Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Washing my Teacup

I went to a friend’s house for dinner and was asked “What have you been doing this winter?” “Not much, but I’m going sailing in Cabarete in about a week.” The subject changed. I was grateful for no further embarrassing exploration of my doing nothing.

Later I wondered if “not much” was really true. On the face of it, it is, but I have managed to keep comfortably busy. Yesterday, it became a little clearer as I was working on yet another basement project – the third of the nothing period. The first was a rehab and rebuild of the high school sailing team equipment – 2 damaged hulls, 6 centerboards and 12 rudders. Grind, apply cloth & epoxy, sand, gel coat, polish; repeat as necessary. The next project was the refinishing of all the mahogany on the yacht club’s 13’ Boston Whaler – sand and varnish, sand and varnish, sand and varnish…. Now, I’m down to an even less significant nothing. I’m refinishing the handles of all the garden tools. My wife laughs – “Who does that? What’s wrong with them?” “They’re rough. They need refinishing.”

Is that it? Has the winter really been that boring and mundane? Well, there has also been the excitement of dealing with lawyers and financial people in the settlement of my little brother’s estate. This included the selling of his good-neighborhood house which received no maintenance for two decades. The “vulture” buying it cheap – no stealing it – has been the most likable, most efficient, most honest person in the whole process. In addition, there has been the out-of-the-blue final settlement of a 12 year old law suit from my last century business. The lawyer’s fee is more than the cost of the settlement, which is not money, but just some more legal work. And finally, there has been my work on something truly worthwhile – compiling all my high school sailing educational material to put it on our web site for reference. In doing so, I discovered more stuff to be written and illustrated – about 150 diagrams worth. PowerPoint is wonderful, but my back is killing me from sitting at the computer for a few weeks.

So yesterday, as I was sanding and varnishing shovel and rake handles (why do I have so many shovels and rakes?) , I was thinking that this was the best nothing I’ve done all winter. I was listening to my music (as if we own it now-a-days), mostly from the 70’s and no longer cool, and marveling at the degree of unimportance I had sunk to. Who does this? Who cares about shovel handles? Who tries to perfect varnishing techniques on shovel handles? Who even uses shovels in the age of hired landscapers and processed food? I won’t even use most of these tools….. Yet, I love knowing that those handles will be good for another 10 years – and then they can be refinished again.

I’m doing my own humble, unenlightened version of the Zen monk washing his teacup. I am remembering the wisdom of the Tao – by doing nothing, all things are done. I’m glad the shovel handles will be shinny and smooth and that no one cares.

But now I’ve gone and written this, and suddenly it all feels like it’s more something and less nothing. Will I ever get to the least little bit of enlightenment?!

1 comment:

  1. Nice to meet you.
    At 58, grinding away at "Look, look! IT can make the world a fairer and more reasonable place!" since 1975, I'm ... pottering along. "Low and slow" comes to mind. :-)

    2 days ago I discovered SailX. What can I say ... I'm hooked!

    --ben aka 4PPCLI