The Temptation of Tools
Many of the tools you wield were your father’s,
and his father’s before him.
Old steel and wood with the patina of age and sweat.
When you palm any of them,
more than work passes through your hands.
Lives lived. Generations of repair, knowledge
passed down with callouses and sweat,
the kind of wisdom that knows no age or era,
slow work, a recognition of the soul of things,
that those same things were not made for impermanence,
nor were the lives that made them.
You own nothing.
The houses and things that surround you,
the people who live in your circumference
are your companions and friends,
Never yours to own. You do your work.
Choose your colors, use your old tools
to help them through their time with you,
and then, they are gone. Someone else’s.
Or someone else. Never you. Never yours.
Your contentment is in the restoration. In the repair.
Without expectation, always surprised.
Doing the best you are able with what you know
and these old tools you carry.
They have served you well.
But it is a new time and there is a temptation to believe
you need new tools.
The temptation is strong. It is powerful, that belief
that time has made the old ones obsolete.
From time to time you have succumbed,
but always you have been proved wrong.
The old tools work just fine. They are slower, true,
and more work is needed, a bit more understanding
of the wood you work, the iron you forge, true,
but these tools were themselves crafted
to create, repair and restore things that last.
There is nothing temporary in them,
and your faithfulness in their use has a strange power,
hand hewn eternity, full of history, and promise both.
About this poem
I love it when the poem you intend to write turns into something entirely different. There’s a secial kind of honesty in that.
One of the things I wish I had been aware of when I was young is that in the end, the simple formula for life and success remain the same. We give it new names. We fancy our new ways to be brilliant changes, when in the end, whether it is in business, success, relationships or faith, in the end, the same simple truths are the things that work. We abandon them at our peril.
I really do have a fair number of my father’s and grandfather’s tools. They are treasures that work. My go to’s. The poem can be about them as well.
Add to that elements of raising kids, my spiritual journey, and you have the elements that made this poem.
The picture was taken at the Hancock Shaker Village.