Setting up my woodworking practice over the last three years has been a slow and silent affair. I wish it were as a biographer once noted of their subject: ‘the pages of his diary for the subsequent period are more or less blank, and this is usually a sign of happiness.’ Silence in this diary, however, has had more to do with an autoimmune arthritis that slows and stiffens and guides me deeper and deeper into myself – my Virgil into the hell of stagnation!
I have no doubt my body is manifesting inner anxieties – most notably an overwhelming sense of stuckness. Perhaps, like Clément Cadou, I subconsciously wanted to become a piece of furniture! But where does it all stem from? Didn’t I choose woodworking for the freedom and independence it affords? Unfortunately, the reality of balancing a creative practice with practical financial considerations has been exhausting and overwhelming. I often question the goals, motivations, and values that led me down this path. Is this really the life I want? Is the self-doubt worth the reward? Or is that what pushes me to be proud of my work? I don’t know…
In any event, a new regimen of animal locomotion exercises has slowly brought the movement back into my limbs, as well as a renewed desire to bore the internet with the porridge of feelings that flood my mind!
In the meantime, here are some drafts from my time as a student that were never published:
[From February 4th, 2014] Vietnamese monk, Thich Nhat Hanh, expresses something akin to the psychological state of flow in the buddhist concepts of mindfulness and interbeing. Interbeing is when you look so deeply, ‘with so much concentration that the distinction between observer and observed disappears.’ He says, ‘when we look into the heart of a flower, we see clouds, sunshine, minerals, time, the earth, and everything else in the cosmos in it.’
It reminds me of the first lines of William Blake’s Auguries of Innocence:To see a world in a grain of sand
And a heaven in a wildflower,
Hold infinity in the palm of your hand
And eternity in an hour…
Nhat Hanh furthers this idea in his book, The Heart of Understanding: ‘you will see clearly that there is a cloud floating in this sheet of paper. Without a cloud, there will be no rain; without rain, the trees cannot grow; and without trees, we cannot make paper. The cloud is essential for the paper to exist. If the cloud is not here, the sheet of paper cannot be here either.’
Occasionally, I catch myself looking at the piece of wood David has prepared for our exercises and left at my bench. In the pattern of its grain, I imagine him dimensioning it in the machine room, or about an eighteen wheeler full of timbers handling tight curves along the California coast. I imagine the high school student working in the lumberyard and the logger holding his breathe as it crashes to the forest floor. I think of leaves shuddering in a warm breeze or boughs weighed down by heavy snows.
[After this it falls apart… Something about diversity and David Pye and who knows what else…]
[From December 19th, 2014] In the event that I became incapable of blogging, I had – cleverly, I might add – planned to post a single quote from Soren Kierkegaard’s biography:“The pages of his diary for the subsequent period are more or less blank, and this is usually a sign of happiness.” -Joakim Garff
I wish it were as simple as that;