is part of the point of tarot. The idea that a card could have multiple meanings depending on position, relationship, context, and the question being asked has always fascinated me.

    It would be really interesting to draw these cards or collaborate with an illustrator.

    I’m thinking of Juan Felipe Herrera’s A Book of Lives: https://otherbooksla.com/products/loteria-cards-and-fortune-poems-a-book-of-lives-by-juan-felipe-herrera

    Freesia

  7. Suzanne van de Velde

    Hi Nancy, these images and stories are so thoroughly anchored in time and place, I can feel the threadbare grittiness of these lives. So many beautiful lines and emotions to feast on:
    “You are the sort of person who will die quietly, with just a handful of friends making the trip. There will be little said at your funeral. “
    “You have big dreams, and you might be beautiful now, but that won’t last…This card is asking you to surrender to your own ghosts.”
    “the King when he was young, controlling the wind, his laughter like seeds where flowers accidentally grew…”
    The voice has just the right weight of moral authority: confident, compassionate, but a relentless truth teller nonetheless.
    I loved this – please go on, really need a whole deck!

  8. Chelsea Stickle

    Wow! You are not holding back! “If you have drawn the Dollar General card it means you are the kind of person who can disappear out here, who can live an entire life without making a mark anywhere. You are the sort of person who will die quietly, with just a handful of friends making the trip. There will be little said at your funeral. You are just one of many cogs, many thrusts of blood pulsing through the heartland, and like the cows, your life is not meant to be individual or unique.

    If this card is reversed it means you may be trying to leave this place but it continues to pull you back.”

    I mean, damn. If I keep copying and pasting, I’ll fill this whole section. I mean, I adore the ending of the Mansion, too. The King of Big Gulps is just heartbreaking. I love the chains and the key around his neck. I love that you created your own cards. I tried a variation on this years ago using regular Tarot cards and it was not as interesting or unique. By making up your own cards, you give us a specific look into someone else’s world. I hope you publish this somewhere so I can read it again once I’ve sat with it for awhile. It’s the kind of story people will return to.

  9. Jonathan Cardew

    This is a gem, Nancy! Love the all the wonderful details in this piece: “If you look in the distance you will see the scene is set against a field of monocrops, and the sides of the card are decorating with cows in feedlots. The baby cows are a reminder that this scene will go on and on, into eternity.” Great to read your fresh work here, Nancy!

    –Jonathan

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