Summer is officially closing up shop here in San Diego, which means the temperature has shown signs of wanting to settle in the 70s instead of hovering in the upper 80s, maybe 90s. To celebrate, I went to Amvets last Saturday with my mom. I was in a boots-and-layers sort of mood and after digging through the entire store, I found a pair of jeans and a fur coat.
I quickly convinced myself that leaving a pair of jeans of this caliber — not to mention the most interestingly bespeckled faux rabbit fur coat pinched in (just right) at the waist — would be irresponsible.
I wore the jeans to church the next Sunday morning. Right after we finished singing and right before our pastor got up to begin the new series, “Consumed,” I confessed to Steve that I had purchased them. I didn’t mention the coat as I figured it was already really noble of me to admit to the jeans, which he probably would have never noticed had I not come clean. We pride ourselves on a (mostly) open and honest relationship.
The new series, it was explained, was about how consumerism is vying for our hearts and minds. Steve smirked, looking down at my jeans. I remembered the lovely fur hiding under our bed.
Here’s what I tried to explain to Steve: Purchasing said jeans (and the fur, though — again — he doesn’t know about that yet), is not nearly so much about consumerism as it is about redemptive artistry.
In my neighborhood, things seem to be getting worse not better. “This economy” (if I had a bag of sour candy for every time I hear that phrase) is, honestly, making me feel a little desperate, like all I want to do is go out and rescue the little scraps of beauty that are lurking everywhere and remind myself that treasure is waiting in the shadows of the trashed.
Almost weekly, I find myself in thrift stores and salvage yards, digging and hunting and trying to see past what’s really there in front of me, trying to see some kind of creative potential.
Maybe my way of stimulating the economy is sifting through the given away, broken down, and left-for-dead, looking for a find to revive, a creation to resurrect. And this kind of recycling (a much better word than “shopping”) is one of the things keeping me alive and inspired right now, forcing me to look at things differently and to get creative.
To that end, and in addition to the jeans and fur coat, I have recently purchased an iron birdcage on darling little wheels (“but we don’t even have a bird,” steve says, completely missing the point), purchased a set of ten iron lamp shade skeletons (he didn’t even try to fight me on this one), become strangely attracted to anything and everything made from “salvaged wood,” wandered — bewitched — through used bookstores, become a card-carrying member of the local library, looked into a couple of reconstitution projects (a leather couch and an old purse), and have felt a perceivable quickening of the heart whenever passing a “yard sale” sign.
Yard sales are all over our neck of the woods. So frequent, in fact, that sometimes I wonder if people are selling off their stuff to pay the mortgage or their health insurance. When I let myself think about what this really means, I get scared. And I become more obsessed with finding that little bit of inspirational beauty buried in the rubble.
This is essentially what my book, Found Art, is about. It’s about finding the magic that is inevitably threaded through the misunderstood. (Once you’ve read the book, or as you’re reading it, post a comment about anything that resonates. I’d love to discuss.)
Here’s to finding some beauty in the most unexpected places, to believing in the power of recycling and redemption, and to Steve not finding the fur coat hidden under our bed in the plastic bag from Amvets (love you, babe).
Amen and amen.