Sunday 25 Sep 2016

Maker of Chains
AJ Robinson

Among the gingerbread cottages of Oak Bluffs, on the Island of Martha's Vineyard, there's one not far from where I used to live, and which is the home to a special man. His son Dailis was one of my best friends growing up, and I spent many a summer's day playing on their front porch. You might wonder how a couple kids could play on a porch without a GameBoy or other electronic device. Well, we didn't spend much time on that porch. No, we journeyed over the sea, and across outer space on many a flights of fancy.

And then there were the chains. Sometimes I would sit and watch Dailis' dad work on them. You see, he was a wood carver. He would sit in his rocking chair on the porch, and over the course of a few weeks, he'd change a stiff wooden rod into a long flexible chain. Now, these were not just any chains. No-no-no, he didn't make simple loops of wood. Each "link" was unique. The first might be a sort of bird cage with a little round wooden ball inside it; the next would be a swirling S-shaped link, and then maybe a rectangular piece that looked like the shingled side of a cottage.

I had always wondered, how in the world did the little balls get inside the cages? Then I saw him carve one of his chains, and I learned the secret: he carved them inside the cage to start with! Quite the revelation for a young boy.

Year in, year out, he worked on those chains; and I often also wondered: why did he carve so many? After all, after the first dozen or so, wasn't he done? Hadn't he run out of patterns to carve, ideas to create? I never asked him that, but I did ask him why he kept on carving, didn't he want to do something else? He'd just smile and tell me that he loved carving, and would do it as long as he could.

Just recently, I chanced to visit him again on the island; and he was still carving. Only this time, I understood why he kept at it. You see, I had finally begun to follow my passion - I'd become a writer. And, as I wrote each story, each script, each novel, I find joy and excitement in the act of creation. No matter how many articles about defibrillators I wrote, or how many travel articles about Florida; I always found joy in my writing. To me, it was - is - never work. It's my passion; just as carving is his. Both of us create works that are like snowflakes - each one is unique and special in their own way.

When I sat and watched him - now old and gray with age - his hands still moved with ease and grace over those featureless lumps of wood. It's said that when asked how he created his great sculptures, Michelangelo replied that he didn't create anything; he merely released the artwork from the stone it was encased in. Well, I suppose you could say this man does the same with wood. But, I've got to say, he must have one heck of a "skeleton key" to so masterfully "release" so many great works. I only hope that - someday - I might find such a "key" to my writing.

Click here for more by AJ Robinson.

Combining the gimlet-eye, of Philip Roth, with the precisive mind of Lionel Trilling, AJ Robinson writes about what goes bump in the mind, of 21st century adults. Raised in Boston, with summers on Martha's Vineyard, AJ now lives in Florida. Most of the time he writes, but sometimes he works at Disney World to renew his fantasies and get a few dollars more. AJ writes, with insight and passion, about his family and his dog. His liberal, note the small "l," sensibilities often lead to bouts of righteous indignation, well focused and true.

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