Monday, June 24, 2013

Of Bits and Pieces

Around the corners of my memory banks are those bits and pieces that are sometimes hard to fit into place. You know how it is when you look at a puzzle and the colour and shape seems like it should fit “right there” and yet on trying you find that it is not the one. I find that while I am sitting early in the mornings now, with coffee in hand, just contemplating the next moves that will make-up the coming day, I will quite often get small trickling’s of memories. Perhaps some name that I have been working on for family history will be a reminder of an event, but I can’t always put my finger on it… the facts elude me and I end up with those lost essentials of complete recollection… I am left with just the bits and pieces.

There was a time when I could just call Mom or Dad and prime the pump, ask about that person, place or event and how something fit into a certain timeline. Not anymore! The sad truth is that now those valuable assets which were once readily available, are lost to time and the cycle of life. But I am not without hope. I still have box upon box of paper notes, booklets, clippings and stories collected through more than 5 decades of marriage, spanning a collective total of more than 175 years. It is hard to believe that two people could want to take note of the little things, things which may seem to some as obscure and trite, but to an amateur family historian and genealogist like me, it is a treasure trove.

Stories were told of early camping trips to Murray’s Field; of how a cow came trotting over to investigate the intruders and even though Mom was born and raised in a rural setting, she did not feel comfortable with a charging bovine, no matter its confused intentions. So, her immediate reflex was to swing her purse at the innocent attacker, only to have it disconnect from its handle and go shooting like a missile at the poor beast. Immediate tears! Hysterical events with Mom were always accompanied by tears, and Dad trying to figure out the full extent of the problem, before he got scolded. But, where was Murray’s field. I know it was in Upper Port LaTour, but there I get stuck. So part of the discovery is the process of patient research amongst those scattered archives in the boxes of paper… threads of the past.

What, where and how are not always the problems either. Dad had a love for an old set of repair tools that his Dad had for years. It included a pocket knife, sheathed in a medium-soft leather case, which accepted special tools in one end that locked into place. There was a variety of accessories and I suppose today the famous Swiss Army Knife would be a close second to the multi-tool which many handy-men carry strapped to their sides or in the glove-compartment of their car for easy access. This tidbit from history has its sad tale to tell. On arriving home from a summer vacation Dad found only the accessories remaining in the case… after searching for years his hope of ever finding the missing knife, the very key to the set, faded for ever. He was left with only bits and pieces.

I have noticed in life that many the time there have been stories told and memories shared over barbecues, at family gatherings and later in life social events, yet most of the time we are able to glean at best , only bits and pieces of the full picture of the essence of the that particular event or capsule of time. I used to think that to graze among the conversations and to make contact with as many folks as I could, would be the best use of the limited time, usually afforded us during those occasions. I am finding out that most of the time there were mere shallow contacts made, that had little lasting effect on how or why our conversations might make a difference in life as family. I long now for deeper meaningful chats about who affected their lives. How relationship made important those moments when we could connect and swap stories of who, what, when, where and why and thrown into that a greater, deeper understanding of how to know and love each other better. Not just the bits and pieces of life. It becomes the flip side of social hobnobbing; the flitting from person to person and paying our dues before getting back to “it”… the real meaning of life; the work, the issues we deal with… the rubber as it hits the road… the context, the context, the context, must always have its right place and find its center in the core of significant time spent, until it too is gone! There is little significance for bits and pieces in life.

An aunt once asked if I had many neckties. Another brought out a box and with the zeal of an archaeologist began hauling out remnants of cloth and explaining where each piece came from. A group of ladies captured my attention one day after a Bible Study and we perused the inventory of bags of ends of various fabrics, soon to be ripped, torn and then reconstituted into something beautiful, something memorable, something valuable and soon to be loved by a special person yet to be decided. All of these ladies were artisans, quilt makers and saw the beauty in the cloth, not as scrap, … just bits and pieces… but what they held as potentials for a greater whole, put together by hours of decision making and fine handiwork. Yes, even the strange shape of a necktie made it to the quilters frame and became a work of art and beauty
In my past I have taken time to go through woodpiles; especially hardwood piles. Firewood is generally wood that is gauged to be not quite fit for the other route, of furniture or flooring, where its strength will either be appreciated as a frame for your favorite chair or its beauty as a living room or dining room floor.  Left to mature, its value as a resource for high BTUs in your family room wood stove can endear the hearts of those who love wood heat. But I am more of a picker. Going through the piles I can see pieces that have a special character and have been known, with permission, to snatch a few bits and pieces for use at the lathe at home. Snatched from the fire so to speak, makes the gavels I form more special, as a reminder of how representative creativity can be in life. God snatched me from the fire and gave me a new life of service for Him… I am still working on that premise.

As I try to slow down and take time to see, feel, and share more, I know that I still have a long way to go. We orient ourselves to the fast pace… we have to get it done, we have to meet the deadlines and of course to some extent those are important. But the older I get I can see that there is more to life than just the immediacy of getting it all in. I want to take time once again to visit Murray’s field so to speak. I may not get to the exact location… it is now owned by someone different, but I can go to the village as stroll along the beach, smell the air and be reminded of how the past has both affected and shaped the present and my future.

