Betsy Pearson . . .
Living as Art
Photography Kirsten Shultz
illustrations: Betsy Pearson
(page 4 of 4)
She recounts the story of one of the workers, “a lovely young woman” who wore a tool belt over her hand-crocheted bikini. “She was very good at building,” Betsy remembers. Indeed. The woman, Cindy Mann (now sporting OSHA-approved attire), still works in the building industry here in the Valley. Their land seems vast and open, exactly the kind of place people dream of when they aspire to move to America’s West. Framed by snowcapped, rounded hilltops and edged with cottonwoods, aspens, pines, and willows, this is Idaho at its purest. “We actually only have five acres,” Betsy smiles. “But, since all of our neighbors have much larger pieces of land and we’re right in the middle, it feels like we have much more.” That was a very lucky night at the Silver Dollar nearly 30 years ago.
The house is well loved and fully lived in, family photos comfortably scattered about, rugs gently worn by the passage of many feet. It is a simple but lovely home, one that embraces inhabitants and fortunate visitors alike with a palpable sense of poignant memory, and an almost contradictory sense of never-ending youth (there is, for instance, a permanent grass volleyball court in the yard). It is easy to imagine that it has always been so.
Memories of the family’s Connecticut home surface easily. It was, Betsy remembers, “a wonderful place where people gathered.” Her sense of fun and adventure shines in the story Brad recounts of his mother touring all the young cousins through the Museum of Modern Art, and then spreading out huge lengths of white wallboard on the lawn at home. Handing over all of the old house paint in the basement, she challenged the kids: “Now, let’s see what you can do.” Brad, inspired by Jackson Pollock, flung and splattered paint with wild enthusiasm.
Envisioning a broad lawn filled with children painting huge masterpieces, I sense the presence of a creative muse in every aspect of Betsy Pearson’s life. In my mind, as in an 8mm-film format, I see joyous, rambunctious vitality pouring out of the Pearson home and into scenes of picnics, footraces, kite flying, and even Brad’s pole-vaulting pit for practicing in the yard. The children grow to become writers and teachers, and to raise children of their own. But, always, it is the laughter and the love that is most apparent. This is the art of living fully and well.
Deb Gelet, begged to write this story. Then, she realized she was writing about a writer who married a writer, and raised two more writers. (Oh. And a teacher.) Although her own insecurities nearly paralyzed her, she would do it all again just for the honor of sharing time with Betsy Pearson.