Note: I originally wrote this on May 8th, before my trip to Frankfurt. I had poor internet access in Europe, so it didn't get posted until today.
When you live in Phoenix you learn quickly to take advantage of any day when the temperature is below about 95 degrees. There is usually a stretch of time between late February and early May where it never gets above about 85 out, never below about 50. These days give you strength for the long summer ahead, where the earth melts underfoot during the day and the nights are notable only for their lack of respite from the incredible heat. You lock yourself indoors on that first 100 degree day in early May and don't come outside again until the last one in mid-October. From Halloween until late April you spend as much time living outside in the world as possible.
It is because of this that I have been negligent in my writing duties. I have been trying to live a life out in the world. I have been building tables, I have been spending each non-working waking hour away from my direct thoughts, trying to make that difficult switch from grief to mourning. It has worn me out, up to an including a brief bout of uvula-itis (don't google it) in early April. Time away from my inner demons has maybe given me some necessary distance. I have moments of intense sorrow and regret, daily, but I am learning to accept them as waves to wash over me rather than oceans that I must swim across. The moments come crashing in, usually in moments alone, but thankfully just as quickly recede back out to sea. The struggle has been to learn to fight the undertow, to crest them rather than throw my weight full force into them.
As I write this I am on an airplane flying to Frankfurt, Germany. This is my first trip to Europe, and it will be a quick one. I am going for work, to attend a trade show as part of a new role I am taking with the company. I am transitioning away from my sales job into more of a market research based position. This trip represents my first full foray into my new responsibilities. It is a much needed and welcome change. I greatly enjoyed being on the sales side of the business, but after nine years, what has come to feel like a lifetime, it was time. As I look to this new horizon I am excited about work once again.
At the same time that I transition into my new job with the company, I have started seriously thinking about starting a weekend business building furniture and other things. My experiences building the big table this fall opened my heart up to feeling love again. Love for the wood and steel, and a love for all the people that will sit around that table in its lifetime. I have gone on to build a few other pieces since that big one, including a table that I build in April for a young couple that just moved into their first home together.
The newest table was build out of two big slabs of spalted maple. The wood came from two trees that lived and died in Iowa. After the trees died a fungus took over the wood, decaying it from the outside in. As the fungus moved through the tree it slowly bleached the grain, taking away the texture, patterns, and color of the ligin. The fungus would set up over an area, eating the sap and cellulose. As it progresses the fungus pushes its waste its edges, leaving behind jet black lines markings its edges. When the fungus is removed from the wood the resulting appearance, called spalting, is one of contrasting colors and patterns. The black lines separate the random decayed areas from the natural grain of the wood. This beautiful decay is such a magnificent reminder of the impermanence of this world, and of the wonder that is often left behind.
The lessons that these pieces of wood are teaching me have been the best therapy I could ask for. The time spent honing a craft is being paid back 1000 fold in the form of profit to my soul.
Our endless numbered days still stretch before me, at times asking too much. Doing something deliberate, executed with equal parts love and obsession seems to be working for me at the moment, the same way that writing was working for me this fall and winter. Nothing lasts forever, and in time I will probably move away from this hobby in favor of something new. For now, it is doing the trick, and so for now I will continue on.
That is until it gets too hot.