Given the funky start of summer, divided as it is with cool opportunities to travel (one conference has passed, one cultural program is coming up and one workshop is scheduled for July), I’m not quite ensconced in the real intellectual business that will dominate the year to come. And so I have diverted my path on the way to Sabbatical-land to include a few stops in Mechanicsburg. During these weeks between trips abroad, recovering from one and preparing for the next, I am taking some time to allow the work of my hands take over for the work of my head. Today (and yesterday) I was in the woodshop on our campus, where I am building some small gifts to take on the next trip and working under the supervision of the university’s woodshop supervisor. And when I say “I am building” these things I mean that I am doing a few small tasks suited to my skill set as directed by woodshop supervisor, who is doing most of the heavy lifting, and who also happens to be my husband. David is an engineering school dropout (God bless him) and former architect (ditto), who has found his bliss running the woodshop associated with the school of architecture and design where I am also on the faculty. Although I recognize his manifold and diverse gifts as a philosopher-mechanic, I (as the wage-earning academic in the house) find a certain enjoyment in reminding him of the mechanic part of that description once in a while. Seriously, I am grateful for his greater gifts that help steer me through this process that allows me to exercise manual skills that have lain dormant for many years, although, once upon a time (especially when I was an architecture major), they were pretty profound. Although I miss neither architecture school (well at least being an enrolled student in architecture school; being a prof is a pretty great gig) nor architecture practice, I do miss making stuff with my hands on a regular basis. Back in the day, I took all the required classes in design and drawing, plus some bonus classes–the best being set design and metalworking. It’s good to get back to that stuff–hand-making stuff–once in a while, for its own sake, but also as a break from my primary activity of head-thinking. It’s refreshing to get away from the very different demands of reading and writing and talking that constitute the greater part of my life to imagine things that take form as lines run out of a pencil, and use equipment to turn raw materials into those imagined things, be they pretty and/or useful artifacts. The same urge is part of what compels me to spend more time in the kitchen than a lot of people, I suppose. While I must admit that the latter has much more immediately satisfying results, the former has more lasting ones.
Excursion to Mechanicsburg