You’ll Have Time to Rest When You’re Dead

 

Thomas Carlyle, the conservative Victorian proselytizer for the idea that hard work is man’s highest virtue, would strongly disapprove of my current idle and unproductive life.

I wasn’t always this way. I used to be as busy as Joe Biden’s hands in a roomful of women. As a kid, I shined shoes in bars, delivered both of LA’s newspapers on a bike, and set pins in a bowling alley. As an adult, I installed telephones for Ma Bell, spiked my way up telephone poles for the Army, studied hard enough to get a Ph.D., and taught English full-time in two universities for thirty years.

The son of a down-to-earth oilfield roughneck, I grew up in the blue-collar town of Compton, CA, in an environment that was skeptical of big ideas and contemptuous of unproductive lives. In that world, men worked, that’s what they knew, and almost all in blue-collar jobs. It’s not hard to see why I was never entirely comfortable in my skin as an English professor.

After all, there is nothing more nebulous and unproductive than teaching literature. I could never even be sure if I was having any effect at all on my students, much less a good one. Perhaps one of my students was influenced by something that she read or heard in my class — and then, ten years later, became a novelist whose words were so powerful that they softened the hard hearts of the wicked. Now wouldn’t that be pretty if it were so. Only God knows.

So in my off hours, I immersed myself in the palpable by making things that I could see and touch. I built two workshops (the first one was destroyed by a lightning bolt) and a 1,000-square-foot extension to my house. I made woodwind instruments and lamps. I made display cabinets, tables, side tables, and other pieces of furniture that now fill my house.

“Produce! Produce!” said Carlyle. “Were it but the pitifullest infinitesimal fraction of a product.” And so I did. Even after I retired, I couldn’t shake the idea that I ought to be producing something. So I started designing, scroll-sawing, and hand-painting wooden jigsaw puzzles — hundreds and hundreds of them — and selling them at craft fairs in Eugene, Oregon, and Portland. Below is what I would take with me to sell. Some of these puzzles, the multi-layered ones, took me three days to make.

I was pretty sure I would end up fulfilling what Thomas Carlyle said was his goal in life: “to die of exhaustion rather than boredom.”

But that didn’t happen. Not only am I not going to die of exhaustion, I’ve discovered, in the last few years, that idleness finally suits me. So I take naps, look in on Ricochet, try to increase Marie’s happiness, and of course walk Bob the dog. I’ve finally moved on from the restless busyness that has characterized most of my life. My drills, scroll saws, and belt sanders will have to carry on without me.

There is a season, the preacher says in Ecclesiastes, for every purpose under Heaven. I have finally arrived at my season of quiescence.

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  1. Nohaaj Coolidge
    Nohaaj
    @Nohaaj

    What a great story, and even better housekeeping in your shop.  Not a speck of sawdust anywhere to be seen.  

    • #1
  2. The Reticulator Member
    The Reticulator
    @TheReticulator

    Here is a link so people can look at Professor Forrester’s workshop more closely to a) see what kind of dog food he stores under his benchtop belt sander, and 2) figure out which tools he has that they need to go out and buy in order to keep up.

    I don’t have a nice scroll saw like he does. I had the use of my father’s when I was in elementary school, and used it to be the arms supplier for my school, until Miss Swanabeck came to my desk one day and whispered in my ear, asking me nicely not to do it any more. Oh, we did make a few wooden puzzles with it, too, but none nearly so nice as Professor Forrester’s.

    • #2
  3. OmegaPaladin Moderator
    OmegaPaladin
    @OmegaPaladin

    @cliffordbrown Could we count this toward Group writing for the month?

    Tomorrow I will be too busy working to write about work.

    • #3
  4. Stad Coolidge
    Stad
    @Stad

    Neat pictures!

    I mean, really neat.  My tool area is a mess . . .

    • #4
  5. KentForrester Coolidge
    KentForrester
    @KentForrester

    The Reticulator (View Comment):

    Here is a link so people can look at Professor Forrester’s workshop more closely to a) see what kind of dog food he stores under his benchtop belt sander, and 2) figure out which tools he has that they need to go out and buy in order to keep up.

    I don’t have a nice scroll saw like he does. I had the use of my father’s when I was in elementary school, and used it to be the arms supplier for my school, until Miss Swanabeck came to my desk one day and whispered in my ear, asking me nicely not to do it any more. Oh, we did make a few wooden puzzles with it, too, but none nearly so nice as Professor Forrester’s.

