Well worn

I was hanging out in a café downtown one night this week when one of my friends, the philosopher, started talking about consumerism.

"These pants, I got at Goodwill; this shirt, I found in a Dumpster; and this shirt, I got for free," he said.

"Nice," I said. He looked cool, with his rolled-up corduroys and blue shirt layered over a white one. I'm not kidding. You wouldn't have known the Dumpster shirt from a department store one.

It's not that he has to find used clothes — he has a job and can afford new ones — it's that he chooses to because he feels better about it philosophically, he explained.

And I guess I do, too. I looked at my casual, day-off-work outfit: Shorts from a vintage shop, shirt from a friend, jean jacket from high school and sandals that took me all over Boston and were repaired last summer.

It's safe to say my friends and I are into recycling clothes. This is for many reasons: It's less expensive, it's more unique and it's more sustainable.

We like them because they're well-worn. And I'd like to think we wear them well.

That's not to say we don't buy new clothes — especially when we need dress clothes for work. But as a whole, why buy something new when you can reuse what already exists?

That's my philosophy on sustainability: Reuse and use less.

It helps that I live in a working-class Ashland neighborhood. No one seems to feel inhibited about setting out boxes of free clothes, or furniture with "free" signs taped on. The week Southern Oregon University classes ended for summer, I saw a couch sitting in front of an apartment with a free sign made out of a greasy pizza box. Classy, I know. But the couch looked decent.

A few weeks ago I scored a free bookshelf in my neighborhood. This week I painted it green and stacked my books on it. Hemmingway, Faulkner and Dostoevsky are no longer relegated to the floor.

Although it takes a little more work to find recycled furniture or clothes, I think it's worth it.

I learned all about finding treasures last weekend, when I visited Bend.

While on a hike on a trail bordering the Deschutes River, I lost my ring. I didn't realize it until hours later, while my friends and I were eating dinner at the Deschutes Brewery. The ring had been in my pocket. And now it was gone.

The silver art deco ring with sapphires was my great-grandmother's engagement ring. My great-grandfather gave it to her in the 1920s in Missouri, just before they moved to California in their Model T. Later, when they had more money, he gave her a ring with a diamond. The engagement ring isn't expensive, but it's priceless to me.

After attending an Irish folk concert in downtown Bend that night, my very kind friend agreed to hike down to the river with me to look for the ring. I knew it must have fallen out where I sat by the river. Using our cell phones as flashlights, we tried to comb through the tall grass and mud. No luck.

The next morning, we looked again. We still couldn't find it. I thought it was gone for good.

But then, my friend had a brilliant idea: Rent a metal detector.

One of my friends in Ashland has a metal detector and I always tease him about how nerdy it seems. "Beep, beep, I think you found something."

But I won't tease him anymore. I have complete respect for metal detectors now.

My friend found a hole-in-the-wall place in Bend that rents out the devices. For $25, we borrowed one from Blue Bucket Mining Co. I'm sure we looked ridiculous carrying a metal detector down the dirt trail — but after only 10 minutes of searching, we heard a beep.

"I think I found something."

It was the ring, buried in the mud beneath a knurl of grass.

When we returned the detector, we chatted with the shopkeeper, a professional metal detector. She's a go-getter. She has about 30 gold rings on her fingers.

"I just found this one," she said, pointing to one with triangular gleaming gems. "It was appraised at $700."

"Nice," I said.

Want to save on a wedding ring? Buy a metal detector.

As for my ring, I'm never taking it off again, except to put it in a very safe spot that I will not disclose in this column. It's well worn and I'll be wearing it well into the future.

Reach reporter Hannah Guzik at 541-482-3456 ext. 226 or hguzik@dailytidings.com. For past columns see dailytidings.com/ecologic.

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