Good Grief.

Grieving is that truly unique period of readjustment where healing takes place between once having someone or something we valued greatly and then not having what was. It’s the period where the minds of the aware begin a healing process from the withdrawal of something truly valued but lost. In the midst of such traumatic things we too can feel lost, confused, disorientated. When the familial is replaced by an alternative, then we can lose all sense of clarity, reality becomes a distortion to us. In the midst of very difficult times and sad losses, when the tears well up in our eyes and our chests feel swollen, we must remember to breathe. Someone recently told me off for ‘waxing philosophical,’ but I wasn’t. Not really. No, not at all. What I have learned in life is it’s important to listen and, if someone uses words, listen all the more. Listening is a heartbeat beating, a weak pulse, and then a strong pulse. We are supposed to absorb the pains of others into our own being. To those who might complain that this is not woodworking, I don’t really care much, because for me, my whole life is all people, and all things weave in and out one to the other so that nothing becomes the exclusivity that divides us one from another because we are some kind of purist in this or that. Oh, the times people have made accusations regarding my views about hand tools and their workings. Said I was exclusive and such. No big power machines hovering in the background, no sponsors from machine makers, and then tool maker s too. They base this on the fact that I rarely ever use a machine for anything and speak openly about the reality that skills have been dumbed down and limited designs to what comes of a rotary cutterhead of one kind or another. Let me have a little shout…PAUL SELLERS LIKES MACHINES…he just doesn’t need them too much because he has the power hand tool skills deliver well and then he loves his noise-free, dust-free safe environment as well as his 10 fingers and face too much to lose them. He also loves those who would maybe never have an opportunity to learn true craftsmanship from a craftsman who’s lived the life.

Friends smile from a distance yet they still stand side by side.

Today I realized more than ever before that grieving for things can be like grieving for someone you have lost. When my parents died I grieved for them. Their passing was expected in both cases, they had both been quite ill for a decade you see, but I grieved. When I lost pets at different times I grieved then too. Sometimes when we lose a friend or multiple friends we can find ourselves without thinking in a grieving situation. Now those are too obvious, I know. So when we have lost our jobs, lost the companions we shared space with, lost the journey in traffic to work. You know, where we greeted others, neighbours, people in trains and buses, from inside our own glass bubble going the other way, it’s just OK to grieve. Call it whatever you like, losing what was normal to us will take no getting over for some, and lots of getting over for others. The deep, deep sense of loss people feel in the normal life they were used to is a major upheaval and where we can we are supposed to absorb the pain of others as much as we are able.

Reaching out to touch somebody’s shoulder has long term benefits and though we do it from a distance, just asking the questions can show you care. Where you can, my friends, make the phone call, knock on the door and make sure your friends are not over-isolated and alone. The lockdown has not fulfilled its purpose yet and we must keep going until it is done. Love your neighbour as yourself and you will save a relationship in special circumstance, probably for a lifetime.

Wild forget-me-nots I saw on a bike ride

Give yourself time to recover in the changes that have unfolded. Things will have changed for everyone and recovery takes pace at different rates for us all. Spend time in nature, watch things grow, and wait for the surprises you least expect. Please, never give up. Yesterday, in the very midst of my contemplations, I sat by a pond surrounded by trees and standing reeds. It was quiet and dare I say lonely.

There was a certain sadness on the air when I thought of so many needs, then from the very base of the reeds on the other side of the pond I saw a dark dot move over the surface, a second came and then a third, fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh, eighth, ninth and tenth. Behind these dots emerged the mother of all, a young mallard. The ducklings bobbed and skittered whither which way they would and her head twisted this way and that until things settled and she sat atop the water serenely but ever-watching. There was no one with me to share this experience so I am sharing it here because we all have things to share. I felt a little more settled with tears in my eyes as I thought about a world in lockdown and remembered that soon we will all be released to rebuild it and then too what we value the most!

Sincerely as ever, in Love.

Paul

27 thoughts on “Good Grief.”

