Henry J (Tarot of Michelle)

The story of the Henry J starts in one direction, and ends in another. Both directions had useful lessons for me.

Ilustration by the author

The Henry J story begins decades ago. When I was a young pre-teen or teenager, I went with a friend to someone’s house; I don’t remember who or where, though it was likely in Oregon. We looked at a vintage automobile in a barn or shed. I was told at the time it was a “Henry J.” The body was in pretty good shape, kind of swoopy and curvy, reminiscent of cars from the 1930s or 1940s (as I recall it). It was dusty and the upholstery was a light color. When I slid into the driver’s seat, it felt like the car just “fit.” Right proportions, good vibe, mirrors in the right place. As a short person, it was both startling and reassuring to find something that felt tailored to my size. It was one of the first times I’d had a sensory experience of some object feeling just “right.” Owning a car was still some years in the future, but I hoped I’d find something that fit as well as the “Henry J” did.

Decades later, just recently, I wanted to draw a picture of a Henry J to illustrate this kind of “fit” for a tarot card. When I did a Google image search, I was surprised and disappointed. The cars in the search results dated from the early 1950s and didn’t look at all like the Henry J I (vaguely) remembered. Maybe it wasn’t a Henry J? Maybe I was remembering incorrectly? If it wasn’t a Henry J, I’d never be able to recognize what kind of car it really was, as the memory is too vague, and I wouldn’t be able to draw a car true to memory.

Now I’m not sure what car I really sat in as a teenager. The lesson there is about the mutability and unreliability of memory. But the bigger and better lesson is about things that just “fit” for whatever odd or unknown reason. Is it a sensory thing? Is it an intuitive thing? I don’t know, but I do know that that feeling of “rightness” should be honored, not dismissed. 

A story behind one of the cards in The Tarot of Michelle. Follow the developmental art as a Patron on Patreon.

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