Saturday, January 28, 2012

I Built A Couch


I'm here today to preach to the choir. In looking at the people who read my essays and write back, you're a predominantly creative group. Still, today's episode is about the power creativity has to create within us a spirit of calm and awareness.

I have a tiny office in the basement. It's where I'm sitting to type these words. It used to be the cellar bar in our house. Years ago I cut the bar in half and then last year I created a tiny desk (33 inches wide) and made an office out of it. The place can more properly be called a nook. It fits with the ideas I had as a kid for a fort, clubhouse, hideaway, or whatever you want to call it. I found a divided glass window by the side of the road and installed that over the bar to let some light in but keep the cold out (we don't really heat much of our basement). I had an old door that doesn't work well but is serviceable. All in all, it's a nice enough place to work.

Still, I have been wanting to take up the back wall of the thing with a couch. There was not much chance of getting a couch into the space (the opening is tight) and there was less chance of me paying for a couch, but my parents had an old futon they weren't using because the frame was gone. I took the futon pad and it has sat in the corner of the office for months. Today, I decided, was the day to put together a couch.

The details of the couch are simple: I made a rectangular frame of two-by-fours, covered this with some old wood I had laying around, screwed the whole thing to the walls, and put the futon pad on it. Voila, couch! My daughters tried it out and tried to commandeer the nook as their own, but I'll fight them off some way or another.

The process of building the frame is what I want to talk about. I like to work with my hands and some old lumber. I know enough about putting things together to be able to do rudimentary, non-finish carpentry and I have fun with it. More than that, as I put it together, I noticed that I wasn't thinking about much of anything. I measured, I marked, I leveled, screwed things together, cut things to size, but my mind wasn't on anything other than the process of building.

I'm registered for a class in mindful meditation beginning at the end of March and I can't wait for it. I want to be able to have the feeling I had today building that frame, the feeling I'm having right now writing these words, available to me more often throughout the rest of my day.

Not every thing I attempt to build comes out well. There were times today where things went wrong and I had to fix them. Even at the end, I put the futon pad on the frame in the wrong direction and was perplexed by it. I really had to stop, step back, breathe, and rethink. That breathing part made the difference.  I smiled that I had put it on sideways, turned the thing, and knew that I was coming right along.

This morning, a poem idea in my head, I wrote, read the thing through, grimaced, and tried a revision. I breathed, I did everything right. Guess what? The draft still sucks. C'est la vie, right? Yep. I'll go back to it tonight or tomorrow and see what's what. Tomorrow, coming down to this nook, I might find the solution to the poem and find too that the couch I built has fallen to the floor. It's a possibility. Creations don't always work out so well. But the creation, often enough, more often than not, is enough in and of itself.

I suppose, as I said at the outset, that this is obvious to those of you reading. You are photographers, writers, teachers, artisans, architects, quilters, auto mechanics, parents, trainers, and on and on. Each of you creates throughout the day. I wonder if you are surprised by the quiet that comes over you even in the most challenging times of creation. I wonder if you find the process, even when it is excruciating, to be worth everything in your world.

I do. More and more. That, I suppose, accounts for why I tend, most every day, to write on.