Wednesday Woodworking, Weariness, and Wonderment

Having spent the morning working in the basement, or more honestly, having spent the morning asleep and the early afternoon working in the basement, it’s time for a heavy break.

I don’t really know what I’m doing.  I took a semester of wood working during one of my art student years, but I don’t know if I retained anything, if any of the techniques I’m using come from there or are, like most of my craft skills, improvisations or adaptations of techniques meant for other media.

I find that I know how to use a great many tools I can’t remember the names for, as if the knowledge were innate.  I could claim to be a natural, but I don’t believe in that.  I think, instead, that the decades of eclectic study have finally paid dividends in a general body of knowledge that includes basic mechanical construction, regardless of the material.  I’d rather think that, that I’ve forged some gentle synthesis culminating in a general understanding, than that my basic competence is all that remains from a more elaborate and complex series of knowledge sets that have mostly left me like the meat from a xeriscopic skeleton.  I can’t believe my forgetfulness is so erosive as the desert wind and sun.  I have to believe I’m still building, that I’ve not yet hit the tip of the pyramid.  The rest of life as a descent is a far time off, I think.

I needed this break.  Something I’m still struggling with, something I’ve battled my entire life and only been made aware of through kung fu, is the belief that harder is better.  That if a thing doesn’t go right, the best track is to do it twice as hard the second time.  Stepping away from a piece, or a plant, or a technique doesn’t feel right, it feels like surrendering to some external thing that would judge me a quitter.  That external thing, I have to keep telling me, is no more external than my inner thoughts.  A ruined piece, a killed plant, a frustrating technique are each none better than they were before the final excessive push that made them so.  Taking a break isn’t giving up, and though I shudder to think of it, I am made of meat, and meat is fallible.  Sometimes a body needs a rest, regardless of what the mind might want.

I’ve pretty nearly ruined two planters today.  I started inauspiciously by sanding planter boxes that’s stains weren’t yet dry, despite a week of curing.  It’s been cold and damp, I didn’t realize how long that would drag out the drying process.  From there I spent a few hours figuring out how to cut a hollow without any tools made for doing so.  I managed, but the piece is not quite what I’d planned.  Salvageable as something new, but not as my intent.  Another piece had some unexpected holes that only became visible when I removed the bark I’d initially intended to leave.  I don’t know if I have any more spruce boughs left over from the old tree.  I’ll be sorry if this is the last piece, I miss that tree and would like the final thing I make of its remnants to improve the memory of it, not remind me of the waste come from it being cut down.

The plants under my new light are doing well.  In just a few days they’ve perked up and become more erect.  The additional light helps me, too.  It makes the basement seem less dreary, helps me to finally use the space as a plant room on one half and a workshop on the other.  Finally, no more attempted work spaces on floors that might be damaged by the heat or weight.  Finally, dedicated spaces for my various pursuits, ones that I actually enjoy spending time in.  Complaints and sore back aside, I’m quite happy with the day.  I’m happy with something to do, with results to show for my having done.  I know substituting work with my hands for work on a keyboard isn’t the best solution to writer’s block, but I can’t think of an alternative that would leave me as content.