The earthquake jolted us awake at – according to reports – 2:34 a.m. I didn’t check the time in the moment, distracted as I was by the shaking house and the rumbling. After the quake subsided, Bobby and I let go of each other and slid out of bed to assess the damage. We hadn’t heard the crashing over the sound of the quake and I was confused by the puddle on the mattress, wondered for a moment if I’d weirdly drooled all over the place while sleeping. Turned out the shelf next to the bed, the one where I keep a water glass at night, had toppled. The glass had hit the floor, expelling its contents on the way down. Downstairs, broken glass littered the kitchen floor. Bobby’s SF Giants mug lie in pieces among the wreckage. The earthquake had also shaken several framed photos off the walls, but in all, nothing irreplaceable had been broken and our most sentimental items remained intact. We cleaned up what we could by flashlight, exchanged “you okay?” texts with friends and neighbors, then returned to bed in hopes of finding some sleep. I didn’t notice the fallen tarot deck until almost noon.

The deck and the guide that explains it live tucked in a case that I keep on the bookshelf. When I leaned over to pick it up, I noticed four cards had escaped, sliding past the barriers that had kept the others in place. Earth requesting a reading? Sure.

(From Linestrider Tarot deck by Siolo Thompson)

The Knight of Swords, reversed

The Knight of Swords is full of new energy and forward motion, but he is not patient, compassionate or kind. Reversed, the Knight of Swords can indicate that someone – or something – close by is impulsive to the point of being out of control. Serious consequences may occur. Now, given that Humboldt’s earthquakes are the natural result of three separate geologic plates constantly rubbing up against each other, “impulsive” may be an unfair characterization, but certainly the Earth’s dramatic, uncaring lurching – so much energy and motion! In the dead of night! – caught most of us unawares and had some very serious consequences for folks closest to the epicenter. I’ll consider this one spot on.

Strength, reversed

This card represents the power of the human spirit to overcome any obstacle. In the reversed position, it indicates a dependence on the actions of others, of giving in to instinct, of a lack of control. Again, as resilient as we all may be, not a lot can be done while waiting for the earth to stop shaking us like a pair of dice about to be launched across a table. We are dependent on Earth, after all, and an earthquake reminds us that the control we imagine we exert over it can be undone in a moment. 

Seven of Swords

This card suggests someone is trying to get away with something – an element of sneakiness exists, of foundations being undermined. Your behavior may be becoming a hazard. This could refer to the Earth slipping a 6.4 earthquake into our lives while we slept – Surprise! – literally undermining foundations. It might also serve to point out to us that our habit of building first and figuring out dangers later may be us trying to get away with something while forgetting, as the bumper sticker goes, that Nature bats last. 

Six of Pentacles, reverse

This card represents charity, generosity and giving, but in the reversed position, warns of selfishness and greed. Earth didn’t exactly take our feelings into consideration when tossing an earthquake our way, especially at 2:34 a.m.! We, puny humans that we are, would be much better off by preparing for these events as best we can. Help will not come to those who will not help themselves; you must figure out how to get on your feet and be an active, useful part of the world – which includes helping those still unable to stand. The Earth gives and sometimes takes away. The best we can do is recognize the risks that exist, be as ready as possible to look out for ourselves and our neighbors, and try to live with the planet through steady times and shaky ones.