A Couple of Rustics

photo montageI’ll readily accede to being flighty in my affections. My short attention span and my determination to avoid playing favorites in dangerous or dullard ways may contribute to this seeming fickleness of mine, but I think life short enough and the list of possible pleasures long enough that it’s probably the extensive gap between that most often keeps me from landing in any one spot for great lengths of time.

My husband, too, is fairly catholic in his tastes, so though we are both creatures of habit and preference in many ways, we’re often pleased to discover any new delight to add to our own inventories of happiness. As a pair of artists, we’re often included in or happy to observe all sorts of cultural events and elements, and a rather common denominator of those is urban life. Cities do tend to have concentrations of resources. We both love the inspiring energy and wonders of The City, whatever the city of the moment happens to be.

But exposure does not guarantee infusion, immersion or exclusion. We can love and revel in our big-city adventures and lashings of high art and culture, but we’re not particularly notable for our own impressiveness in those realms. Simplicity, ease, companionability and comfort trump all of the glossy and glamorous stuff of life, in the end.

And the thrills of the city are always best savored in the context of time well spent in the contrasting marvels of the countryside. Salt to enhance the sweet. Earthiness and roughness to offset the shiny and sleek. And I guess I feel these latter things enough inside, thinking honesty and humility preferable and more natural to my way of being, that I’m more often a country mouse in the city than a city mouse when in the country. Neither my spouse nor I is probably all that complicated, despite the sophisticated milieu in which we may find ourselves at times. We are ordinary, visitors in the land of specialness, rather than the reverse.

A little time spent in the countryside tugs us away from all flash and clamor. Couple of bumpkins, maybe not entirely. But a little rusty and dusty around the edges, yes. A couple of rustics, really.

Fashion Simplified? Forget the Frills, Get a Guy Guide

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What’s good for women to know about clothes is not really all that different from what men ought to know. First, of course, *wear* some! Unless you’re in a nudist colony. That’s a different topic for a different day, no?

Never has anyone suggested I was especially stylish, let alone a fashion maven. I wear dresses or skirts, and have even been known to kick up a pair of high heels from time to time voluntarily. In fact, I’ll admit to being so stereotypically girly as to like jewelry and shoes just a little more than it strictly healthy for my wallet.

Frilly, however, I am not. I feel ridiculous, conspicuous even trying on stuff with too much twinkle and ruffle, and am compelled to do a quick Coco Chanel obeisance and remove an item or two from my ensemble if I feel over-decorated. Sometimes, in truth, nothing beats slipping into the most user-friendly jeans, those worked almost to death and not pre-aged by some corporate design slave, until they are softer than bunnies’ ears and they conform precisely to my every nook and cranny, however unflattering that may be. By the time any clothes achieve this magical status, of course, they are generally worn so thin despite any and all repairs that even a ghost would put her knees and elbows right through them. Pity, that.

In any case, I suppose for the most part what would best serve me as style advice is what would do for most men. The males I know are more willing to admit, most of them, that the primary goal is comfort and all else had best conform to it. But even the least conformist among my male compatriots also recognize a need to appear appropriate for business and social occasions, if only to get along smoothly.

My solutions, for the guys and me both, are simple and few. Stay unfussy. Basic, classic shapes, relatively few or subtle patterns, and not too much extravagantly showy stuff. Strong, comfortable, easy care materials. For me, and for lots of people, it’s great to have clothes that are wonderfully packable, so it’s as easy to travel as to hang at home.

Though I love heels and feminine looking shoes, I’ve gotten older–and, I hope, smarter–enough to prioritize health and comfort very highly and now am willing to save up longer and invest more to get better quality low heels and, hurray, flats that will still please my taste preferences. This, it turns out, is becoming a larger theme in my wardrobe: comfort still reigns, and I’m still a determined bargain hunter who is never happier than in finding a good item of clothing for under ten US dollars, but certain things are absolutely worth the extra effort and expense of genuine investment.

