Ten-Cent Tarot: When There’s No Land Left to Grab


Entrepreneur, power company magnate, real estate tycoon, computer conglomerate CEO, and chairman of the board of a globally renowned science research facility, Geoffrey Landgraab did not fit the type who would consult a tarot card reader. The man came from a family that had schools named after them.

But guilt and despair can drive a man to cast off type.

Calliope picked up a heavy energy from him when he showed up outside her apartment late one evening.

“I would have come during office hours,” he said, “that is, if you have office hours. I don’t know what your typical schedule is.”


“I’m open when I’m open,” Calliope said. “I’m here! You’re here! The cats are here. Let’s go! Let’s see what the cards show.”

He smiled. Sometimes, brightness can shine through the heaviest of clouds, and when his smile reached his eyes–just barely, but enough to let them crinkle at the corner–Calliope felt that his miasma was not yet too dense to disperse.


He followed one of the cats, Cupcake, back into the study and sat behind the computer, as if an office chair and keyboard were necessary accessories to his comfort.


“I don’t give consultations back here,” Calliope explained. “This is my room, actually. Mine and the cats’.”


She led him to the consultation table in the corner of the kitchen.

She lit all the candles, turned on the strings of bulbs, and filled the diffuser with geranium essential oil.

“It’s like a gypsy place,” Geoffrey said. “How do we start? Do I tell you what’s wrong?”

Calliope looked at him.


He fidgeted for a moment, as clients often do when her eyes first see past them, and then, as the quiet moment stretched, he sighed and closed his eyes.

She pulled a seven card spread: the Fool, the Magician reversed, and the World reversed fell in the crux of swords and wands.

“All right, then,” she said. “What are you resisting so hard? What is keeping you up all night?”

“I don’t trust anyone who isn’t up all night,” he said. “Whoever’s not worried, that’s who’s not paying attention.”

He went on to talk about climate catastrophe. The scientists at his own facility had contributed to an international team that had recently published a study claiming that the planet was at risk of reaching “Hothouse Earth” conditions.

“And you feel guilty,” she observed. It wasn’t a question.

“Of course I feel guilty! Don’t you? Who doesn’t feel guilty? We’ve only known for how long–since I was in high school, back in the late 1970s, that we had to change, and change immediately, to keep this from happening. Did we? We didn’t! And look now. It’s happening in our lifetime!”

She felt his despair.

“Let’s right-size your feelings,” she said. “I’m not trying to minimize the catastrophe that stirs those feelings. But when we enter an emergency, that’s when we most need clarity, calm, and resilient fortitude. You do no one any good, even with all your power and resources, if you are a Magician reversed. Let’s get you right-side up, first, and then consider what you can actually do, besides letting yourself get ripped up by guilt, shame, and depression.”

“I’d feel even more guilty if I weren’t depressed,” he admitted.


“Well, snap out of it,” she commanded. “First, did you, Geoffrey Landgraab, single-handedly create the state of climate catastrophe?”

“I drove a car! I live in a big house. My power company didn’t produce solar until five years ago. My wife uses plastic like you can’t believe!”

“That’s not what I asked. Did you single-handedly create this situation?”

“Single-handedly? Like, by myself? Alone? No.”

“Right. Me, neither. Now, did you contribute to this situation? Were you a participating part of a human system that created this climate catastrophe?”

“Part of it? Yes. Of course I was.”

“Right,” she said. “So was I. So am I still.” She waved towards the strings of light, the electric pump in the fish tank, the stacked washer and dryer, the fridge, stove, and even the candles. “I am part of it. And so is, I would venture to say, every living person on this planet.”

“Surely not!” Geoffrey protested. “Not some villager in the jungles of Borneo!”

“I would say every living person. What fuel is used for cooking and heating in a tiny village off the grid? Carbon-based fuel. Fire. What is the taproot of the problem? Over-population. If a person heats or cooks with any carbon-based fuel, they are contributing to the problem. Anyone who has more than two children who survive into adulthood contributes to the problem. This is a human-caused disaster, and every living human is part of the system that has created it.”

Geoffrey sat stunned. “I’m not willing to agree,” he said at last.

“But do you at least agree that you are one part of the problem, and not the entire problem itself?”

He did.


“And a very small part, at that?”

“I am not so sure of that,” he said. She could see that it was hard for someone who owned so much to feel small, even when he was.

“Self-importance aside,” Calliope continued, “can you, single-handedly, fix this problem?”

“Of course not!” He admitted. “If I could, I would have! Decades ago!”

“Exactly,” she said. “So perhaps, a feeling of helplessness, and even despair, might be understandable. But guilt? Your guilt is way out of proportion.”

She rose and brewed a pot of tea from chamomile flowers and pine needles.

“You did not single-handedly create this. You cannot single-handedly fix it,” she said, pouring their tea. “But, just as you contributed to the problem, you can contribute to the solution, correct?”

His eyes flashed wide and the sclera was clear and white.

“Tell me how you already have contributed,” she said.

He talked about transforming the power company to solar, about using solar power in his own home, about driving as minimally as possible, and then, only driving his small electric Ford, which was drew its charge from the solar panels at his home and businesses. He talked about the scientists at his facility and the direction of their research program.

“You’ve done a lot,” she said.

“It’s not enough,” he said.

“No, not by a long ways.” She thought of the card The Fool, so dominant in his reading. “What more might you do?”

“I always thought I should go into politics,” he said. “My wife, Nancy, she scoffs whenever I bring it up.”

Calliope recalled the Queen of Swords reversed in the position of home in Geoffrey’s reading. “How would it feel to dethrone that criticism?” she asked.

Geoffrey smiled again. “Do you think I could? I may not have the charisma a politician needs,” he said, “but I know policy. I could write some damn effective policy. Do you think I’d win?”

“Even if you didn’t,” Calliope said, “what’s to lose? By campaigning, with curbing climate catastrophe as your platform, even if you don’t get elected, you bring this issue into the discussion. That’s a win, right there.”

“A win right there!” he echoed. “By golly! I’m going to do it! Will you be my campaign manager?”

She had to refuse. But she would serve as consultant to the newest candidate for representative of Congressional District 68.


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