I want to make things.
This seems pretty simple and straightforward and should really be no
surprise at all given my lifelong love of art, but it came to me, pretty
directly, this afternoon as I drilled and hammered finisher medals for our
The past three years, Jason and Alison have hosted the
Continental Divide Trail Race in Ashe County. It’s a USATF National 10K Trail Championship so folks come
from all over the country to run this pretty crazy event that was born in the
mind of Jason Bryant, a scary prospect.
Several of us, Rob and I included, help him out each year with things
like finish line timing, T-shirts, food and awards. One of the race’s signature features is handcrafted awards
from local artists and farmers.
This year we have everything from Ashe County cheese to pottery to
bluegrass CD’s by the local band Porch Dog Revival. Last year, I made a bunch of hand-painted glass pendants as
finisher medals for all participants.
They turned out pretty well, and I think most people liked them. The problem with that is this year I
had to think of something equal to or cooler than those had been. I wasn’t sure exactly what I wanted to
Earlier in the spring, several of my friends and I ran a
24-hour relay race, which we won, but we were a little disappointed by the fact
that, despite our victory, we did not receive any kind of award. This particular race course had, for at
least part of it, run parallel to a train track that was heavily traveled
during the 24 hours we were running.
There is something very eerie but very cool about running alongside a
large train in the pitch black of the woods at 2:00 a.m. Anyway, after the race, I had
complained to a teammate that the least they could have done was smash a penny
on the track and given it to us as a memento. I was only half joking, because in actuality, I thought that
would make a pretty awesome award.
Trophies and plaques are nice, but it’s the unusual awards I remember
and tend to treasure.
So as I pondered what I might use for this year’s medals, I
thought about the 24-hour race and the smashed pennies. How cool would it be to smash a bunch
of pennies, nickels and quarters on the train tracks, drill a hole in them and
thread some simple black cord through them for our finisher medals? I wasn’t sure if other people would
appreciate that kind of thing, but then I realized that, as a runner, I would
love a medal like that, so I hoped that others would be of the same mindset.
So the past few days, I’ve been drilling, polishing, and
hammering out approximately 150 metal disks. I love doing this kind of thing. I love the solitude, the steady slowness of working on a
singular project with nothing else to bother or interrupt me. I love working with my hands, and I
love seeing a finished product.
Sometimes, I fantasize about a job where I could go to work in cut-offs
and flip-flops everyday, listen to music, deal with very few people, and zone
out as I create. I love that
feeling of being lost in an activity.
I think I’ve mentioned it before, but it’s the thing I love most about
running too—being completely present in one moment without any outside
I’ve told a couple of people recently that I wouldn’t mind
ditching the desk and paperwork for a job on a farm where I could be outside
all day (yes, even in the winter) and do physical work that engaged me during
my working hours but that didn’t bother me in my non-working ones. This second part is why I would not
want to actually own my own farm (too many worries) but would rather work for
someone else who could do the worrying part. I realize how unconventional and possibly flaky this sounds,
but I find myself less and less inclined to care the older I get.
I also fantasize about being elbow deep in paint and crafts
all day in a messy studio that I can just close up at the end of the day and
leave until the next morning, a place where I can think, create, play and work
all at the same time. I’d listen
to music and there would be no telephone or computer. I would carve and paint and sew and glue and make anything I
wanted, and only Harper Lee and Isaac would be allowed to come in while I was
working. Did I mention there would
be no telephone?
These are just daydreams of course, fun things to think
about as I hammer away. Still,
these yearnings are not all that unusual.
When I was a kid, my hours were spent happily coloring, painting,
drawing, writing stories and making books. My free moments were spent, almost exclusively, in artistic
and “literary” pursuits so it’s really no mystery that my chosen vocation
should center on those things as well.
I don’t know if anything “productive” will ever come out of
my tinkering and creative playtime.
I’m trying desperately not to worry too much about instant productivity
in my writing because this whole book process and the learning involved seems
to be much more time-consuming than I had hoped (the story of my life), but I’m
taking the time to lose myself in these little projects, and I have to tell
you, it’s been a lot of fun—like trail running but without sweat.