It has been hard to think about reading or writing lately. I don’t feel the same drive I’ve had for at least in the last six or seven years, and I don’t really feel like I have much to say. But it’s an eye of the hurricane type of feeling—a sort of calm between storms.
The boxes o’ books count (the downstairs ones anyway) has passed fifty. But there’s another box I took out of my old Ford Escort that I finally got the courage to move from the center of the living room floor to a station on top of a pile of book boxes that I keep thinking about. There’s a story behind it that I want to write a part of.
I moved 1,664 miles from California to here around nine years ago. It marked a separation, and only slightly later, a divorce. The laurel I grabbed for turned to a crown of thorns. I was left with nothing—no car, no job, no place to live. I had no choice but to beg a ride back west around 180 miles to father’s house. He supplied a down payment for a car, and cosigned the loan. I had come to Little Rock to build a new life for myself, but instead, I only succeeded in tearing myself down. Before I returned to Little Rock, I decided I had to build something. I’d didn’t feel that I had the luxury of being crushed, and my father’s antidote for stress had always been work. I thought it might work for me too.
I went out to the garage and started looking at the scraps. I thought that I might try to fashion a toolbox for the new used car. I’d been trying to teach myself how to cut dovetail joints right before I left California, and started working on some pine. My father was a quiet man; he never made me feel bad about my recent, catastrophic failure. He never said much really. After I’d been hacking away with saw and chisel for a few hours, he just came out into the garage and said “I think you need a handle.” He picked through the woodpile and found an old axe handle. He took a measurement of my rough-cut pieces, and then chucked the smooth handle into his lathe. As I put the toolbox together, some of the dovetails in the softwood broke—but it held together pretty firmly. The handle was perfect and snug.
“Just fill in the broken spots with glue,” dad said.
Building something from scraps helped me a lot then. I drove back to Little Rock the next day. Within about three more, I had a job. A month later, I moved into the apartments I’m moving out of now. Since then, I built a lot of things in my head but nothing quite so physical as this box. Building things makes a difference.
By the end of the week, I’ll be traveling back that 180 miles, and then another 650 miles straight up north. North is a direction that I haven’t tried before. There is no time for building now, only packing. But maybe once I get there, I can try to build something again. I have another new used car, and a bunch of boxes.