    Retic, thanks for the larger version.  BTW, out of sight is a 6 by 48 belt sander, a table drill, and a thickness sander.  The scroll saw is a Hegner.  That barely visible band saw in front right is a high end 14” Laguna.

    Everything remains intact, oiled, and dusted,  just in case I might be inspired to go out and make something.  But that’s not likely to happen.  After 50 years of making things out of wood, I’m pretty much burnt out.

    • #5
  6. KentForrester Coolidge
    KentForrester
    @KentForrester

    Stad (View Comment):

    Neat pictures!

    I mean, really neat. My tool area is a mess . . .

    Surely not, Stad. You go out there and straighten things out.  And while you’re there, oil up the metal surfaces.

    • #6
  7. The Reticulator Member
    The Reticulator
    @TheReticulator

    KentForrester (View Comment):
    Everything remains intact, oiled, and dusted, just in case I might be inspired to go out and make something. But that’s not likely to happen. After 50 years of making things out of wood, I’m pretty much burnt out.

    Just so you don’t leave any burn marks on your wood.

     

    • #7
  8. KentForrester Coolidge
    KentForrester
    @KentForrester

    Boy, this is weird.  I posted this essay yesterday. Most of the day, it lay there in the Member Feed, accumulating 7 Comments and 18 Likes.  Then it disappeared. It showed up neither in the Member Feed nor the Main Feed.  I thought it might be in the process of being edited for the Main Feed.

    But it never appeared anywhere.  So this morning, having given up on it, I returned to my Draft bin and there it was. What the?  It had somehow made its way back to my Draft bin.

     So I republished it.   That’s why it is on the top of the Member Feed right now. (7 A.M. Pacific Time)

     

    • #8
  9. She Member
    She
    @She

    Ahh.  Thomas Carlyle.  Much wisdom to be found there, as I noted on a post almost three years ago now (yikes): http://ricochet.com/436280/archives/qotd-a-hundred-acorns/.  (For some reason, it took me almost seven years to get through my first 100 posts; the subsequent  three years will see me at about 400, or 100 per year since, I think.  Clearly, I’m not as busy as I used to be in real terms either, and I spend more time lollygagging on this site than I should.

    Also buried in that old post is a mention of another author who I think you, @kentforrester, alluded to in a comment on my most recent post.  There are some things about English majors that just can’t be excised, as decrepit and indolent as we may get, and try as hard as we might to escape them.

    • #9
  10. KentForrester Coolidge
    KentForrester
    @KentForrester

    She (View Comment):

    Ahh. Thomas Carlyle. Much wisdom to be found there, as I noted on a post almost three years ago now (yikes): http://ricochet.com/436280/archives/qotd-a-hundred-acorns/. (For some reason, it took me almost seven years to get through my first 100 posts; the subsequent three years will see me at about 400, or 100 per year since, I think. Clearly, I’m not as busy as I used to be in real terms either, and I spend more time lollygagging on this site than I should.

    Also buried in that old post is a mention of another author who I think you, @kentforrester, alluded to in a comment on my most recent post. There are some things about English majors that just can’t be excised, as decrepit and indolent as we may get, and try as hard as we might to escape them.

    She, what do you think of my comment immediately above.  Do you know how that could have happened?

    • #10
  11. She Member
    She
    @She

    KentForrester (View Comment):

    She (View Comment):

    Ahh. Thomas Carlyle. Much wisdom to be found there, as I noted on a post almost three years ago now (yikes): http://ricochet.com/436280/archives/qotd-a-hundred-acorns/. (For some reason, it took me almost seven years to get through my first 100 posts; the subsequent three years will see me at about 400, or 100 per year since, I think. Clearly, I’m not as busy as I used to be in real terms either, and I spend more time lollygagging on this site than I should.

    Also buried in that old post is a mention of another author who I think you, @kentforrester, alluded to in a comment on my most recent post. There are some things about English majors that just can’t be excised, as decrepit and indolent as we may get, and try as hard as we might to escape them.

    She, what do you think of my comment immediately above. Do you know how that could have happened?

    I did wonder why it disappeared and then reappeared.  Not sure as to why.  Is it remotely possible that you could have gone in to make an edit, and instead of selecting “Update” picked “Return to Draft?”  That would do it.  Otherwise, it’s a mystery to me.

    • #11
  12. KentForrester Coolidge
    KentForrester
    @KentForrester

    She, I went back and read your old post on Carlyle.  I even made a comment while I was there.  And I caught the allusion to Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard. 

