"Our sense of enchantment is not triggered only by grand things; the sublime is not hiding in distant landscapes.
The awe-inspiring, the numinous, is all around us, all the time. It is transformed by our deliberate attention. It becomes valuable when we value it. It becomes meaningful when we invest it with meaning.
The magic is of our own conjuring."
Making the quilt top - the designed, pathworky side - is the sexy part of quilt-making. Finishing the quilt - sandwiching the soft batting layer between the quilt top and the quilt back and then affixing all three layers together somehow - is the other part, and it always takes much longer than I remember.
But I'm coming around on finishing! The more quilts I make, the more I am enjoying the process of turning a flimsy top layer into a fully finished blanket that has some nice heft and softness.
Since I'm finishing the baby quilt (I need a name for this one!) by stitching the layers together using free motion quilting on my home machine, the next step is to lay out the quilt sandwich (backing, batting, top) on the floor, smoothing each layer nice and flat one at a time, and then pin them together using hundreds of safety pins, spaced 3-5" apart. The pins will hold the layers together, nice and flat, as I move the quilt around, maneuvering it under the needle of my machine.
Also a part of the finishing steps, I prepared binding for the baby quilt and for a quilt rescue project I'm working on for a friend. Binding is the fabric that wraps around the edges of the quilt after all the layers are stitched together. I like to make my own binding from 2 1/2" strips of fabric, stitched end to end, ironed in half the long way, and then rolled up. After the quilting step is complete, these two binding rolls are all ready to be stitched on!
Just in time for the Oscars, I posted "2022 Year in Review: The 50 Films That Shaped Us" on Midnight Movie Train this week! I started working on this in November - making a list of all the films that came out in 2022, gathering data from a number of sources, scoring, designing and writing. Along the way I got to learn about all the films that came out in the last 12 months... and hot damn cinema is so awesome!
This is the third year I've done this project, and this year I'm particularly inspired by how many unique and bold, truly visionary films made it to our screens this year - led of course by the year's breakout star, the fantastically strange and wonderful Everything Everywhere All At Once. On streaming services, in theaters, or out there available to rent online, great cinema is available everywhere right now - consider this list one roadmap.
The Hollow Crown: Richard II (2013): In a previous version of my life, I was really into Shakespeare. I shouldn't write about it in the past tense like that though... this stuff never leaves you. In college, I won a fellowship to study performances of Shakespeare's plays in the UK and had the immense privilege of directing two productions of my own: Much Ado About Nothing and Measure for Measure. These stories are so timeless, so transcendent - and the language, when performed effectively, is deeply moving, like weaving a spell that conjures up the deepest well of yourself.
A number of years ago, the BBC rounded up the best classically trained actors of this generation and made gorgeous big-ish budget adaptations of the four plays known as The Henriad (Richard II, Henry IV - Part 1, Henry IV - Part 2 and Henry V) and released it on the BBC (and PBS in the US) as The Hollow Crown.
We watched the first film in the series this week, Richard II, starring Ben Whishaw (who is AMAZING), Patrick Stewart, and Rory Kinnear - and it is so fantastic! Richard II tells the story of the fall of the titular King Richard, here memorialized as one of the last medieval kings (infallible and appointed by God and all that), and the rise of Henry IV, one of the first Machiavellian leaders, who expertly played the game of politics to seize power. Whether Henry IV's cause was righteous (or not) and the dangerous destabilization introduced by the possibility of power grabs like Henry's in a system built on infallible centralized power are tantalizing questions at the heart of the play, explored beautifully in this film.
Even though I've worked with Shakespeare's language quite a bit, I still always brace myself a bit for the experience of a film in this language, like it's going to require a lot of work or something... And that's just not the case, at least not with this film - mostly because of the skill and confidence of these actors and the spaciousness of the filmmaking. I am 100% convinced more cinema should be written in poetry, start to finish. I was riveted for the film's entire runtime and can't wait to watch the next installment (especially because Tom Hiddleston plays Prince Hal - oh my! That's a super nerdy toe-curler right there...).
