It was a silvery-rainy Sunday in a country house in Brittany. We were finishing tea, and talking about art and creativity, and I was bemoaning the fact that I don’t know how to do anything. I was saying how much I’d love to step away from words and try to paint, for example. Two years earlier, a friend had given me a thick inviting tablet of watercolor paper and a little set of paints, but they sit unused to this day. On more than one occasion, I took up knitting, only to leave behind some scraggly unfinished piece of work that speaks of failure and lethargy. I’ve made a few lopsided clay pots in my time, and folded hundreds of paper cranes. I shrugged. There wasn’t much else to report.
My daughter’s father-in-law, Peter, thought this defeatist attitude had gone on too long. He had a sort of wood shop and work area in the garage, and he insisted that I come in and “make” something right then and there. I protested but he insisted, and I figured I might as well humor him and give it a try. I donned a paper haz-mat suit and mask, and he put a jig-saw in my hand, and asked me what I wanted to create.
Um…I had no idea. Maybe a shape? A pretty curve of wood? Well, we sawed and sandpapered and made a huge amount of noise and there was dust everywhere and occasionally I leapt back in terror when the machinery seemed to have a life of its own. Eventually I had a vaguely S-shaped bit of wood, which I had no use for at all and didn’t want to add to my luggage, so I proclaimed it an art piece and presented it to Peter.
I can see that woodworking won’t be my hobby. The watercolors beckon, filled with quiet promise, so we shall see. But there is a curved piece of wood on the step of an old house in Brittany now, clumsily crafted by me, and it’s not much more than nothing at all, but it’s definitely a thing, and it’s there.