Ah, when to the heart of man
Was it ever less than a treason
To go with the drift of things,
To yield with a grace to reason,
And bow and accept the end
Of a love or a season?
From “Reluctance” by Robert Frost
Greetings Dear Ones,
The leaves are beginning to turn just the slightest bit, here in New England. We want the rain to end but we don’t want snow. We are done with the heat but we still want the light. It is a time of clinging and letting go—sometimes gratefully, sometimes with some other bargain in mind. We swirl through the annual eddies of attachment, fear, release, surrender… My thoughts turn to hoarding firewood, and wondering who might be the grateful recipients of these freak vegetables I have produced and don’t have time to turn into soup. In the shop, people are coming in with clothes they have not seen for months and wondering if they can be salvaged for yet another trip around the dark side of the sun.
A young man, probably in his mid-thirties, hands me a coat and asks with a slight catch in his throat if there is anything that can be done to fix it. A further sniff makes me pause and look at him closely. Is he suffering from the cold/virus crud that has been going around? Almost everyone I know is battling some sort of “bug” these days. No, the moisture in the corner of his eye is not viral—it’s emotional. He is looking at the tattered husk as if it is an ailing Labrador puppy and he doesn’t want to find out it is terminal. He doesn’t want me to say it is “too far gone” and needs to be put out of (what will be my) misery. The cuffs and collar are shot. The elbows are worn thin. The lining inside is frayed to slivers. He looks at me with his red-rimmed eyes and I see a five-year-old boy clutching his blankie. This coat is not just a coat to him. This canvas pelt, this Velvateen Rabbit of a jacket , is so much a part of HIM, it has attained its own level of mute consciousness. It’s been through so many things with him as silent witness and companion. “Apparently, it’s been to a hot-dog stand more than once, as well as a campfire or two,” notes Prudence with her eagle eye, “this man gets too familiar with mustard and sparks.” I sigh heavily, and agree to put his precious rag on life support.
Another woman comes in with a pair of black pants she wants fixed. “Please,” she insists dramatically, “You HAVE to fix them. They are the only pants that have ever fit me just right. I bought them twenty years ago and I am waiting for waistbands to come back up so I can buy something similar. So far, no luck. You MUST resuscitate them one more time.” After she leaves, I hold them up to my ears and I can hear them crying. “Please,” they wimper, “just let us die in peace!” They are exhausted. The fabric where the thighs rub together is so frail in places that you could read newsprint titles through it.
Saying goodbye to our clothing is hard. We become emotionally attached and entangled (sometimes literally) with it. I get it. It’s a complex love-affair. Sometimes, no matter how willing we are to be done with something, it’s still hard to let go. Recently, I had to write the following letter to a pair of my own jeans:
Dear Glitter-bum Blues,
We need to talk but I cannot even look at you without wanting to change my mind, hence, this letter. This is one of the hardest decisions I have ever had to make. After all, we’ve been together for many years now. It started out as a bit of whimsical flirting. You caught my eye on the sale rack of that up-scale department store when I was shopping with my sister. She looks Adorable in jeans like you so I thought I could make this work even though you are not really my type. I tried you on for size and thought you were just the tiniest bit tight but you looked like you might stretch. Granted, we should have had a longer courtship—perhaps I should have hung out with you first and gotten to know you better but I just couldn’t help it. I was smitten. To be fair, as with most infatuations, the one I was falling in love with was actually me. Suddenly, I felt glamorous in ways I never expected. This whirlwind romance made me feel impetuous and daring—bold and Free. We were destined for each other, or so I thought. I should have looked more closely.
The giddy infatuation lasted until I got you home and noticed bits of doughy flesh hanging over the edge of your waistband. “Oh, that’s just a little muffin top—it’s cute,” you said, refusing to take any responsibility for it. Well, muffin top IS cute until it starts to look like you have a bun in the oven, which was only a matter of time. “One should not wear garments that make one look as if one is running a bakery in her undergarments,” snorts Prudence with disdain. (She was against you from the start.)
