Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Craft

This morning, I hear the engine growl, feel the tow rope go taught and find myself suddenly standing in Jonathan's guest bedroom (see Waking). We've had rain in the Berkshires for the last forty days and nights, so when I see sunlight pouring through the window overlooking the Atlantic, I think for sure I've overslept. Turns out that it's late spring in New Jersey, It's 5:15.

I step in and out of the shower, toss on my clothes, make my bed and jump in the car. I head up Sea Bright to the bridge that'll take me across the Shrewsbury River to Rumson. (For those of you unfamiliar with the Jersey shore, Sea Bright is a town built on this thin strand of sand that God placed between the ocean and Rumson in order to protect the houses of the rich folks who live in the latter from hurricanes and floods.)

I get to the bridge. There's this traffic light there that, no matter when you arrive, is always red. Not only that, but it stays red as long as there are no cars approaching its green counterparts. The New Jersey traffic engineers excel in this unique skill: long cycle traffic signals where the only cars anywhere near an intersection are the ones that are stopped.

So I get to the bridge and there's a bunch of guys working on the road. Strike that. I get to the bridge and there's a bunch of guys dressed as though they might be gonna work on the road. Mainly they're sitting by the side of the road drinking coffee. The light is flashing red and there are orange cones flung across the entrance to the bridge.

I begin to compute alternate routes to the bagel shop when, to my wonder and amazement, one of the might-be road workers leaps to his feet, runs to the center of the road, pulls away a couple of cones and waves me through. Just like that.

I turn left onto the bridge and wave as I pass. He waves back, smiling.

I look around just to make sure I'm in New Jersey and then this word pops into my head: craft.

Craft may be one of my favorite concepts. Traditionally speaking, craft is an occupation or trade requiring manual dexterity or artistic skill. However, occupation and trade are byproducts of craft, not craft itself and for sure there are plenty of people in occupations and trade who have no craft.

Craft cured me of carpal-tunnel and tendonitis.

I depend pretty heavily on manual dexterity and fine-motor skills. For years, the pain in my right hand and elbow was so significant that it would wake me up at night. One day, I decided to do everything left handed for a month. I began writing with my left hand. I dragged and dropped with my left hand. I gestured with my left hand.

Over the month my left hand went from apprentice, to journeyman to master craftsman. The skills were all new and I reveled in them. I had two completely different work personalities: right and left. When I wrote with my right hand, I was all about getting things done. My hand and arm would tense. My neck and shoulders would shortly follow suit. The blood flow would become constricted. The temperature of my joints would drop.

However, when I wrote with my left hand, I was like a kid who'd just learned to carve turns on a snowboard or just received his driver's license. It was all about the motion, the flow with no thought of the destination. Everything was loose and easy.

One day, I decided to emulate my left hand with my right. Taking two pens, my hands paralleled each other, my right hand following the left in mirror image. As I did so, my righthand relearned craft. The experience was completely different: no carpal tunnel, no tendonitis.

It's craft that allowed me to spend eight hours a day with a metronome playing scales. It's craft that engages me so deeply in software that I forget to pee. It's craft that's gonna help me write this novel.

Happy Tuesday,
Teflon

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