(The below essay is the property of Hallmark Cards, Inc.)
Don’t get me wrong, I love to think.
But thinking down similar avenues for a living sometimes feels like eating chocolate ice cream if you had to down ten gallons of it per day. That is to say ‘eventually tiresome’, I should clarify.
So, how do I refuel? I’ve tried to not think. I wish I could unplug my upper brain lobes and spend the weekend functioning from the stem like the primordial lungfish I used to be, but alas I as yet find that impossible, though playing with my 8-year-old son is always refreshingly stupid (and life-affirming bla bla).
And so I am left to distract myself with alternative thoughts – thoughts of wood, of metal, of the physical construction of tangible objects of three dimensions. I am a hobby carpenter and blacksmith.
I build structures of oak and mahogany and wrought iron, sometimes not badly, and when I can I use traditional, non-electric hand tools. I build tables and bookstands and wine racks and dovetail joined boxes and shelving of mixed materials. I have an unfinished project on every scrap of space in my workroom, which irks my wife (another pastime).
And, I’m currently helping my brother build a barn on his farm in Virginia, where I recently operated a 35-foot forklift crane. I actually had to avoid taking my sinus medicine that day because I planned to operate heavy machinery. Yup. That happened. If you are thinking this is awesome, you are correct. If you are thinking this is not awesome, you are not correct, because it’s awesome.
There is nothing more impressive to me than a well-made object and the well-made, well-used tools that built it; as squarely formed and deeply good as any poem. And the result is as solid and lasting as any good piece of writing. Robert Frost told me that, and he was right. The few pieces I’ve actually finished feel like finding just the right anapest to encapsulate a stanza on a downbeat. Ha, you know what I’m talkin’ about. Or making someone laugh. That one I’m serious about.
So, build something. Use the right tool, take your time, try, sharpen your axe (I prefer the Olde English spelling). Think only of the task at hand, or ruin the piece, maybe get hurt. There is more than one stain on the pieces I’ve made from when I spilled a bit of blood. Makes them all the more mine. Though that could come back to haunt me if one I’ve given away ends up as evidence in a crime scene. I didn’t think of that until just now. Gotta go.
Chris Conti, a writer born in Boston to the Boston Contis, weighs a rough 13-stone, owns a full .3 hectares of suburbia, and enjoys all that stuff you just read, plus other stuff, like cooking, Italian language, writing jokes, run-on sentences and being left alone, and who love/hates exercise, greeting a brand new day and Italian people, and who hates the ground hog who lives under his front porch and being asked “how bad do you want it?!” because his answer is always “see ‘being left alone’ under ‘likes’.”