It has been a long time since I sanded and varnished as much as I have these last few days.

The impetus to woodwork comes from a number of directions. It has been oddly mild this year, so August weather has allowed long days in the yard, on the driveway, working. My oldest daughter is moving into an apartment and she needs furniture (and I have furniture in the garage, much abused furniture, but furniture nonetheless). I made a list at the beginning of the summer of projects, and some of this wood work is on that list.  So this hat trick of motivations has found me sanding and sanding and varnishing.

My hands hurt. The small muscles in my upper body are talking to me.  Mostly I’ve been thinking about stories as I work, ignoring the aches.  The cedar chest was my Grandmother’s. I remember that it at one time held some hilarious sweaters of my dad’s. It also used to have a dark varnish on it that I removed one sweaty day the summer between seventh and eighth grade.  I never did refinish it.  A little research tells me that is was made before 1951 (when the company went out of business) here in IL.

Varnishing reminds me of living on the boat. The captain didn’t trust me with the orbital sander – he thought I took off too much finish. So I hand sanded a lot.  He wouldn’t let me varnish the table in the salon (I could sand it) but he let me do the one in the crew’s quarters.  I also had the awesome good fortune to sand the varnish off the bronze bumper rail on both sides of the hull.  Good times.

But I was in Italy while I was sanding that rail. And I was in Antigua when I varnished that table at the same time an army of varnishers descended on the boat to do the teak rails.

It was officially over half my life ago when I went sailing. I was 13 when I stripped the varnish off that chest (the first quarter of my life).

So, I’m worried about the stories. My stories. Have all my good stories already happened to me? Am I just cleaning up, taking time to tuck in the loose ends of the braid?

I think what I need is a shower.  Here is my toast to all of us: may we never stop adventuring, and may we see the wonder that surrounds us each day. Never stop telling those who are important to us how much you love them. And tell the stories.

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