It rained on and off throughout the day, mostly on, and the wild places beyond the school soaked in each welcome Spring drops that fell. We have had almost no rain since I arrived last month and so I join the farmer and gardener in thanks for something no man can really do too well and that is water the land. Early rains are important after winter’s done and new growth delays its dormant phase when rains decline yet warmth has begun. It’s 2am and I lie in bed thinking of baggage and stuff I need for the flight in a few hours time.
This has been a unique time for me. Each day I have enjoyed a sense of inner celebration shared with my family and friends who worked so hard to start a 2nd New Legacy School of Woodworking here in New York. But others have joined us along the way and they too celebrate from regions of the USA, Britain and mainland Europe, South America, South Africa, Israel, Australia, Canada, the Middle East, India and Pakistan and other regions too. Last night as I put up my tools and closed the workshop doors, the celebration of completion rose in my heart as I thought of the smiles, handshakes and hugs left by colleagues, old friends, new friends and new partners in the drive for guiding new-genre woodworkers in our quest for truth and wholeness.
The privileged life of hard work and workmanship can never be fully told, but in 48 years of working wood with my hands and hand tools I have never known a hungry stretch or days without work, ever. My dad was right; with certainty he told me when I was 15 years old that if I had a craft I would never go hungry. My expectations were always less than others. When factory work entered my workshop or people said, “now you can really make money doing this or that,” I find myself withdrawing. I knew it was time to shut it down. Not that earning your corn is a bad thing, or getting paid honest wage for a day’s honest work is somehow dirty, more that for me the workmanship is its own reward and not the stuff money buys.
When moneymaking sullies life and insecurity causes fear of loss you know you are driven by self and self-centredness. It’s a strange thing that it can be the life of others that does this and even with the best intentions. I’d rather grow my potatoes and raise chickens for my eggs than buy them. When I arrive home I will build my wife and I a new chicken coop. We’ve had chickens for 20 years. We have planted a garden for food and even had worm farms and beehives. Life rooted to the land isn’t nice, it’s life lived and worked and worked out. That’s what working wood is for me. It’s life lived, breathed and worked out. Try it!
Throughout the last day of the Foundational workshop early fears dropped one by one away and serious people working wood developed newfound skills. Some became confident, swiped shavings from wood with planes they never knew before could do what they not me were doing. Others, more diffident, gingerly removed their wafers of thinness more cautiously but yet achieved a different way of working wood than the other. Both found joy and fulfilment. Just how can anyone measure what that means? How do you price the pricelessness of a pine shaving or the single brush stroke of oil on a canvass or the tapestry of Chinese hand-stitched embroidered hummingbirds?
Thank you everyone. You are a stitch in the tapestry of my life’s work and I a shaving in yours.