Made in the shade

Parasol Bike

"All that I want is a Shady Lane." Lyrics, Stephen Malkmus. Photo:

The other day I went for a walk downtown here in my hometown of Staunton, Virginia. The sun that day was, as usual, blistering over head.

While I chose to move to Staunton precisely because it’s a perfect town for the transition away from fossil fuels and toward a revitalized local economy, I can’t say I chose it for either its shade or its trees.

Staunton is designated a Tree City by the Arbor Day Foundation, but likely that’s because we’re a mountain town, surrounded by vast swaths of trees, meadows, farmland and other natural habitat, much of it technically within the city limits.We have a nice park, for example, that is dense with shade trees.

Unequal distribution

But downtown? My neighborhood? Fuggetabouit! Here trees are a rarity at best. It’s like one of those dense European cities built entirely on stone, only in our case, on stone, cement and tar. Tree lined is not what I would call it, though it’s beautiful anyway. Just shadeless. That’s fine in the winter. Good even. But in the summer watch out!

Unless while walking downtown you’re shaded by a building and are choosing your side of the street accordingly, you’re going to be oh so hot.

Simplicity is elegance

My solution that day was to grab my ordinary umbrella and use it as a sun parasol. I’m past caring what anyone thinks of my eccentric fashion choices and accessories, so sporting a true umbrella on a blisteringly sunny day bothered me not a whit.

However, since then, I saw my lovely new friend Cappi sporting a vintage Asian style paper parasol at a Green Drinks event here at our local to-die-for pâtisserie, Newtown Bakery. Back in Newtown’s new beer garden Cappi casually interacted with folks with an amazing parasol twirling at her disposal. In fact she had two (one had been left in a friend’s car). She bemoaned that as antiques the parasols were a little tattered, but they were still totally hipster in my opinion, especially offsetting her gorgeously silver hair.

I decided then and there that I wanted a real paper parasol, preferably antique as well, and am going on my quest to find one today. I’ll have to use my umbrella as I do, hitting our many downtown antique shops under today’s sunny skies. But that’s okay. My umbrella has a mess of goofy flowers illustrated on it, looking something like Madeline drawings from the delightful French-themed books by famed Italian illustrator Ludwig Bemelmans.

Looking like Madeline isn’t the worst thing that could happen to me on a sunny day in bustling downtown Staunton. In fact that, with the parasol, is even cooler.

–Lindsay Curren, Lindsay’s List

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About Lindsay Curren

Lindsay Curren has no intention of ending up the Scarlett O'Hara of the 21st century, dizzy and confused as neo-Rome burns. Instead, the Staunton, Virginia based writer, designer and high-heeled survivalist writes Lindsay's List, the women's conservation blog and edits Transition Voice, the online magazine on peak oil and the coming life of sweaty labor and, hopefully, nicer manners.

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