The arborist, editor, and tire man did just that. Their presence in my life is not a miracle—I don’t think, though I could be mistaken—but are they incidental gifts, unexpected epiphanies?
They’re the kind of presents we too frequently overlook, or worse yet, dismiss, at least I do.
Not this time. And, as the holiday season unfolds, I’m grateful that my busyness, and myopic preoccupation with self got derailed by their presence and brought me pleasure, needed hope and joy.
It began on a November morning, Monday the thirteenth to be exact. I’d opened my laptop, and while the screen came to life I took delight in the sun’s rays streaming through the forest beyond my home office window. The day ahead included typical activities: writing, reading, responding to e-mails, exercise, and several appointments in my home office. The atypical events included: the arrival of Gregory, an arborist, to cut down and remove several wind-damaged trees, a detailed reading (dismissively scanned the night before) and response to an e-mail from Roy—an editor and friend—as well as an appointment with Wayne to have all weather tires mounted on my Volvo.
My second cup of coffee, still steaming, was in its place on the desk to my right when I was startled by the unmistakable revving-up growl of a chainsaw. I put on a hoodie and walked out to greet Gregory and his two assistants. They politely refused my offer of coffee, and after a brief conversation they began their work—Gregory deftly measuring and sawing while the two others hauled cuttings to a wood-chipper, and tossed larger pieces into their truck. Gregory, whom I’d met eleven years ago, has always been efficient and thorough in the jobs he’s done for me, but what I saw on this morning was the joy he puts into and receives from his craft.
He specializes in the care, (love], and maintenance of all species of trees. He employs a chainsaw with the dexterity, grace and precision with which a Sushi chef uses knives—an extension of his deceptively strong arms. In his hands, a stump-cutter glides across the surface the way a Miele vacuum cleaner does on a fine carpet. He respectfully walks among saplings, shrubbery, old and new growth, and does so displaying a reverence for all. I recalled an incident that occurred several years ago. A neighbor, in my presence, once referred to a tree in our yard as a “worthless weed.” Gregory wistfully looked into the branches, touched the trunk of the fifteen-foot perennial plant and politely but firmly replied, “It is a Juniperus Virginiana, a healthy eastern cedar. It will outlive us.”
I returned to my computer and opened Roy’s e-mail which included an attachment, titled RMC Book Collection Notes, a draft of the chapter he’ll contribute to an “edited volume of the history of Christian publishing.” He’s been an editor for over four decades and a book collector for most of that time as well.
Roy and I have known each other for almost twenty years. Though we live on opposite coasts and rarely see each other, we stay in touch online. His love of books may only be rivaled by his love of running, something I once shared with him, but now vicariously enjoy through his journal entries. I downloaded then read the attachment listing some of his collection. Melville, Davies, Kidd, Kierkegaard, MacDonald, Brooks, Murakami, and Sendak are among the authors whose collected works he owns and treasures. The 214 “books on the history of book publishing and writing in the US for the 19th, 20th, and 21st centuries” is his most important collection. He has also collected “a copy of every translation of the Bible in English published in the last 75 years in the US,” including a rare copy of the Lamsa Bible, and a leather-bound Scofield Bible autographed by the scholars on the translating committee.
I reread Roy’s list of collected works twice, marveled at the variety of authors on the list, and then unexpectedly began a third reading, but this time focusing on the “between the lines” love and affection he has for the written word and the books in which they’re printed. His joy was contagious, not just because we share a love for books, but I found pleasure in his joy.
Later, I pulled up the driveway where Wayne, of Wayne’s Tires, greeted me. The constant low whirring of the air compressor would soon give way to the pneumatic impact wrench he skillfully employs to remove and then later re-secure the lug-nuts on the Volvo’s four tire rims. Wayne has been taking care of my car’s tire needs for ten years. He replaces the regular tires with “snows” as winter approaches, and takes them off when winter turns to spring. We chat a bit about business and the weather, occasionally about local politics, and about tires, a subject he knows well, and not just because it’s his vocation—he loves working with them.
This day, and primed by my earlier conversation with Gregory and response to Roy’s e-mail, I asked him why tires and how long he’d been working with them. He said that he’d opened the shop 30 years ago, and not had a moment of regret. He mentioned the importance of being his own boss and employee, an independent work-life that suited him.
“When I do my job well,” he continued, “customers like you feel safe and confident on the road, and that’s important. It’s a simple job,” he said, “but like anything else, doing it well takes more than the simple effort of removing and replacing tires—I like people to feel good when they leave my shop, and the best way to assure that is for me to take pride in doing my job to the best of my ability. I love doing tires, and I hope that shows in my work.
“It does,” I replied.
Three men in different vocations, who exhibit both pride and joy in their work, is refreshing. All too often people work for money and little else. Though I’ve cut down trees, embraced books, and replaced tires, their respective love and attachment to those occupations has passion my efforts didn’t. I often take for granted my own passion for the practice of psychotherapy because it’s what I do. Gregory, Roy and Wayne reconnected me with what I can easily take for granted—the joy and pleasure in committing to the work of something for which you have passion. When I keep myself open to a world that can frequently be perceived as routine I may be visited by the incidental gift and the unexpected epiphany.by