On my walk this morning, I met a neighbor shoveling out the entrance to her driveway . As we visited, we were both appreciating the three feet of snow and the cold weather that’s going along with it. She mentioned how “the pace of things” makes it hard for people to cope with the extra work of snow clearing, driveway sanding, and firewood hauling.
Ever since that conversation, I’ve been appreciating the pace of our days this February. We live on a road of a steepness and with ditches such that if it’s snowing, we stay home. We rise and care for our animals, then make breakfast, then go to work–here at the kitchen table or up the hill at the shop. After lunch we get out for a walk, a ski or a bout of sledding on the driveway. Sometimes we’ll hitch up the horse and go out to break a trail or deliver some manure to a garden pile. Between storms, we plow, shovel, bring another stack of wood into the shed, clean out the woodstove, air out the house, see friends, play outside as much as we can, stock up on gas for the generator, dig out the mailbox, go to the food co-op. Then it snows again. This is the natural rhythm of life in February.
Visiting Jason at his shop on a snowy day, I am struck by another way in which our life is paced to a natural rhythm. The rhythmic “whisp” of the handplane along an eight foot board, shaping a molding from a square edge, is a steady, whispered tempo. The saw in the miter-box, which has taken the place of the chop saw, has a more mundane but steady up-and-down groan. As Jason carries a board from one bench to the other, planing, sawing, then marking out a tenon, clamping it and sawing again, then taking up the chisel and mallet, I realize that he is cultivating a pace that is compatible with a beating heart. His hands are quick and familiar with the tools, his grip is sure and efficient, but not rushed. The furniture he is crafting is born to the rhythm of the saw, chisel, and plane, and will carry with it into his clients’ homes an echo of that rhythm. Furniture that was made by the muscles and bones and heartbeat of a skilled person, and not so much by the precision of a loud motored machine or the incessant press of an electronic device, conveys that human tempo not only in its looks but in its being, in the presence it carries into the world. I wonder, if Jason made a table in February and then made one just like it in June, whether you could read the difference in the look or feel of the finished piece. This is the true unique value of custom-made studio furniture, a beauty not just affecting the eye but the life of the user. It is my hope that in this small and slow, one-at-a-time way, we can spread the blessings of the human pace of life on our hill, as a balancing measure to the rush and press of machine-or device-driven work that can dominate our lives.