Monday, February 21, 2011

It's not my hammer

I recently found this old hammer half buried under a rhododendron in my back yard.

It's not my hammer.

I was raised better than that. We don't treat tools that way in my family. But why does it still stand there, rusty and unused in the weather?

It's not my hammer.

It's a remnant of some previous tenant, some prior existence there, in my back yard.  I don't have to take charge of it's care if I don't want to. That was someone Else's responsibility.  I'm leaving it out there for a reason, several really. I like the way it looks by the blue box.  It has some meaning there, beyond that of a discarded hand tool, unused and uncared for.

It's not my hammer.

I could take it inside, try to clean it up & make it whole. It may not even be safe to use. Structural integrity and all that. I've had a chip off an old tired hammer break off and stick in my arm before. Yeah, really.  Part of me wants to feel guilty about not making the effort to bring it back to usefulness.

I have been fascinated by this forgotten object though.  It seems to be trying to tell me things. I've been visiting it out on the patio, watching it, listening for what things it might have to tell me, or to teach me.

Whoever left it out there in the first place is probably not a bad person. Sometimes one might forget, regardless of a proper upbringing, as regards the care of one's tools. One might be a young child, or easily distracted, or just plain forgetful. Not everyone recognizes or considers the value of a tool. Or perhaps they were just really busy, too busy to deal with one more thing. Life can be that way some times.

It has been said that we all live in a world of symbols and I believe that's true on a number of levels.  I've also read and heard that we Native Americans have always lived in worlds of symbols and I feel that to certainly be true of myself and those close to me.

A hammer is a tool. It is also a symbol, an overall abstraction of a thing you can use to make something else, repair something else, Create new things in the world. Having a hammer and exploring what a hammer can do changes the way one perceives the world around them and the possibilities therein.  It gives us a new way to relate to the world and those in it.

A talent is a tool.

For too long I have let some of my talents, some of my tools, lie rusting under the bushes so to speak. I was raised better than that. Here on this page I've been working on some of that.  There are a couple of other talents I also need to get back to.  It can be difficult to make the time. There are a lot of other things in my life that require my time, energy and attention.  It's a work  in progress, my life.

It's not my hammer.

But they're my talents, wherever they came from. I have sometimes tried to deny that. If  a talent is not mine, not there in sufficient strength to be of use, then I'm not responsible to it, right?  Ok, I see that's weak.  We all have more than one talent. No, really. Some are shiny and bright. Easy for us and for others to see their strength, their beauty, their usefulness. Other talents, not so much. 

It's not my hammer. Or is it?

So we have to pick and choose. Which talent to nuture and use, which to let go. Which tool to pick up and use,  which to let go of, at least for a while. But I see some tools, some talents won't let you go. So work on the writing, let the  knife throwing go.  Work on the guitar playing, let the painting go.  And on and on and on. Little talents. Big talents. Useful, or not.

They're all my tools to use, to be responsible for and to enjoy as I choose. 

I'll work in some more writing, more guitar and some visual art, photography - yes, knife throwing - not so much.  And, of course, that weak talent, that rusty tool,  for making money - that's in need of some pretty big work I see also.

In all of that it's important to not forget, not neglect what may not be a talent, but is certainly important.  The taking care of others - family, friends or to some extent, whomever I might come in contact with.  Sometimes Kind is more important than Competent.

I guess the hammer is mine now. I think I'll go bring it in and put it in the garage, maybe see if I can clean it up a bit, even if it's not my best hammer, it's my hammer now.


  1. Nice piece John! And l love the composition of the photo! :)

  2. Beautiful post, John. When I reached the part about taking care of others as a talent, I was suddenly all teary. Thank you for this and for the reminder and for that great photo.

  3. Yep, it made me a little teary too. I tend to think about taking care of others as something I have to do and then sometimes resent it - but you're right - that too is a talent. I think you've also struck at the heart of something else that a lot of writers expend a great deal of energy on: not having enough talent. We moan and wail (at least I do) about not being good enough. Doesn't matter. If you have a tool, whether it's the top of the line model or came from the bargain shelf at the local Walmart - the tool is your responsibility. Thanks for the wise thoughts.

  4. Thanks Kristina and Kerry and Johanna!

    I always appreciate comments from you three especially.

    Sometimes kindness also comes with competence, as is So Much the case with you.

  5. I really enjoyed this post and your use of repetition to create resonance. Well done!

  6. I'd frame it rustically and sell it to some dumb tourists...