The real dirt on me…

Did you know that a bleach spot on a black polo shirt can be easily fixed with a large Sharpie marker? Oh you might think it only works with a couple small little splotches of orangey light brown that accidentally showed up in an inconspicuous spot, but you’d be wrong…

On Wednesday afternoon this week, I was prepping our restaurant kitchen and putting away supplies. I looked down at my chest for some reason and saw a large area of strangely shaped bleach stain. It could have been transferred in any multitude of ways, but it didn’t matter. I grabbed a fat-tipped Sharpie, and filled ‘er in. I walked around for the rest of the evening with three or four square inches of marker scribbles on my shirt and I doubt anyone noticed.

If you only ever wear black, this little tip may help you out someday. 🙂

But anyway, this little moment connects up with another that has to do with clothes, or stuff or specifically shoes. I was on that long road trip a couple weeks ago, and the first night out in western Colorado, I ended up setting up my tent in a storm. I was high on the Colorado National Monument near Fruita and the conditions were yucky.

I have a woven plastic-threaded mat that I was using to protect the tent from the ground. After a night of crazy wind and rain, that mat was covered in sticky red sand-mud when I rolled it back up and loaded it into the car. Since I spent the next several days in a hotel, it was just as crusty when I unfurled it along the banks of the Colorado River just south of Lake Havasu. That moment of laying down my mat to camp again, dropped lots of Colorado mud, into the sand of Arizona.

That night was hot and dry and by morning, most of my camping gear was aired out and baked well in the desert air. I awoke very early after just a few hours of restless sweaty sleep and repacked my gear. It was just damp enough that some of those fine grains of ground went with me again.

The next night was spent in the grass along a mountain road near Telluride. My tent mat dropped junk there again, and picked up more, just like every other night under the stars. By the end of my trip, I had transferred material all around the country and broad home some too. I still need to visit the car wash and spray off the rest of that stubborn sand so it can wash down a Kansas carwash drain.

My silly stain solution that ‘fixed’ my bleachy blotted shirt told a story. Same thing is true with that tent and the mat that dragged dirt from the Midwest to the coast and back. This stuff in our lives tells our tales. I don’t mean to propose that we need material objects to have a great life. I think it’s more that these objects can record our travels, they interface with the natural world. These garments and fabrics are not spiritual like we are. They simply react to the laws of physics they encounter.

We can be reminded though, about the places we’ve been and the moments we’ve experienced by examining the dirt on our shoes…

In the bigger picture, my shoes don’t speak of an international adventure or far flung footsteps. Truthfully, I haven’t really been too many places, or seen very many things. I have a lot of Franklin County Kansas soil on my soles.

It’s always good though, to get out there and track through new mud. It’s even rewarding to work hard enough that I earn a few more stains on my shirt that I can fix with a marker. These things remind me that I am blessed to be able to keep exploring and keep adventuring in some little way, every day.

Between now and next week my friends, get some new dirt on your shoes…


Aaron Nichols

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