Sunday, June 14, 2015

#144 Turning the collar

Dear all,
    Looking work with the weather in this current heat wave, I've been getting out to do gardening in the very early morning, and spending more time in our coolest downstairs room under the fan (where I am now as I write).
    It's been a pleasure to hang out with my grandchild in the garden, noticing the sure progression of many plants from bud to flower to fruit, and to watch fruits get steadily bigger, learning to wait with patience for them to ripen.  While other change activities we engage in may require our more active participation and have less certain outcomes, it's lovely to have and share this sure place where we can soak up goodness and rest in confidence.  I wish you the same.

Turning the collar

This was a favorite shirt.  When the elbows wore though years ago, I cut them off and transformed it to short sleeves with minimal fuss.  (And then I had the pleasure of using the sturdy fabric from the lower arm and cuffs for quilt squares.)

But when the collar began to fray, it wasn’t so simple.  If I didn’t do something it would soon be suitable only for wearing around the house.  But if I put a patch over that frayed spot, I still couldn’t wear it to work in an office downtown.

Then I remembered the possibility of turning the collar.  People used to do it all the time.  After all, back then, how could you imagine abandoning a perfectly good shirt if just one side of the collar was showing some wear?  Surely I had the skills to pull this off?

Once the idea entered my mind, it took root.  I waited impatiently for a time when I could justify turning away from “more important work” to engage in such a luxury.  After all, I do have other shirts.  I looked at it many times lying there on the worktable between the computer and sewing machine, and itched to see what could be done.

Finally a window opened.  I found my scissors with the tiny sharp blades, perfect for cutting thread, and got to work, carefully snipping the collar loose from the rest of the shirt.  It wasn’t hard at all.  Later I stole a few minutes at the machine to sew it back on the other way, with the frayed part now invisible underneath.  I could have left it at that, but the hidden frayed spot on that good shirt called out for better treatment.  So I found a bit of bias tape, and once again waited till I could justify taking the time to make a neat little patch.

The mend was now complete.  The shirt could be worn to work again without apology.  And I was pleased.  In fact, I was extremely pleased—more pleased than a simple mend should warrant.  I kept looking at it, folding that fine new collar down, running my finger over the unfrayed fold, turning the collar up to see the patch that would be visible to no one but me.

Why such inordinate pleasure?  As I sat with this question, it came to me that it has something to do with claiming my connections in space and time.  That collar connects me to our ancestors who knew the value of a well-made garment.  They turned collars as a matter of course, turned dresses, mended cleverly and invisibly if possible, and neatly if not.

It connects me to our neighbors as well, to those who have less means in the present, and know the value of a good mend.  I remember seeing carefully mended dress shirts in Africa, and being touched by the attention that people took to looking neat in the midst of poverty.  And some of my most satisfying excursions when visiting our son in Nicaragua have involved shoe repair.  More than once I brought down old shoes that would be discarded as worthless in this country.  At the market, however, we always found men who saw the value of those shoes and were glad to use their skills to make a sturdy and serviceable mend.

It also connects me to our descendants.  The time will arrive when we finally come to our senses and realize that we are living beyond our ecological means, when—willingly or unwillingly—we in the wealthier nations adjust our life-styles to a level that the planet can support.  When that time comes, a good shirt will have a value that may be hard to imagine in our present-day orgy of consumption and waste.  Looking down that tunnel of time, I can see our descendants turning the collars of their shirts once again—and I will be with them in spirit.  I just hope it might give them a fraction of the satisfaction and pleasure that it has given me.

Expressway after a storm

Crawling along
the expressway
in rush hour

with nothing but—


Imagine -- A new economy is possible!

Complementary currencies

Curitaba, Brazil was an impoverished city in 1971.  But new initiatives by Mayor Jaime Lerner leveraged some of its strengths--access to fresh food and an underutilized bus system--to address pressing urban issues.

Garbage trucks couldn't get into the narrow favela streets, but anyone who deposited a bag full of pre-sorted garbage received a bus token which they wouldn't have had access to previously, or chits exchangeable for fresh fruits and vegetables. Recycled materials at schools were exchanged for notebooks, a boon to many poor children. Many initiatives—environmental cleanup, city restoration, job creation, improved education, disease intervention, hunger prevention—were tackled in this way without having to raise taxes, redistribute wealth, issue bonds, rely on charity or obtain loans from the federal government or organizations such as the World Bank.  In the process, the average Curitaban came to earn more than three times the country's minimum wage.

Curitiba discovered a means by which to match unmet needs with unused resources to provide much needed improvements to the local economy, and vastly improve their economic condition. They did so by making use of complementary currencies—monetary initiatives that supplemented the national currency system. 

Some things that have made me hopeful recently:

A new law in France that requires supermarkets to donate or recycle unused food rather than destroying it.

The Norwegian parliament's approval of a measure calling for the Norwegian Government Pension Fund—the largest sovereign wealth fund in the world with holdings of approximately $890 billion—to begin divesting from companies heavily involved with the mining, transportation, or burning of coal.

A village in India that plants 111 trees every time a girl is born.

Boulder, Colorado’s innovative carbon tax, which levies a tax on energy use and used the proceeds to pay for energy efficiency and renewable energy programs.

More resources

Recent posts on other web/blog sites:

In, Pamela Haines locates her family's homey DIY celebrations on a class spectrum of different connections to upward mobility.


Muscle Building for Peace and Justice; a Non-Violent Workout Routine for the 21st Century--an integration of much of my experience and thinking over the years:  (or just google the title), a website that I've contributed to often (check the archives), a home for all the parenting writing I've done over the past 20 years.  NOTE THE NEW URL. START: a way to study and work together with others to create a better world.

For earlier columns, go to  I'm currently posting at

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