    BTW, you were an English major when you met your husband, weren’t you.  Did you continue your studies after you were married?  Did you go on to a Masters’s Degree?

    Your husband seems to have been something of a star.  Fellow at Harvard?  Is that right?  Or Columbia?  Wow. 

    • #12
  13. KentForrester Coolidge
    KentForrester
    @KentForrester

    She, what do you think of my comment immediately above. Do you know how that could have happened?

    _____________________

    I did wonder why it disappeared and then reappeared. Not sure as to why. Is it remotely possible that you could have gone in to make an edit, and instead of selecting “Update” picked “Return to Draft?” That would do it. Otherwise, it’s a mystery to me.

    ______________________

    I bet that’s what happened.  Thanks.

    • #13
  14. Front Seat Cat Member
    Front Seat Cat
    @FrontSeatCat

    What a resume! So when are you actually going to get busy?  You may have taught literature (do they still teach that – if not – they need to), but your gifts are something else!  Folk art is worth a fortune today – I wish your puzzles had a wider distribution source than craft fairs – they are awesome!! I loved the one you auctioned here of the space creatures!

    • #14
  15. She Member
    She
    @She

    KentForrester (View Comment):

    She, I went back and read your old post on Carlyle. I even made a comment while I was there. And I caught the allusion to Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard.

    BTW, you were an English major when you met your husband, weren’t you. Did you continue your studies after you were married? Did you go on to a Masters’s Degree?

    Your husband seems to have been something of a star. Fellow at Harvard? Is that right? Or Columbia? Wow.

    Dad was the Harvard “Fellow.”  Mr. She was an English prof at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, where he ended up after a couple of years in the engineering program at Carnegie Tech and a stint in the USMC.

    I did go into the graduate program, and spent a couple of years as a teaching assistant, the college freshman’s worst nightmare, Composition 101 Teacher from Hell.

    • #15
  16. KentForrester Coolidge
    KentForrester
    @KentForrester

    Front Seat Cat (View Comment):

    What a resume! So when are you actually going to get busy? You may have taught literature (do they still teach that – if not – they need to), but your gifts are something else! Folk art is worth a fortune today – I wish your puzzles had a wider distribution source than craft fairs – they are awesome!! I loved the one you auctioned here of the space creatures!

    Cat, thank you for your kind comments. 

    • #16
  17. KentForrester Coolidge
    KentForrester
    @KentForrester

    She (View Comment):

    KentForrester (View Comment):

    She, I went back and read your old post on Carlyle. I even made a comment while I was there. And I caught the allusion to Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard.

    BTW, you were an English major when you met your husband, weren’t you. Did you continue your studies after you were married? Did you go on to a Masters’s Degree?

    Your husband seems to have been something of a star. Fellow at Harvard? Is that right? Or Columbia? Wow.

    Dad was the Harvard “Fellow.” Mr. She was an English prof at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, where he ended up after a couple of years in the engineering program at Carnegie Tech and a stint in the USMC.

    I did go into the graduate program, and spent a couple of years as a teaching assistant, the college freshman’s worst nightmare, Composition 101 Teacher from Hell.

    Thank God for Composition 101 teachers:  the trench soldiers, and cannon fodder,  in the war against spelling “it’s” as “its” and vice versa.  Your reward, She, will be in Heaven. 

    • #17
  18. drlorentz Member
    drlorentz
    @drlorentz

    One could argue that, contra to the post’s title, it’ll be too late to rest when you’re dead. I fully endorse your revised views, though I’m not quite there yet.

    • #18
  19. Phil Turmel Coolidge
    Phil Turmel
    @PhilTurmel

    KentForrester (View Comment):

    The Reticulator (View Comment):

    Here is a link so people can look at Professor Forrester’s workshop more closely to a) see what kind of dog food he stores under his benchtop belt sander, and 2) figure out which tools he has that they need to go out and buy in order to keep up.

    I don’t have a nice scroll saw like he does. I had the use of my father’s when I was in elementary school, and used it to be the arms supplier for my school, until Miss Swanabeck came to my desk one day and whispered in my ear, asking me nicely not to do it any more. Oh, we did make a few wooden puzzles with it, too, but none nearly so nice as Professor Forrester’s.

    Retic, thanks for the larger version. BTW, out of sight is a 6 by 48 belt sander, a table drill, and a thickness sander. The scroll saw is a Hegner. That barely visible band saw in front right is a high end 14” Laguna.

