It’s All a Stage
Today I was resawing lumber that’s been sitting in my garage for a while. I dressed it from rough a few years back and it’s been sitting high up on the ceiling beams for a while now. Fact is it’s still too thick to suit most uses so today I split each blank into two pieces to glue up as panels twice as wide and half as thick. At 5/8” it’s a pretty useful thickness for furniture parts that don’t need to be a full 3/4” in dimension.
This mundane task doesn’t require a high degree of skill, hence it is pleasant. It’s a nice way to spend a few hours and the lumber smells great right off the saw. The only aroma I like more than pine is walnut, and cutting up lumber carries this sensory pleasure with the task.
The best part, is a chance for a bit of whimsey. This piece of wood has not become anything in particular yet, but I can see the creamy smooth subtleties emerge as it comes off the saw. Wood works with you, it contributes to the conversation as you go along. It’s particularities open up new possibilities and its subtle beauty makes you feel good.
I haven’t been in the shop for a while. I’ve been busy with work, and the last project had inevitable problems which had to be solved and took a lot of time. Hence, once done I was happy for a bit of a reprieve because not all stages of a project are accompanied with whimsey and pleasure. Some talk back, some kick back, and some do not cooperate at all. They can frustrate your best efforts and make you wish at halftime that you had taken up golf instead of woodworking. Things to solve are simply realistic. Only an ingenue would think it’s all fun and games.
Which brings me to kids. One lady I worked with had an open discussion going in the office, whereby she said if she had to do it all over again, she wouldn’t. No kids. She wouldn’t go there at all. She’d happily sail through childless and come out at old age richer and with less white hair.
I was shocked at the time, but now I am mostly through stages of raising up three. I can see some parallels to woodworking here. The beginning of every project is always fun and full of possibilities, and at that point is free from mistakes. It’s like the honeymoon version of child rearing. You have not yet gone through the nights carrying a sick baby, you have not been shat on or vomited on, and you have not had your kid tell you they hate you while stamping their feet. You have not done the endless runs to things like soccer or hockey, and you have not had the stress… yet. But just like woodworking, there are stages, and as they say, it’s all a stage.
I’m happy to say my three were generally pretty easy but I still share the stress with my wife of looking at each other and inwardly throwing up our hands because we know that whatever the situation, this too shall pass. It’s all a stage… until the next one and the next. Then you will be hauled in to babysit grandkids and the whole thing will start anew.
I imagined in our old neighbourhood that the oldsters across the road would be doting grandparents. They were when called upon but I also discovered to my naive surprise that they valued a break, and being able to step back from the action gave them some balance and perspective they had not enjoyed sooner because they were too busy raising kids for it to be fun. They were not keen to be that busy again.
Today in my shop I was at the easy stage. I was not hammering in a joint that wouldn’t fit, working with a board that split or warped, or any of the other multitude of things that can crop up.
And that’s the thing. Enjoy that stage. Because after that will be another stage and then another, and they may not be so fun. It’s not all whimsey and things to look forward to… eventually all projects go through rough patches, and they all end up either finished or undone which is another conversation altogether.
I will weigh in and say that I like woodworking too much to give up. I also like having kids a lot. But I have not loved both enterprises, all the time, because sometimes that attrition wears you down and breaks you. It’s the stress everyone goes through in the middle that piles up toward the end, sometimes called mid-life crisis.
You hope that what you ended up with was worth all the work and headache. Push come to shove I WOULD do it all again. That’s good news I think. There’s an honesty to living with your eyes wide open, that means you are either a stoic or a fool. Which label fits me best, I guess only time will tell.