Monday 31 May 2010

The Panama Hat

Sunday 20th January 2008 was the last day of my first ever trip to Australia. Before leaving Melbourne, that afternoon, I bought myself a hat. A Panama hat, from City Hatters, next to Flinders Street station.

In the days that followed, I made a monumental decision that changed my life forever. In the coming months, as I extracted myself from my business, and spent more time 'working from home' the hat came to symbolise my impending freedom. I once made a vow, that if the sun were shining and I wasn't working, I would be wearing it. It was an easy promise to keep.

However, a hat that well loved and travelled must eventually succumb, as will we all, to the pressures of life. The pinch had torn and disintegrated. The weave dried and cracked. I should remark that it is not actually a true Panama - though the weave comes from Ecuador, it was made in the States. I resolved, earlier in the year, to buy a genuine Panama hat in Ecuador, and allow my old one the freedom it had so richly earned. To place it back from whence it came.

The hat and I share a few final thoughts

And so this morning I purchased a 100% genuine Panama hat. Woven and lovingly hand crafted in Cuenca, Ecuador, over a period of months. It is a thing of infinite beauty and exceptional craftsmanship. On the day when I will give my old hat away, I can't help wondering when and how this one and I will head our separate ways.

I sit in Plaza Grande for a few moments, wondering where I should leave the old one. I can't bring myself to do it. I walk around for a while, then pass an old man, stop and turn back. There was something in his eyes, no doubt about it. I gently took the hat from my head and crouched beside him.

Disculpame señor. Este sombrero tiene mucho suerte para mi. Pero, no lo necesito ahora. Te gustaría? Es un regalito a usted, de mi.

He smiled and accepted my offer. I thought about asking for his photograph, but somehow that would have cheapened the deal - made it an exchange and not a gift. And anyway, I saw his face and will never forget it. I put my hand on his shoulder instead, said goodbye and walked away, a smile upon my face and just the slightest hint of a tear in my eye.

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