    Everything remains intact, oiled, and dusted, just in case I might be inspired to go out and make something. But that’s not likely to happen. After 50 years of making things out of wood, I’m pretty much burnt out.

    I grew up admiring my dad’s tools.  He was equally skilled, but largely switched to oil and watercolor paintings in retirement.  I’ve accumulated some of the necessary tools, but have little time for woodwork.  I expect my retirement will be filled with woodworking.  I admit to a certain amount of jealousy when viewing your workshop. (:

    • #19
  20. Eugene Kriegsmann Member
    Eugene Kriegsmann
    @EugeneKriegsmann

    I retired about 6 years ago. I, too, was a teacher, although my area of specialization was working with emotionally disturbed adolescents. (I know what you are thinking,: they are all ED. Mine were a bit worse than the rest.) Anyway, throughout my career I spent most of my summers as a climbing guide in the Cascade Mountains, occasionally heading over to Europe to climb with a client. I dreamed of being able to spend my life after retirement scrambling and skiing on my own year round.  However, the last 20 years of my career I was commuting from my home in Bonney Lake into Seattle where I taught. I grew to hate driving and supporting petroleum companies and insurance agencies so much that I found any need to drive a car totally obnoxious. As close as I live to the peaks, it is still a minimum of an hour’s drive to the start of any climb. Instead I took up an old love, cycling.

    I have always been a bit hyperactive, needed a pretty steady diet of activity. I found that at the end of my seventh decade, and, now, halfway through my eighth, that that need hasn’t much declined. I ride anywhere from 17 to 20 hours a week, rolling over the backroads surrounding my once rural, now suburban community. I love the fact that I don’t have to drive my car at all. I roll out of my front door and head in any direction I am inclined towards, be it Mount Rainier National Park or one of the many state parks that dot the foothills of the Cascades.

    I watched a documentary last night called Seattle is Dying and recognized a commonality between myself and a retired Seattle police officer who realized that the system was simply not allowing him to do the job he loved to do, so he retired. I hit that same wall in teaching. The schools had been a microcosm of the direction that Seattle as a municipality was heading under the direction of progressive loons more interested in virtue signally than in making things actually work. I don’t miss work at all. I have dozens of notes and other forms of thank yous from former students and parents of former students whose lives I helped to straighten out. The last two or three years would not have yielded any of those, since my classroom was being micromanaged by administrators with little or no actual classroom experience. I couldn’t do the job I had been doing for so many years with so much success. I have found it far more satisfying physically and mentally to put more miles on my bikes than I used to put on my car, and to put almost no miles on my car. I plan to keep on doing this for at least another 20 years.

    • #20
  21. KentForrester Coolidge
    KentForrester
    @KentForrester

    Eugene Kriegsmann (View Comment):

    I have always been a bit hyperactive, needed a pretty steady diet of activity. I found that at the end of my seventh decade, and, now, halfway through my eighth, that that need hasn’t much declined. I ride anywhere from 17 to 20 hours a week, rolling over the backroads surrounding my once rural, now suburban community. I love the fact that I don’t have to drive my car at all. I roll out of my front door and head in any direction I am inclined towards, be it Mount Rainier National Park or one of the many state parks that dot the foothills of the Cascades.

     

    Eugene, your retirement sounds ideal. The notes from your former students attest to your effectiveness as a teacher. You’re a lucky man.

    My two kids and two grands live in Washington, a son in Tacoma, a daughter in Olympia. 

    • #21
  22. TC Chef Inactive
    TC Chef
    @williamallen

    Great looking shop sir. Mine has to share with cars and snowblower through the winter months and looks a bit scratchy at present. 

    Your post inspired me to get off my chair and put a rough bowl back on the lathe which I finished. Now I’m back in my chair watching some golf. Put me down for one part busy and three parts quiessence.

    • #22
  23. KentForrester Coolidge
    KentForrester
    @KentForrester

    TC Chef (View Comment):

    Great looking shop sir. Mine has to share with cars and snowblower through the winter months and looks a bit scratchy at present.

    Your post inspired me to get off my chair and put a rough bowl back on the lathe which I finished. Now I’m back in my chair watching some golf. Put me down for one part busy and three parts quiessence.

    Chef, I’m honored to have inspired you to finish that bowl.  I’ve turned a few bowls myself in my lifetime, but I didn’t take to it.  What I enjoyed on the lathe was turning flutes and recorders. Drilling that tapered hole on the lathe for the recorders was a trial, especially on the larger altos. 

