Things men have made with wakened hands, and put soft life into
Are awake through years with transferred touch and go on glowing
For long years.
And for this reason, some old things are lovely
Warm still with the life of forgotten men who made them.
D. H. Lawrence
The other night I was introduced to a man as a student of the woodworking program here in Fort Bragg. His comment after we shook hands: "You have woodworker hands". In my other world, this would have bothered me but nowadays it gives me fodder for a blog post.
I've asked a lot of my hands over my lifetime and it shows. After years of abuse, they're now more dry, rough, and hardened than they ever been. And for over two months now, these hands have been through the worst beating ever. They've been sliced by a variety of sharp blades to the point where I'm running out of band aids, bruised from forgetting to keep my hand out of the way while pushing my plane through wood, I've had splinters underneath fingernails that make me want to scream, and of course there's that arthritc thumb that's in constant pain.
Yet throughout all this abuse, these hands are becoming a delicate tool. A tool in which I'm learning to use to feel wood. They are acquiring a sensitivity to the bumps and ridges the machines or my hand planes leave behind. They're understanding that edges that have been gently rounded over are "friendlier" than edges with 90 degree angles. They are learning to slow down, touch each piece of wood lightly and gently, as if everything mattered. And it all does matter. Because these rough, dry, woodworker hands are allowing me to create things of beauty.
So whatever your hands find to do, they must do with all their heart, there are thoughts enough to blow men's minds and tear great worlds apart... Don't worry what you are not doing, because your voice cannot command, in time you will move mountains, and it will come through your hands.