Putting in a Window

13th November 2006

By John Brantingham

Carpentry has a rhythm that should never
be violated. You need to move slowly,
methodically, never trying to finish early,
never even hoping that you’d be done sooner.
It’s best if you work without thought of the
end. If hurried, you end up with crooked
door joints and drafty rooms. Do not work
after you are annoyed just so the job
will be done more quickly. Stop when you
begin to curse at the wood. Putting in
a window should be a joy. You should love
the new header and the sound of
your electric screwdriver as it secures
the new beams. The only good carpenter
is the one who knows that he’s not good.
He’s afraid that he’ll ruin the whole house,
and he works slowly. It’s the same as
cooking or driving. The good cook
knows humility, and his soufflé never falls
because he is terrified that it will fall
the whole time he’s cooking. The good driver
knows that he might plow into a mother
walking her three-year old, and so watches
for them carefully. The good carpenter
knows that his beams might be weak, and a misstep
might ruin the place he loves. In the end,
you find your own pace, and you lose time.
When you started, the sun was high and now
that you’re finished, it’s dark. Tomorrow, you
might put in a door. The next day,
you’ll start on your new deck.

19 thoughts on “Putting in a Window

  1. Tiffany

    As I was reading the poem, I thought: How funny, this is so familiar… Then I saw the author. Hey! I’m a (former) student of his.

    I’ve been following your blog for years. It is very strange to suddenly have someone in my life have a place on your page.

  2. Shiri

    Beautiful. Works not only for cooking and driving, but for raising children as well. (especially the “Stop when you begin to curse at the wood” part)

  3. ~moe~

    This is beautiful. My father was a carpenter and I remember watching the meticulousness of his work. It was amazing. He was the most patient man. I must learn to channel him more. Thanks for this.

  4. Gordo

    How very Taoist. A peaceful glance at the world we have need only join in spirit by simple deeds or acts. Thank you.

  5. Scott

    Is that why it takes 9 months? ;)

    Of course once the baby is born, the doctor measures twice and cuts once for the cord and if it’s a boy, cuts twice?

  6. Kayla

    Mrs. Mason- you know that is one of my all time favorite poems, right? Right! I have that posted next to both of my desks. AWESOME.

  7. John Brantingham

    My student, Tiffany (comment #4), told me about this blog, and I’m surprised to see you all talking about my poem. Thank you so much for what you said. It’s nice to hear that one of my poems have touched you.

    –John Brantingham

  8. RianaLance

    Very beautiful.

    “Tomorrow, you
    might put in a door. The next day,
    you’ll start on your new deck.”

    It’s like telling us to keep our spirit in facing the day that will come. It’s like tomorrow is brighter for you expect something good coming.

    Thanks to Maggie for sharing this poem and thanks to Mr. Brantingham for writing such a beautiful piece.

  9. Kate

    It’s been a festival poetry this week. We’ve been passing them around in my circle of LJ friends as well. So much fun!

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