Click the link below to view a spotlight I did on Southern Charm’s, Landon Clements! A big thanks to Landon for the interview!
The Real Stuff of Life
By Kara Martinez Bachman
Sometimes change can come in an instant, as it did on the day I peeped through a dirty window at the stuff of my life, scattered and waterlogged.
Our home was located near the eye of the storm, and suffered scarring and indignity at the angry hands of Hurricane Katrina on August 29, 2005.
I remember it clearly. On this date, while my family was safely hunkered down in a motel, the unruly storm rushed in with a mean surge that could never have been fully predicted. It took with it many lives and many livelihoods. It also took with it a whole bunch of our stuff.
Before the storm, stuff had real value to me. I loved having shelves and shelves of hardcover books. I loved novels, and anthologies of great old writers, and big art books that were perfect for angling the right way on the coffee table. I also loved that coffee table! I prized the furniture we had collected over the years, and the paintings that hung on the walls. I loved our upright piano, never letting people set their glasses on its smooth wooden cabinet.
I used to yell at the kids if they rested dirty sneakers on the sofa, or dropped Kool-Aid in the tile grout. I have never been a neat-freak, but would definitely get upset if they messed with my stuff. I loved stuff.
But then, something happened on the morning after the storm. A sure realization came rushing in like the floodwaters that had just destroyed virtually every community for fifty miles around; this moment came when I peered through our window. What I saw, as I waited for my husband to get the kids out of their car seats and open the front door, brought me to my knees: our stuff, strewn, toppled, shattered or waterlogged. Since we were some of the first to return to the neighborhood after the evacuation, we hadn’t realized the extent of the damage; we hadn’t even realized, at first, that the waters had risen inside our walls. We had thought our street impervious, since it sat almost twenty feet above sea level.
But there it all was: the sofa, more than sneaker-dirty, flooded with putrid bloat. The potted plants. My books. That old antique drop-leaf table of my great aunt’s. My kids’ plush toys, their smiling googly-eyes sadly unaware of the dire situation. My favorite book of photographs, lying wet and ink-runny by the door, as if to greet me with the bad news.
When I peeked through that skinny sidelight window next to the front door, my entire world seemed to crumble in a blink. But in that moment I also let go of a bad and limiting notion, about the prestige of the the ownership of things.
My new attitude toward material things was accurately captured in an editorial comic strip that ran in a newspaper some time after the storm. The first frame depicts a man, saying something along the lines of: “The storm got our car, our house, and all of our belongings…” In the next frame, we see him holding his loved ones, and the sentence is completed: “… but it didn’t get anything important.” I’m not sure where I saw the strip, but it stuck with me because it accurately described my moment of instantly recognizing what things matter most in life.
It may seem cliché, but there’s something about unexpectedly losing so much at once that really puts endless hours of mall shopping and tending to our precious belongings into proper perspective. I honestly understood in that moment (and do carry that moment with me every day still) that it isn’t the material things of life that will yield happiness, but the stuff of our spirits. That is what we should tend to. That is where we will find the real prestige.
I now carry daily the feeling that we shouldn’t be here to acquire, but to do things that nourish our inner lives. We should write. Hike. Meditate. Sing. I’m not implying there’s anything wrong with having nice things. Don’t misunderstand; we all need our treats. But I have changed how I think about those treats. I’d now never place them ahead of people, or ahead of my family’s creative life. I would never make the same kind of stink about tennis shoes on the couch, or spills in the grout. I’d trade a clean couch for a song. What’s more, I would never, ever want to own any kind of mansion, as a mansion can suddenly–without warning, on a morning in late summer–become no more than a slab. The real things we build–the affection, the art, the memories–are what remain forever.
I decided in that moment ten years ago, when I looked in horror through that glass pane at our soggy piano lying on its side, that I would change what I value, and focus more on the songs than on the instruments. Now, I have confidence in this simple fact: I will never, ever be afraid to peep through any window. The only window that matters is the one that frames our own carefully tended inner lives.
Kara Martinez Bachman is author of the new women’s humor essay collection, “Kissing the Crisis: Field Notes on Foul-Mouthed Babies, Disenchanted Women and Careening into Middle Age,” published by Quill Driver Books. Her work has been heard on NPR radio and has appeared in dozens of publications, including The Writer, Funny Times, and the New Orleans Times-Picayune. Find out more about “Kissing the Crisis” by visiting the book’s Amazon page: https://www.amazon.com/Kissing-Crisis-Foul-Mouthed-Disenchanted-Careening/dp/1610352904/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1474660008&sr=8-1&keywords=kissing+the+crisis
We all do it. We put up inspiring quotes on our instagram feeds, or Facebook statuses. You know the kind…the ones that say something like, “speak the truth, even if your voice shakes,” and are spray-painted on the sides overpasses or broken down barns. Then we feel really cool, like we’ve put something fabulous and a little hipster into the world, and we go on with our days. We talk the talk, but we rarely walk the walk. We scarcely inconvenience our own lives, or move our own feet enough to be real reflections of our cyber selves. We’re virtual saints, but nothing about that can actually be felt by human skin.
Just the opposite, however, is true about Be The Change Boutique owners, Ashley and Ashleigh. When first landing on their website, before taking in the array of cute tops, jewelry, and other odds and ends, a famous Ghandi quote travels the screen. It reads, “be the change you want to see in the world.” And in Ashley and Ashleigh’s case, they’ve done it. They earn the right to tout the well-known phrase every day, and they’re doing so from a tiny shop hidden in a slight-framed cranny on King street.
The two entrepreneurs, who have been besties since sharing a cubby in the first grade, sell merchandise with a mission. They only carry lines of apparel, accessories, and knick knacks that give back. They feature lines that provide aid to underprivileged men, women, and children around the globe, right here from the cobblestone streets of Chucktown. Among their favorite lines is “The Stitch,” a simple $5 roll of distinct orange thread meant to be sewn on clothing items to raise awareness about sexual abuse. A subject often taboo, the stitch starts a conversation about how important it is for such victims to obtain therapy and support to take their lives back. Proceeds of “stitch” sales fund counseling for sexually abused people from all walks of life, and was founded by a man who owes his very existence to the recovery he was able to achieve in therapy. How can we all not want to get behind that?
I first met Ash-ley/leigh duo just before Christmas when they hosted a benefit to collect toys for the children’s hospital at MUSC. I was humbled by these women immediately, and had to know their story. I asked Ashley number 1 where her inspiration to take on such a project came from. She passionately told me stories of how she was so affected by the people of Uganda on a trip in her early twenties, and how they use craftsmanship to make money for their communities. She eagerly praised the other Ashleigh for hopping on a plane at a moment’s notice, and uprooting a life in Maui to start the venture with almost no questions asked. She spoke of it as though it was a no-brainer for both of them. You just do good where you see the chance to do it. But, what I see are two hearts of gold. Without a profound empathy for others, the loudest calling will never be heard. If people do not care, they do not respond. But not with these two; the horn sounded, and they came running with arms open.
I implore this amazing LowCountry community to stand with these women. Let’s support this boutique when we stroll down King Street. Let’s not only look fabulous on the outside, but also on the inside. And let’s do this without the goal of feeling good, but doing good. Let’s lace up our shoes, lay down the signs, and actually act. Let our dollars go to educate, elevate, and emancipate. Ashley and Ashleigh have the lantern in hand, lighting a great path. They shine brightly, from their hearts over their wallets. The light, so strong, has reached out and warmed my skin, the seeped into, all the way to my heart.
by Lorna Hollifield
Visit 218 King and see for yourself!