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He was thirteen before he knew what a hand drill was. His father saved and bought him one for 75 cents. Before that, he made holes in wood by twisting coal-fired nails into the grain. It was his job to throw wood in the fire after school. When red hot, he’d pinch a nail with a pair of pliers and twist it through the wood, which went soft and dark until there was an opening. Now his skin is thin and just last week he stumbled out of bed and landed hard on the radiator, his forearm tearing like a thin curtain. It took an hour to stop bleeding.
He just took care of it himself. We are held this way in the fire of time where we go soft and dark till our skin goes thin and just waking tears us open.
A Question to Walk With: Ask an elder in your life for a story about the first tool they learned how to use.
This excerpt is from a new book in progress, Compass Work: Finding Our Fathers While Finding Ourselves.