Still, when I went through my closet and culled the duds, I never parted with you. I saw your sparkles, I sighed longingly and remembered how much I wanted us to fit together. Even when I popped the button off the front, I repaired it immediately. And HOW did you repay my devotion? With further denials, further constriction, no space anywhere for my spirit or my thighs to expand into their full potential. It was sad. I was bitter, naturally, but there was never anyone else who could make me feel as tall as you did, when I wore you with those clogs that hurt my knees. (Those traitorous co-conspirators! They’re next…)
The last few months have been horrible. There are no bright spots to speak of…I guess we’ve each been secretly thinking that the other one was going to change. I thought we had something, that we could turn this relationship around and start to be seen in public together again. I’m weary of the struggle it takes to be what you need. It’s not exactly that you are breaking my heart. To be fair, my heart just isn’t really in it anymore… as, obviously, neither is either buttock…well, not at the same time. I wasn’t expecting big things—just a little progress would be nice. Maybe you could try to accommodate me once in a while, instead of me being the one to look like a Cirque de Soleil acrobat on my closet floor.
Relationships are the crucibles in which we form ourselves. Our relationship, especially given the way you treated me last Monday, is seriously impeding my ability to have a Serene Inner Character, a quiet but solid sense of Right and Wrong, and the ability to think Good Thoughts about myself and others. I don’t just want to look Good, I want to BE Good. I simply cannot manage this in a garment that is cutting off all circulation to my lower regions. I simply don’t feel grounded when I can no longer feel the earth because my feet have gone numb. I want to return to my roots and savor the warmth of a family meal without thinking I shall have to digest the mashed potatoes with my eardrums.
Prudence warned me about you. She said you were not good for a girl like me—that you would lead me astray from my core values. Let’s face it; Prudence can be a total crab apple at times. She took to heart everything the nuns in school ever said and she seems to have adopted their fashion sense as well. By this, I don’t mean tasteful-but-repressive dark habits and wimples in fine woolens—I’m talking about the regrettable era after the Second Vatican Council gave young women in devotional orders permission to rummage through the bins at Good Will and wear anything the poor had rejected. Prudence, that Queen of Frump, even she is right about you. You appeal much more to my inner harlot who loves shoes that dislocate her knee sockets.
And Yes, I must also confess, there IS another. I’ve given my heart (and bum) to a humble pair of barn jeans, what they call in New England “dungarees” perhaps for their associations with “dung.” Sure, they don’t have your flare, your sparkle, your decorative stitching or your style but I feel at home with them and they have made friends with all the holiday cookies I have been carrying around since last December and haven’t been able to shake. (Well, to be perfectly frank, they shake quite a lot…what I really mean is that they are like undergraduates you invite home for Thanksgiving who guzzle all your sherry and don’t know when to depart.) These barn jeans…they stink a little up close, like some of the very best folk I know, but they accept me just as I am. I don’t have to pretend to be someone I am not in order to be with them. I am free to stretch and grow—in ways that feel good and natural to me. I can eat lunch and laugh, all at the same time. They go well with my boots. (Boots are like the best of friends—they never let you down; they never care if you gain or lose a little weight; they just keep helping you plod through crap with your feet dry.)
And so, my darling, we must now go our separate ways. A part of me will always love you and want to be with you. But our blighted romance was never meant to last long. Please understand. I hope you are able to move on and make some other skinny floozy very happy. Love, Me.”
I have a moody little sport jacket and some uppity church dresses that need a stern talking to as well but one goodbye is all I can take for today. I shall give them some time to see the error of their ways before I top up my bag of clothing donations and evict them from the Enchanted Closet forever.
So it goes with Fall in New England. It’s time to change our wardrobes and our minds—accepting both what Must be changed and what Cannot, with love for each and wisdom to know the difference. It’s all part of the cycle of Life. Some old things need to be cherished, others let go of in order to make room for new bargains, new britches, and new beginnings. It doesn’t make the Passings and Prunings we must endure any less painful, but it’s ok to let Hope fill the gaps they leave behind. Take Heart! A new season is on its way! Dress up!
Be well, my Dearies, and do Good Work!