What Goes Around

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I’m having a bit of a crises of conscience.

I can’t help but wonder if I am contributing to the whole stuff deal by having a small space in an antique store. Am I perpetuating the very thing I’m attempting to control or eliminate in my own life? The collection of stuff?

I’d like to think in this whole big drama we call The Stuff Show, that I am on the right side of things. I see myself as a mild and minor protagonist. I am not heroic for saving someone else’s trash and converting it into treasure, I’m simply a cog in the wheel of a much larger machine.

I know that hoarders shop antique stores. But I also know there are people like me who appreciate pieces of furniture and useful items like vintage mixing bowls or an old paint splattered ladder and will purchase items judiciously after careful consideration.

There is so much stuff and most of us are just moving it from here to there. Too much of it is getting moved from here to the dump. Or tossed because the newer better thing has just come on the market.

In my own way I like to feel like I am helping to preserve history. The older I get the simpler I want things and so many of these items I buy and sell have magnificent stories. For instance I love the scarred kitchen table that can go on and on about the peas that have been shelled and corn that has been shucked at its side. It explains that many of its scars are from the slip of a knife off the cutting board or a pot placed on its surface before it was cool. The chair with the sagging seat talks in hushed tones about the many visitors it has had whereas the silver plated hand mirror would never say a thing about the secrets of others.

I don’t for a minute believe I am setting a bad example by repurposing or reselling cast off items. I am not creating a new problem. And I don’t believe I’m adding to one.

Put simply, I find neglected and forgotten items, love them back to health and offer them back out to the world. I am feeding consumerism and that part feels a bit inelegant, but I am not creating a need that doesn’t exist. I cannot control the habits of others. I am suggesting that if you need an item, check an antique store first, or a thrift store, or your own closets and drawers.

In The Stuff Show, I am a minor foot soldier on the team of good intentions. The Generals are the minimalists and the ocean cleaners and the zero wasters. I’m hopeful that we can all work together to create a minimally furnished world of beautifully patinaed treasures.

Scraps of History

shower curtain IMG_2191One of the quickest way I find everyday enchantment is to closely look at the belongings in my home. I recall  the meaning of each piece, the feeling behind it when I purchased or received it or imagine its life before it came to live with me.

My little moment of enchantment today has to do with a shower curtain.  I have an affinity for old, worn, tattered things; a well-loved quilt, a step stool with peeling paint, cracked sepia toned photos – even if I don’t know who’s in them.

Years ago while my mom and I were haunting thrift stores and antique shops we started picking up bits of fabric, mostly napkins and handkerchiefs. We had no idea what we were going to do with them, but that has never stopped us before.

It wasn’t until months or maybe even a year later that I uncovered these hand sewn squares while organizing a closet. Slowly an idea began to form. I knew why I had gathered them. I picked out all the whitish ones without stains and set them aside. When I found a hand crocheted lace roll I began to assemble the piece in my head.

My mother had just started quilting. You should know that the women in my family tend to migrate from craft project to creative endeavor and back again. Painting, cut paper, cross stitching, sewing, jewelry making, quilting and anything remotely artsy. At this particular time, mom had discovered quilting.

I handed her all my little whitish squares and requested a patchwork shower curtain. We used the roll of tan lace to adorn the top and she fitted each napkin and handkerchief together like a vintage puzzle.

Now each time I glimpse at the shower curtain I wonder about the people who hand-stitched and tatted this piece or that. I imagine the dinner parties where the napkins stood in for the pot roast before it was served, somewhere between the martinis and brandy. Scraps of a chenille bedspread that kept a family warm in their drafty country home captivate me. I wonder if the  lace may have been meant for a fancy dress and why it wasn’t made.

It’s these bits of imagined history sewn together with love in the present that take me to that enchanted place.