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Year 5, Piece Seventeen: 12. Orange Blue
The Stars and the Elements. Creative Expression and Shuffling the Deck.
This is a warning that perhaps most rational people don’t need to hear: don’t talk to a child about astrology.
D’s fifth birthday is coming up. So are all three of my brothers’. In fact, either she or one of my brothers is having their birthday each week from the end of May to the middle of June. All four of them are Geminis.
“What’s a Gemini?” D asked me after I mentioned this a few days ago. So I casually explained astrology. Basically, that people create stories based on the position of the stars when someone was born, and that being a Gemini means that the Sun was in the constellation of Gemini when she was born. To contextualize it in terms she might understand, I told her that each of the signs has an element associated with it: water, fire, earth, or air. I told her that Gemini was an air sign.
That was where the trouble started.
“Air? An air sign? WHY AMN’T I WATER???” It isn’t that she has a particular love of water, it’s that she has a particular obsession with the fiction of Disney’s Frozen. The elements play a big role in the plot of the movie Frozen II, with water playing the biggest role because, well, the movie is about ice powers. Anything that shatters D’s identification with the main character Elsa causes cognitive dissonance.
I had clearly already gone too far for D here, but somehow instead of trying to back up or change the topic, I went deeper.
“Well, being an air sign just means your Sun is an air sign! I am sure you have other planets that are in water signs!” Which is true, but that still didn’t mean she knew what the fuck I was talking about. I knew off the top of my head that she did in fact have air signs for her three biggest placements: Sun, Moon, AND Rising. But like some kind of astronaut searching for signs of water on another planet, I decided to pull up her birth chart on the internet.
“Look D! You have two planets in water signs! Your Mars and your Neptune!”
Of course this was not helpful. Having more information she didn’t understand just sent her into a deeper spiral. Finally I got the message that it was time to de-escalate, but she wouldn’t let me stop talking about it. She demanded I repeat the information to her again and again, and then demanded that I account for the astrological placements of everyone she knew. How many water signs did her little brother have? Her Dad? Me? Her neighbor friend? And how many water signs does she have again??
It sucks to be put in a box at the tender age of not-even-5-years-old. It’s probably terrifying to be told that who you are is beyond your control. In some ways it is true, all too true. But astrology doesn’t have to be one of them. She doesn’t understand the nuances of narrative and interpretation, that astrology is a tool for inquiry, not a stamp of fate. It can be wonderfully affirming when you are mature enough to handle it, and deeply troubling when you still sometimes think you are a movie character. The fact that I was using fancy words she didn’t understand and talking about stars and planets and information I found on my phone probably made it seem more real and even more inevitable. And more intolerable.
This is all to say that I cheated this week.
I’ve been waiting patiently for Orange to show up for seventeen weeks now. If I were following the grid in order this year, I would have encountered each of the colors at least twice by now. But this year I’ve been creating the Rainbow Squared pieces in an emergent order, determining each week’s color pair by pulling a card from a deck that I made using images from Year 2. After I complete a piece, I sit down and draw the next card, going through the whole deck until ultimately all 49 are complete.
But so far this year, Orange had appeared exactly once and it was a piece that I didn’t make myself.
Which brings me to the cheating. This past weekend we all went to visit some friends who work and live on a ranch: our first “weekend trip” since the start of Covid. I brought along my Rainbow Squared deck because I knew I would need to pull the week’s colors. In this way drawing the cards became a little event. I wasn’t on my bed or on the floor, my eyes weren’t crusty from waking before dawn or bleary from the end of the day. It was a resplendent afternoon in the outdoors, with one kid napping and the other making potions with my friend who lent me her mountain bike so I could ride to an oak grove and conjure colors under a tree.
For each reading, I sit down and meditate, setting out all the previous cards in a grid. It was windy, so I carefully selected seventeen rocks to put on top of each one. I shuffled the rest of the deck as I repeated a mantra to myself: “May my will be God’s will so that God may make God’s will my will.” I’m not sure how I feel about this mantra, but in an effort to bring the G-word back into my spiritual practice, I am trying it out. I like it because it is aligning my intentions with a higher power. And I don’t like it because I am suspicious of the idea of this power.
Sitting under this tree shuffling cards, I was nursing pain for what the religion informing my spirituality is being used to do. This word “god” started to rankle me again. “God” was colonized long ago or maybe it was always this idea of “God” doing the colonizing, as so many many people throughout history have claimed the mantle of holy work to murder, steal, and oppress. Why would I want to claim to do God’s will? But also, who am I to claim that I am doing God’s will?
And who am I to claim that I am doing anything but?
So I pulled a card. It was a fine card, but it was not one I wanted. I sat there staring at it in my hand. What do you do in that moment, when you have meticulously set the bound of a ritual to summon your fate? This project is all under my creative control: I generate the puzzle and its solution. But I quite intentionally invite spirit or at least the laws of chance to collaborate. Can I defy that?
Then it clicked: this is all part of it, what you decide to do in this moment. If you don’t want that card, take the fucking deck and reshuffle.
Take the deck and reshuffle. Until you get what you want. In your creative practice, your hand is in your hands. Deal with what you’ve been dealt. Or re-deal.
Orange Blue: Creative Expression. What you create, what you express, and what you put into the world, including yourself and your identity. What are the ways that your cultural practices or societal roles guide your work? And what are the ways that these practices and roles hinder your work? How can you re-deal, shuffle the deck, or create a new deck entirely?
Orange and Blue are also Fire and Water. I have elemental associations with each of the colors, but these are the strongest. In playing with their alchemical symbols, I noticed that the four overlapping triangles produced a different shape: the Star of David. A six-pointed star evoking the six directions: north, south, east, west, below, and above. A symbol of Jewish identity. And also separately the symbol on the Israeli flag. Our relationship to this star and our relationship to the stars are also within our control, or at least how we use them to orient.
Orange Blue is also Gevurah within Hod, or Boundaries within Surrender. The boundaries set by our cultural systems can be amazing tools for self-discovery and collective harmony, serving as guides and standards. You can surrender and submit to those boundaries and find power in their structure. Or you can surrender by defying the boundaries, releasing them to find a whole other kind of power.