What unearthed memory has led me to a modest collection of brushes? What stale bristles did I encounter in youth that impressed upon me their worth? I wish I had some Proustian moment to point to; the best I can muster is a foggy memory of my father whisking sand from my ankles with a dime store hand broom before leaving the beach. And yet I can barely hold a good brush without studying its design, noting some feature likely invisible to most. Brushes are tools, but reverential ones.
By collection, however, I do not mean a precious and well-lit display. Each brush is used; when no longer able to perform its intended role, a demotion to some more menial brushing awaits, usually associated with shoes. Shoes are a terrific excuse for brushes. So are clothes, teeth, whiskers and felt hats. A few brushes even deserve their own essays—coming soon, I think.
Brushing itself is terribly nuanced though. The brisk passes required to bring up a shine on a toe-cap have nothing in common with the circular nudging used to lather a two day beard. And brushing a suit deserves five hundred words of its own. Perhaps that’s why I’m drawn to brushes: each possesses an invitation to uncover a latent technique. Once learned, the skill remains well past the life of the brush itself.