8 min read

on wandering

reflections for june 2021
on wandering

hello, friends. it’s been a challenging month, one that’s brought some necessary shifts and important choices. and as we move into june, as the weather warms and the flowers bloom and a gradual sense of hope continues to take root, i hope that these musings and ideas open something up within you. there are so many ways that we can show ourselves kindness, that we can offer ourselves grace, that we can be gentle with our hearts and minds. and in exploring ideas around wandering, i hope you find some new ways to grant yourselves freedom and joy, comfort and pleasure, beauty and richness.

take a moment to stretch your shoulders, to loosen your jaw, to shake free any cobwebs or blockages. give yourself the gift of several deep breaths in and out. when you’re ready, let’s go.

on wandering

as creatives, as spiritual practitioners, as people in general, we talk about movement in very specific ways. we speak of pursuits, objectives, goals, ambitions, acting as a driving force for change, racing towards a long-held desire with open arms - or we speak of stillness, pausing, surrender, stagnation, taking a break from rushing forward in order to rest and recalibrate. exploration, uncertainty, getting lost or lacking direction are often painted as negative, seen as a waste of time. an absence of purpose, declaring ourselves undecided, is rarely considered a good thing.

perhaps that’s why wandering can feel dangerous. there’s safety in plans, in structure, in setting goals and working towards them in careful, intentional, methodical ways. there’s stability in knowing exactly what we’re working towards. there’s comfort in checking tasks off of a to-do list, in clarifying a vision of what we want our future to be, in letting others see our greatest accomplishments and praise us for those efforts. and there’s power in knowing what we are moving towards, in making decisions that bring us closer to a particular ideal.

this isn’t the vague discomfort of reaching a crossroads, in needing to choose between multiple paths forward. instead i’m talking about trailblazing, bushwhacking, relying on our compass and our wits to keep us safe even as we deliberately step off of those established roads. i’m talking about letting ourselves get lost, seeing what we can discover on our own. i’m talking about leaving the map behind.

in abandoning expectations and allowing ourselves to drift, there’s no telling where we may end up. in shifting our gaze from objectives to experiences, we change the trajectory and pace of that movement, admit that perhaps we can take a journey without fully defining the destination.

what magic lives in the unknown? what courage do we discover within ourselves when we make space to trust our instincts in the moment, rather than obsessing over five-year plans or lifetime achievements or measurable goals?

what does it mean to be present in a way that doesn’t center the future?

last summer i spent nearly every day in central park. in spite of running races there for years, that familiar hilly 6-mile loop around the edges, i realized that there were giant portions within the park’s interior that i’d never seen before. i quickly established my favorite trails, found routes that felt peaceful and quiet and comforting, spaces that i could traverse while on autopilot. i spent hours walking, listening to julien baker and fleetwood mac, trying to imagine the new twists that my life might take while walking the same paths over and over. it became mechanical, automatic, to always cross the bike path in the same place, to always choose the same road at the forks, to walk around the same ponds at the same time of day. i had all of my favorite spots: benches i would sit on, banks i would crouch near, bridges i would cross and others i would avoid. it was simpler to not wander, in spite of the safety of the park. it felt easier to not think too hard about where i was going, to give myself the gift of familiarity when it seemed like everything else was unknown.

there are moments when all we can do is hide in the shadows we find, arrange our sharpened swords protectively and disappear into a cocoon until we’re ready to reveal ourselves again. but other times, we realize that a goal we’ve been working towards isn’t what we want anymore. and while the stillness of the hanged one might not be the medicine that we need, the rapid pursuit of the chariot isn’t right either. rather than pointing ourselves at any objective just so that we can feel like we’re moving with purpose, rather than grasping at destinations just so that we don’t have to slow down, the best thing we can do in these moments is admit that we don’t know what we want just yet. we have to let ourselves be a child of pentacles, quiet and present, trusting the process, enjoying the moment that we’re in.

is it really so bad to not know where we’re going? does that need for direction really always come from within us, or are we so scarred by the grueling machine of capitalism that we’ve lost touch with the kinds of movement that truly nourish us? what actually happens to our minds and hearts when we let ourselves get lost in the woods, instead of sticking to the path? what wild flowers, abandoned meadows, quiet ponds, might we discover when we take in our surroundings instead of fixating on a point in the distance?

what do we learn about ourselves when we stop pursuing?