Lady Chatterley's Lover (2022): This isn't revolutionary moviemaking, but it is quite a lovely tumble in the tall grass, if you know what I'm saying. An earnest, open-hearted film about love that gives people courage, that transcends boundaries and social conventions, is always going to be a winner for me.
Also, I just learned that although D.H. Lawrence published the novel this is based on privately in 1928, its explicit descriptions of sex - particularly female pleasure - were considered so obscene that it wasn't published publicly in any way until 1960. And even then, it became the centerpiece of an obscenity trial in the UK and was banned in the US, Canada, Australia, India and Japan. Wow. Our culture is so weird about sex.
Dirty Dancing (1987): I put this on to help me calm down after I had gotten myself in a tangle of stress earlier this week, and even though I've seen this a zillion times, I had a few thoughts about it. First, the heartbreak at the center of this film that ultimately brings Johnny and Baby together is Penny's pregnancy and her lack of access to a safe, legal abortion. I always knew that part of the reason Dirty Dancing is so timeless and moving is its social conscience, but it never struck me as a film about women's health rights until now. Probably because of the times we're living in. Second, I have always loved the fairy tale aspect of the romance: Johnny Castle - the hottest bad boy dance instructor - falls in love with Baby - the unglamourous smart girl. But this time, it struck me that the reason Johnny falls for Baby is because of her goodness, her optimism, her belief that the world can be better, her sense of responsibility to make it so, and her willingness to put her own relationships and reputation and safety on the line to fight for it.
In that iconic last scene he describes her as "...not only a terrific dancer, but somebody who's taught me that there are people willing to stand up for other people no matter what it costs them. Somebody who's taught me about the kind of person I wanna be." That's epic all-time love story stuff right there.
Also on-screen at our place:
I finished the last of the published novels in the Court of Thorns and Roses series by Sarah J. Maas: A Court of Frost and Starlight and A Court of Silver Flame. And now I totally have the post-series hangover... like what am I supposed to do with my life now that I don't have any more stories about these characters I love to keep me company?
A Court of Silver Flame is excellent - the protagonist shift from Feyre to Nesta was a bold move, especially because Nesta is such an unlikable character. But don't doubt Queen Sarah - this shift was brilliant. The journey of healing and transformation she goes on in this novel is deeply moving. After the world-shaking events of the first 3 books, I was curious how the stakes here could possibly contend with what had come before, but holy cow - Silver Flame is starting something wholly new and totally badass.
If you like spicy fantasy, I very enthusiastically recommend this series! My advice is to think of the first novel (especially the relational dynamics in it) as table-setting for the subsequent books in the series. A Court of Thorns and Roses is a great adventure story on its own - totally engaging from start to finish - but the relationships and action it is setting up in the novels to come is so much more interesting and insightful and brave and moving.
Thank you again to my beloved sister Molly for gifting me these stories - I am so grateful!
This week was a story of balance: of good neighbors and bad neighbors, and of pleasant healing and painful healing. Regarding bad neighbors, someone broke into our garage during the middle of the night on Thursday, which just really really sucks. But there were good neighbors too: Justin and I (and another neighbor who lives by the park) came across a sweet little ragamuffin running around by himself, apparently out for an adventure, on Wednesday. We worked together to scoop him up, get him safe and indoors, tracked down his family, and he is safe and back home as of this morning. Success!
My pleasant healing was enjoying a truly glorious 3 days in Florida with my sister, after we had both had COVID. But healing isn't always so joyful and relaxing - sometimes it's dental surgery, like the one I had yesterday.
Holy Time - How to See It
This week's experience was asynchronous - a video to walk you through it is here. Our slides--with words from Jenny Xie, Katherine May, Danusha Lameris, and Laura Foley plus music from The Antlers--are available here.
Holy Time is a weekly online gathering - Thursdays, 8:45pm CT on zoom (https://zoom.us/j/94849428936).
All are welcome.
Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org with questions or for more information.
What you are making and reading and writing and doing? What is inspiring you? I'd love to hear from you in the comments.