  1. Well done Paul. I wish I could articulate my sentiments about such things as well as you do.

  2. Thankyou Paul. While reading I was reminded of my switch from power tools to handtools. You saying That we can grieve the loss of things. Although I wouldn’t immediately recognise it but I did grieve the loss of using power tools. It just presented itself in different ways to me. Making hand sawing timber seem like a marathon where the power saw would make it a sprint, hand planing like a mountain to climb when the power planer would make it a level path. Of course these analogies were not true, it was just the programming that I received when I was younger that made it feel so. The more I use my handtools the more I feel that I lost more than I gained from power tool use. I no longer miss my power tools, I grieve for the time I lost believing that they where the way forward for me. But that is ok, I have years of handtool woodworking ahead of me. And I thank you for opening my eyes. You have helped me in more ways than I can say .

    1. Neil, This was such a lovely response, and unexpected. Thank you for the encouragement. The Clean Air Act here in the UK was to regulate common-day pollutants the population was breathing in and out every day. With dust extraction in the workshop, of course, that too is minimalised but not eradicated. Wearing ear defenders and masks does take care of most things but the isolation, the separation of the senses to render them redundant and useless, that for me now is unbearable. A non negotiable.

  3. Paul, I have recently discovered your work and I very much enjoy it. You express not just the “how” of woodworking (in which I take great interest) but you do it with the “soul” of a craftsman, which I find both fascinating and comforting. I very much enjoyed your recent commentary on your potatoes, because it expressed that soul that I feel is too often missing from our lives. Thank you for your expressions and I do hope you continue them!

  4. Paul
    it was entirely due to me finding you on the net that I dug out all my old hand tools I bought during an early apprenticeship. I took stock and notice quite a few Sheffield tools I had inherited from distant uncles who had learned their trades in Ireland and the UK. After cleaning, sharpening and filing them back into useable conditions, I began, with your help, to get my muscle memory back and learn anew.
    Thanks to you, I have started to regain the “feel”, pace and serenity of working wood from raw timber to finished product. Many power tools line my shop but
    as of yet remain untouched. I am sure I will slowly get back to using a jointer or table saw to help get raw lumber close to stock ; local farmers here in Ontario, Canada offer me cherry, black walnut, oak and ash in rough milled slabs but free! Last summer I produced a 380 lb 7 foot Nicholson bench. All done completely with hand tools.
    Thank you so much for all that you have and will do for me. I know from your history you have helped many, but I know you have certainly added to my life in a very great way.
    If I get to the UK when things open up to see other friends, I certainly would be honoured to meet you if possible.

    thanks again, hold fast and this too shall pass.

  5. I liked this post. It kind of reminds me of Mr Rogers telling kids things are going to be ok, but Paul telling us woodworkers or aspiring woodworkers that it will.

    1. I’ve always thought of Paul as the Mr Rogers of woodworking (that’s meant to be a compliment).

  6. Mr. Sellers,
    In joining chorus with many others, I would like to thank you for your instruction and guidance. It is refreshing to hear from someone who explains the benefits of hand tools without disparaging the alternatives. I started working wood with hand tools exclusively after watching your videos for a number of years. The sad fact is that due to a number of health issues my body simply does not have the capacity to use hand tools for as many hours as I would like. It is heartening to follow a master (however peripherally) that would not judge others for alternative methods that suit them. I do enjoy using machines on wood, if for no other reason than it lets me get a project done in a much more timely manner with less pain, but it’s the pieces of projects that I can use hand tools on that I am the happiest making.
    Regards,
    Dr. Major

  7. Dear Paul, as one of your thousands of apprentices world wide your training and loving thoughts mean the world to us,even more so during these times.May God bless and keep you, your family, and staff healthy.Please know that in the future when we can all once again travel safely that wherever you travel,you will have friends,free lodgings and fellowship. Sincerely Len Kennan Connecticut.

