I went to a mini-country flea market a couple of weeks ago and was at first disappointed. It was a lark, something to do on a lazy July afternoon. I expected a vast array of fascinating items, pretty things, possibly antiques, as well–like the flea markets you see on TV, where most things look interesting. If I try again, I will have to research the best ones to browse–although I have said I’m not keen on collecting anything now. Possibly never again. Yet afterward I felt it was a satisfying, even cheery time.
I have written before of the things I managed to hang onto. But I haven’t even been a bonafide collector–rare books or other pricey specialties–oddities like intact fenders from 1940s trucks, say, or fine lacy collars from France. No, I am no expert or even wanna-be expert. Rather, a gatherer of bits and pieces: hand-thrown ceramic mugs; arty blank greeting cards; magnets depicting interesting places or people; excellent pens and mechanical pencils (not pricey–just a strong, smooth delivery). And more useless things, of course, like rubber bands and old glasses. Because you never know…
When we moved in March, we gave the heave-ho to those useless and many superfluous items. I kept thinking that I wanted to lighten my life load and also that I do NOT want my children to have to deal with extraneous items when I am finally gone. Lots of drawers and cupboards were emptied and sorted, memories no longer requiring vast material semblances. There was a whole storage area in the basement whose contents I didn’t tabulate. I don’t care what was there; it hadn’t mattered for decades. I didn’t watch those hauling, nor the truck being filled and leaving for the dump. The haulers sorted out any good stuff and did what they wanted with it. I was entirely relieved to see empty space.
So I am not wanting to replace the old with newish old things. I have done that for years–church rummage sales, garage and estate sales. I would stop in a flash to see what was good, or just to browse. You couldn’t imagine what might jump out of a dusty stack or a pile on a table. Something useful or lovely, all was game– though most of the time I walked away empty-handed, pocket currency intact.
Second-hand shopping was, in truth, the affordable way to manage our household’s needs for many years. It wasn’t about collecting good stuff. With five children, clothing and shoes were expensive to supply. My husband, a businessman, got good togs, but I was happy enough with hand-me-downs. (Appreciated Goodwill stores many times over.) So were the kids until they thought they knew better at 12, 13. Our four daughters shared clothing, anyway–even wore some of mine, since we were all about the same size for years. Our son was the only one who sometimes got brand new clothes. I’m not sure he even cared since dirt and sweat permeated all.
The same went for household things. I’d seek out decent pots and pans and replacement dinner sets and glasses. Another good bed frame. A usable lawn mower or cheap bike. A chest of drawers I could paint or a small desk to refinish. End tables for the den. Vases and picture frames and unused candles–always desired and useful, it seemed. Everything I needed could (and can) be gotten somewhere for much, much less. Back then I could not– and later, would not–pay full prices. All could be gotten for a song at any sidewalk sale opportunity. Why not go for it? One could always walk away with a shrug; on to the next possibility.
I also have appreciated chatting with the sellers as I searched, hearing stories of why they were clearing things out. Sometimes–like I had a few times early on–money was needed badly enough to sell their goods, say, to cover rent or a looming car payment. Other times they were revamping, hoped for a fresh decorating or fashion start; were moving and starting over far away. Divorce seems to always demand unloading much. Babies growing fast, children leaving home. Job losses, illness. Or just a desire to clear out the cobwebs, be free of their–they just faced it head-on– junk. (All situations I have been familiar with over decades…) It was clear if they were real collectors of valued items, they could even make good money. Then go out and buy more. What could I say? I’ve always adored books and had (perhaps) too many. Still do and buy them used mostly–and re-sell later.
I have to say it is hard for me to spend hard-earned money on new and costly items. I can see new computer or washer, for example, dressy shoes or beautiful handmade art or jewelry now and then from art fairs (have to support artists and crafts people!). But my forest green Laz-y-Boy sofa came from my sister’s years ago; it is still serviceable. As is the fine woolen tulip rug my other sister sold me for cheap. (She is gone; I think of her every day as I walk on it). And by the way, they have both been serious bargain hunters out of principle, my remaining sister far more than I. And she has been a serious collector of turquoise jewelry and Native American totems, old tools, musical instruments and more. She’d take used furniture discarded on the street, restore it to its gorgeous origins and sell it–she long had bought and sold certain items for a tidy profit. It must be in the blood, as my deceased brother collected wind instruments, silent and foreign movies and jazz records and motorcycles/cars and their parts– and more. My son salvages broken things, fixes them for fun, gives them away. We love to find hidden treasures, I guess, to keep or gift. And if we really save on a big sale or with smart haggling it is a happy purchase, indeed.
But I am, I believe, done with accumulating much more. I just like to look. I don’t need much, nor fancy things (okay, good clothing left over from my retired work life), though I’m sure some think I could enjoy better possessions than what we have. Truth is, I like our pared down belongings, and the emptier spaces that suit our current home. Less to take up my time fussing over, maintaining.
