Those who know me know I don’t really go in for stuff. But I do have a soft spot for plaid. And no it’s not a hipster thing – I’ve been a believer of the virtues of plaid for a long time. My father says he was a trend setter . He sticks to a style long enough to see it come all the way around. I subscribe to the same belief I guess. I’m fashion’s caboose- the last car in the train, but the one everyone wants to ride on.
I’m not a fanatic or a purist, I don’t demand you share my love of this long perfected pattern that celebrates the science of random variation, or meditate on the infinitude of possibility in its endless array of color combinations, I just like plaid.
It is a poor man’s tweed for sure. Wool plaid, cotton plaid, plaid blends, with cowboy snap buttons or not, boned collar or not; be it British hunting hued, two toned, earth toned, no matter, as long as it’s checkered and feels right.
But I do have one plaid shirt that sits above all others. It has virtue and good breeding and the added benefit of value. It was picked out of a Goodwill rack for a few bucks by Elisa a while back.
And it’s a Pendleton.
Elisa has a thing for thrift stores. It’s a gift. She is a woman of vision. She would have been a prospector during the gold rush of another century.
Like a chef at market tapping heirloom melons, she can recognize a keeper at a furlong using just her sense of touch. Marvel should craft a franchise based on her super power.
Her picker philosophy is a hodge-podge of new age law of attraction and the Buddhist principle of non-attachment. It has produced baleful results to which I am grateful to be one of her primary beneficiaries… cause one of the things she likes to hunt for is plaid.
The Pendleton in question, my favorite Pendleton, has the well-worn badge of honor and patina of age from years of good use and reincarntion, but is beginning to break down. Anyone who knows anything about good cotton and wool knows that there is a apex prime when materials reach their maximum comfort level – like a violin after a hundred and twenty years or so… when things ripen to their juiciest, etc… right before they begin to decay.
Life is full of fermentation, of things breaking down, and taste is the byproduct.
The skill of any good rag picker is to triage a rack and know what can be repaired and what cannot.
Cause what comes along with that perfect t-shirt is the inevitable hole and stain, the fray, the rip, and the shrinkage. We want the fade but we don’t want the other stuff.
Which is why we all need to know how to sew in our digitized world of spambots.
What sets this particular Pendleton apart is not that it is simply repaired with stitches, it is that has been patched with mementos of love. From things long saved and treasured– those sacred common things that come out of a box of keep sakes and are grafted on in the quiet of solitude to what we find and give away…
My Pendleton has its own heart stamped over a scar in the pocket, a reminder to “be present” welded beneath the first button, and a goddess to watch over my back.
It allows me tattoos without having to commit to their permanence and pain.
I don’t know if you have ever had a shirt hand crafted for you – but it makes one feel secure in a changing world. Just knowing it’s there. Mine hangs on a hook, or a drawer handle, the back of a chair, always at the ready, never in the closet. Even in summer. If the big zombie volcanic tsunami hits, I would crawl through the rubble of an empire to grab this shirt.
I don’t wear it every day, out of respect for its utilitarian power. I am called to honor my role in its stewardship by practicing prudent conservationism.
That being said, I could pick sage at 9000 feet in it then button it up for the Oscars and still wear it the next day. Come rain or shine.
It makes me feel like a king.
And not just because it doesn’t have to endure the trauma of spin wash as often as it’s polyster brethren, but because when I wear it, I feel I wear all that’s good in this world.
It awakens an imagining in me. Being the color of an enchanted forest in spring, it makes me think of the worlds I come from and long to return to. I sometimes get the sense that it was mine a long time ago, something I lost but was returned to me by divine chance and a favorable wind.
But deep in my heart I know it is not mine. I just get to keep it for a time. And if I’m lucky, leave it for another.
Every time I finger that first button I breathe a little deeper, and if I need a folded up paper towel to blow my nose, I get to reach behind a felt rimmed heart stitched with carpet thread, double knotted on both ends to shield my own against the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune.
And just knowing Shakti and the divine feminine is at my back allows me the privilege of never having to turn around again. And I spent a life turning around.
Looking for ghosts that weren’t there.
It is the only armor I will ever need.
Stuff that works
Stuff that holds up
The kind of stuff you don’t hang on a wall
Stuff that’s real
Stuff you feel
The kind of stuff you reach for when you fall
-“Stuff that Works” by Guy Clark and Rodney Crowell