My brother Tom is an incredibly talented person. He’s a renaissance man. His list of accomplishments and talents are too long to list here, but at the top of the list is his writing ability. Lucky for us, he shares his musings publicly through his blog and newsletter - White Noise. He covers a wide range of topics. One week might be thoughts on technology and the next he’ll hit us with some poetry.
Last week he published a creative piece describing a day in of the life of a woodworker. It’s too good not to share. So find a few minutes during halftime on this football Sunday, grab a drink and enjoy the read below.
Verbal Portrait No. 4: The Woodworker
The sun’s sharp morning rays pierced the mammoth warehouse’s windows. Like a row of oversized magnifying glasses, their panes focused the light as it wound its way through the whirling, dust-filled air. From the outside, there seemed nothing fancy or remarkable about the brick structure; the magic was what happened inside.
The shop was far cry from the cubicle he once inhabited. It was more full of motion, action, life—wood and dust and stain and stank and sweat together all mixed as sensory melange. The air seemed to have a sonic, haptic texture one could hear and taste and touch in this old building turned small workshop.
What he did was messy, shower-inducing stuff. Unlike most, his uniform was dirty before his workday began. Laminate, paint, and stains all splayed over old, hard-worn flannel, frayed jeans, and broken-in boots. If you squinted, you could see traces of Paul Bunyan in him.
He ran his hands over the uneven lumber. From afar it looked like he was massaging the wood, rather he was feeling for every last knot and imperfection as though a blind man reading braille.
Soon each notch and pockmark would be gone. During long hours at work he had learned that patience can smooth away the most stubborn of difficulties. Grit is a hell of a sandpaper.
His sinews and ligaments danced across each forearm as he hacked, sawed, sanded, sharpened, stained, lacquered, and dried. Like Michelangelo with his marble, so too White with his wood. Or so he hoped with every plank planed, gash whittled, and curled shaving chiseled.
His touch was light and precise, but his body was tense. The simplicity of his craft belied how seriously he took it. He was man on mission pursuing dream and honoring tradition. What they called him—woodworker—always struck him as funny. Having worked in many a shop with many a tool, he often thought it difficult to discern which was working the other. It was sheer test of wills—one animate, the other not.
It was hard work, this. Like blood on gauze, passion and love seeped into his work. In this way, each stool had a story. There was a metaphor in how he worked the wood—art imitates life and all that.
Each piece was unique. This made it special. If he wasn’t careful, he would ruin it. Without proper treatment, it would deteriorate beyond all recognition. It was meaningful and precious and rare.
At twilight, the frenzy died down and the staccato rhythm went mute. Like a top losing its spin, the heartfelt, tightly-wound process slowly unraveled into more relaxed evening. He shut the door, fiddled with the lock, and inserted the paint-stained key just so.
As he sat in his truck, he let out a sigh and rubbed his red-tinged eyes. Yet another hard-won day.
This craftsman’s path wasn’t the easy one, but it was the right one. That much he knew for sure.
He thought to himself:
It's not much, but it's honest.
It's not easy, but it's simple.
It's not labor, but it's love.
And that's a lot more than can be said for most people.
Read the full piece here.