Sarah West: Going the extra mile

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Late one Sunday night I lay awake with questions spinning round, pondering thoughts like, “Should I stay or should I go?” In past weeks, I’d made thoughtful preparations and networked with a designer in the northwest corner of the state. In previous correspondence, I’d set an appointment for the next day to visit the designer in studio, preview designs and purchase a garment. Initially, I was excited — even thrilled — to find someone who crafts just the thing I was searching for in my home state. After a long search online, followed by an exchange of emails, the appointment was set. Yet, I lay awake. Reluctance tempted me to cancel the the following day’s engagement.

In the dark, I questioned my intentions. “Is this a ridiculous notion? Who would drive four-plus hours (one way) to purchase an item that could be ordered online? Is this an extravagant idea, perhaps even radical? Is this practical? And, if I change my mind, cancel and opt to make my purchase mail-order online, would my decision be defined as responsibly frugal or compromise?” I weighed the points of my self-inflicted debate. Ultimately, my convictions won. While, I understand that some may see it as impractical, I suppose, I’d rather know that I was willing to go the extra mile.

Early the next morning, I began my northward trek through Chilton County, on to Moulton and then to Florence. I began my drive hoping to meet a kindred spirit. Along the trip, I made it a point to stop by Red Land Cotton, a cotton company I’d recently read about. Description illustrated the cotton company to be a homegrown enterprise, begun by a cotton farmer who’d taken to home-goods textile manufacturing. Along Moulton’s picturesque town square, the Red Land Cotton mercantile boasts luxurious Alabama-grown linens and other merchandise. The shopkeepers were kind and helpful, and even offered gift wrapping following my Alabama cotton purchase. I left my contact information as reference, and assured them I would return. This experience lifted my spirits, and I carried with me the encouragement that perhaps this discovery alone was well worth the drive.

By noon I arrived in Florence. I paid the parking meter and found humor in discovering that just 25 cents buys two hours of parking in this quintessential Alabama town. A few steps down the sidewalk brought me to the designer’s studio door. A note read, “Sarah…had to run home…be back in 15 min…” I first read the note with relaxed impressions, with empathy and casual understanding. Sometimes things come up. Then secondary thoughts overcame the first. “Perhaps this is a mistake…perhaps, I should have canceled.

When I set the appointment, I wrote clearly that I was making a four-hour drive for this. For a moment, I felt incredibly foolish, even remorseful. Still, I like to give people the benefit of the doubt, by placing confidence in them until they prove otherwise. I chose to wait. After all I’d driven a long way. Fifteen minutes passed. I decided I’d return to my car. I watched for the designer’s return in my rearview mirror. While waiting, I reflected on the positive events of the drive, the cotton company and pristine farmland, summer sunlight. Twenty minutes, 25. At last, the person arrived.

After a casual welcome, I found myself prompting conversation in the studio. The individual seemed little interested in sharing their work. And when I acknowledged the remarkably curated Web site, the bio and mission statement regarding sustainability, there was little remark offered on the subjects. The product and designs were well made. However, the effort to connect with a potential buyer was lacking and sustainable conviction seemed doubtful. Had I chosen to purchase online, I wonder if the garment would have ever arrived. I kept our visit brief. I wished the designer the best, and walked back to my car.

All those questions I pondered the night before came back, tempting greater remorse. Somewhere between Tennessee Street and Alabama Avenue, I decided the day wasn’t a lost cause. I added another address to the GPS, and began my drive further out of town, to a place I’d only read about…

Often the best experiences are found in the extra mile.

To learn more about Red Land Cotton, visit www.redlandcotton.com or take a road trip to shop Red Land Cotton on the square in the heart of Moulton, Ala.

Art is life expressed – Sarah West, owner of the Sarah West Gallery of Fine Art