The HollowThe transition from blitzkrieging carpenter to contemplative writer is tripping over your own work boots and falling on your face into a swamp.

At the central core of most carpentry projects is the body fueled by adrenaline and the mind sharpened like an unforgiving fireman’s ax as it cleaves through past mediocrity, realizing the client’s vision of the future one cup of coffee at a time. If you’re having emotions about your building project, get out of the way! With heavy-metal blasting in my ears I feel like a Marvel God descending to earth as I rip out walls with my mighty sledge hammer. I like it, but I don’t love it. I will never stick around milking the job dry. In. Out. Home.

My relationship goes in the crapper when I work as a carpenter because I am an unfeeling juggernaut who coldly engineers solutions and heatedly moves objects by force. Sex is an earthly pastime that helps mitigate the coffee, adrenaline, and alcohol soup in my brain as it desires to be shut up and shut off. Not very romantic.

I embrace those induced walls, though, because without them I would be Auguste Rodin’s the Thinker (in clothes) made not from bronze, but some kind of new age mood gel. I would wonder if today was a good day to use the 16oz hammer on finish nails, or, if my friend was right, the 20oz hammer with the bigger surface area makes it more likely to hit the nail. Are the dents in the trim less deep with the larger head? With my aching shoulders, do I even want to sand that crap? What grit sandpaper should I stop at? Will the homeowner notice or even care? Do I even FEEL like doing this aspect of the job right now? Yes, people would be surprised if the Thinker suddenly exclaimed, “Get ‘er done!” More likely he would hold his head and say, “Make it stop!”

Ah, carpentry!

Writing, on the other hand, calls to me like a siren, waving its naked limbs, luring me in with its neptune kissed lips, singing the melody I’ve wanted to hear for weeks. Down I go, drowning in the depths beneath the ocean’s surface. And yet, I am surprised that the liquid filling my lungs contains so much oxygen I continue to breathe. I am experiencing emotion and becoming acutely aware of the people around me and yet I’m not dead. What’s more, I finally tune into my own emotions–yes, I have them!–but that’s where things get scary…

The day was fine. I was driving through the Hollow until I found a place to stop. I love the Hollow. I think about how a whole neighborhood used to live there, and now it’s too far off the beaten path. The stone foundations of cellar holes languish amongst the trees, stone walls run counterpoint to the road, and the strings that are supposed to connect all things seem to be severed in that place. The busy cantankerous din of civilization is only an echo there.

My coffee haze is gone. I feel days tired. I sense the passing of my own ego needs, and in their place the world is talking to me. I want to weep. I don’t admit that lightly. I can FEEL the mood of the people who built these foundations in the Hollow. Hope. Joy. Appreciation. In the work they found a quiet contentment. They watched the passing of seasons and moose with wonder. This place acts like a vacuum. Nothing pushed at me for its attention; instead everything pulled at me, creating an inner need to respond. Yet, I felt the chains that bound me to the clock, to the dollar, to responsibilities–some I love and some I could discard without regret.

There was so much I felt compelled to say standing there, and I had to wonder if everyone else would feel the same in their own shoes, standing in this spot. Weighted down, over pushed, under listened to or misunderstood, driving forward until they took their foot off the gas and found they were actually on the tram riding along with friends and strangers. In the driver’s seat a non-descript clone is doing his job, unconcerned about your desire for meaning or quest to follow your bliss.

The source of all the words I wanted to say is the scary thing. I found it on my own, in the back corner where nature still holds the upper hand. It’s truth. A reflection of all I feel about the life I’m living held in contrast to an image of the life I want where my emotions are less turbulent. So much less, that I don’t need to block them off.


How long does a person allow themselves to be knocked off-center before they cease to be themselves, having begun to revolve around a new core? I don’t really want to find out. As far as I can tell, that is the road to chronic disease, when your actions become unaligned with your heart. So, having been lucky enough to trip over my own boots into the swamp, I will pick myself up, brush myself off and try to stay walking the right path as long as I can.

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