by Tim Patterson – BSCM Executive Director/Treasurer
FENTON, MI – Sabrina and I enjoy visiting and shopping in antique stores. Probably 99% of what we do is shop and talk while purchasing involves only 1% or less of our efforts. This past weekend, the Patterson’s, Lynn’s and Durbin’s visited a vintage expo at Crossroads Village in Flint. We had a great time strolling through the antiques and centuries old buildings even though it was cold and sleeting in the middle of May. (Gotta’ love Michigan!)
It became very evident to us that people have become very proud of their old stuff and are functioning under the delusion that grandma’s old discarded junk is now worth more than a new Mercedes. Old things have become big business and the nostalgic has become very fashionable.
I particularly like digging through the old woodworking tools and examining their purpose, and how the years of wear and grime have embedded themselves in each piece. As I pick up one of the old wooden planes or carving tools, I try to imagine where it has been and in whose hands its unique appearance and character has been developed. I wonder what piece of furniture was crafted using each tool or how many homes were made more appealing and livable because some craftsman applied it with care and skill.
I imagine how some withered and age-worn carpenter might have sat in his small barn or shed in the early hours of the morning as he prepares to continue his work on a chair. I can see the rays of light slipping through the cracks and crevasses in the old wooden walls as they illuminate the fine particles of dust that fill the air. The smell of freshly cut pine and other hardwoods saturate every breath. The
A wood planer, hand tool of a craftsman. (Photo courtesy popularwoodworking.com)
steam from his freshly poured coffee trails off into the morning light as he takes a sip from a milky-green glass cup. His scarred and rough hands carefully follow the contours and curves of the tree that has now become a work of art in progress. He reaches up toward the left hand breast pocket of his bib overalls and removes the flattened pencil and marks the areas that need his attention. He is creating something brand new out of that which had grown old. Years from now the fruits of his labors will still be enjoyed by those who have the privilege to own them.
Now I am in an antique shop looking at his tools and quite possibly the very chair he made, and considering how these old items might become new additions to my home. Not all of the creations and works of the past are worth keeping. The mistakes, the bad cuts and the broken pieces have been discarded and forgotten. Yet even the old things of our past and those former experiences can add freshness and fill our lives with the sense of being new everyday. Nostalgia at times beckons us to live in the past. It tries to tell us that life would be better if we could just go back and live during that period of time. Just remember that those who were living in the “good old days” were themselves reminiscing about the “good old days”. It is a good thing to remember and to learn from the past. Collect antiques, reminisce and recall the good old days, but we must live our lives in the present. Yesterday is gone so we must live for today, and prepare for tomorrow.
A story I heard illustrates this point quite well. Years ago a thunderstorm swept through southern Kentucky at a farm where six generations had lived. In the orchard, the wind blew over an old pear tree that had been there as long as anybody could remember. The old retired doctor was grieved to lose the tree on which he had climbed as a boy and whose fruit he had eaten all his life. A neighbor came by and said, "Doc, I'm really sorry to see your pear tree blown down." "I'm sorry too," he said. "It was a real part of my past." "What are you going to do?" the neighbor asked. He paused for a moment and then said, "I'm going to pick the fruit and burn what is left."
That is the wise way to deal with many things in our past. We need to learn their lessons, enjoy their pleasures, and go on with the present and the future.