Summer is coming already . . . can you hear it calling through the trees?  Above the noise of the cars going by on the street?

Can you feel the bark of the trees in your hands?  The oaks?  The walnuts?  Those doggone blackjacks with thorns that’ll flatten a tire?

I’m taking a break from straightening the garage back into a woodshop.  I tried to listen to the talking heads pontificating about the Election.  Yes; I voted, but sometimes there’s not a dime’s difference betwixt ‘em.  Lordy, but I love being in a woodshop.  It is so cool to take a piece of wood and measure lines on it and work it through the tools and watch it take shape in my hands.

When you sand a wooden car . . . I love building little wooden cars . . . you finish shaping what you cut on the bandsaw with 60 grit on the disk-belt sander.  That, my friend is an industrial process.  Then you make it real by finishing the work by hand.  Blue.  Red.  Yellow.  Black.  Those are the four colors of the rainbow in the shop.  Blue is 80-grit; it’s basically the same grit as on the disk-belt sander, but now your hands are cushioning the wood as it rides back and forth in your fingers.  This is the paper you use to remove any last small saw cuts that went too deep, or to bring a little corner of wood that’s proud of the line back to its designed shape.  Your car becomes as smooth as the velvet in your big sister’s prom dress.

And that’s smooth.  But it’s not yet smooth enough.  What the red, the 120-grit paper, does is to take the soft smoothness of velvet and make it as smooth as Dad’s starched shirt.  It takes out the small scratches the blue paper leaves in the pine.

And that’s smooth.  But it’s not yet smooth enough.   It really start to get it smooth when you take the next color, the yellow, and fold it into fourths to get the right grip . . . and you go over the car again.  Now it’s starting to take on a life of its own.  This takes off that last little softness from the cotton-smooth and makes the wood start to glow, like maybe it had a candle inside it, and you’re starting to think, “You know, this is starting to get pretty slick.”  And it is.  Ask your Mom to let you feel the skirt of her red or her green taffeta party dress.  Now, My Brother, you’re starting to talk smooth here, but now you’re getting the fever.  This is where you turn to me and ask . . . “Hey, Uncle Pat, you got anything finer than 240 grit?”

And I just sort of grin and say, “Oh, yes, my child; I have the black paper; it’s 400 grit.”  And  I unlock the strong box and hand you a quarter of a sheet of midnight.   You grin back at me, because you know the secret that few others learn.  I can’t reveal it here, because I’ve sworn a blood oath only to whisper it amongst woodworkers.  But you know, don’t you?  And you take that quarter sheet of 400-grit and you dance your fingers across the glowing yellow pine, crooning an ancient medicine song to the tree spirit that pulled its life from the earth and the river and pushed its branches toward the sun.  You sing to the drumbeat of your heart, and the little car gets smoother than a moon rocket, smoother than a mach-2 fighter, smoother than the West Wind through the elm thicket.  And the light of the full moon gets trapped in the grains of the  wood and the little car  glows quietly in your palm.  It’s as smooth as a Hershey bar right out of the refrigerator.

And sometimes you paint it to celebrate its speed.  And sometimes you just varnish it to celebrate its life.

And you made it.  In the woodshop.  With your own hands and eyes and mind and heart.

At WindWalkerCamp the woodshop never, even when it snows in the winter, becomes a garage.  Ever.  It’s always a magic place.  Sometimes as rowdy as a school carnival.  Sometimes as quiet as a library.  But always a magic place.  We shape the fabric of the universe in there.  And it is beautiful.

Now for this exercise I do have photos.  Go to the other website: www.pinewoodderbyworkshop.com and check out the photos of kids (boys and girls) with cars they have made.  Sometimes with just a little help.  The woodshop in my house is better equipped than almost any high school in the country.  You ought to come see it.  The woodshop at WindWalkerCamp is still on the drawing board . . . we’ll be doing other construction projects.  But it’s going to be grand.

Nobody wants to go to camp alone.  Especially not the first time  Sign your guy up with a buddy, and we’ll throw in a “Buddy” shirt for both of them for free.  Remember, if you enroll before 30 January, you can get the Early Bird discount.

“We’re gonna have a good time.”

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