Year 5, Piece Thirty-Nine: 23. Green Orange.

The relentless impulse to make. Plus a recipe!

In the early days of this project, I limited myself to what I could shoot, edit, write, and publish from my phone. This proved handy both when I was working full time and when the pandemic made childcare my full time job. I had to be opportunistic when a free moment blessedly emerged, whether on my commute or when one or both of the kids were preoccupied or sleeping. Working from my phone also constrained the scale, which I know now saved me from my own ambition. 

Now that my kids are older and in school at least some part of most days, I’ve found myself back on the computer. This means I can do some things faster, but actually just makes me want to do more. This project expands to fill however many hours I give it, and then just beyond. Creating each piece requires just a bit more time than I actually have to feel sane and balanced. There is always a sense of urgency, pleading for just one more hour, then another, then another, bargaining with my partner or my own sleep. Gratefully, this indicates something perhaps better than balance: passion. The sense that there is something I want to be doing so badly.  

Green Orange. Green is Love, and Orange is Creativity, Fire, Passion. My love of creating was the genesis of this project. Or maybe the genesis was more like fear. Fear of losing that love of creating, or fear of still very much having that love and not being able to do anything with it. 

As you might know, I started making the work that would become Rainbow Squared in order to prove to myself that my life wasn’t over just because I became a mother. Nobody else needed that proof, or even suspected that I might be dying. Committing to a daily postpartum painting practice was a kind of art boot camp where I was both drill sergeant and recruit. I hate to use a military metaphor, but it was aggressive like that. And something I had to do to both bolster and break my own ego. At the end of 49 days of watercolors, I had destroyed my fear of not being able to do what I love, but I had also destroyed my excuse.

As author Kate Baer says in the latest installment of Write Like a Mother, no one cares that you are a writer except you. I would extend that to any kind of creative: no one cares that you are an artist except you. 

No one else can show up in your place or even care if you don’t. You are the one who has to choose and choose and choose to make art, and sometimes it might be at the expense of everything else. When life got in the way of last week’s over-ambitious essay and I was running behind my self-imposed schedule, my body also decided it would withhold production. I found myself panic-googling “pathological constipation” from the toilet, and I don’t even want to tell you what I had to do after that. Which is to say that the mind-body connection is real. Sometimes you can take deep breaths and affirm your way out of your ailments, but sometimes you just have to glove up and reach into your own ass. It’s not pretty, but would you rather have someone else do it for you?

It’s up to you to show up. Having a formula has made it possible for me, as well as momentum. I think if I didn’t make every week, I wouldn’t make at all. I guess it still sounds like I am talking about poop, and maybe I am. For some people, creative output is practically a biological function.

For a while I thought I made art to maintain my sense of identity. It certainly did postpartum, when consistently producing even shitty work stabilized my mental health. But now I think it is something else. I don’t make art to create an identity, I make art because of that identity. I make art because I am an artist, and I am an artist because I love to make. Or at least feel a relentless impulse to make. Is that the same as love?

Green is Love and also Family, which brings up the very act of Creation (Orange) that I feared and still fear will stand in the way of artmaking. I created and continue to care for actual people, as well as a unit, a family. And I love those people, I love my family, I love what we create together everyday. But that doesn’t change my need to create art. 

The other morning, the toddler was home from daycare again with snot coming out of his eyeballs. He ended up being home for over half of the mornings he would normally have been there over the past two weeks. I asked my partner to please, please give me some time, so he loaded Snot Eyes into the car to take Kindergartener to school so I could write for a bit before 9am. And even after they all left and all was quiet, with just a tiny window of time to myself, I couldn’t help but flip the laundry. The laundry I had started in the middle of the night when the Kindergartener woke us up with wet sheets. 

As I was moving the mattress protector from the washing machine to the dryer, I thought: would an Art Monster do this? A true Art Monster would hit the studio (or in my case, desk) the second that the family hit the door. But maybe a true Art Monster wouldn’t be doing laundry at all. Or even have a family. 

But then I remember how problematic the idea of the art monster is. I remember that I am in fact not a drill sergeant or a recruit, I am a caregiver. So is my partner. And we are other things too. We each take care of these children and each other on top of all the other things we are trying to pull off. Not earning a paycheck right now makes it feel as if caregiving should be my job alone, makes me feel guilty for the time and resources that I use to do anything else. But writing that down, I know it’s bullshit. The problem isn’t me, the problem is the idea that any mother or parent or even any family can do it alone, as the great podcast The Double Shift preaches. Not getting paid doesn’t mean I am not working, in caregiving or artmaking. And at the moment, I need to do both if I am going to do either. I get to do both.

39+ cards laid in a grid on a colorful silk scarf. Rainbow Squared cards with images from Year 2. This is the spread for this week’s reading, Piece Thirty-Nine of Rainbow Squared Year 5. Each card is laid out in the order that I drew them this year. 
The full spread for Piece Thirty-Nine. I lay out all of the previous cards in order before pulling the card that will determine that week’s colors.

The day that I drew Green Orange, I found myself with green broccoli and orange pumpkin soup next to each other on the stove. Some weeks you can make great art. And some weeks you can make dinner. Both are creative acts.

Maybe that’s my new direction. This week’s essay is actually the TMI preamble you scroll through quickly to get to a mediocre recipe:

  1. October 31st rolls around and it’s a Sunday. Say: “Oh shit, if we’re actually going to carve those pumpkins, it’s now or never!”

  2. Realize you have no carving tools except dull kitchen knives that require a whole lot of yanking and stabbing. Basically the kids can only help you scoop out the pumpkin guts and separate the seeds.

  3. Kids get sick of scooping out pumpkin guts and separating seeds pretty quickly and you don’t want to hear them whine, so you do the whole thing yourself. Besides, it’s fun working with your hands. Case in point: Kindergartener decides to turn the guts into a “pie,” repeatedly smushing them in a bowl with her probably filthy hands. When you’re both done, put the Jack-O-Lanterns on the street and the “pie” into a container in the fridge.

  4. The next day, find a leek you forgot in the back of the fridge a few weeks ago from that time you were actually a domestic goddexx making actually delicious potato leek soup. Chop it up. 

  5. Sautee that leek in the bottom of a soup pot until it’s soft. 15 minutes?

  6. While that’s happening, furiously try to clean the kitchen from breakfast and lunch. Also chop some garlic and toss it in too.

  7. Pull out that container of pumpkin guts from the fridge. Is it edible? Sure. Dump it in.

  8. Sautee the leeks and garlic and guts together for a bit.

  9. Dump in a Tetra Pak™ of chicken stock from the grocery store.

  10. Bring it all to a boil, then simmer until you get impatient. 

  11. Immersion blend it. If I had to pour this shit into an actual blender there is no way I would make it. Too much hot liquid pouring, too much clean-up. My partner already had an immersion blender when we met and it was part of why I kept dating him (okay, a really really small part, but still).

  12. The soup is kind of done at this point. Take many sips and keep declaring it bland. Did you salt it? Add more salt, add more pepper. Add in a carton of heavy cream. Declare it serviceable.

  13. Serve with undercooked or overcooked broccoli on the side that your kids won’t eat either way.

There, now this is a recipe, and Rainbow Squared can be a recipe blog. It will be the top hit for “Jack-O-Lantern Guts Soup” and I can put up ads on the side of the post. Then I will make money from my art and I can legitimately call myself an artist. Is that how it works? 

No. I probably would have needed to record this. People get their recipes on Tik Tok now. Oh well, here’s an animation:

Green Orange. Love of creating, whatever the form. If you love creating, find a way to keep doing it and do it. It’s that simple, it’s just not that simple.