Monday, November 19, 2012

Brain Washed

You'd think after a lifetime of trying to be something different, I'd accept that I am who I am. 

This morning I was confronted, again, with my natural tendency to simply fall into a daydream or memory and stay there. For as long as I can remember, I've found myself standing or sitting, staring into space while a chain of thoughts connect like train cars and take me with them when they pull away. My children laugh at me. My husband asks the question a second or third time, until I blink and come back to the present.

This morning I spent half an hour watching the washing machine spin.

I keep most textiles that pass through the rooms in my house. Most are chosen for the intricate texture or weave of the fabric. Some for their color. More than a few pieces for the price--as a longtime treasure hunter I can't help but give in to the bargain. And, unlike so many things we gather as we go, fabrics endure and adapt to change. They can be dyed, stitched, cut, torn or turned into something entirely new so nothing is ever really wasted.

I've been looking for curtains for my bedroom and I remembered I have four silk drapery panels in the "curtains" box in my storeroom. They are woven with squares of rich colors. A little too rich for the room, so I washed them with Rit color remover. As they tumbled in the washing machine, I could see them fading a bit as they turned. But only a bit.

Staring at the fabric I was reminded of when I was a young girl and I first discovered vintage clothing and textiles, the way I loved the weight and feel and strength of old silk when I held it in my hands. I thought of the gossamer filament that is the beginning of any silk fabric, a gift of the silkworm with nothing but the utilitarian task of creating a cocoon in mind. This, maybe it was the idea of a cocoon, a space that wraps us and shelters us as we change and grow, reminded me of a place I recently visited: Poplar Forest, Thomas Jefferson's beloved country home. I am writing about the house for my next Home Planet column. Of course, that reminded me of tomorrow's deadline and soon my mind was spinning with the washing machine, tumbling words and images, structuring the essay I will sit down and write later today.

Poplar Forest, tucked into a beautiful clearing in the Virginia countryside, is undergoing a complete restoration. At this time it is a beautiful shell. Walls have been strengthened and repaired. Oak flooring--as was in the original structure--has been installed. Windows have been rebuilt, alcoves opened and doorways reconfigured, all to bring the beautiful, light filled, octagonal home back to it's original design. Eventually, I suppose, the interior will be recreated to reflect they way Jefferson lived when he was there there. But I found the bare bones of the house to be incredibly beautiful and evocative.

The click of the machine startled me and I realized I had been standing in front of it for the full cycle, my mind having traveled thousands of miles and hundreds of years while the fabric swished in hot water and color remover.  I opened the door and pulled out a panel. It was, in spite of the process, still vibrant. A bit faded, but not to the degree I'd hoped.

Oh, well. It doesn't matter. I may use the panels or I may not. I lost half an hour but I found a path to what I want to say about a beautiful place. After a lifetime I have discovered that sometimes time wasted is time well spent.

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