Year 5, Piece Twenty-One: 8. Orange Red

GUEST PIECE by Lily Laurence

Every seventh piece this year is a guest piece, and this third one is by my friend and longtime collaborator Lily Laurence. Lily is a brilliant strategist, facilitator, maker, teacher, thinker, and doer. She works as a regenerative consultant, helping people and organizations to envision their most thriving and sustainable futures and the steps to get there. We met in 2008 when we were each new to San Francisco and landed a job canvassing for then-future president Barack Obama. One of the very first things we did as new friends was to create a meet-up of aspiring activists and we’ve been collaborating ever since, from co-creating a collective house to co-creating an art collective. She was there in the room during both of my births; I officiated her wedding. Even our names fit together: Lily + Ilyse = Lilyse.

Rainbow Squared has its roots in new motherhood, so it is pretty potent for Lily to participate right as she anticipates her first birth. And after her own mother Janet wrote the last guest piece, no less. Bodies creating bodies creating art, bodies creating bodies as art.

8. Orange Red

By Lily Laurence

Wow wow wow. Is meaning just dripping from the world waiting so juicy at every turn?  So that any card I pull would be meaningful? I don’t know, but as a dabbler in Tarot myself I have deep respect for divination systems including this one.

I receive my color set at 1:36 am. I am awake, alone in bed yet not alone. My partner J is away for a few days and I’ve woken to the feeling of our baby moving in my womb, little hands and feet thrumming about so strongly I feel burning in my throat as my stomach contents are pushed around and upward from the inside by our little bean, little being. I don’t often wake in the night actually, which is a blessing in a 34 week pregnancy. So I’m not upset, just mindful. I pee, I drink water, I reach for my phone and see that ilyse has sent me the Rainbow Squared colors. And I click in and see a photo of orange & red and to me it’s clearly blood, it’s body, it’s growth, life, it’s me creating (orange) a baby body (red) and as much as the red of survival, cycles, and physicality is on the nose, so too is the creativity and gratitude, the splendor surrender fire passion pleasure of orange. 

Receiving this card from ilyse slaps me across the wide part of my shoulders, envelops me like a surprisingly strong hug that takes your wind just briefly, undeniably IS me in this moment. 

It’s a few weeks later. Time is flying by, I’m almost 36 weeks pregnant now and the little body inside my body is getting stronger every day. We watched the movie “Alien”, the original 1979 one, and it was not disturbing to me at all, because my little alien feels just perfect, so right, even when I can literally see their physical movement from the outside! There must be so much red and orange in the womb-world, eyes that are developed enough now to perceive, see through placenta and viscera, through stretched skin, I imagine like orange tinted glasses. I sun my belly sometimes just wondering if that brightens their world from deep shadowed carmine, wine colored realms into more apricot, cantaloupe, golden yellow zones. 

J & I moved to the coastal redwoods recently, to nestle in with blood family for this baby time instead of our friend-family in the city, and our new place is filled to the brim with greens and browns. The calm peace of trees and ferns and soft moss. I told ilyse there was no red and orange here.  

Which is not true of course, but as I looked around for creative inspiration all I saw was human-made things. Our orange tent, set up for glamping guests now. A red plastic cutting board. A soft red velour pillow. These dead objects don’t spark anything. I dismiss them, looking for something to vibe with the thrumming life of the first inspiration here. But the trees stay green just changing light to dark, even the flowers are stubbornly yellow, pink, white. 

But I’m softening now, finding the crack in that reaction. It’s tempting to try to identify and exclude the things outside of the growing decaying world and our own red blood bodies, to say that they are somehow separate or count differently because we “made them up” or “invented them.”  But is there anything “outside” of nature? People are nature, so what we do is also nature. Yet when we talk about “natural” vs. “non-natural” things, we’re trying to give language to a distinction that is interesting. They feel outside the cycles of blood and survival, but it’s in this separation that there’s something to dig at, something I dig at often in my life and work. What is our conception of life systems? What is the Interdependence of things and people? 

The “non-natural” distinction fails us because all these human made things are real and really part of the world. Even the bits of plastics in my body. In the body of global life. How we make and use them really does affect us, each other, the global climate system, and all living things. Just like the trees and the moss and the organic membranes in my body.

I’m 37 weeks pregnant now, and I think Baby has “dropped” which means at least for me that it feels like their little head bone is touching my skeleton from the inside. Weird pressure on the pelvis. I walk a little more bow legged.  Yet I am also even more in awe and in love with this being, I can tickle a foot stuck up in my ribs and feel a response, another life, another being, perceiving the world and moving in it. 

Life is a gift. Life is a leap. At least for humans it’s not all that comfortable to make life. But comfort is not the reason to live. I feel deeper than ever gratitude for help and support, all the difference a kind word from my mom makes, gifts I could not pay for. I feel how foreign aloneness is to life, how ridiculous it is to look at the world transactionally. How much with others, interdependent, is the way, is the real. Other people. It’s impossible without them. Us. And so much more beautiful.

Gratitude, splendor, and surrender to the process of creating life and being.