That category, for me, includes staple or foundation clothes like shoes and other most often worn items. My grandfather, the most serious clotheshorse in my lineage, said that you could read a lot of a person’s character in his or her shoes and the care given them. I’m not entirely focused on shoes, despite my love of them, but I tend to agree with the sentiment that well-tended classic clothes of the sort best suited (no pun intended) to the occasion make a good impression. Good shoes. Just a couple of pairs of slacks and/or skirts (or a Utilikilt!) and/or a dress or two. Pieces that are sturdily made and perfectly fitted to form will flatter your best features and cover your sins, and they won’t need to be replaced often for either getting too worn out or dated. You’re good to go for work and generally common events without worry about making the correct choice and getting by with both comfort and class.

Accessories–socks, vests, scarves, hats and watches and all of that sort of thing–can certainly change the character of a strong basic outfit and personalize it as little or much as one likes. And sometimes, these are the easiest wardrobe items to find at spectacular bargain prices, so it’s easier to vary an outfit with them than to have multiple expensive, high maintenance ensembles cluttering choice and storage.

The foundational elements of design give plenty of clues how to make the most of what clothes you have, whatever they are and whatever your personal style. On a person, monochromatic sets of pants, socks and shoes give the appearance of longer legs than the broken-line look of wearing those three in different colors. Skin toned (whatever your skin tone) shoes on a woman in a skirt or shorts make the shoes look like an extension of her legs rather than an eye stopping different color, and again, they create ‘longer’ legs. A fitted torso (shirt, dress or jacket) is narrower in proportion to its top-to-hem length and so will tend to make the man or woman wearing it seem slimmer than a loose, baggy garment. And so it goes. All of the design basics in the world, however, will not guarantee you feel comfortable or that your clothes express your personality, so while I think it’s both practical and attractive to pay attention to smart details–and ask for help if you’re not so knowledgeable about them–clothes only indicate the man, they don’t make him.

Since I long ago conceded that my philosophy of housekeeping is to make everything as easy as possible for an inveterate lazy-pants, no-iron shirts are a gift from the gods, and packable knits the virtual equivalent of wearing jammies to work. So I’m likely to break rules, if there are any, in favor of what pleases me. But you know, sometimes it really is enjoyable, if not de rigueur, to wear something tailored and crisp and beautifully fitted.

This, my friends, is one of those places where I have actually learned a few useful items over time. Behold, in this my era of crepitation, I can still learn a thing or two. Thing One: professional tailoring can make the ordinary extraordinary for less than buying custom. Wearing extraordinary things doesn’t hurt your image, unless you’re cultivating a scuzzy vibe. I won’t judge you. Thing two (and also not recommended for those polishing their grunge-meister cred): dry cleaning. While it can be pricy and is pretty ecologically objectionable, is the only way to make some tailored clothes look, and stay, the way they should. Invest in these two and, more significant even than that you will love your clothes more, your clothes will love you more, and for a longer time. That is a good investment.

But enough of this. I’m going off to find my jeans and T-shirt. My work here is done.

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Multiplication tables.

Beginning Again

photoGetting Ahead of Myself

Around that corner just ahead is some Unknown that in my head
Is not the terror-building fright that lends to terrors in the night
For pessimistic glass-half-gone, despairing people, dusk to dawn,
In nightmare hiding, room to room, expecting any moment Doom–
In my imaginings and dreams, instead, the Unknown beckons, gleams
And twinkles like a shooting star, calling to me to roam afar
Into ephemeral and great new joys from early hours to late,
Adventures, newness, glamor, thrills, all dancing at my windowsills
And hovering at door and gate just out of view–
Oh, I can’t wait!photo

 

It’s Not Enough to be Beautiful

digital painting from a photoReally, the stuff that lies inside is what matters, what always mattered. Wit, integrity, talent. Compassion, charm. Power and intelligence and courage and humor. The things that last go far beyond the mere physical and visible attractions that we, individually and collectively, consider beautiful. It’s more difficult to find and gauge inner beauty, and far more so to develop it, so no wonder we hunt for it and we treasure it so highly. Still, it’s funny that we do. We love, after all, what looks beautiful to us very, very deeply as well. And beauty for its own sake is not a bad thing, either.

