New Birdies From The Workshop

I view a workshop as a place of becoming for both the crafter and the crafted, where the living via breathing through deliberate act exchanges some life force for a few ripples of involvement in creation of that which lives in other ways. Whatever medium is the means, life is offered and instilled into something manifesting to go out into lives, to hopefully enrich them, and to carry also some magic from the seed of whence it came… both its place and its path. It then lives via vibration. Perhaps another form of breath, or perhaps breath is another form of it.

I call these surroundings where things come to be and everything grows, where visions bloom and people blossom “perpetual springtime” – in trying to surround myself with it as much as possible, I am blessed to find myself where it is warm most of the time and the air is full of birdsong. That’s what our main line of instruments was named after, years back, while in transition from a very connecting chapter of living simply and sleeping under the stars into the hand built life of a craftsman. Life these days is still small, still simple, still connected… but a bit less austere than campstove hot water and a bedroll on top of an old van.

To live surrounded by new growth and becoming is, I think, the closest we get to slowing time. You are what you eat, and that’s not only food – but what you feed your eyes, what you feed your very being with your surroundings. How that feeds your soul. How you integrate your doings with your spirit – what you do with who you are and where you do it. Where you’re at – inside and out – is a huge part of that diet. If you live in an environment of life and nature and replenishment, of constructing and becoming, it’s hard not to feel that way inside.

Every year heading into springtime here in south central Texas, the little birds come looking for places to nest, to bring the new into being. They are drawn to the workshop and, so long as they’re not choosing a spot that is obviously dangerous or directly in my way, I welcome them. It’s not easy for me; I care about them, so I want things to go well for them, but I realize theirs is not my destiny to write. Past giving them some sheltered space and consideration while they’re borrowing that high shelf corner or extra tool cubby, the best thing I can do for them is not to meddle with their happenings. Let them be. Allow them their process of becoming… they don’t need my help; my agenda, my way, my fears, my inserting myself into their ceremony would not help.  

It was 17 years ago in my friend Uncle Johnny’s shop I noticed a nest in a top cubby, up above where he stored the tin of polishing wax for his woodcraft. I expressed my concern for them, and he replied “They come every year. They don’t get in my way and I don’t get in theirs. I leave a window cracked for them while they’re here. They know what they’re doing.” They know what they’re doing. I have to remind myself of this. This is what they do – their lives are uncomplicated, their system very simple, and indeed if they’re here they were the strongest who figured it out and they will teach their young the same. Not all will make it but they know this too. 

Things happen quickly in their world and they don’t waste time. Mama bird waits on a branch by the porch for me to be out of the way and flutters into the nest. I wish her well and welcome the tiny chirps to come. I leave an offering, a little pinch of seed, nearby – she knows I know she’s here and I like to think she knows she’s as safe as my shelter can offer. I do not know if these are the same little friends from last year, the nestlings of years past carrying on tradition, or even some distant relations to those from Johnny’s workshop. Taking the perspective that we are all related, they are all related too – so somehow, perhaps. For all I know one could even be Johnny. I chuckle at that too, but all I really truly know is there’s a lot more going on than meets the eye and I know I don’t know. I believe, I ponder, I connect the dots until it makes some kind of sense to me… but I’m one grain on a vast shoreline facing an infinite ocean and I just don’t know. 

I know the wood and the wire I am given to work, I know sounds and vibration. I know these little workshops. I know the next tasks to do and the tools to do them. I know the basics of my being. The birds know theirs, and I’m honored to live in their world out here. The least I can do is let them use the shop once in a while. 

Listening to: Don Cherry interview; Codona live in Hamburg 1978 (man this stuff is great, look it up on YouTube); some Mesa Music Consort; Joe Henderson So Near, So Far (Musings For Miles) (with Scofield, Al Foster on drums and bassist Dave Holland – fantastic, just go buy it); Grateful Dead Movie soundtrack CD one; Chrome Eyes Viper Dust (to be released soon).