  8. Hi, Paul — thank you again, as always, for your thoughtful words. I would take issue with those who accuse you of “philosophizing” — you speak from a wholeness of life which I think many of us who have gotten to know you through your videos and your blog truly appreciate. I, too, have switched over mainly to hand tools through your influence. I still use the table saw to dimension wood (I’m redoing the doors of cabinets in my kitchen- cutting a 1×8 board into 2 inch+ widths for the rails and stiles is much faster than trying to rip them all by hand. Everything from then on is hand tools (I can cut a 1 1/4″ mortise in about 15 minutes now), and it is so satisfying. I am also working on a prototype bench for my wife for her spinning and weaving work — it is held together with dry wall screws, but I’m trying to figure out how to make it with joinery — all based on what I have learned from you.
    Thank you again for all that you do for us, and I’m sure we all wish that you, your family, and staff all stay healthy during these difficult times.

  9. Thank you Paul. Well said.
    Over the past 6 months I have watched all of your videos I can, some of them two or three times. I retired last September and started concentrating on putting my small wood shop together. I started by buying many power tools. All of which were used and obsolete and would need to be replaced as soon as I could afford to.
    Then I met Paul Seller’s on YouTube.
    I must say I have never enjoyed woodworking as much as I do now.
    It is most gratifying when I am walking in a pile of shavings.
    Thank you for sharing your talents.

  10. Lovely story about the Mallard ducklings Paul.
    One positive about the “stay home” is that it is quieter and the wildlife may be benefiting.
    And we also could possibly benefit from a bit of a slow down.
    Such as hand tool woodworking.
    And we are not the only ones of course. My wife needle points and her mother is a champion quilter. Both very, very detailed, precise handwork.
    And they find it very satisfying.
    Lots of time to let the mind “philosophize” while working with our hands.
    Thank you Paul.

  11. Thanks Paul. This lockdown has been emotionally tough for reasons you mentioned. This too shall pass. At some point we will be able,to,spend time with others again. It will be a joyous occassion.

    In the meantime, I’ve planted a garden. I love looking each day to see how it changes.

  12. My Dad was a WW2 vet who became blind. He was very self sufficient, but after losing his sight he became quite dependent on others. I did what I could to help, reading to him, going for long walks and long talks together, describing sights colorfully so he could “see” in his mind, getting him to laugh at my poor jokes, but it used to frustrate me how uneducated I was in being handy with tools.. How much more helpful I could have been around the house to my Dad and my Mom! Finally, thanks to you, I have become that handy helpful person my Dad would have appreciated. Before the pandemic, I would try to help someone else every day. I will return to that when this is over, think of my Dad when I do, and I have you to thank for that Paul.

  13. Mahomed Moorad

    Thank you Sir! Just keep on doing and saying what you have been doing and saying, after all we are all human and we need that constant reassuring and sharing of ones life’s highs and lows that will help us in our life’s highs and lows.

    We are resilient beings and we shall and will overcome this stage of passing into something good.

    Thank you. Keep safe and healthy.

  14. This is such a lovely post, Paul! Thank you for everything you do — I really appreciate what you said about everything being about people, rather than being a “purist in this or that.” I feel the same way.

    You’ve been very helpful to me in this time. I’d just been obsessing about getting into hand tool woodworking before all this started, and had gone looking for my basic tools of a plane, chisel, and saw, all largely because of watching your work on YouTube. But it was just watching at that point, and I somehow couldn’t seem to get started. This isolation time has given me just the kick in the pants I needed.

    My father is a master woodworker, one of the founding members of the Northeastern Woodworker’s Association here in the US, but somehow as a kid I didn’t truly appreciate what he did nor pick up his wisdom or craft. Now, at 32, I’m picking it up, because of you and others who share their knowledge online — and the best part is, whenever I have a question, of course I can ask my dad. I talk with him every day about my progress and discoveries as I learn the basics now, and it’s been a great thing to have during this isolation. Even just sharpening has been rewarding to learn through doing, and today as I finally got my cheap plane iron properly sharp and took good shavings, it was very exciting! I look forward to working in a shop with my dad when all this is over.

