We’ve hunkered down for the long cold spell ahead, or at least for the next couple weeks. We are facing some of the harshest weather we’ll likely see all winter. Instinctively, we find comfort in the minute details, the planning, research and review of the past and future events. Today, my daughter and I spent most of the day in the tiny office of the Trail doing just that. Sheltered by the warmth of the heater nearby, we worked independently of one another on separate projects. Every now and then we’d come up for air and share in the moment, sometimes joking, sometimes peeking at the other’s work.
Outside, the wind chill made the air feel like single digit temperatures.
Many places around the world share these cold, bone-chilling climates, we are not alone.
This time of year, in Triberg Germany, the ancient customs of long, bitter winters have created a global niche; the Coo-Coo Clock capital of the world. Forced to remain indoors for long periods of time in their tiny mountain chalets, the woodworkers of old would turn their talents inward, creating tiny cogs, wheels, and artifacts that would make amazingly entertaining timepieces. Through their one-of-a-kind artistry, their mountain traits, customs, and lifestyles would be portrayed in what they produced; all because they sought to stay warm within their remote mountaintop homes.
Outside I could see the wind blowing the tree branches. Part of me could almost feel the chill run up my spine. I shivered inwardly and returned to my work.
Inside, there was more than the physical warmth, it was a feeling of being with someone you loved, as any parent knows, the unconditional love of a father for his son or daughter. For a few moments today, we were back in the studio of my barn, painting, and drawing on our own artwork. Nearby, the old woodstove provided the woodsy aroma of fire along with the heat that kept the freezing winds outside at bay. My favorite painting music would be softly playing in the background; Alan Jackson, Gibson Brothers, Balsam Range, Mountain Heart, Dailey and Vincent and many more. Outside, in the barnyard, the cows would be working on the latest hay bale, and then finding a warm, comfortable spot to lie down and ruminate. A rooster would crow now and then to remind us of the world beyond as the wind might rattle a loose piece of tin to confirm.
Up in the studio, we’d lost track of time until either our stomachs would remind us of the hour or the day would turn into twilight and we’d have to find the lamps to turn in order to see. Someone would grab another log and pitch into the stove, maintaining the red-hot furnace in the corner of the room. We’d take little breaks and warm our backsides to the heat, waiting until you couldn’t stand it any longer then jumping away before your skin caught fire; a warmth that would reach down into your bones.
There was a gentleness to those memories; too far and few between to come to expect. Rather, those were once in a great while treasures that were separated by long painful stretches of third shift work that tore my body and mind to pieces, leaving shards of my being along the rocky path. Sometimes, the mere thought of those precious memories were all that kept me going.
Thankfully, the long, arduous, painful stretches of third-shift are over. Once again, we are slowly finding time to be together to revisit those almost forgotten feelings of kindred spirit. Once again, I’m able to be the father that I almost wasn’t.
The Bible speaks of how we are to teach our children in the way, “You shall teach them to your children, speaking of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way when you lie down, and when you rise up.” -Deut. 11:19 But if when we are absent, they are left to seek Him of their own accord. Too many times, they become the victims of our best intentions; to make more money so that we can shower them with all their needs.
Sadly, we lose sight of what they need most, which is precisely what we fail to give them; ourselves.
We still await the sale of that farm and our precious studio loft in the barn.
Meanwhile, we take with us the most precious piece of that experience, …ourselves.