From: Ted Bowers
Date: Sunday, March 15, 2015
Subject: Reader, 3/19
im a spoon maker. I shape fruitwoods and hardwoods into spoons, spatulas, knives, scrapers, something we call a kitchen stick, and the occasional ladle. I started making spoons during a particularly dark period in my life. A series of events, largely of my own doing had left me alone with myself–lonely and depressed. Songwriters sometimes do their best work during tumultuous times. Not being much of a songwriter– I do have one to my name–I turned to another outlet. Being a woodworker and a cook and having always wanted better wooden utensils than the cheap ones commonly available, I tried my hand at spoon making. I found I had a knack for it. I also found that it filled a creative need as well as providing me with healthy activity and a better attitude. I got into it in earnest. I wasn’t just making spoons. I was creating something of beauty. I sanded and polished until they gleamed and felt like satin to the touch. I began to accumulate many more spoons that I needed and had to give them away. This improved relations with family and friends and improved my attitude toward life. In some small way, shaping spoons helped me reshape my life. I still make them today, when I find the time and it as joyful a pastime as it ever was. Our (Gini has since joined me in designing and making utensils) spoons, spatulas, scrapers, kitchen sticks, knives and ladles grace the kitchens of our families and friends and are enjoyed by many. I’ve even sold a few, although the vast majority have gone for wedding, birthday and Christmas presents.
This little story leads me to thoughts of how lives are shaped, by our past and ourselves. I was born and raised on a farm in Illinois. That in itself defines much of who I am–close to the earth, I’m a hands-on kind of person. My social life was somewhat limited because of distance from town. My babysitter was an Amish woman and we lived amongst a strong community of Amish farmers. My parents were educated and encouraged their children to get college degrees. being a good son, I complied with their wishes, but as soon as I graduated and was on my own, I turned to what I always had loved–building stuff with my hands–my early life had shaped me before formal schooling got to me. I’m grateful for my education and what it exposed me to. It polished my communication skills and introduced me to the wide world and all that means. I made lifelong friends in college, friends who shaped my life and continue to.
When I came to North Idaho, I was searching for stability–a home, a community, a career. I had, once again, been shaped by the revolutionary 60’s. Politically progressive and long haired, I wanted to be accepted for what I was and found that to be challenging in Sandpoint in the early 70’s, to say the least. I was lucky to find a job as a carpenter’s apprentice with old-timer Earl Boles, who was greatly amused by my appearance and unbothered by my inexperience. He hired three of us hippies and got a kick out of displaying us to his cronies at Connies Cafe every morning at 9:30 on our coffee break. I worked and trained with Earl for 6 years, until literally the day he died. Some serious shaping of myself occurred during those years, and not only of my career as a builder. He was kind, tolerant, funny and unaffected by stereotypes, both mine as a “hippy” and those of other persuasions. If a person was good, he or she was fine with Earl. If they were assholes, he didn’t waste his time with them. I have continued to use the lessons learned from old “Early”, playing my part in helping to shape young lives. I’ve used skills learned from him to shape my own life as well, both personally and professionally. If we are fortunate enough to have children, they shape us every bit as much as we do them, especially if we allow it.
As we grow older and hopefully wiser, we can and should play an increasingly greater role in shaping our own lives and if we are to shape the lives of those in our circle, may it be by example rather than persuasion.
I’ve strayed pretty far from the DIY builder theme of this column this time, with no apologies… I warned Ben that my interests were wider than just building. I will return to articles on that subject though, because it has always been one of my greatest loves– shaping the physical world around me with the tools in my hands.