Thursday, September 27, 2007

Elven Rope

The volunteer life is full of ups and downs, both figuratively and literally. Today was a perfect example of such. There is a group here at CAP this week of about 24 people from Michigan, and they've been a blessing to both the people in the area and also all of us full-timers. We started a new job this week, a roof for an elderly woman named O. B. Shes about 90 and has raised a vibrant family in this small home. The shingles on the house were about...50 years old or so and virtually dust. This roof has been a challenge to say the least. You see, there were 3 layers of old shingles that had to be taken up, with four nails per sheet of shingles. Not to mention, the roof is a 10/12 pitch, which means that for every 10 inches you go in (run) you go up a foot (rise). As Ross said, "that roof is steeper than a cow's face". Simply put, it was steep as dump and had thousands of nails that had to be pulled up before we could put down tar paper and new shingles in the 90 degree heat. We can only work until 2 pm because after that point, the tar on the shingles starts to melt and they become rubbish. Oh, and you can't stand on the shingles you have already put down or they become rubbish due to the heat. So this was a down, spiritually (ironically while we were up physically...a pun, get it?). However, all week O. B. and her daughter, who is around 65 have been making us lunch, which has been down home southern cooking and probably some of the best food I have ever had. It was such a lift because here were two women who didn't have much, giving us in their own way, love to raise our spirits. It was moving to say the least...and delicious.

In a small way, I was feeling down today because in my time thus far, I haven't been learning too much construction wise. My boss needs to be away from the work site for much of the day, gathering supplies and visiting new houses. This means that I am either used largely as a work horse, doing labor intensive, mindless work, or I need to try things out on my own, fail, try again and hopefully eventually get it. And, it's particularly frustrating because construction is largely common sense...only you have to know or at least see once what you are trying to do, or you end up failing like another Jurassic Park movie.

However, just when I was feeling like those guys in Jurassic Park when the dinosaurs broke out and started eating everyone, there was this gentle old man who I had a great conversation with. His name was Clayton and he's related to O.B. He was widdeling a piece of cedar with a blunt pocket knife and just watching us do this roof. He had a flat top hair cut, glasses, and a peaceful demeanor, as he scraped the blade over the wood, creating a rainfall of reddish curly cues at his feet. I sat down, quite sweaty and exhausted and he just asked, "where're you from?"
"Oh, uh, Chicago, south of Chicago"
"You're a long way from home," he said
"Oh, yeah, I know it. I'm just here, doing some work for some folks for a while," I replied.
Then I asked, "you ever make it up to Chicago?"
He replied, "Yup, once some years back."
"What did you think?" I inquired.
"Nope" he said with a grin. "Too much traffic"
"Yeah, it's pretty crowded" I said as I thought of the 3 cars that had passed down the road in front of their home all day.
"What are you widdeling there?"
"Oh, no I mean are you making anything"
"Yeah, a mess. a heh heh heh."

It might seem like a simple enough conversation but it reminded me that the Appalachian people take delight in the simples things; a shady patch of lawn, a warm meal, the breezes through their hollar, or widdeling for no reason other than the peace it provides. And, most of the things that provide them peace are free, and not complicated in any way...just an observation.

Cheers mates.

Just finished reading: C.S. Lewis' "Screwtape Letters"
Now Reading: G. K. Chesterton's "Everlasting Man"
Now listening to: "Goldmine Pickers"
Now watching: "the Office" season premier

quote of the day: "Do good works. Good works."


a.e. nee said...

have you ever read the raymond carver story, "a small good thing"?

this post makes me think of that.

screwtape letters=awesome
i started the everlasting man once while i was working at the library but didn't get very far. i'll be curious to hear what you think...

a.e. nee said...

i never have read any chesterton aside from lewis' and other's frequent quotes of him. i've wanted to try orthodoxy.

emails are probably a good idea, this is a little silly.

you can find me here: