Words vs. Wood
I have a couple of good friends who are in the construction trade. As independent contractors, they make their living building things. They spend the majority of their workdays wielding manly power tools to dig, saw, sand, drill, hammer, mix, fasten and grind all sorts of materials and turn them into things big enough to have their own addresses. Wow.
I’m fascinated with what my hammer-wielding friends do for a living because it’s just so dang cool to be able to build something out of nothing. That, and these guys get to wear big honkin’ leather tool belts all day. They hit things with sledge hammers and cut through steel with white hot acetylene torches. The only careers on the testosterone scale above construction worker might be bull rider, F-16 jet jockey and mixed martial arts champion. (I guess being on the FBI’s Hostage Rescue Team or in the Navy SEALs would be way up there, too.)
A contractor shows up on the job site which is often no more than an empty lot. Then they keep showing up day after day and soon there’s a foundation and then framed walls, then a roof and electrical and plumbing systems and insulation and windows and trim and … before you know it, a building exists that wasn’t there before you started.
I show up each morning to face only an empty page. My primary tools – a computer, laser printer and wireless router – would look ridiculous hanging from a belt around my waist. I tell stories that (hopefully) enlighten, entertain or sell stuff.
The stories my builder friends make are the kind that people go to work in, take shelter from storms in, raise families in – you get the idea.
The fruits of my labor any given month can be saved onto a USB drive or stashed away in a file folder with room to spare. My contractor friends can drive around their hometowns and point out actual structures they’ve made with their own hands.
It’s no wonder that whenever I get a chance to actually build something out of raw materials, it’s usually a thoroughly relaxing and satisfying experience for me.
For example, in spite of looming writing deadlines one recent stormy weekend, I spent most of both Saturday and Sunday in my garage building a custom, rustic-framed chalkboard. My wife had seen something similar in a gift shop on one of our weekend travels last summer and thought it would look great in our guest bedroom. Unfortunately, the price tag on the unique piece was higher than the mountain village we were visiting, so we left empty handed. Unbeknownst to my wife, however, I had made enough mental notes about the chalkboard’s design to make one myself and I surprised my wife with it on her birthday several weeks ago.
My crafty project was such a hit, my wife asked if I could design and build another, slightly different one for our dining room. Oh, and could I possibly have it finished before company arrives for Easter supper? (Heavy sigh.) Okay, if you insist.
And so, I wound up back in my garage with the radio blasting my favorite computer-tech-guy-talk-show, making a cacophony of noise using as many power tools as I possibly could without tripping circuit breakers, sending clouds of sawdust out into the steady rain falling on our driveway, and generally having as much fun as a big, balding, middle-aged kid can legally have.
Admittedly, dinky projects like these don’t come close in significance to building a house. But it still feels good to actually make something physical that’ll be around for years to come. That, and having my fingers on the trigger of a nail gun instead of a wireless keyboard is a nice change, too. Who knows, I might even start wearing a framing hammer and carpenter’s belt while I’m writing.
I’ll see you ’round town.