Tuesday, 29 March 2011

Weathered Wood Lessons

“Don’t throw that detergent bottle out” Mom admonished, reaching for a sharp knife.  Cutting the bottom part off diagonally, she turned it into a fine shovel for the sandbox.
I’ve always been taught the value of frugality. Not so much with words, but simply by seeing it around me as constantly as saying grace before meals and eating in the communal dining room. My parents taught this concept by example, thus showing us that this was as much a biblical truth as, ‘Love thy neighbour as thyself.’  Mom never threw out empty containers or anything she thought might be reused. A plastic Javex jug became a clothes pin holder. After she cut a hole in its side and a slit at the bottom of the handle to serve as a hook, this receptacle slid along the wash line with well-greased ease.
Just inside at the door of our home there’s always a floor rug, carefully crocheted with wool from unravelled sweaters. A set of bright mats made from Fortrell clothes is part of the washroom décor. The kitchen with dishcloths knit from recycled yarn and patchwork hot pads, boasts old-country appeal. Years ago, when sugar and flour came in cotton sacks, these were bleached and turned into dish towels with colourfully embroidered flowers. 
Although some of these recycled items were retired with the syrup-pail knitting ‘baskets’, the values they instilled are as durable as colony clothes. “You didn’t get this from the garbage can,” rings in my ear whenever I want to throw out something that could be reused. Mom’s way of reminding us, of the teaching in Psalm 24: “The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof; the world, and they that dwell therein.” This implies a sacred duty to take care of it.
My fondest recycling memory involves pieces of weathered wood. After producing geese for more than thirty-two years, our colony decided to discontinue this enterprise, which left my dad with the task of disassembling fencing and loading scaffold. “I’m going to ask Uncle Joe to build a desk with the old planks from the loading scaffold,” He announced at snack one day.
“You can’t be serious!” I exclaimed, thinking this as incredible as a goose laying a golden egg. “Those planks have been out there trampled on in rain, fog and snow for decades!
 “They are solid oak and thick enough to be planed down,” dad continued calmly. “Would sure be a shame to throw them out!”  When the dream desk idea was pitched to Uncle Joe, he responded with as much gusto, had dad suggested he take up embroidering. Nevertheless, not known to waste words, he reluctantly agreed.
For years, dad’s antique brown desk beautified our home, giving him many opportunities to tell visitors its story. Sadly, Dad hasn’t sat by his desk for years now and all we’re left with is a deskful of memories. Today, it stands in my classroom stately as an oak, a sturdy worktable and a daily reminder of all dad taught us. 
While Hutterites have been practising frugality for centuries, to learn new ways to use old things is imperative, especially in today’s world when materials are readily available. As stewards of the earth we’re obligated to teach today’s more affluent generation our own weathered wood lessons.

(This article was first published in the Winnipeg Free Press.)

1 comment:

  1. Im sorry that i missed your very first post, so now i thought id step back in time (sort of) and post this comment.So now you can say Richard from Amish Stories was the first to comment on your very first blog post. Richard from Amish Stories.


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