Bits and pieces of life are sometimes all we have for a while. There may be time to fit many of them together and see the true extent of the beauty of what might otherwise lend an open-ended perspective to our sense of reality. Tying up those loose ends can be fun, or downright agony, but it is all about the perspective from there… while living near the edge.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Shopping For A New Shop

I once heard it said that it is not always wise to tear down to build bigger. Back in my youth my grandmothers Bible stories included the epic of the man who felt he needed bigger barns to store more of his crops, only to be told that his time was up and that he needn't build anything at this point. Hmm! So I have plans to tear down an old shed that served my parents, and who knows how many others, well for many years. The problem is that there is a hill in back of the shed on an adjoining property, from which flows water runoff and to a certain extent mud. That is just normal stuff, but down through the years the back wall facing the neighbours has had to be rebuilt several times and the picture of scabs of new wood now rotted once again haunt my sense of repair or rebuild ambition.

Here is the skinny on that battle of guilt for tearing down vs. good planning and preservation of resources by building new. For years now I have been gathering up both old and new machinery to have a woodworking shop in retirement.  So, I have a few items. There is a great band saw, a scroll saw, a bench-top drill press, my shop table saw, a job site table saw, a 13” planer, dedicated router table… well, you get the picture and I am barely skirting the surface. It has taken a couple of decades, some wonderful people who saw that I could make, carve and build stuff, and a loving wife, all of whom made it possible for me to have the many and varied woodworking tools that I have now. 

Well, when we moved home I stored much of the machinery in our shed, at back of our home. But with its deteriorating condition, the weather, a leaky roof and all started a race to stop the rust on the cast iron tables of my shop saw, and the 6 inch jointer. Then Karen discovered that it was attacking my lathe. She wanted everything saved… well… so did I. So we had a difficult decision to make. Renovate or rebuild. A quick tour and check of existing beams told us that there was rot everywhere. Ouch! Retirement is great but for the unknowns… right? Well, bit by bit decisions were discussed and I then realized that the only way forward was forward! Step by step the process of planning, getting quotes and well, facing the harsh reality of the cost was shocking. But, what does one do? Well, if it were just up to me, I would just go back to bed! LOL But such is not the case here. Karen, my cheerleader and holder of the cattle prod, gently reminds me that if we build it, it will be home to all that “stuff” at some point.

Truth is that Karen is looking forward to having everything in place so that the fun will begin. She is not always so sure of my dreamy projects, but sometimes I do hit on one or two that seem to make sense to her. With 6 grandchildren, and likely at least one more at some point, there will be lots of projects to be undertaken until they are well into their 30’s I figure. Hey, that correlates with my plan to live another 30 years. Some guys I know have worked in their shops until their 90’s! I can do this! Now that is good planning! But, then it will also be construction central for those have to do projects when outside requests for renovations and custom builds enter the picture. I could use my workshop now for a just such a request… that shop table saw would be mighty handy just now. Oh well, that is why I have a job-site saw. Oh my there is a story behind that saw!  I will tell you all about it one day.

Work/funeral hiatus… and now back. I get a lot of calls to conduct funerals for old friends and family. I cannot decline… I am here to help!

Well it has been a couple of busy weeks. But things have progressed here at the demolition site. I started with the roof and have FINALLY made it to the hole in the ground that I need to begin the rebuild, or as I recently told someone; “out of the ashes rises a new woodworking shop!” That may be hard to follow, but for those of you who may follow my photo diary on Facebook, there is a fire component to the tear-down process. Karen, my sidekick and supervisor, loves to burn the small bits and pieces that come with demolition. On the many other projects that we have undertaken down through the years, (and there are many) she has loved to have campfires and burn off the leftovers rather than just find a place for them all to go. In this case there would have not been enough room in the dumpster, which held all the rotten pieces of boards and beams along with roofing and such.

We have been building, rebuilding and renovating, it seems like, constantly for the past 15 years. The question often arises whether I will ever see the end. Nah! I guess not! Anyhow, if you love the work why stop… Right? But life is much like that, it seems. We are never quite satisfied are we? We like to tweak what seems to be OK or sufficient to make do… yet not quite perfect. Or our minds change like the seasons and we just want to try something different. Years back, I was warned by a wise old sage friend of mine to not undertake too much, as there will always be the maintenance of what we have to keep us busy. But who can resist making life better? After all there is that urge to make it all fit in, until one day we realize it is all too big now for us to handle. But on the other hand the needs of the time were met and we did enjoy the product as well as the process.

So what about those barns I mentioned that were too late in the Biblical story? Well, I want to be productive and content, and I think I have been given the resources (machinery and a wee bit of talent) to make good use of this project. So, out of the ashes… a new shop! Curious enough though, I do regret that I couldn't just repair what was there… I am the consummate restoration guy… let’s make it better, not necessarily destroy to rebuild, unless totally necessary. I guess God works that way too. Lots of things about us may show a bit of rot, that sin that can eat away at the roots of our foundations from time to time, but He keeps working on us rather than just starting fresh with a new model.

I’d like to think that most of those who read my ranting would agree with me. If you don’t, that is quite all right. I allow for love to be large enough to embrace the joy of life and then I pray for your peace. I find that as I gaze out to sea I know how much larger life is, than just that which we see around from day to day. I know that the universe is greater than my understanding, and now at this juncture of life, I am building on the knowledge that if God grants me a tomorrow, I want to be of some use whether writing, building or praying… I am going to stand on the edge… and note the view from here for a while yet!