"Any arbitrary turn along the way and I would be elsewhere; I would be different." ~ Frances Mayes

After losing 112 pounds in almost a year and a half, I have come to realize how very much I was missing. I may be Late to the Party, but I am doing my best to catch up in my own unique way!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

A Piece of Velvet

" A razor can't be sharpened on a piece of velvet."  ~ Anonymous

When my elderly parents made the decision to downsize and move away from my childhood home, the "great clean-up" revealed in a dark corner of a storage shed an ancient whetting wheel.  According to my father, it belonged to my grandfather and great grandfather before and it had been passed on to him.  He told of how he would watch his father at the wheel, sparks flying as metal was applied to stone. I have a mental image of my dad as a young boy, barefoot, shirtless and wearing hand-me-down pants that are too short, standing in a farmyard somewhere in Tennessee or Alabama, as his father turns the handle, building speed and then placing the blade to the wheel.

  A whetting wheel was a necessity in an agricultural setting. It sat on a platform and was operated by a turn handle or by a foot pedal.  It played an integral part in the operation of farming in keeping farm tools sharpened.  Without sharpened tools, the work was harder and longer and more dangerous. A farming man took care of his tools that were so hard to come by and had to make them last, as they were not easily replaced.  He understood the principle of grinding metal on stone to hone an edge to its sharpness, to be able to best utilize the tool.

This particular whetting wheel sits on the hearth of my home - a primitive, archaic tool.  I would call it rustic, rough and utilitarian in nature; it certainly is not an object of beauty in that it is pleasing to the eye. In fact, it is a homely item. It has in its center a rusted axle which turned the wheel.  It is not a perfect circle.  A closer examination reveals one side flatter, less round than the rest, where axes, scythes, hoes and knives were put to the wheel. Its usefulness in our modern world has long passed  Yet, in all its unrefinement, it has an antiquated charm about it. But more than that, it serves as my connection to family of long past, some of whom I have never met.  In this age of "throw-away", I often think of the ones that came before, who endured hardships, heartache, hard work, economic hard times, World Wars, failed crops, and the ever present specter of death.  But even in adversity, there was joy and happiness, too.  I know this because I have the stories my father passed down to me of family jokes and holidays, as meager as they may seem to us, and everyday family life, and I see it in the eyes of the past generations of my family in aged black and white photos, so rare and precious, both stories and photos in my safekeeping.

 There have been times in my life, as I am sure there have been in yours, when I was tested, challenged, brought to my knees in grief and pain. Although I bargain that we have not been honed to the extent of our forefathers, life is our whetting wheel.  It can serve to sharpen us and to bring out qualities in us that we never knew we owned.  It is the act of putting our souls to the grinding wheel that makes us what we are. Some people recoil at the rough touch to the wheel, never receiving the full benefit of being sharpened, never knowing that what we experience in life can give us more joy and more satisfaction than never to be tested at all. But if we embrace it, we can learn to savor and appreciate all that is ours, to find bliss in the ordinary and delight in the unexpected.

"The expectations of life depend upon diligence; the mechanic that would perfect his work must first sharpen his tools."~ Confucius

I love the old stone that rests at my fireplace, its only use these days to serve as a reminder of long ago times.  I only hope that I can incorporate its symbolism into my life and embrace the honing that life renders.

Life is not a piece of velvet, nor would I want it to be.

1 comment:

  1. What a wonderrful analogy for life!!
    Have a blessed afternoon!