The Straight of the Goods

“Wobbly seams charm no one.” –from a Vintage sewing book

Greetings Dear Ones!

Once upon a time, a tired little seamstress woke up feeling somewhat out of sorts.  She lay in her bed and considered the day ahead—filled as she knew it might be with clogged bobbins, snaggled threads, mischievous measurements, and middle-raged customers.   Her internal celestial “channel” was not tuned to the Divine, but rather her dial had shifted to some rather horrible static, as if she had hit the AM rather than FM button on the radio.  In fact, it was AM—very early AM, thanks to the bleating of the lambs and the thimble-sized bladders of her dogs.  She thought, “I have plenty of time--all I have to do is get my circuits realigned and All Shall BE Well.  I just need to Meditate, journal, do what my children call some New Age sort of “Hooey Pooey” with my Angel cards… When I am tuned in properly, I can do Good Work and find any customer Adorable, even if he or she is being ornery. But if I stay in this frame of mind, it will be a horrible day, no matter how nice people are.” It seemed like a good plan.

 “Rubbish,” huffed Prudence. “You just need to get up and Do What Needs to Be Done for the sheer hell of it. You needn’t feel good about it.”  But our tired little seamstress realized that she was at all times responsible for her own mental state.  Besides, who wants to work with a woman in an anti-virtuous mode of mind resentfully sewing lace on a wedding dress, or cursing crotch crud in a pair of trousers that needs to be let out? Happiness is not circumstantial. It takes inner practice, just like scales on a violin. She did her morning chores, fed her animals, then started running the bath water for her morning ablutions. (Ablutions sounds like a more fairy-tale sort of word than “scrubbing her pits.”)  She thought about how Delicious it is to meditate in a bath of warm water—to lie down and feel one’s abdomen rising and falling, floating and sinking, with each breath.  She had one toe in the water when, from the next room, she could hear the two male Jack Russells getting into a difference of opinion about whose turn it was to lick a recently-emptied bowl of food. Before she could reach them, they had each other by the ears and were tearing the fur off each other.  She grabbed a towel, and threw it over them. One was hanging from the other’s neck and would not let go.  She did the only thing she could think of—she threw the whole bundle into the tub of hot water.  Eventually, sputtering with rage, one spit the other out and she was able to run, naked, wet and bloody, down the stairs to evict each snarling villian.  She took one look at the bath water laced with tendrils of blood as if there had been a miniature shark attack, drained it, and showered instead. 

Still devoted to the idea of Raising her Consciousness, she decided to listen to some Sacred Music while she made breakfast.  Perhaps she could achieve Serenity with a little multi-tasking.  Then she remembered the chickens needed water.  She dashed outside in wellie-boots and a bathrobe to water the chickens.  When it came time to leave for work, she could not locate her phone. For twenty minutes, she behaved like a deranged criminal in her own home, ripping cushions off couches, opening and slamming cupboards and drawers, dumping things, overturning things…all in quest of the damn phone.  Then she remembered. She had been listening to the music on the phone—sure enough, it had fallen in the chicken coop.  At least the chickens looked more sedate after listening to chant for twenty minutes…

Now late, her herbal-organic-hippie-crunchy granola-scented deodorant had already given out, her house was trashed and she needed another shower.  So much for her Morning Tranquility Practices! She dove into her car and sped off.  En route to work, she noticed the car in front of her was weaving all over the road.  The driver was either texting or had just dumped scalding hot coffee on her crotch.  If that car was a horse and wagon, she would feel compelled to gallop alongside it and grab the bridle and bring it to a safe stop like they do in old westerns. 

At the shop, the first Customer of the day wants ten panels of curtains hemmed. They are cheapo curtains that, straight out of the packages, are ten different lengths.  She considers trying to explain to the customer why they will never hang straight but decides to nod and keep Silent until the customer leaves.  They have not been cut on the Straight of the Goods. What is the Straight of the Goods, you ask?  It has to do with following the grain of the fabric.  Grain, as you well know, is something useful in the production of whisky. Although there is no actual barley in fabric, we do refer to “grain” as the direction of the warp and the weft in a woven fabric. The threads in a woven fabric are set up on a loom in a lengthwise and crosswise orientation. The lengthwise grain is used to lay out the garment pattern pieces. The crosswise grain runs from one selvage edge to the other.  What is selvedge? That is the hard edge that runs parallel to the grain, or warp, of your fabric, the bit you think you don’t need. If fabric were a cheese, it would be the rind.  It sounds a bit like “salvage,” which is what you are often trying to do when you have to go back and cut out pieces as close as possible to this finished edge.

To find the straight of the goods, one must either patiently pull out one of the weft threads, or, more simply, rip the fabric along the weft line. These draperies, mass-produced at some factory somewhere, have not been ripped.  They have been cut.  And not cut straight, although they masquerade as rectangles to the average eye. They are not on “the straight of the goods.” Neither is the fraying little Seamstress in this story. She gazes around the room, at all the things hanging higgledy-piggledy around the shop and begins to giggle. She is blessed with an abundant appreciation of the Ridiculous. Today’s topic is clear: Alignment. (a.k.a. “Welcome to Oh, No, Not Again!”)  Alignment is just as illusive Spiritually as it is in drapery.  She will need a Teacher.

He arrives in the form of a little boy who comes into the shop to hang out with his mother.  After he rearranges all the pins in the pincushions into fascinating geometric patterns the seamstress can not bear to disturb, they decide to let him try to sew on one of the machines.  She traces the first initial of his name on a piece of cloth and he tries to stitch over it using the machine, while her friend works the foot pedal for him.  The boy labors at this intently for some time until he manages to make something he is proud enough to take home to show his daddy. 

It occurs to her, as she watches his small, doughy, untrained hands try to manage the direction of the cloth, that the major difference between a Novice and an Expert is the number of corrections he makes.  This works for everything from bowing a fiddle tune to trying to sew a straight line.  You might think it’s that the novice has to make more corrections.  The opposite is true.  If you watch a novice attempting to sew—he will make a few large, awkward over-corrections that will result in all kinds of zigging and zagging.  The expert is making so many micro-corrections—so fast and so small—that they seem invisible to the naked eye as they are happening.  It’s like she has mental telepathy to tell the fabric where to go.  One simply cannot sew “a straight line” without thousands of adjustments.  The same is true for walking, or driving a car along a highway.   Sewing a line and being in Alignment ourselves are both progressive acts that take constant moderation and correction. People who make it look effortless are doing the exact same amount of work—just less of it more often, perhaps even constantly.

It turns out in this fairytale, that “Happily Ever After” has no “After.”  It’s just Happily Ever-ing.  It doesn’t stay as a static thing. It’s like being balanced in motion, while dancing.  When you are bashing into everything and everyone, Pause. Take a beat, not a beating. Find the Music again (check the chicken coop) and Carry On.   Happiness is a practice, as is sewing a nice straight seam.  The novice swings from wild motion to wild motion, dropping phones in chicken coops, running naked in her wellies and drowning dogs in the bath.  Gradually, she learns to align her thoughts with things that make her laugh, with tunes or friends or plans for the future that make her heart sing.  Sometimes, the fastest way to make something straight is to give it a nice, swift, clean Rip. So rip it, Dearies, Rip it Good!

Some days each of us is fighting a hard, unseen fight—Each kind thought or deed you do is a blessing to this world. So thank you for all your Good Work!

Yours aye,