I cannot remember not having some of the basic woodworking skills, said Robert Wearing in The Essential Woodworker. I have not read this book, but merely this line over my husband’s shoulder.
But it’s a wonderful thought, isn’t it, that we could give our children such inherent knowledge? That, like a native tongue, we could give them not only wisdom, but skill, and this just by living in fellowship, without even trying.
Perhaps sometimes we will use words. Osprey, we might say, pointing to the high bird circling the pond, and they will see in time how it is a different creature from a buzzard or an eagle, but we do this as a lover of the world, and not as a lecture, and not really mindful of them, as impressionable children, at all. Perhaps we cannot remember not knowing the osprey, or perhaps we had to learn this ourselves, but either way we want them to know it too. As Robert Farrar Capon so famously said, a silent lover is one who doesn’t know his job. What better thing can you give a child than love and a great capacity for love? God has made this an easy thing in the abundance of His love all around us.
But then sometimes, we won’t be saying anything, yet just watching us loosen the tomato roots and bury them deep with epsom salt, will be, not only what plants this knowledge in them, but keeps them gardening year after year, no matter where they may live and what changes in their lives. One day looking back they may realize that they didn’t know a lot of things and were confused and lost more than once, but they knew how to plant tomatoes and they knew their ospreys from their eagles, and bits of truth like this make up a big part of our joy in this life and give us moorings stronger than we know in uncertain times.
I think perhaps the best and most useful education there can be is in a true knowledge of yourself, who you are and what you were made for, and then in a foundation of useful, nourishing skills and finally, in the ability to learn and gain whatever knowledge you may find yourself lacking. Perhaps there are other things but those seem primary, and looking back in my not so distant childhood, all the real education I had was from my parents and grandparents, and not my school.
Yet for a time, I was meant to be the chubby kid gagging on her toothbrush and dreading the eternal day of classes and bells and heavy books and uncool tennis shoes and nothing decent to eat and a glorious headache by the end of it all. I am glad God wrote this into my story, as it obviously seemed best to him, and I’m gladder still that he cut the cord and tied it off. But there are many seasons in life we do not pass by so easily.
My sister used to be a seamstress. She learned in high-school but it became part of her and she loved it. She worked for awhile making custom drapery, gave classes and made her own clothes, including her wedding dress. She has lived many years now without a sewing machine or fabric or even a good pair of shears. She is living in a camper with three small children and no extra room for this knowledge, but she said to me the other day, with tears in her eyes, please don’t give my fabric away. I didn’t intend to, but neither did I understand what it meant to her, and how she dreamed of sewing again one day and giving that to her daughters. The thought that this good thing that she was and worked to become, that she reclaimed from our grandmother and all the generations of women before her, might just be lost, was tragic. I can understand this, because I feel the same about writing.
I know there will come a day, and soon, even this summer, when I will wonder if I will ever write again, and I’ll love my life but hate the limitations of body and soul that bind me to live ever as an amateur, merely a lover, grateful, but never good at what I am doing, never able to accumulate being and become great, but just walking on, often shedding unnecessary raiment on the way, simply satisfied most days to get comfortable laying down, simply doing whatever most needs to be done. But I know that what God does with water, how the streams flow to the river and the rivers to the sea, how the rain and the snow fall to the earth and fill the secret springs (these things I learned as a child), he does even more so with his sons and daughters.
My sister called and we were talking about seedlings and how ours were getting on. You know, she said, I think I will always garden…. I mean, no matter what, no matter what else changes and where I should live or go or do, I think I will still be gardening.
Yes, I said, I think I will be too.
This certainty is a gift from our childhood. It is a rare and special thing, and something more, a comfort.