    • #23
  24. Basil Fawlty Member
    Basil Fawlty
    @BasilFawlty

    KentForrester (View Comment):
    Chef, I’m honored to have inspired you to finish that bowl. I’ve turned a few bowls myself in my lifetime, but I didn’t take to it.

    It wasn’t the lathe thing on your mind?

    • #24
  25. The Reticulator Member
    The Reticulator
    @TheReticulator

    KentForrester (View Comment):

    TC Chef (View Comment):

    Great looking shop sir. Mine has to share with cars and snowblower through the winter months and looks a bit scratchy at present.

    Your post inspired me to get off my chair and put a rough bowl back on the lathe which I finished. Now I’m back in my chair watching some golf. Put me down for one part busy and three parts quiessence.

    Chef, I’m honored to have inspired you to finish that bowl. I’ve turned a few bowls myself in my lifetime, but I didn’t take to it. What I enjoyed on the lathe was turning flutes and recorders. Drilling that tapered hole on the lathe for the recorders was a trial, especially on the larger altos.

    Do you have any recordings of how they sound?

    • #25
  26. The Reticulator Member
    The Reticulator
    @TheReticulator

    The Reticulator (View Comment):

    Chef, I’m honored to have inspired you to finish that bowl. I’ve turned a few bowls myself in my lifetime, but I didn’t take to it. What I enjoyed on the lathe was turning flutes and recorders. Drilling that tapered hole on the lathe for the recorders was a trial, especially on the larger altos.

    Do you have any recordings of how they sound?

    And what makes one alto larger than another? Aren’t all altos about the same size?  (Mine are, but mine are just Aulos plastic ones.  However, the recent Aulos alto sounds much, much better than ones I bought back in the 70s.  I also have a pearwood soprano, but it’s tuning is such that it’s incompatible with all the others I have.)

    • #26
  27. KentForrester Coolidge
    KentForrester
    @KentForrester

    The Reticulator (View Comment):

    KentForrester (View Comment):

    TC Chef (View Comment):

    Chef, I’m honored to have inspired you to finish that bowl. I’ve turned a few bowls myself in my lifetime, but I didn’t take to it. What I enjoyed on the lathe was turning flutes and recorders.Drilling that tapered hole on the lathe for the recorders was a trial, especially on the larger altos.

    Do you have any recordings of how they sound?

    Chef, no I don’t.  I played the recorder for awhile, but I was mainly a maker of recorders, not a player. I played on the radio once time in a trio of recorders, but I was the weak one.

    • #27
  28. KentForrester Coolidge
    KentForrester
    @KentForrester

    The Reticulator (View Comment):

    The Reticulator (View Comment):

    Chef, I’m honored to have inspired you to finish that bowl. I’ve turned a few bowls myself in my lifetime, but I didn’t take to it. What I enjoyed on the lathe was turning flutes and recorders. Drilling that tapered hole on the lathe for the recorders was a trial, especially on the larger altos.

    Do you have any recordings of how they sound?

    And what makes one alto larger than another? Aren’t all altos about the same size? (Mine are, but mine are just Aulos plastic ones. However, the recent Aulos alto sounds much, much better than ones I bought back in the 70s. I also have a pearwood soprano, but it’s tuning is such that it’s incompatible with all the others I have.)

    Retic, I had the sopranos that I made in mind when I said, “especially on the larger altos.”  My bad.

    I only made sopranos and altos.  Tenors and basses we’re beyond my capabilities, in particular the difficulties of drilling their tapered bores.

    • #28
  29. TBA Coolidge
    TBA
    @RobtGilsdorf

    Old age hath yet his honour and his toil;Death closes all: but something ere the end,Some work of noble note, may yet be done,Not unbecoming men that strove with Gods.

    I predict that your tools are not done singing. 

     

    • #29
  30. KentForrester Coolidge
    KentForrester
    @KentForrester

    TBA (View Comment):

    Old age hath yet his honour and his toil;Death closes all: but something ere the end,Some work of noble note, may yet be done,Not unbecoming men that strove with Gods.

    I predict that your tools are not done singing.

    An appropriate quote, TBA. And a great poem.  Ulysses as an old man talking to his troops:  “To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.”  That is Ulysses, isn’t it?  I taught it last about 30 years ago and didn’t even need to Google it.  That’s what great poems do: They stick in the mind.

     

    • #30
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