The Incredible Lightness of the Hammer

July 29th, 2009   •   no comments   
“Garage” Remodel Reminds Me of the Mind’s Heaviness

About four weeks ago, we moved — from in-town — to a house in the country, the hills.  With views of vineyards and orchards and the Myacama mountains in the distance, it’s a splendid retreat, of sorts.  Not enough bedrooms, though, when our friends from Illinois come to live with us in August. 

The lime-colored garage three hundred feet down the driveway provides a place for two of the teenagers to reside…if we can extricate all of the termites and replace the damaged — holy, disintegrating —  with solid material.  With four hundred square feet, that should be enough for two of the animals, ahem, young men in our family. 

The first major remodel I’ve had in over a year, this project reinforces my desire to have some physical work, to accompany the brain work, in my life.  Yes, there is the planning and budgeting process, but there’s nothing like taking a Sawsall (reciprocating saw) to a 2×4 and making it free of encumbering, rusty nails.  Sawdust flying, sparks illuminating, I get the feeling of real power.  Best of all, I don’t have to talk or come up with anything pithy or important. 

This last idea is the crux of this post: how light it is to work without having to talk.  Just to be concerned with my safety and not doing damage to the structure: this kind of activity provides a place of healing.

In my work with groups, I usually try to provide something physical for them to do…besides the thought work: go find the cedar on the property and come back and tell us where it is; in hotels, I ask them to watch the kitchen staff do their thing (fascinating), or; find the person in the group whose shoes are the closest match to yours (for dyad exercises). 

I’m convinced that in order to do the “head” work, we must find “hand” work, to acccompany that.  In the early 90’s — last millenium, you know — my studies of effective leadership led me to an insight about “renewal” activities: they usually involved working with the hands and did not require talking (sorry, golf doesn’t fit the bill).  Gardening, walking, swimming, demolition even. 

Compared to all the thinking I have to do as part of my “main” job, I find a hammer — or even a sledge hammer — light by comparison. This idea, says my friend David, is profound.  Go hammer something, he advises.

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