It’s been two long years of unravelling ourselves—pacing the same floors, eyeing the same views from whatever windows we have, clocking the small buds beginning on bare branches with the attention of amateur botanists, and carrying the heavy luck of those who are still here, still trying to do one right thing, then another, and then another.
We stumble, of course. Personally, I spent the winter addicted to the bad news that comes with doom scrolling. And when the news didn’t seem that bad, I bizarrely felt compelled to keep refreshing, because surely something horrible had happened by now.
If nothing freshly terrible appeared, the news was only too happy to oblige my addiction by regularly posting articles about how the price of food was rising and climate change is going to keep getting worse. And only then, the fires of my anxiety suitably stoked, would I close my laptop and go outside to shake off the dread I had moments ago so willingly courted.
Needing a specific goal when I walk, I’ve rediscovered the small, luscious joy of visiting a local fruit shop. You know the ones—the small grocery stores that decorate main streets near residential neighbourhoods, with their waterfall displays of fruit and vegetables. They have painstaking set-up and take-down procedures every morning and night, positioning the most appealing items out front in tiered displays. Inside, the shop is bursting with the less-attractive root vegetables (I see you, humble potatoes, unbeautiful but scented with petrichor) and clusters of small flower bouquets—a garden’s worth of petals and perfume crammed together in white buckets beside the cash register.
There’s much to say and think about how, for most of us, the world we knew has been cracked open, and things that were harder to see before are suddenly on full display: inequality; the dark machinations of capitalism spinning at the expense of literally everything else; how each of us has been brought into the interrogation rooms inside ourselves and asked questions about who we are, what we love, and whether or not we can truly stand our own company. And how white supremacy seems to have got a rebrand that too easily sucked in those who simply could not handle putting strangers ahead of themselves, no matter how much greater the good.
We are not the selves we used to be, and in the quiet moments when we are alone with our thoughts and not trying to feed our anxiety with screens, we’re aware that we are capable of changing, of transforming, of choosing new ways of being—new selves, if we want. Taking the parts of ourselves that are the hardest to carry and trying to transform them into something new, something more like the selves we want to be.
I like that, those choices. It’s uncomfortable work, kind of like dragging yourself out of your warm rooms and onto the street when the season isn’t ideal and you are, ostensibly, doing chores.
I’ll stand in front of the crate of clementines that still have stems and leaves attached. Touching any fruit or vegetable is a big commitment now, so I run my eyes over all I can see before picking one up, the skin deliciously cold and smoother than I was expecting. I look over the small pyramids built of apples and oranges, the green baskets of strawberries that are out of season but shine like rubies. Will they taste like summer on the tongue or be anemic and sour? Doesn’t matter. Into the bag they go.
Soon, the weather will improve. Like the bare branches that most certainly will bud and bloom in a matter of weeks, it’s only the beginning. I’m going to the fruit and vegetable store not just to try to get more vitamin C, but to get more colour, more texture, more visual symmetry of grapefruits stacked in perfect lines in a way that soothes me. Something about the ground cherries in their small plastic containers and stacked like a temple of gold assures me all is well.
T-Shirt to Tote Bag: Upcycle Your Old Favourite
Why not carry your wonderful new purchases in an upcycled tote bag? This is a great way to give new life to old favourites that perhaps are a little stained or that you’ve outgrown, physically or metaphorically. The sample shown is a men’s medium T-shirt. Smaller T-shirts will yield narrower tote bags but definitely still work. Larger Ts will result in wider tote bags.
A T-shirt (Any size will work. The bigger the shirt, the bigger the bag. If you are trying to upcycle a really big T-shirt, you can take some of the length out in the sewing step.)
Sewing thread in a colour that matches your T-shirt
Sewing needle (if sewing by hand) or a sewing machine
Washable marker (for light or medium-coloured shirts) or chalk (for black or really dark-coloured shirts)—many Crayola products and other kids’ materials are good for this
Turn your T-shirt inside out and lay it flat on your work surface. If the T-shirt is a light colour, use a marker or chalk to draw where you will cut. Since you were smart enough to use a washable marker, feel free to adjust your lines if you don’t like where they are the first time.
Cut along lines: you will be cutting off sleeves, cutting a big U at the neck, and shortening the T-shirt with a line at the bottom. You will now have something that looks like an eighties cropped tank top. Feel free to stop here and rock that crop top if that speaks to you.
Using the straight pins, pin the bottom of your tote bag together, leaving about a centimetre from the edge. Sew the bottom of the bag along the bottom line near the pins, either by hand (in which case use back stitch) or with a sewing machine. Smaller stitches make a more durable bag.
Remove all the straight pins. Be sure to wash your tote bag to remove any residual marker or chalk lines. Then, turn your new tote right side out and bring it with you to the store the next time you’re running errands! (Please note: Cat not incuded.)