The other night, I told my partner MaxZine that his spirit animal was a red panda. Not knowing what one looked like, he said I was being ridiculous, and then I showed him a picture of one.
He did not disagree.
Of course, HOW COULD HE? They might be THE CUTEST furry animals on the planet, like ever. Ugh. SO. DAMN. CUTE.
My lock screen on my phone currently uses this image:
Apparently, this is how red pandas often sleep—slumped on their stomachs on a tree branch with their legs dangling away. CUTENESS OVERLOAD. I just can’t.
On a more sobering note, these adorable creatures are actually high up on the global endangered species list with less than 10,000 of them existing in the wild. A loss of natural habitat due to deforestation, an increase in human population, and various extenuating circumstances appear to be the cause of these diminishing returns. A concerted effort carried out by numerous zoos and wildlife agencies around the world to breed them in captivity is currently in motion.
When I am not fighting the urge to watch red panda videos on YouTube, I’ve been making art.
Daily work continues on the piano. I am learning a Beethoven piece in addition to tweaking (and practicing) several of my own original songs. I am also working on my own interpretation of another classic Beethoven piece that I want to film for my channel.
Over on “The Facebook” (aka the Zuckerberg evil empire), I have been posting weekly thankfulness posts. I draw something for which I am thankful, and then I post the drawing on my FB feed. Here are some behind-the-scenes photos of the proceedings from this last week’s drawing.
Since spring is now firmly upon us, I took my camera along on my walk the other day. There was no shortage of splendor to behold. Here are some photos from that lovely excursion:
4. Video and Film
I spent a lot of time over the last week editing video for an event that I filmed recently. It will probably be released some time in late May or June, but I loved how it turned out. (More on that later.)
Lastly, I present to you a side-by-side comparison of my partner and a red panda. Of course, one does not need to look like a particular animal for it to be one’s spirit animal, but in this case, why the heck not?
I have had Tarot readings done for me at different times of my life, and I dismissed it as a new age kind of novelty that I should not take all that seriously—categorizing it as something fun to do with a friend and nothing more. I had a deck that a dear mentor gave to me as a gift many years ago that I had tried out a few times, but even then, it did not resonate with me in any deep and substantive way.
Fast forward to 2020, the tumultuous year that will go down in history as the year that a global pandemic put the entire world on lock-down. It was a scary time. People were getting sick and dying everywhere. I was scared for myself and my friends and family. In my adulthood, I do not consider myself to be a formally religious person. I have my own personal beliefs that I keep to myself which gave me some solace, but I started to think about how I can be more grounded in life amid all of this death and fear. I put all of my energy into my filmmaking and creative work, and I did my best to exercise and eat healthier foods. Even so, I found myself needing something more.
Fast forward again to March of 2021, I had lived through a year of pandemic hysteria (and a stressful presidential election) by then. I had this random thought that if I had a tarot reading could it tell me if I would get Covid and die? Does it even work like that? Paranoia was getting to me, and I wanted answers. I started to browse online to read about Tarot cards. I quickly found out that there is so much more about them to explore.
To my surprise, there are literally hundreds, if not thousands, of different kinds of Tarot card decks out in the world. They each embody their own theme and sensibility. I dug deeper to find out that they are all adapted from the original deck called “The Rider-Waite Tarot Deck” that is comprised of 78 cards divided up into major and lesser arcana groupings. I also discovered that I could actually do readings for myself without involving another person.
Along with my research, I asked my friends on Facebook if they had any Tarot card recommendations. I was expecting to get maybe a couple of responses, but I got almost 30 recommendations! I did not know that so many of my friends were into this. I looked up all of the decks that they suggested, and while there were some extremely awesome decks among them, none of them resonated with me.
What I was looking for was a deck that focused on self-care and healing, and nothing had quite hit the mark. I decided to start with my own set of the Rider-Waite deck. I worked with it for a couple of weeks after it arrived in the mail. I started a practice of doing a one-card reading in the mornings, but I found the deck to be a bit clunky and hard to understand. It definitely has an old-world feel to it that was both Eurocentric and almost medieval. Neither of these characteristics connected with a brown Asian boy who grew up on an island in the South Pacific.
Then, I used a deck called “The Wild Unknown” that was fairly popular and featured gorgeous artwork. These days, my life is oriented around nature and the outdoors. I take lots of walks outside. I live out in the woods, and I actively care for a half-mile long driveway. As such, its use of animals and elements found in nature appealed to me. I purchased it and also used it for a couple of weeks. Even then, something about the experience felt lacking. I found myself referencing the Rider-Waite deck that I had along with various Tarot card websites online just to get a better sense of what the cards were suggesting to me. I wondered if there was an easier way, outside of giving it up as a failed experiment.
Finally, I found a deck called “Neo Tarot.” Here was the description that I found for it online:
“With a beautifully illustrated 78 strong deck included alongside relatable explanations of the profound symbolism of each card, this modern guidebook and deck is a mixture of revealing insights, practical wisdom and actionable exercises that readers can incorporate into their self-care practice instantly, and watch their self-love flourish.“
Along with its rave reviews, the booklet that comes with the set includes descriptions of each card along with suggested activities that are contemplative and explorative in nature. The emphasis on self-care is a big deal for me. So, I decided to try one more time and bought myself a set.
In this case, the third time was an absolute charm! “The Neo Tarot” deck has met all of my needs and gone beyond my expectations. It is written in a tone that is gentle and thoughtful. The artwork features images of people with various skin tones, body sizes, and genders. The entire package is skillfully designed. I absolutely love the artwork. This deck was constructed with an awareness of inclusivity and the importance of self-care and healing.
Both the creator (Jerico Mandybur) and the artist (Daiana Ruiz) hit this out of the ballpark in terms of how its visual design and thematic elements integrate with the written content. One significant complaint about this deck from various reviews is that its booklet is attached to the box that holds the cards. As such, one has to hold the entire box in order to read about each card. This does make using this set feel a little clunky, but I have gotten used to it. It’s also not as easy to pack into a bag when traveling because of the thickness of the whole box. To me, these are minor complaints. The benefits of the deck far outweigh it significantly.
I use this deck every day in the early mornings. I do a one-card reading followed by writing down my thoughts and reflections in a journal that is dedicated to this purpose. What this ritual allows me to do is get me outside of my regular thinking patterns and to contextualize different aspects of self-care and healing into my daily existence. Each card prompts me to explore parts of my life that might need tender mending. As of this post, I’ve been doing this morning practice now for almost four months, and I now have a deeper awareness of what I need to do to protect, nurture, expand my wellbeing.
This may not be the last set of Tarot cards I will ever use, but at this current stage of my life when I am seeking to heal and prioritize my personal health and wellness of my mind, body, and spirit, this set is perfect for me.