Karl Barth is a theologian noted for pointing out that God speaks. He speaks something into the void, into chaos. And when he does, things happen. I would therefore like to call God as my primary co-conspirator and witness. I must be at least partially innocent, at least by intent and by the company I keep. To create is to know something of God.
I am a child of chaos. It sometimes comes unbidden, at night, knocking on the door and disturbing my peace. It wakens me in the morning with burdens I do not know how to carry yet. It hectors me to get up and do something. Chaos means you will get dirty and you had better not care. I bear the misbegotten scars of it upon my hands. My wife complains that no article of clothing I own is untouched by paint or some other kind of wood finish.
I am most at home when I am lost in a sea of tools, and buried in process, smelling the sweet incense of dust and wood shavings. It is life in the making. It might best explain why I need not only one project, but sometimes two or three at a time. In this way, I am never really finished. I will die one day with at least one incomplete project. It will lie there as evidence that my time on earth was not wasted.
There is something about wood shavings and sawdust that smells wonderful. It is intoxicating. Wood has an odour that is only poured out into the world like an offering when you cut it. You must in some sense tear it apart in order to make something of it. It is an odd reflection of exactly what is going on with the maker. We make things, and in the process those things make us. We learn and discover what it means to be reverent. We make and discover the holy buried in the mess.
My favourite wood aroma, is walnut. It is also a sweet wood to work. It has that odd confluence of workability tied with enough durability to send it forth into the world without too much worry. It will last, and it will justify itself with a richer look over time.
I like the smell of wood enough, that sometimes I just stand in my garage and take in the aroma. I have a stockpile of some nice wood there with which to build happy castles in the air. Quarter sawn oak, and some wood with figure saved up for front and centre display. Alder wood, and other supposedly humble woods that are beautiful enough for the common man. There is good fir, straight grained and subtle. It is close to home, and very Canadian which I like. Each wood has its own property like a mystery yet unrevealed. I am a prince in court, looking at the variety of choices that await my discovery.
Pine is the wood most people like well enough that they purchase special diffusers by which to dispense an artificial version of its scent into a room. It is the power of fragrance, to evoke wonderful memories like Christmas, when we celebrate and take joy in things that were made. Christmas is the celebration of gifts, and gifts come with much making. At least once a year the world is buried in this communal celebration of MAKING.
Life comes with much making too. We are always making something. Making family, making friends, sometimes making a mess. Hopefully making something of ourselves, and if possible some evidence to leave behind when we are gone.
I am most organized and most at home in the middle of a mess. It is something that my wife has never been able to figure out. She opens the door to my shop, yells about the dust and tells me I am going to kill myself. She looks at the tools scattered about; they are my guilty traveling companions on a road trip to much mischief. If I am killing myself, it might be in the manner of the alcoholic who drinks himself to death… I will go out happy, and in my own mind, in style.
There is creative fire in the making. It allows us to briefly touch God and most of all to find him in the middle of a mess, mixed up with our lives and happy as a clam at high tide.
I am most happy when buried in chaos. It will be my last defence.