15 November 2010

Blacksmith and Carpenter: Meditation

It is only in a technical sense that it can be said that I work with my hands.  My hands, after all, are responsible for translating my thoughts into writing, drawing and photographing.  What they do not often do is create artifacts, although that too can be true in a technical sense.

I cannot point to an inventory of the physical, is what I suppose I mean.  Not a large one, at any rate.  I have my journals, I have some small stock of matted photographs, I even have drawings and sketches I did stretching back over 20 years.

Much of the time I can't quite convince myself that the output is all real, that I was responsible for it.  This body of work seems to lack the gravitas of a wrought iron gate or walnut writing desk, a point that was driven home for me during a visit to an antiques dealer this past weekend.  I saw a number of artifacts, old ones, that made me simultaneously envious and respectful.  The writer in me was deeply impressed by the craftsmanship and elegance exhibited by even some humble oak file cabinets that must have been at least 60 years old.  Glass fronted bookcases with solid brass knobs, leather topped writing desks, a set of solid wood flat files that had been converted into a coffee table.  I swooned at the touch of thick metal pulls and knurled brass knobs...and wished it had been me that had created those objects.

I have a working fireplace in my humble home, with a modern glass and polished metal screen on it.  I like it, but I can't look at it without imagining an elegant wrought iron version, maybe with a fantastic creature scrolled across the front, or the outline of books and letters.  I wish I could make something like that, with my own two hands.

I look on the works of artists and craftspeople, of mechanics and framing carpenters, even the really talented sheetrock guys I have observed on construction sites, and I am inspired and humbled.  I want to be able to do what they do, even if only to satisfy myself that I know for a fact it was a job well done.

My mind works pretty hard, I think a lot, I observe a lot.  What unsettles me is that it often seems hard to tell just what my mind has been doing.  I get immense satisfaction out of writing a story or essay, the whole ritual of typing and editing, or scratching pen across paper.  Someday, I hope I can look on such things as a means of support for my life.

But making gates and cabinets, that would be something wonderful, too.


  1. i have often had this exact thought. it seems much more solid to be a painter, for instance, with a painting you can hold in your hand, hang, put online for others to see.

  2. Ah, but the penetrating insight of the thinkers and watchers serve as such a foundation and inspiration for the artists. You ground them. Fling them to the stars. Immerse them.

    The written word alters the world.

  3. @Chantel - Ooooh, got goosebumps, nicely said.

    I believe the written word can have as much (or more) durability than physical objects, but both have the ability to inspire. For example: your blog has inspired me to start blogging again.

  4. I have been longing to sling some mud...
    Pottery :)
    with my poetry, it's either an "I get this or I don't get this affair"
    snd that's just the way it is
    but if I made a vase or a mug the results would be clear

    maybe :)
    methinks you should take up some blacksmithin' lessons or become an apprentice
    the look would suit you...

  5. Being a craftsman takes on many meanings. I would like to build beautiful wooden boats. But alas, I haven't got the talent or tools to do that. I will instead sail on a beautiful boat and dream.


"Let your laws come undone
Don't suffer your crimes
Let the love in your heart take control..."

-'The Hair Song', by Black Mountain

Tell me what is in your heart...