As I often do, I asked the Gnome to read and give me his thoughts on the draft of my Blowing on the Embers blog essay before I posted it. I value his insights, and he’s generous in offering me his time. It’s one the many things I love about him.
Then he went about one of his self-assigned chores: trying to get at least one of our two broken riding mowers to function. We have several acres of land in desperate need of mowing. If one of those mowers doesn’t get fixed, too many unwanted trees take over. (Black locusts, I’m talking about you.) And that means we have to cut them down, chop them up, and either burn them or pile them up into yet another wildlife habitat—good for the birds, but a little unsightly to us humans, and yet one more unwelcome chore that keeps us from more satisfying activities. But I digress.
The Gnome spends a lot of time around here fixing things that don’t work. He’s not a mechanic or an engineer or an electrician. He thinks his way through these tasks, using brainpower to solve problems he doesn’t innately understand. He believes in the power of being able to do a thing if you just put your mind to it. Another thing I love about him.
But it’s a time-consuming process. And it can be fraught with frustration—all that time and energy going into a chore, the outcome of which is unknown, when he could be doing something much more personally fulfilling. Like painting. Or writing. Or photography. Or building.
After hours of unsuccessful attempts to fix something, a sense of defeatism can set in. That’s what I expected the other day when he was working on the mowers. I’d been paying attention from my writing desk—I heard all the times he turned the key and the engine refused to catch. So, when he came in the house in the middle of the afternoon, I was all ready to offer some sympathy along with his tea and his favorite oatmeal cookies. He had to be discouraged.
Instead, he looked at me with those crinkle-cornered, laughing eyes he’s so famous for (reason # 3 if you’re keeping count) and an enigmatic smile. He told me he’d been remembering all the hours he’d spent as a boy watching his electrician dad work on the family car. He’d conjured up the time he himself had crawled up under the huge hood of our International Harvester Scout to ferret out a problem, even then imagining what his dad would have done, how he might have worked out the issue at hand.
All that time I thought he was just working on the mower, he was also channeling his dad, recalling fond memories. That afternoon, it didn’t matter so much that the mower was still in pieces.
It seems there’s more than one way to blow on the embers of your heritage.