Rendered Fat Content


Vincent van Gogh: Two Hands (1884 - 85)
"I must be overreaching or I don't feel as if I'm living at all."

I become a sawyer when I'm sanding a board clean of paint. Sawyers stood in deep ditches and worked their long saws up into logs laid across, their partner sawing down, showering them in sawdust. Each board seven feet in length and smeared with a variety of coats, I challenge myself to clear one in a single pass without turning off the sander or loosening my grip. Forty-five minutes later, I drop a freshly cleaned board onto my padded saw horses and I loosen my grip, TheGrip. My hand lost feeling long ago under the incessant vibration of the humming little machine I held in my palm. I'm liberally covered with fine saw and paint dust the consistency of talcum powder. I sweep off the finished board, a hundred and fifteen years old and fine-grained, looking freshly milled, and add it to the finished pile. I have at least a half dozen more to finish today to avoid holding up forward progress installing window and door trim. I hold a worthy purpose in my life at the moment. I hold it with TheGrip.

It's not every day or every time when worthy purpose visits.
For some, it's a constant boarder. For others, an infrequent visitor, but whenever it's present, that time feels special and is. For all the times it hasn't visited, and be honest, it doesn't always visit, work becomes little more than a chore and existence, boring. The purpose can be anything just as long as its worthy, and judged worthy by nobody but yourself. Nobody else need know or pretend to understand any one else's grand obsession. It's the most personal possession because it possesses you, too. TheGrip always accompanies it, though not always as literally as it has in this specific instance, with me holding that sander firmly and challenging myself to finish each unfinishing in a single pass.

I take a short break between each board to regain circulation and straighten my back. Leaned over those low saw horses, I feel as though I'm playing a pedal steel guitar, or I must look like I am. It's one hell of a country and western band I'm playing in, a saw and router echoing from the front yard, a percussion section working exclusively with brushes. We're transforming this place in ways none of us contemplated before we started. Joel Our Carpenter rarely gets the chance to recreate period pieces and turns out to be a gifted artist creating perfect proportion and balance. Kurt Our Painter primes more virgin boards than he encounters in a year's worth of jobs. He's usually sanding and filling, recovering from some prior unfortunate coating. This job's offered a few blank canvasses. Me, after an eternity in exile, I've a place to take a stand, a stand I take by sitting in a swirling cloud of sander dust, grinning.

By the end of the day, I limp around this place like a cripple. I can barely eat supper. I sleep the sleep of angels, though, and get up the next morning raring to go. We've more to finish and the season's waning faster than expected. It got down into the fifties this morning and we're not sleeping with our windows open. The rains have held off for now, and another week, maybe two, and I'll be through the bulk of the refinishing work in my Pop-up Paint Shop tent. The boards will have been sanded. The doors will have been repainted, the windows reinstalled. The floors will have been laid and the rooms refreshed and I will watch myself losing my grip, TheGrip, as this grand obsession slips away into forever finished. What fresh obsession might follow? Living without TheGrip seems unconscionable now, from here within its reassuring grasp. I need to be on a mission. I must be overreaching or I don't feel as if I'm living at all.

©2021 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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