It’s no secret. I love to garden. Actually, I talk about gardening a lot in my posts. Three focused exclusively on gardening. You may recall Two, Together and Less Is Not More Until It Is. And if you don’t recall those posts, you may remember The Joy of Weeding.
But unless you are a gardener yourself, you may be wondering why on earth I’m writing about gardening when we’re reaching the end of October.
Of course, you’re wondering. I understand. Spring, which ushered in the end, is so far behind us that it’s nothing more than memories of sudden and energetic growth spurts, filled with verdant hope and promise, poised on the threshold of new life.
Then came summer ushering in such fulsome lushness that it transformed the world into a landscape of sensational, razzle-dazzle impressions, but its memory, too, is on the wane.
Now, fall. Here we are midst October mist, with decadent decay exposing bony branches beneath blooms and leaves still clinging, sighing the song of letting go, rustling ghostly memories right before our eyes.
Soon and very soon, winter will bring freezings, earth-heavings, and dead stillness, with roots connecting underground, communing in generative darkness.
The seasons come. The seasons go. And then they start all over again. (But only when publishers see fit to send out new gardening catalogs.)
But my goodness! Here I’ve gone and let me and you get snowed by reveries of the gardening seasons.
Sadly, putting in the seed is not the thrust of this post.
Instead, it’s all about putting on my gardening …?
Threads? As in the slang word going all the way back to 1926? Let me unearth its origins and see what I can find. Threads was first recorded in Wise-Crack Dictionary: More than 1,000 Phrases and Words in Every-Day Use Collected from 10,000 Communications Received during a Newspaper Prize Contest and Other Sources (eds. George H. Maines and Bruce Grant, vol. 1).
Well, it’s doubtful that I will don any gardening threads, although it was fun trying the word on for size today.
Maybe, instead, I will put on my gardening costume. Sometimes–and this really is true–sometimes I think about what I happen to be wearing–whether in the garden or out of the garden–as my costume. I’m chuckling to myself right now because that usage puts me in the good company of Samuel Johnson who used it in his A Journey to the Western Island of Scotland: “Dr. Johnson in his Hebridean Costume” (1775).
But for this post it’s a Greenthumb down for costume and another Greenthumb down for threads.
How about Clothes? It has an interesting origin as well, going all the way back to c888 when it appeared in Ælfred’s translation of Boethius’ De Consol. Philos.: “Wæpnu, and mete, and ealo, and claþas” (xvii).
I had to dig really deep for that Old English origin. But come on: I can’t even pronounce the words in the sentence where clothes appeared. Let me edge up to the surface a bit to 1484 Middle English when clothes as we know them appeared in Caxton’s translation of G. de la Tour-Landry’s Book of the Knight of the Tower: “She … arayed her with clothes of gold, and flouryshynge of ryche ermyns.”
There. That’s much better. I like being able to pronounce the names of whatever it is that I might be wearing when I garden.
Since I seem to be tilling in the right direction, perhaps I will narrow my definition of clothes, especially since mine are certainly not of gold and furs. I would look perfectly silly in clothes like that, and, besides, I couldn’t afford them anyway since I teach at a c-mm–ity college.
Let’s see. Ah, yes. Dress clothes might work since I have a few. Dress clothes goes all the way back to 1838 when it first appeared in Lady Charlotte Maria Bury’s Diary: “All the gentlemen … looked beautiful in their dress clothes.”
For my dress clothes I have things like suits and sports jackets. But I rarely wear them when I’m teaching, unless it’s a special event. On normal days, I wear Oxford dress shirts–usually blue or purple (Those are the only colors, right?)–with button-down collars; Windsor double-knotted ties; double-pleated, cuffed pants; and wingtip, lace-up shoes with real leather soles. (Please tell me that they do not make dress shoes that do not have leather soles. If you must tell me otherwise, break it to me gently and have some smelling salts handy.)
Ironically, my colleagues and my students think that I wear my dress clothes when I garden. They even think that I wear my dress clothes when I split wood.
Sure. Right. Dress shoes. Dress pants. Dress Shirt. Windsor double-knotted tie. Genuine leather shoes. Imagine. They really think that’s how I dress when I garden. They have even told me so. Right to my face. The nerve.
But let’s move on. Someone’s trying to tell me something.
“Say what? I object vehemently. They do NOT call me a stick-in-the-mud.”
Well, I don’t think they would call me that, but let me see what my trusted friend Mx Oxford has to say. “Look at the old stick-in-the-mud!” (Satirist, or, Censor of the Times, 1832) (I was hoping, with great verdancy, that mud in stick-in-the mud would have something to do with garden soil. Was I ever wrong!)
Now I’m hearing someone else whispering in my ear.
“Stop goading me! They don’t call me a dandy, either.”
Hmmm…dandy might actually be better than stick-in-the-mud. Mx Oxford will know. “A Dandy is a Clothes-wearing Man, a Man whose trade, office, and existence consists in the wearing of Clothes” (Thomas Carlyle, Sarto Resartus, 1834).
Isn’t that just dandy? I admit, though, that the usage of dandy in the quoted sentence seems as contorted as a willow.
Now that I think of it, however, twelfth Librarian of Congress Daniel Boorstin was sometimes seen as a DANdy. Well. Yes. Of course. He always wore his signature bow tie. Bow tie Dan.
While I’m not sure that I like having people perceive me as a dandy, I don’t mind it at all if it puts me in Dr. Boorstin’s company. Who knows. His bow tie made him stand out in the world of learning and librarianship. Maybe my clothes will make me stand out in the world of education, and, when it comes to gardening, maybe my clothes will make me outstanding in the field.
But let me get back to the word attire that’s part of this post’s title. I struggled with that word choice. I’ve never thought of using attire to refer to what I wear, on any occasion. “And do you now put on your best attyre?” (Shakespeare, Julius Caesar, 1623).
However, since I do put on my best attire for my students and my colleagues, it seems appropriate to include the word in the title. All of my protestations notwithstanding, they are certain that’s what I wear when I garden.
Maybe this post will convince them otherwise. I have taken off my threads. I have taken off my costume. I have taken off my clothes. And I have taken off my attire which I never had on in the first place.
Now look at me. Well, on the other hand, don’t.
Give me time, at least, to get dressed in the sad clothes that I actually wear when I garden. As will be evident, even a wordster like me lacks the ability to gussy up clothes like mine that are pitifully mundane.
When I garden on my days off, I wear an old, tattered baseball cap–faded burgundy–brim forward.
When I garden on my days off, I wear the oldest, grungiest t-shirt that I own. I own several. I like grunge options.
When I garden on my days off, I wear blue jeans so faded, so wholly holey, so fringed, and worn so bare in all the right places that they would fetch a fortune on all the wrong fashion racks.
When I garden on my days off, I wear steel-toed, unstylish, waterproof work boots that allow me to be comfortable and confident in all the tough places where I tend to go.
That’s it. That’s what I wear when I garden on my days off.
It goes without saying that I am thrilled beyond thrills that my students and my colleagues see my attire, my clothes, my costume, and my threads through a lens that commands such respect.
If they could only see me on my days off–especially on my gardening days–they would be intrigued by my ability to reinvent not only myself but also my attire.