Dualism as a useful tool; also, belemnites.

So, among other things, last night I walked around thinking about how very surprisingly useful my romanticized archaic adolescent fiction fetish can be.

For instance: Last night I finished Heaven to Betsy, the fifth book (I can’t call it a novel, can I?) in the Betsy-Tacy series by Maud Hart Lovelace, which take place in turn-of-the-20th century small-town Minnesota and which was published in 1945. I loved this series but haven’t read it since college. Anyway, the useful bit comes in here: I finished it, and toward the end I’m recognizing a useful dualism between Betsy and her sister. Betsy is sensible, Julia has courage. Betsy lived more intently in the moment than did her sister, while Julia had wider vistas in which she dreamt. “The hills that shut in the town of Deep Valley shut Betsy into her own dearly loved world. Julia loved the Great World. She longed to [be] out in the Great World. The Great World was more real and much more important to Julia”. Whereas our Heroine, Betsy, is swept up in a whirlwind of sociality that in the end has her sorrowful that she did not give herself a chance to be challenged, her sister dives into things, ignoring everyone in order to practice, buries herself in whatever work is at hand, perfecting her art, away from the crowd.

Okay, why this recount? It occurred to me last night that in some ways I am uncomfortably like Betsy. Not in my whirlwind social calendar, no. But in that I often look back to see that I let the small up-close busywork deprive me of the challenge of burying myself in something real, something important, at least to me. As Betsy mourned, “‘What makes me feel bad is that I didn’t give myself a chance….’ She looked back over the crowded winter. She did not regret it. but she should not have let its fun, its troubles, its excitements squeeze her writing out. ‘If I treat my writing like that,’ she told herself, ‘it may go away entirely.'”

There is the something that each person has… the something that gives purpose and mystery and promise to hours and days and is ours, only, not belonging to or even being for anyone else, and sometimes it feels as though I’ve ignored my whatever-it-is and it’s the busywork that fills the minutes until I look back and decide that I’m going to make time for “myself” and I don’t know what that means.

It can be research and writing, or drawing ,or weaving, really bad, really rotten writing or drawing or weaving even, but if it’s the thing that makes a heart sing and it’s the thing that keeps you up late when you are doing it and you don’t mind because it was just so interesting–then you have your thing, and I have a thing, only I’ve buried it in pragmatic knitting projects and dishes and administrative volunteering so I have to unbury it. Excavation started when I realized that it was buried. Shovels are now at the ready, energized by fear. I have at least 50 years left to fill. (Seriously. Women live for a long time in my family. We beat people with canes, our own.)

(Even as I write this I’m designing a cane-cover for my grandma in my head, and I wonder, is this a creative breakthrough? Or busywork?)

Wednesday’s creativity involved enticing the Boy to eat his carrots at tea. Geeklet decided his pre-mealtime reading was to be the Mesozoic section of The Story of Life by Michael Benton. Boy loves this book. He picks it out and looks at it every time we visit the dinosaur/evolution section of the library, even if he doesn’t always choose to check it out. It’s like a special treat. He finds it hysterical that they refer to the apatosaurus as a brontosaurus. The sections on the Triassic, Jurassic and Cretaceous have on-land and in-the-sea sections, and there is a section that talks about ammonites and belemnites, some kinds of which survived a mass die-out at the boundary between the Paleozoic and the Mesozoic.

For reference, photos:

So we’re eating our food and talking about dinosaurs and Boy Geeklet is talking more than eating so I say, go on, eat your belemnites.

Don’t laugh. Look at our belemnites:

We ate them dipped in ranch dressing.


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