WILL UNWOUND #411: “Sunday Meditation – The Joy of Physical Labor”April 10, 2011
Sorry for the late post today.
I have been out all day at my raccoon house. I am taking apart the inside of this house, piece by piece. The place is a hundred years old. I have been there for 12 hours. I am exhausted, I am as dirty as I have ever been, and my body aches in about seventeen places.
This house project has been a marathon of physical labor for me. After the fiasco that I had with my “helpers” last week, I have decided to do everything myself. Basically what I am doing is salvaging every piece of redwood paneling in the structure, and it is filled with redwood. Today redwood is scarce as a finish product. 100 years ago redwood was a common interior building material here in northern California and people just painted over it. On the unpainted side the wood is a rich, dark, reddish brown hue. In a word it is beautiful. It comes in a tongue and groove design about three and a half inches wide. This house is all redwood on the interior, but it has all been painted so I am painstakingly removing it piece by piece and nail by nail. It’s a challenge to remove it without cracking it. I’m getting very good at it.
Today I got the ceilings down, which revealed the attic structure. In the attic was a raccoon. I think it was either Red or Ripper. I know it wasn’t Rocky. There was also a bird’s nest, and a dead bat. Old houses have interesting ecologies.
My meditation today is on physical labor. Tonight I will sleep uninterrupted for ten hours. That’s how tired I am. I am also at peace, the kind of peace I never enjoyed as a manager. There were always worries about the people I worked for and the people who worked for me. There were also worries about leaky roofs, the economy, the future of libraries, and even the future of books.
Those worries go away completely when you absorb yourself completely in physical labor. Today it was just me and the redwood. Nice and simple…the way life sometimes is but never for long.
Question of the day…what is your favorite form of physical labor? In my working days I have to admit that I always enjoyed shelving books and losing myself in the stacks when I was really stressed in my director’s office. I called it “pitching in” but it was really a form of stress therapy. I loved it for an hour or two. My problems didn’t seem so unmanageable when I returned to my office.