Is one morally or inherently better than another? Certainly not. Are they mutually exclusive? Hardly. But it’s true all the same that visible beauty has its perks. We often don’t have to know anything about each other for us to want to be associated Beautiful people, to be around them and admire them, if only for how much we like the way they look. And they in turn, both those with the inner resources that we admire and those who might be closer to pretty, empty packages with nothing fabulous inside, get attention and get things done, their way sometimes greased by the access and support that their prettiness gets them. If it’s possible to have both the outer and the inner, that could hardly be objectionable, but if I had to choose, some days I suspect I would be quite content to be the beautiful one in the room; it’d be fun just to see what it’s like, I imagine. Might not be a Greta Garbo, with both the looks and the evidently impressive inner life, but even being a cheap imitation of the exquisite woman for sheer looks wouldn’t be too awful, I’d think. All I can say is that it really isn’t enough to be beautiful–but it’s not exactly such a bad thing either, is it, now?

All right, I’m only enjoying my little fantasy. My partner, husband, best friend and spouse tells me I’m pretty, I’m beautiful, and I’m full of all those dandy aforementioned inner resources too. And whether it’s flattery or his perception of the truth, I don’t much care. It’s more than enough to feel beautiful. Glamorous I may not be, and in fact I might not even be any of those other lovely things my guy tells me I am, but he’s pretty convincing, that fella of mine, and his word–with his impressive daily love backing it all up–is plenty for me. Any day of the year.

You’re not the Boss of Me! Well, Yeah, You Probably are.

Lest I, as a mere human sort of creature, forget my place in the universal power structure, a few days communing with my sister’s four-legged family members swiftly reminds me that I can have all of the ingenious ideas and deeply meaningful thoughts I want in my pretty little head and they won’t change the reality of how the day will go for, and with, Ruffian, Mercer and Tristan.photo

Ruffian is well aware that all of creation was designed for the sole purpose of serving her and meeting her Needs (often mistaken by others as wants or Whining Points) and keeping out of her way in general so as not to disturb her beauty sleep. Being a large and well-rounded woman-cat, she prefers not to exhaust herself with any sort of excessive or unseemly activity if it does not culminate in being fed something. If there’s really no thrilling edible stuff involved, her time is far better spent in her semi-comatose repose, and most pleasantly of all, that in a place which is capable of creating maximum inconvenience for anyone who might wish to go through the door she is blocking, sit on the chair or window seat she is luxuriating upon, or sidle down the hallway she has carpeted with her soft and well-cushioned form. Yes, I suppose you are all by now sensing a bit of similarity between her and yours truly, perhaps?photo

Mercer, her fellow shelter adoptee, dresses formally for all occasions, preferring the classic tradition of the black suit and white button down shirt because he is much too dignified to be associated with frivolity and self-indulgence like his ‘sister’s’. If he should happen to take an interest in a cat toy and even deign to frolic after it a bit, it’s best for all others in the room to pretend not to have noticed, lest he take umbrage over this imagining of his being anything other than the most sober and staid member of the household. Despite his being strictly aware of his handsome panache and savoir-faire, he generally dislikes having his portrait taken, a trait I have assumed has to do with his being in the Witness Protection program and not wishing to be ‘outed’ inadvertently. I do suspect he might have some Scottish heritage because, although he doesn’t speak about this past of his, he still wears a fuzzy white sporran that swings jauntily under his belly when he’s patrolling his fiefdom.

While Ruffian and Mercer rule the house, Tristan lives exclusively outdoors. This arrangement seems to suit all three to the degree that each is able to maintain his or her sense of being the center of the solar system and ruler of all he/she surveys, since the two cats pay attention to each other primarily when needing someone to compete with over food, beat up or otherwise annoy.photo

Tristan was rescued from a neglectful owner after the people of the household split up and Tristan’s longtime canine companion died. He’s now twelve years old and, age and arthritis notwithstanding, maintains a cheerful demeanor, particularly if there happens to be a massive ham sandwich anywhere in sniffing distance. And he does have prodigious sniff powers, undiminished by the years. So when he goes for his three walks a day, nary a leaf or blade of grass goes unexamined, yet he keeps up a steady pace and chooses which of his favorite routes is preferable for the moment’s expedition, tugging all of his people-pack insistently if gently until we all acquiesce, recognize his prerogative, and follow orders. I’m just glad I smell acceptable to him, never mind whether any of our human companions find me tolerable or not.

After all, we are all just passing through, aren’t we? These three clearly know it’s all about the quality of the journey and that the destination will take care of itself soon enough. Say, toss me a treat, won’t you–I’m feeling a little peaked from not having napped enough yet today and can’t reach over that far.