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The Lid

Skill, by its very nature, breeds decisiveness.

I bought a small crock for sugar a while ago. It was perfect except that it didn't have a lid. I bought it with the idea of making one out of wood. Someday. But I'm only human, so for many weeks the little crock sported a green saucer where it's lid would be if only I could find the time. Or was it the courage? The green saucer, being exactly the wrong size and shape, slipped out of my early morning fingers every day. And every day I reminded myself that I really needed to get on with it and make a real lid.

I rallied the time and the courage yesterday. It's not a big chore to find a suitable piece of scrap wood. I roughed out the circle on the band saw and frustrated myself for most of an hour trying to get it done so I could move on to other Saturday chores. A friend watching me stopped me with a sobering bit of wisdom. "What are you doing it for? If your purpose is to have a lid for the sugar, why don't you go out and put your money down for a piece of plastic? If you're not enjoying the process as much as the product you're wasting your time."

It was a casual, friendly comment. Sometimes the most profound wisdom comes disguised that way. I put the half finished lid aside for the short while that it took me to accomplish the other pressing Saturday chores. I made the bed, did the shopping, and other activities I had put on my Saturday list. Then I returned to my piece of wood with a new attitude.

I sharpened my knife carefully. I listened to my fingers guiding the blade over the stone and enjoyed to the process of preparing my tool properly. Then I began to carve slowly. I took small curled slices from the wood, inhaling the scent of the pine without actually being aware of it. I fitted and re-fitted the lid to the crock. I watched the grain of the wood more carefully than I ever had. As the light faded I found myself examining with my fingers as much as with my eyes the bumps and ridges that interrupted the increasingly smooth surface. Then I found sandpaper and polished off every cut mark to a smooth sheen.

I used that little lid this morning. I lifted it off the sugar crock and scooped out sugar for my coffee. The lid came up lightly in my hand where the saucer had been cold and heavy. It was easy to manage because of the little carved handle, and warm to touch because of the nature of the wood. I had my result, my destination, my product. But the most important thing that happened when I lifted that lid this morning was that I was brought back by some sort of magic to the time I spent at the workbench carving off chip after chip and sanding the wood smooth. The whole joyful process came back to me in a flood with the simple act of putting sugar in my coffee this morning. My life is richer.

What are we doing with our lives in America? I fear we are so focused on the destination that we have forgotten the journey. I was so focused on "having carved out a lid myself", on the joy and, yes, vanity of saying to my friends "I made that" that I had completely forgotten the enjoyment to be had from watching the curls of wood fall around me. If the focus of our lives is the destination, where are we going? What's the rush? Are we not obliged either by our Creator or by simple common sense to enjoy our journey, to savor the countless moments of 'doing' that make up our lives?

And so, today, I think I will make the bed, wash the breakfast dishes, and pass the remainder of my Sunday making another lid, this time for the lidless crock that holds the dog food. The basket I put on there as a temporary measure more than a year ago has never looked good. I guess I'll pull up a stool next to the work bench and get to know another piece of wood and try my hand at making another beautiful thing for my home. And I guess this time I'll savor the journey.


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