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  • Betsy Grace

At the Bottom of Everything (Week 9)

Updated: Jan 18


The week began by gathering with friends to celebrate Shay's life and say goodbye. It ended with a heart-filling Stitchcraft gathering and various little celebrations of my birthday. These days have been life lived close to the quick - feeling the impermanence of our time on earth quite sharply, and also sinking in to the joy of loving others and of being loved.


It's been exhausting and lovely.


Here's 9-year old Justin and Shay, on his front step when they were kids (Justin is top left, Shay - bottom right)
Me, on the day I turned 41.

Making


I'm still working on the friendship star mini-quilt ornaments. This week, I completed all the "fronts" and have begun assembly...


I've been generating lots of new quilt ideas this week: toying around with ideas for a data-driven quilt, as well as making quilts out of Shay's things for his family. And today, a friend of a friend reached out about a new commission project, so we'll see where that leads.



Writing


"How Much Time Do I Have?" Exercise: We put a deposit down on a new car this week, and J and I have been having the money talks, which has led me into some curiosity about adding some paid contract work back into my rhythm. This was a complex and somewhat emotionally loaded idea for me to process - so on Monday I spent a bunch of time trying to get clear in my own mind about what impact doing 4-5 hours/week of contract work might have on the weekly rhythm I've settled into and the open space I want to preserve in order to support the emergence of new things in this next chapter. So, a journaling exercise: I started with all available hours in the week and whittled it down based on my best estimates of how I spend my time right now - including household tasks, meal-making/eating, journaling, seeing friends and family, even sleep. After some very methodical estimating and some basic math, my best estimate is that I currently have ~24 hours/week to do whatever I want with... which both feels incredibly spacious and starkly limiting given my big ambitions for the next chapter I will build from this season. But creativity needs limits and it feels helpful to know what those limits realistically are.


 

"Most Influential Films of 2022" Project: I'm still working on gathering data on 2022 films - writing about them will be next. This week I completed the Rs and Ss. So far I've collected data on 361 films that came out last year... I have 95 left. Getting there!



Watching


Every year, I look forward to the release of the always absolutely fantastic video countdown of the year's best films from my favorite film critic/writer, David Ehrlich. This year's video countdown came out this week and it is SO excellent:



 

We went on a little detective movie kick this week - and of those we watched my favorite was the 1986 film, The Name of the Rose starting Sean Connery and a very young Christian Slater. The film does an amazing job portraying the medieval Catholic church as a menacing order of evil wizards, Sean Connery makes an excellent Franciscan Sherlock Holmes, Christian Slater's teenage sex appeal is apparently so powerful that women just immediately tear off their clothes the moment they lay eyes on him, and I've never felt so emotionally invested in a library.


The film creates a thought-provoking picture of life in the 13th century and pivots around a fascinating tension between knowledge/intelligence and ignorance/fear, and the lengths people will go to manipulate and exploit others, keeping them imprisoned in the darkness of their own minds.





 

Also on-screen at our place... the harmless but mediocre Edgar Allen Poe-flavored murder investigation tale The Pale Blue Eye and Edgar Wright's Last Night in Soho, which despite its pretty visuals, I really disliked... and more:




Reading



"Hell is the Absence of God", another Ted Chiang story from the Stories of Your Life anthology, which creates a world in which angels regularly appear on earth, leaving a trail of destruction and people healed or converted or injured or dead in their wake, and it is visually apparent whether departing souls go to heaven or hell. I liked it - it read like a cool fantasy story and proposed some interesting questions about piety and devotion.


 

I also started a new book of essays by the artist, Paul Chan which includes a commencement address he gave about how important it is for artists to work without debt of any kind (financial or inspirational) and an essay drawing together the ways humility/submission are celebrated in our culture as the ultimate expression of compliance with systems of order (governmental, religious) and the legacy of outsider artists and activists, who serve the purer, truer truth beneath/within all things.


 

I've also been reading from Ada Limon's collection, The Carrying. One poem that struck me this week:


Dandelion Insomnia


The big-ass bees are back, tipsy, sun drunk

and heavy with thick knitted leg warmers

of pollen. I was up all night again so today's

yellow hours seem strange and hallucinogenic.

The neighborhood is lousy with mowers, crazy

dogs, and people mending what winter ruined.

What I can't get over is something simple, easy:

How could a dandelion seed head seemingly

grow overnight? A neighbor mows the lawn

and bam, the next morning, there's a hundred

dandelion seed heads straight as arrows

and proud as cats high above any green blade

of manicured grass. It must bug some folks,

a flower so tricky it can reproduce asexually,

making perfect identical selves, bam, another me,

bam, another me. I can't help it--I root

for that persecuted rosette so hyper in its

own making it seems to devour the land.

Even its name, translated from the French

dent de lion, means lion's tooth. It's vicious,

made for a time that requires tenacity, a way

of remaking the toughest self while everyone

else is asleep.


Also


Transmissions from my visit to the Walker Art Center. From the Jannis Kounellis retrospective:


From Paul Chan's exhibition, "Breathers," my favorite of the day:




And from the permanent collection, Beuford Delaney:




Soundtrack



 

I'd love to hear what you are making and reading and writing and what is inspiring you. Share in the comments (and heads-up: a better way to share is in the works!).


Love,


Betsy

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