I have loved Patagonia products since I was a kid in the early 80’s. I loved leafing through the catalog imagining myself having various adventures wearing stylish yet functional outdoor clothing. My parents had instilled in me early on a free spirited love of adventure, nature, travel and culture, and I envisioned myself and explorer. At home anywhere in the world.
Back then you could send in photos to Patagonia of people wearing their products and they might publish them in the catalog. It had always been my dream to have a photo published in it. I sent one in once of my father wearing a red Patagonia Jersey shirt stacking turf or “recklin’’” turf as our cousins referred to it in Belderig, County Mayo Ireland involving placing five or six sods of turf upright and leaning against each other to dry for burning in the home. (Although it wasn’t published I am so happy the photo exists.)
One year for my birthday I received a Patagonia duckbill hat, photographer’s vest and The Explorer’s Handbook: An Unconventional Guide for Travelers to Remote Regions by Christina Dodwell. http://www.amazon.com/Explorers-Handbook-ChristinaDodwell/dp/081601678X/ref=sr_1_9?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1400804654&sr=1-9&keywords=Explorer%27s+handbook I felt my course was set for life.
Patagonia for me has always exemplified a supreme counter culture existence. I like their environmental philosophies, the company’s promotion of healthy work life balance and the dedication to quality both in form and function. The photographs in its pages, even now when they are a bit more stylized and slick remind me that it is possible to put experience, adventure and nature at the center of one’s life. And while this can involve dangling in the crack of huge mountain by one hand, it can also be the way you enter the coffee shop in the morning. Simply embracing the wonder of living on planet earth. It’s making time for what you love. It’s being excited to inhabit your life. It’s trying something new or reinvestigating the old.
A few years ago when I was feeling very far away from this lifestyle I so believed in, I went searching for that Explorer’s Handbook at my parent’s house. I felt the book could possibly be a kind of Talisman and if I found it that I could reconnect to that part of myself I felt I had lost in unauthentic choices, bad habits, fear, pressure to do more; the list goes on.
But I couldn’t find the book. Defeated I sunk in the arm chair, and as I was about to distract myself with channel surfing, I noticed the Patagonia catalog that happened to be on the table next to me. I thumbed through it. It had been a long time since I had purchased one of their products. And suddenly there it was. The Bhanda Dress in navy blue. I knew I had to have it. It was professional enough for my arts administrator life, but with its comfortable, non-wrinkly you can roll this up in a bag quality it also spoke to me of roads less traveled and far off places. I took it as a sign. Maybe my Talisman was made out of synthetic jersey knit.
Not too long after my purchase, I found myself traveling a bit, which I hadn’t done for some time. Now I wear the dress on many of my trips large and small. But I also wear it in my daily life to work, and the more seemingly mundane aspects of living such as buying cat litter and entering invoices. It reminds me that each day can be an adventure. I am not suggesting that shopping is the answer to life’s spiritual problems. But sometimes a small investment of a quality product that truly speaks to you is a first action step which can make one believe change is possible. For me the dress was that symbol. And yes I sometimes have periods where I still start to drift from the life I want to be leading but then there is it in my closet free and floating on the hanger waiting to be in the world.
2008 Mazatlan, Mexico
In the streets of Mazatlan, Mexico shortly after buying the dress.
2010 Berlin, Germany
Standing in front of the Berliner Ensemble right before seeing a production of Robert Wilson’s and Rufus Wainwright’s Shakespeare’s Sonnets.
2010 Down Patrick Head, Co. Mayo Ireland
Standing on top of Danish artist Fritze Rind’s sculpture “Battling Forces”, part of the North Mayo Sculpture Trail.
2012 Istanbul, Turkey
Standing with the Sultain Ahmed or “Blue Mosque” behind me.
2013 Sevilla, Spain
My mother and I at a Flamenco Show.
2014 My Office at the Electric City Trolley Museum
Standing in front of a mural on my office wall with a focus on alternative transportation painted as part of Recycle on Adams Street Fair.