I’m nearing my 37th birthday and have gained what I think is a somewhat above average ability to observe. I occasionally use this power on myself. I don’t always like what I see, but as I mentioned last time, I am pretty sure my grandfather would be proud of me for what I have accomplished.
I’ve been pursuing some woodworking and construction projects since we moved to Wisconsin. In the first month we lived here, I built a semi-permanent wall unit for our TV and its component parts. When springtime came last year, I built a raised bed garden, installed rain barrels, and built a deck as a place to store our trash and recycling cans. Shortly thereafter, we put in a monster swing set for the kids. My current project is a simple, yet elegant, set of bunk beds for my 4 sons.
It’s been rainy here, and the humidity enhances the smells around the house. Good and bad. I’m usually happy about this. The air here is so different from what I am used to, in the Chicago suburbs. Wisconsin is close to Illinois but you’d never know it for the breathing. There are trees in my yard that might be as old as the United States. The maintenance is something else, especially in the Fall. But the scents are dizzying. Leaves. Wood. Pollen. Green grass. Mulch. Snow. Ice.
Inside the house, we have different smells. Cooking food. The occasional diaper or sweaty kid. Dryer sheets and laundry. Wood floors. Bacon. Dish soap. My daughter’s medications and other associated aromas of questionable acceptability.
I stepped into my garage. By some sort of mystery of chemistry and olfactory magic, I was transported through time. I stepped across the threshold and off the last step into my Grandfather’s workshop. Clean pine sawdust, chemical gasoline and bitter machine oil. Electrical ozone. Syrupy, hot maple on a burned saw blade. My garage has all of these smells because I build things the way he did, with the same woods, and even some of his tools. Probably over-designed and over-engineered, but building things to last is important. Nowadays, it seems to be undervalued altogether. But I do it. My father does it, and my mom’s dad taught him how to do many of these things. That I should follow along in the well worn path set out for me is inevitable.
And so, I have a couple hundred dollars of pine lumber in my garage, raw material for the continuing legacy of doing and building for the people who come after me. The aroma is astringent and bitter but welcoming and warm. Every cut of the saw and drilled hole adds to it. Every cut of the saw and drilled hole is the product and memory of each cut and hole that led to it.