Why Do You Do It?

We have had the longest nicest fall weather I can remember in the 40 years we have lived up here. By this time of year at this latitude, by rights we should have snow on the ground. Instead we’ve had several 60 degree days in a row. It is pleasant to work outside this time of year without mittens on.

The other day I came in the house from working on the sawmill. I was full of sawdust (although I have learned the habit of vigorously shaking my sweatshirt before coming inside) tired, and probably a little grumpy. Alice, picking up on my mood as anyone who has been by my side for all of these 40 years, asked me, “Why do you do it? Why do you saw up these logs?”

She went on to explain her confusion. “You’ve worked hard, saved, and are retired. You don’t need the money, so why do you spend these nice days out there on that (dirty) sawmill?” I remember making some sort of a flippant answer to her questions, but they did stick with me. “Why DO I do it?”

pinebridgeMy thoughts went up to the bridge at the Michigan Nature Association sanctuary, the Estivant Pines, that I’m currently building. It is coming along, and will be a nice addition to the sanctuary when it is done. I think of it as my art. Then I got thinking about the process of making art. No matter what sort of art, there are lots of tedious details that all need to be brought together with the artist’s skill and persistence, to create the final product. Does every artist enjoy every step of their craft? I doubt it. The eye is always on the final product, but it could also be argued that attention to the details focuses energy into the final product.

So when I see a cedar log on my pile, I see a series of steps. Putting the forks on the dozer, lifting a forkload of logs onto the sawmill rack, rolling them one-by-one onto the sawmill bed, creating as little waste as possible in the slab pile, and then watching the lovely boards peel off. Then there is the shoveling the sawdust, cutting, splitting and stacking the slabs, drying the lumber, and transporting it up north. But when the pieces that were cut so meticulously back home are assembled and actually start to resemble the bridge that I formed in my mind’s eye; the satisfaction is hard to describe.

Every road we travel, trail we hike, and bridge we cross was the work of an artist that took care of the details, took pride in their work, and came up with a functional finished product. It is my hope that readers of this story will cross my bridge in the pines someday and appreciate the care and pleasure that were expended that took this project from a mental image, to cedar logs, to lumber, and into a beautiful bridge.

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