Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Mud Season

In the middle of the night, I have an inspiration of a fantastic subject for the blog. As I lay in bed, I wonder how I can tone it down for a G rated blog. It isn't what yo0u think, although the kiss in this inspirational moment needs special treatment. I do not want blog police knocking down my door in the middle of the night. What would be difficult to portray in words is the feeling, the atmosphere and the sensations of the moment. Now, hours later, much of the magic of the moment is lost. For a moment this morning, I felt a kind of deja vu sipping coffee in the kitchen of the Amish farm.

At the invitation of the Mr., I'm off to his farm before 8 am with two 4X4 pine posts. The previous day, he shows me a rustic pine table constructed from barn wood. It is classically elegant and simple. Knots, nail holes and other imperfections give it character. Amber varnish gives it a rich mocha cast. The legs are intriguing. Titus takes 4X4 timbers and tapers them in a Mission style clean cut simplicity. He will show me how he makes the legs early the next morning.

He meets me on the front porch after I pull up to the workshop. The mild temperatures of the past few days have left pools of water everywhere. To combat the onslaught of mud season, his wife has laid a square portion of carpet outside the front entrance. In the workshop, a complex arrangement of gears, rubber belts and pulleys all connected to a gasoline engine run a table saw, planer and several other industrial type woodworking tools. "This is my last woodworking project," I tell him. Our electric bill soars over $200 for the past month. Despite two electric barn heaters in the workshop, the inside temperature never reaches 40 degrees on a January day. I work with gloves and a numb brain. My table legs are cockeyed and flimsy. I've constructed many tables in the past and never had one cause so much difficulty. Part of the problem is application. Each time I set out for the workshop, several days have elapsed. I need to review my progress, plan ahead and work carefully. Something always goes awry. Then, there's a shed full of unsold furniture. In May, the Amish are holding a quilt and furniture auction. It's my one chance to sell a few tables, benches and the occasional rustic shelf.

The legs are tapered in two directions with the outside of the legs-the part the viewer notices-constructed at right angles. We measure the top part of the leg that will be attached to the skirt and cut a recessed joint. I offer to help with chores to offset the time and cost Titus spends on the legs. He quips that he'll wait until he has a particularly large mountain of manure to haul. I bring some whole bean coffee along just in case he refuses my offer to help. When it's all over we walk back to the house for a cup of coffee. His wife is simultaneously making bread and cooking lunch. One daughter is ironing while several others are sewing. The youngest daughter is lying quietly near the stove involved in her own personal reverie. Here's where my dream intervenes.

Titus tells me of traveling and staying at a motel. He can't sleep. Home he says is absolute quiet. There is no refrigerator hum, no water dripping or mechanical sounds of any kind. I mention a cricket hiding behind the Coke machine at the Desert Winds Motel outside of Blythe, CA on a business trip. Titus says the cricket wouldn't bother him but the Coke machine would likely cause a sleep loss as it did me.

The coffee is hot. A daughter in the next room- a large open space connected to the kitchen, some would call a parlor, is singing sweetly. She is adding stitches to a quilt. Her voice is soft, almost angelic. Another daughter out of view joins the song. Their voices are quiet. I cannot make out the words. As the voices merge and emerge into into various waves of contralto and soprano, I lose myself in their song. I strain to keep up with the conversation. The song rises. The melody is a hymn. In that moment I think of the vibration and song that's imprinted on the quilt. How wonderful this piece of Amish artwork would be in a bedroom. In the warm glow of dawn the bed would sing to the sleeper. Outside the twitter of chickadees and sparrows would act as counterpoint. It's the feeling I cannot reconstruct from my night movie with the soft kiss from someone above me.

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