Many years I’ve spent drawing a good sharp knife across a stick of cedar. From an early age whittling captivated me. Some folks say it’s an art form. Others say it is merely a waste of time. For others, myself included it is soothing. Time was that you couldn’t round a city square without seeing old men sitting on benches whittling away. Each day they made huge piles of shavings. I’ve done this for nigh on forty years. All this time I’ve been missing something. That is until today.
Today was like most any other. I came in from work, tired. I had a few errands to run. Some of the ever present list of chores to take care of around the house. I stopped and did my Aunt’s grocery shopping first thing. Next it was time to haul off the trash. I even finally remembered to take some of the cardboard boxes off to the recycle bin as well.
Once home it was too nice to go to sleep. I needed to get outside and do a little something. Believe me when I say they’ll always be something to do around here. I’ll never get caught up. Today I soaked up some much needed vitamin D. I built a little fire out back in the fire pit. Burning up some old limbs that I’d cut from a tree. Nothing big. I kept it small on purpose. In between feeding the fire I decided to spruce up the ole fire pit a little. Added some larger border to encircle the flaming embers.
Once that was completed it was time to play with my two loyal companions. Bella and Jordan. My two dogs. It is amazing how relaxing it was simply sitting on that folding stool and watching the dogs and the fire. I took the opportunity to do a little whittling. That always takes me back. So many memories of sitting around a show ring watching a Friday or Saturday night Walking Horse Show. Then there was always the Celebration in Shelbyville.
Drawing that blade from my trusty Buck knife across that stick of cedar it hit me. All those years seeing those old men on courthouse squares made sense. They weren’t simply making little curly cues. Even the ones who made things weren’t. Uncle Buddy was a talented whittler. He made pliers and little wooden boxes with balls inside. What I finally understood was that whittling is life.
Each of us receives our stick of wood. What we do with it is up to us. We can slowly draw our blade across and make tiny curly cues. We can hack away abruptly at it and shave of large jagged portions. Either way we will dull our blades. Much like life, whittling takes time and work and a good knife to cut through it. We must take the time to hone the edge on our blade. Making it sharp enough to slice our way through the wood.
Nobody’s cedar stick is alike. Some are pretty red and smooth. Others are mixed white and red wood. Most, unless we’ve been given the best of the best will have knots. We have to decide what to do when we reach those knots. Will we turn and go the other way? Will we avoid them? Will we hone our knife and keep chipping away at it until we remove it?
Take the wood. That sweet aromatic red cedar is beautiful to both our eyes and and sense of smell. Sometimes our cedar has that white, softer wood. Although not as aromatic and certainly not as easy to whittle, still we much slice away. Once we get through the soft,, white wood we’ll make it to the beautiful, fragrant, red cedar. The choice is ours. Do we work through it? Do we simply move on?
We can look at our life as a huge stick of cedar. Sometimes we split that huge stick to make much smaller sticks. Those smaller sticks are like periods in our life. There will be times when life is smooth. Our blade will remain sharp and swiftly move through the wood.
Other times our stick will be rough and filled with knots. Many times our blade will become dull. Many times we will want to say to hell with it and simply give up. The choice is ours. As for myself I find it difficult to go on most times here lately. Years ago there was nothing that could stop me. As I age I take pause to hopefully make wise choices as to the path I’ll take. I don’t always choose wisely. Thus far I’ve been able to continue. Working on that knotty part of life causes the need for me to sharpen my knife. Sometimes it seems as though it will take forever to slowly chip away at that knot. Eventually I’ll figure out a way to get that knot cut out.
Life often will be rough. Much like that knotty cedar stick. But if we can keep drawing our blades across that wood we will be rewarded. We can look at all those many curly cues lying at our feet. We can smell the sweet fragrance of our labors. Each one telling its own story. Each one a chapter in our life. Let’s keep our knives sharp so that when we grow old we can look back at that pile of shavings and smile. Look back knowing that although it hasn’t always been easy we finally made it. We finally get to smell the fragrance and enjoy the fruits of all our labors.