Mak­ing con­nec­tions

Journal Pioneer - - EDITORIAL - Rus­sell Wanger­sky Rus­sell Wanger­sky’s col­umn ap­pears in 39 SaltWire news­pa­pers and web­sites in At­lantic Canada. He can be reached at rus­sell.wanger­sky@thetele­gram.com — Twit­ter: @wanger­sky.

Up at three in the morn­ing, and the wind’s so strong the wires are try­ing to pull them­selves out of the side of the house, the guy wire for the power line slid­ing back and forth on the hook that holds the wire to house. The tops of the spruce trees are rac­ing like pan­icked horses around a cor­ral, and the as­pens, leaf­less for win­ter, are try­ing to keep up, up-fin­gered branches slash­ing back and forth against the sky. And you’re never more alone than at two or three in the morn­ing, push­ing back the dark­ness with noth­ing more than a fad­ing small blue LED flash­light, specks of the just-wrong Jan­uary rain spat­ter­ing your face. Just like you’re never more alone than when you’re try­ing to fit your pic­ture into some­one else’s frame, when you’re try­ing to be what you think oth­ers ex­pect of you.

I’m cer­tain I do that, and I’m cer­tain it does me no good. Sure, I can write about the an­a­lyt­i­cal or the the­o­ret­i­cal — some­times I even en­joy it, breaking down the num­bers in a se­ries of dry elec­tri­cal power doc­u­ments or cabi­net or­ders, try­ing to bring order not out of chaos, but out of the dull, the dry, the un­der­stand­ing-fog­ging com­pli­ca­tions of the bu­reau­cratic. But there’s no meal, es­pe­cially not one that dry and taste­less, that I’d like to eat ev­ery sin­gle day.

So, in­stead, here’s a trip to a small shed that’s set to be torn down, late Sun­day morn­ing un­der heavy skies and next to road­side snowmelt, and the small hand­ful of things I was able to find there.

I love things that have been in some­one’s hands: things that have been used, and used so much they’ve been worn down on one side or another, their orig­i­nal grip con­verted to prac­ticed in­den­ta­tion.

A coin with the pic­tures al­most erased, so I can imag­ine the pock­ets and the hands and the rat­tling against all the other coins. A tool with com­fort­able hand-grooves no man­u­fac­turer ever made.

The ceil­ing’s fall­ing in this shed, the out­side cov­ered with sag­ging cream vinyl sid­ing, the door, lean­ing against its hinges so you have to lift it by the knob to open it. The whole thing non­de­script. More like no script at all.

The trea­sures I bought there: a hand drill with a wag­onwheel-like scrolled crank; a hand-pow­ered grind­stone that you bolt to your work­bench with a but­ter­fly nut, its stone wheel will­ing to lip through the steel of a dull axe-head with­out even slow­ing; a mer­chant’s scale and weight, both en­cased in in a kind of pri­mal scaly rust, but still equipped with the skill to find all things equal.

A four-foot-long, two-per­son lum­ber­jack cross­cut saw, one han­dle miss­ing, the kind of saw that you hope would never jump from its log-cut to find the taste of your leg in­stead. A blue­painted work­bench vise, seized solid with furred rust when I brought it home, but freed up now, ready to grip hard and hold fast.

I know that it’s prob­a­bly fool­ish to feel con­nected to some­one I’ve never met, some­one whose name I don’t even know. But there’s some­thing about putting your hand where another hand has been, and feel­ing the shape of that space en­case you like a hand­shake. I can find the straight line be­tween me and another hu­man be­ing, the sim­i­lar­ity in our con­struc­tion and de­sign, and that’s mag­i­cal.

Just right now, that line feels more im­por­tant than a whole host of other things. More im­por­tant that the petty, the an­gry, the huge num­ber of peo­ple who seem driven by a sud­den need for re­venge or some­thing very much like it.

That thought lit me up; gave me hope. I’ll send this out, and hope for the best.

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