The furnace cut out last Tuesday night. We managed to get a repairman in on New Year's Eve. He told us the problem was a fried motherboard. He went out to try and get a new one, but he warned us that most of the stores closed early that day, and he might not be able to get one.
He hasn't returned since then.
On the whole, the experience could have been worse. We live in a townhouse, so we are protected on two sides, not to mention we draw some heat off our neighbours. (Sorry guys, and thanks.) The south end of the house warms up nicely when the sun is out and we have managed to get by with extra blankets and a space heater I could ill afford but bought for the occasion. Plus, I have been doing a lot of baking to get some heat off the oven. On the whole, the temperature has remained in the high fifties low sixties range. Which begs the question: Why am I paying so much for heating just to raise the the temperature a measly ten degrees or so?
One of the organists at my church suggested I get my name on the wedding/funeral rotations. I suppose that is the only way I will be able to get any money out of this racket, but at the same time, the music people choose for those occasions is uniformly horrible. Plus, I don't know if I would have the heart to do funerals. I have trouble seeing myself saying to the grieving family: "I am deeply sorry for your loss. That will be $250."
On the other hand, would $250 be enough to be stuck singing "On Eagle's Wings" over and over and over?
My elder sister came up from the States for Christmas (actually, since she lives in Minnesota, her move along the north south axis is more of a downward direction). Her wrist was in agonizing pain due to a fall she took while skating in her backyard rink in Minnesota just before she left for here. She went to a hospital in the States to have it looked at, but left after waiting for more than an hour and seeing no one. She convinced herself she had twisted some tendons, or had a very bad sprain. While she was up here (that's that confused direction thing again) she adamantly refused to go to another hospital and insisted it was nothing despite the fact she could not use her right hand.
Upon returning home, she had an appointment with her chiropractor. While there, she asked if they could do her a favour and x-ray her sprained wrist. I imagine the technician's jaw dropped. Her wrist was -is- broken in multiple places, and now, because she went so long without having it looked after, she must have surgery, along with some plates screwed into her wrist, etc etc.
Point 1: sis is a health nut. She has jogged for as long as I can remember (wrecked her knees in the process) played softball (actually required surgery on her knees because of that one) always eats right (has the same health issues she had when she wasn't eating right) and has repeatedly broken bones, torn ligaments, twisted, sprained, etc etc.
Point 2: sis lives and works in the States in- wait for it- wait for it- wait for it- the health industry. She is a PhD (no really) in biological sciences and biochemistry and works on developing new medicines and such.
Geniuses. Go fig.
I mentioned to my other sister that I have begun work on a full size version of my angel ornaments(scroll down to my bazaar stuff page). By "full size" I mean it will be about 8"x11". I am not making a life sized angel, whatever that would be. I told her I would be doing this the proper way. Instead of cutting all the pieces out of one piece of wood and colouring them appropriately before assembly, I will be making the pieces out of different species of wood, and allowing the natural colours come through. My sister snorted at me.
"You woodworkers think it's all about the wood," she said. "It isn't." By the way, she is an interior designer, and works often with woodworkers. She says I'm the only one she knows with all his fingers.
I was about to protest that it is all about the wood when I realized that she was right. I am to close to my own medium to judge it aright. I know wood intimately and choose my woods carefully- even though, yes, I am working with stuff I pull from the garbage- for their strength, their workablility and their appearance. I work hard to do as Michelangelo did, and display the beauty that lies within my medium. But that is because I know my medium. Others do not. And that is a large part of the reason why Ikea will always outsell me.
I'm still going to finish that angel. And maybe a few others. I've grown used to being a failure. Why change now?
During the same conversation with designer sis, I asked her how her friends liked the angels she bought from me for them. "They loved them," she said. "They said to me: 'wow, everyone in your family is so talented!'"
I take some issue with that statement. I do have some talent, but in my work, what you see is not talent, but skill. It is skill learned through years and years of careful practice and devotion. I didn't just pick up my saws and make this stuff, no more than Yoyo Ma picked up a 'cello at age five and immediately fired off Bach's 'cello suite. (For the record, Yoyo is far more skilled in his field than I am in mine. I am just invoking him to make a point.) I am not the most silled worker out there, not by a long shot. But I possess skills in this field because I pursued the skills in this field. Believe me, it would have been easier to watch television.
I don't know why people immediately write off some hard achievement as the product of some inborn talent. Yes, I believe there is such a thing as talent, but it needs to be worked and honed if it is ever to be of any use. A sonnet, or a painting, a piece of music, or an intricately made and carved chair is not the immediate product of a moment, but the culmination of years of work not always seen, of practice in the lonely hours and the patient correction of countless mistakes and failures, of wastebins fille with crumpled attempts and castoffs. I think people may subconsciously sense this, but they prefer to think of it as 'talent', for then they can relieve themselves of the burden of ever trying, and forgive themselves for never bothering.