nearly every archetype of the major arcana has something to say about movement. the fool takes a leap of faith, knowing what they want even if they aren’t sure of exactly how they will get there. the hermit retreats and observes, exploring the shadows of their most hidden depths. the devil invites us to revisit old pathways, familiar and tempting. the star honors where we’ve been, giving us the space to move forward in a new way. even the world revels in completion, asking us to celebrate and rest before we begin another cycle.

but the specific kind of wandering that i’m speaking of comes up in one particular place, one necessary piece of the journey. we tend to think of the priestess and the empress as opposites: the cool contemplation of air and water, shifting into the passionate manifestation of fire and earth. the priestess is still, quiet, reflective, intuitive, relying on a sense of personal wisdom and rich experience to guide choices and decisions. the empress is sensual, nurturing, generous, abundant, an outpouring of creative joy and pleasure, a first step into the imperfect world of creation. yet in the space between these two figures, we balance certainty with mystery, the tangible with the intangible.

after cards of assessment, we don’t finally begin to create with the empress because we have clarified every detail of our final vision. the priestess doesn’t give us all of the answers, and the empress isn’t about carrying those answers forward into the real world, proud and perfect. instead, in this space we shift from stillness into movement, embrace new ideas and take new chances. we give ourselves freedom to play, to begin without fully knowing the ending. we choose abundance, joy, satisfaction in the present. and while soon the emperor and the hierophant will bring their structure and tradition, helping us clarify and refine and protect and establish, for now we simply thrive in what we are learning about ourselves. we embrace being wild.

the empress gives us the space and power to simply create. no rules, no restrictions - just a raw outpouring of beauty, the awe and wonder that comes from true freedom. these are the first moments of expression, and are done purely for pleasure.

this is an endless wellspring of growth, letting our ideas gradually flow into existence, seeing what happens when magic guides our movements. this figure isn’t concerned about perfection or refinement, is not building with an end goal in mind - instead this archetype invites us to surrender to the moment, to see what our hands and hearts can do when we stop obsessing over ideals and simply trust our instincts. this energy is less about accomplishments, and more about the abundance itself.

when we spend time with the empress, we are free to experience, to revel, to enjoy. we can be our complete selves, without the burden of expectation. we celebrate our wildness, our sensuality, our cravings for more. we stop labeling our desires and simply yield to them.

we wander: sometimes creatively, sometimes intellectually, sometimes physically. and in the process of wandering, we find new layers within ourselves.

this spring i’ve been walking in a different park, following different trails, moving in different ways. i’m listening to phoebe bridgers and lucy dacus, greeting the robins and grackles that constantly cross my path, moving for the simple pleasure of movement. i frequently get turned around in these new spaces, sometimes find myself doubling back or stumbling upon a place i’ve never been before. it doesn’t bother me, because i’m not late, not expected anywhere, not looking for anything in particular. it doesn’t worry me, because where i end up isn’t the point.

i’m learning to find joy in stepping off-course, in anticipating what might be around the next turn, in giving myself the gift of uncertainty. there’s magic in the unknown, beauty in the exploration, wonder in what could be. it’s been a complex but empowering shift in perspective to see unexpected curves in the path as offering me something different to find, rather than showing me something new to fear.

there’s infinite value in giving ourselves room to wander, in letting ourselves surrender to the richness of chance, in discovering the beauty in liminal spaces. sometimes, roaming leads to revelations, to new shadows, to abundance. sometimes, in giving ourselves the freedom to move at our own pace, we find new kinds of truth about the things we want to pursue. sometimes, in abandoning the race and the familiar routes, we find magic in those quiet, secret places. and sometimes, it’s just nice to be somewhere, without putting pressure on a destination or an achievement.

for the first time in a long time, i’m free to make my own choices, and am finding pleasure in that - even if i’m not sure where i’m going to land. after all, what kind of priestess would i be if i doubted my own magic? what kind of empress would i be if i didn’t celebrate my own beautiful, charming imperfections?

isn’t it lovely to get a little lost sometimes?

thank you for your kind messages, your encouragement, your financial support. this newsletter means a lot to me, and so do you. if you enjoyed this piece, feel free to share it on twitter or instagram, and please check out the companion playlist on spotify.

have a beautiful, brilliant, unexpected june.

images from this post feature cards from the spacious tarot. all photographs by meg jones wall.