What matters more to me is the simpler life, a life swept of miscellaneous stuff and of absurd agendas (like cleaning fancy silver, which I was brought up doing–who needs it?). My mind grows more orderly, calmer, as if sunlight illuminates and breezes sweep in to freshen up my thinking. My heart is steadier and less constantly taut with life’s aches. My soul feels a stirring that can be overlooked or even lost when revved up with pursuit of this desire, that finery, that temporal need. I want to stand alone with myself and feel alive and quite alright, just as I am.
My husband and I gravitate more to the outdoors in drier, warmer weather. The rustling, nearly meshed canopy of leaves above, balcony overflowing with potted flowers, hummingbirds and bees flitting in and out: heavenly moments. I cock my ears at birdsong (and kids’ voices far off) while taking meals, reading a book, or practicing daily meditations and prayer at our outdoor table. My breath moves through me like silent music, filling and releasing me. What I have cannot be seen nor noted as admirable, but the joys and wonders are embraced within, absorbed and passed on, I hope, in living well with others.
I am less burdened since getting rid of much. I could live with even less. My spirit feels good. aligned with itself, not cluttered by irrelevant distractions. What matters even more to me is not what I own but if I inhabit this day and night truly and honestly. And what I can give of self and time.
But… having simple fun matters. Going to the country flea market was a brief stop during an outing on a toasty summer day. There was nothing for me but two new hand-stitched burp cloths for my twin grand-babies. Cost me five bucks. But we wandered about, anyway, conversed with congenial, interesting people. We enjoyed a happy hour with family, after which we had a delicious meal at a humble grill in a town we had never been to before.
One can wander, peruse odds and ends and share warm greetings for the simple pleasure of it, after all. I think we can use more of that kindly sort of thing, and less the actual material ones.
Enter at your own risk: you’ve made your way to the Oregon Country Fair!
I let my daughter and her fiance lead the way in 2012 when they finally convinced my husband and me to attend for one day. Immediately it felt as if I was stepping back into those hippie days when I attended open air music and other arts festivals with like-minded friends. I prepared for the inevitable scent of marijuana on the breeze, outrageous costumery and random hi-jinks. I was not much off the mark. Come along with the four of us to get a taste of a slightly mad, creative and fun event. Showtime!
According to Wikipedia and website info, the Oregon Country Fair was conceived and first unrolled in 1969 as a benefit for an alternative school. Over the decades this fair has grown into a colossal event with at least 45,00 visitors over a three day period. Set within wooded acreage owned by OCF outside of Veneta, Oregon, it’s billed as a non-profit educational organization. They still donate funds to their chosen recipients. It has a half dozen permanent staff but thousands of volunteers, performers and artisans contribute to its ongoing annual event and they clearly provide its longevity. But most likely go because it remains an outpost of hippiedom with its expressive arts, a broad array of seldom seen or heard fantastical fare. Plus, you can wear beautiful wings or whatever desired (it may at times be a bit risque, allowed within limits). Even if you are a 60+ years person one is encouraged to doff enchanted fairy or steampunk or what-have-you accouterments. It’s the fair’s intention that we become a part of the performance, the zany milieu.
I confess to having appeared rather an ordinary woman and did not sport iridescent wings… somewhat to my regret as I do have the capacity in me. But I did appreciate my daughter’s red dress and fancy touches of gold. And nabbed this picture of her multiple smiling faces! Others were casually attired while some were eye-popping.
On offer were food and drink, entertainment galore, arts and crafts, music and dance; vaudeville, circus acts, marching bands plus solo musicians of all types and even spoken word. There are 960 booths at which to gawk and spend money. Workshops abound regarding all types of physical and spiritual well being plus arts and crafts. Concerts can be heard coming around each new scene, and many buskers enthusiastically perform along winding, green paths. Even a few talented children got in the act.
The above picture shows a musical sculpture. It was mesmerizing to coax resonant notes and unusual sounds by striking or pounding on varying parts of the metal design. I do not recall who built it.
Moving along through the treed acreage was like being sheltered by a dome of green light. We walked amid mobile fantasy that unfolded one act after another while walking through a cheerful crowd. Even stone cold sober one begins to feel one’s consciousness altered due to a myriad of changing, vibrant sights, scents, tastes and sounds. If stimulation and surprise are not something you seek this is not the place to be; one may as well surrender or go home.
I felt I needed to attend the OCF at least once, as it is a Pacific Northwest experience, creative connection between people who might not intersect otherwise. One enters into experience as spectators during performances but then again by interacting with a kaleidoscopic moments, an abundance of milling, motley characters. The crowd was dense and sights numerous, yet there was a pervasive sense of surprise, wonderment. Peaceable pleasure.
Though I was tired out at end of a long day, ready to lounge in air conditioning with a tall iced tea, I’m glad we attended with our youngest daughter and her partner. Once was satisfying– an infusion of unique possibilities acted out in the open air– and perhaps enough for me as I embraced my own real hippie scenarios long ago. My husband found it a bit much but remained a good sport. It is one kind of Oregon summer tradition and thousands love to come year after year.
I hope you have enjoyed the abbreviated but decent sampling of an Oregon Country Fair experience as I saw it in 2012. Need a recharge? Want to push some boundaries but harmlessly? Looking for poetic inspiration? Everyone needs small breaks from a more mundane reality. May you embrace your own weird, lively, magical outing this summer!