    Thanks again.

  15. Paul, I enjoy your “waxing philosophical” as much as I enjoy your woodworking. I follow your life as it evolves. The fact that you share your skills, honestly, as well as your life insights blesses me. It is obvious to me that, at some point in your project progression, machines were used to do the hog work. You then add your “masters touch” as we watch. Thank you for sharing your life and loves with the rest of us. Blessings

  16. The smiling faces grassy banks reminds me of your smiling wooden discs. It’s still good to smile – even under these masks.

  17. Jeff Stauffer

    Paul. Thanks for so much for what you’ve taught me. From the online videos to the books. And the blog posts. I’m twenty- odd years younger than you but old enough to know that you have greater insights into life and living – perspective is so useful. So not only do I enjoy your instructions on how to work wood but also your reflections on life.
    Several years ago, after messing up a beautiful piece of wood with a power router I started searching for information on how to properly work wood. That’s when I found your videos.
    I travel for work (not right now obviously) and I soon learned that using hand tools was not only more successful for me but also much more relaxing, rewarding and affordable. I now go to my workshop not only to make things but to relax, unwind and enjoy life. Thank you!

  18. Bloody hell, Paul! Stop making me cry (good tears)! 🙂

    Beautiful words as always.

    Hand tool woodworking has changed my life. I’ve given up drinking, smoking and sitting around watching the TV. What a wonderful new path you’ve encouraged me to take. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

  19. John Besharian

    Mr. Sellers,
    First, may I say that in the relatively short period I’ve been aware of your work I’ve been led to make a non-competitive, favorable comparison of what you do with Frid and Krenov’ and a few others, Craftsmen who pursued their hand tool work with both practicality and a certain artistic sense. A sense not of ostentatious pride, but rather a touch of both humility and the self assurance of having worked out methods and techniques that produce the quality you demand in an efficient, peaceful and safe manner with a willingness to share what you’ve learned with others. One might compare the hand tool approach of the three of you (and others) vs those using machine tools exclusively to the difference between fly fishing for trout on a chalk stream or spring creek and commercial crabbing in the Bering Sea. So, keep it up, enjoy creating quiet mounds of contemplative wood shavings instead of clouds of noisome, worrisome wood dust. We all need time to think about things other than keeping our digits away from the maw of some whirling, mindless electric monster.

  20. Growing up in the US, we were and are constantly bombarded with the droning message of better living through technology! As far as woodworking goes, that meant unless we bought and bought into the concept of owning a miniature industrialized home shop – we could not or would not ever be able to work wood. I always knew there was a different or possibly better way, but there were very few the last 50 years who possesed the skills with hand tools to teach us how to follow the path of our ancestors. Finding people like Paul Sellers, Roy Underhill, Christopher Schwarz, and a handful of others changed all of that for me – I now understand that an individual with a small kit of hand tools and a good dose of basic skills can do whatever we can imagine! Getting older, I have lost a spouse and several of my closest friends, but the knowledge of working wood and using hand tools has helped to sustain me through those losses in ways I never would have imagined. The wood truly is good – thanks to the people who have persevered the norm, to help the rest of us discover and learn what we knew existed but could not find. Thank you Mr. Sellers and also your crew for bringing us everything you all do – I for one realize you are not getting wealthy financially for doing all of this, it’s a different calling from this fast paced modern world. Please keep up the good work – we are out here listening and learning. Stay healthy and safe in these trying times – this too shall pass.

  21. Malcolm Smith

    Paul, at my bench, I feel your hand on my shoulder.
    This touched me for 2 reasons: yesterday in our masks after a short exchange the local shopkeeper said “I’m smiling”, I replied “I know, I can see”; today, I ran some errands leaving my elderly parents at home and saw the coffee shop open. I thought ” not this week, next week, we’ll be ready, perhaps.”
    Love
    Malcolm

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