IX - The Hermit
At some point in the early 2000s I sat down at a computer and learned how to play solitaire. I didn’t think much of it.
Not until December of 2019 was that game reintroduced to me, on a boat, by my mother, whom I was making fun of for buying an overpriced “Victoria Clipper” card deck from the boat’s gift shop because she was bored. I watched her and my sister play alternating rounds of the solo card game, and like a dad who insists he’s not watching the movie you put on despite lurking in the corner for the last 20 minutes, I got sucked in.
After re-learning how to play and diluting the solitaire rotation from 2 people to 3, I began my great losing streak. By all my best estimates, I lost upwards of 50 games in a row over the next few weeks. Some games I would play alone, some I’d play with my sister across from me, hinting at moves I’d missed as I reached to turn over the next three cards. If not being good at something right away dissuaded me from pursuing it on every other occasion, solitaire was the exception. For whatever reason, I wanted that win. And now, after many games won and many more lost, I don’t care so much about the win, but more so the process of playing.
The game is easy. Winning is rare enough that it still feels great. Losing is low stakes enough that you don’t stress over every play, and as soon as you’ve accepted your defeat you’ve already forgotten it.
Sometimes I break out the cards I carry with me as a way to pass time, but most often I play to quiet my circling mind, or to have something to do with my hands. It’s become a form of meditation, one that, for someone who maintains a constant state of fidgeting, doesn’t seem as daunting as 5 minutes of total silence and stillness. The physical act of shuffling the cards and laying them out in 7 groups of 1,2,3,4,5,6,7 is a leash just long enough to keep my attention, while still allowing part of my mind to organize its thoughts into similar groups of varying depth. It reminds me of how I feel at the sweet spot in a drawing, or on a run, or driving - half of myself totally absorbed in the act, and the other half allowed to wander and work through thoughts that might scare or bore my fully present brain.
The other valuable skill I think I’m working towards with this game is the ability to start over, which I suck at. I can remember only a single instance in school when I actually redid an assignment I was told to redo, and I think the only reason I did was because the redo was it’s own separate assignment, and I think I whined about it a lot. I’d much rather fix something or make it work or move on completely than start on it again from the ground up.
With solitaire however, I’m happy to reshuffle. Not for the hope of getting it right the next time, but for the pleasure of playing again. I start over after a 2 for 2 winning streak, and I start over after a 5 for 5 losing streak. Maybe after enough rounds, this attitude will start carrying over into the more important parts of my life.
If reading this far has inspired you to play a round yourself, I do have two personal rules that I’d like to impart on you.
1. No digital solitaire. The tactility and the slowness and the space a physical deck creates is !crucial!
2: Whenever you win a game of solitaire, you MUST finish by placing every card (in order) in its proper ace pile. From chaos, return the deck to its original organized state, before releasing it into chaos once again. And as you do so, revel in your accomplishment. Difficult? Maybe not. But definitely rare enough to celebrate.
This week’s card is The Hermit, a card that came up frequently this year when I asked about my career and when I would finally land a job. Of course, I ended up working freelance, a fairly solo way to make a living, that in combination with a new city and an ongoing pandemic, has left me with a lot of free time to sit with myself.
The Hermit symbolizes wisdom, introspection, soul-searching, spiritual guidance, perspective, time alone, peace, organization, recuperation. It asks you to sit in stillness, to retreat into yourself and look around.
A peaceful Saturday to you all,
Play a round for me,