Saturday, August 4, 2018

Wood works

Trees are a miracle.  Shade, fruit, syrup, flowers, soil stability, planks, spars, plywood -- trees provide sustenance and beauty that make our lives liveable. Wood is a thing of infinite possibilities.

One of the delights of leaving a job behind is the option of spending an afternoon with the smell of fresh cut wood in my nose and the prospect of a glowing natural surface under my hands.

My wooden kayak, built by my husband decades ago, needs refinishing.  It's a beautiful boat, light enough to heft onto my shoulder and walk down a beach, strong enough to take the grind on shell beaches.  It skitters over the surface of the ocean like a leaf, tracks through choppy ocean waves with a few twists of the paddle, and drifts silently with a current when I want to be still in the water.  I'm not a designer or builder, but I'm a whiz with paint scraper, sandpaper and varnish. The kayak is made from "tortured marine plywood" and as I sand I feel the tension and spring in the wood.  When I stroke the smooth hull, I feel its yearning to leap forward into foaming waves or glide quietly through swirling eddies.

Working with wood reminds me of what happens when I write.  Writing needs a vision, fragrant and beautiful raw materials (good words smell like fresh-cut cedar), skills to shape and assemble it, and then the patient sanding, painting, varnishing and polishing to make it gleam.  I can feel the yearning of a story, the echoes of characters, the wonder of something new. Words too are things of infinite possibilities, and it's another delight to work those into a creation that can scud across the water to another shore.

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