Saturday, November 6, 2010

Taking a shellaking

I have been doing a lot of varnishing on Sojourner. Yesterday, it was chilly but sunny enough to put a coat on the bowsprit and a couple of other places that had unvarnished teak.

I like the shininess of the wood. It has a deep rich hue rather than the grey of weathered teak. Inside, there is a satin finish but once again, I prefer the bright glossy finish. So today I have been doing as much varnishing as I could.

I take deliberate strokes that go with the grain of the wood. It is mesmerizing work because progress is readily apparent. I could keep doing this work for a long time, and considering that I have a lot of wood inside and out that require multiple coats, then I have many more hours to spend.

Just these simple tasks are something that I derive pleasure from. I seem to have a lot of patience with the boat--much more than I have with most people. Learning to be patient is something that I pray about. It is one of the traits that I can easily let lapse if I am not aware.

Patience is often the practice of not doing anything. I need to keep my mouth shut when I have only negative things to say. Fortunately since being in Al-Anon, my capacity for patience has at least marginally increased. If only I could learn patience faster!

If my ego can simply take a shellacking and I am not plagued by haste or impatience, then serenity prevails. There is a simple little story that illustrates this in a particularly poignant way.

"One morning I discovered a cocoon in a bark of a tree, just as a butterfly was making a hole in its case and preparing to come out. I waited awhile, but it was too long appearing and I was impatient. I bent over it and breathed on it to warm it. I warmed it as quickly as I could and the miracle began to happen before my eyes, faster than life.

The case opened, the butterfly started slowly crawling out and I shall never forget my horror when I saw how its wings were folded back and crumpled; the wretched butterfly tried with its whole trembling body to unfold them. Bending over it I tried to help it with my breath. In vain.

It needed to be hatched out patiently and the unfolding of its wings should be a gradual process in the sun. Now it was too late. My breath had forced the butterfly to appear, all crumpled, before its time. It struggled desperately and, a few seconds later, died in the palm of my hand.

The little body is, I do believe, the greatest weight I have on my conscience, for I realize today that it is a mortal sin to violate the great laws of nature. We should not hurry, we should not be impatient, but we should confidently obey the eternal rhythm."
(from Zorba the Greek, by Nikos Kazantzakis)

This is a great reminder that improving my attitude and state of mind takes time. Haste and impatience can only defeat my purpose.


  1. nice. that is a great story...i need to work on my times...shellacking sounds rather peaceful though...

  2. this moved me beyond words.. the story of the butterfly, something we should all strive to remember.


  3. Ha! To be patient with our own acquisition of patience. Now THAT is something!

    I really like this reminder: Patience is often the practice of not doing anything.

    I need to keep that in the forefront of my mind for the majority of my days.

  4. I need to work on mine as well and learn how to keep my anger in check.

  5. I love this story. I was telling my son that he needs to learn to be more patient and that's when I realized that it took me a long time to get where I am with patience and I still have a way to go. Humbling..


  6. The teak is gleaming beautifully, I can imagine the varnishing is a very rewarding way to spend your time - long term benefits and an instant return for your efforts.

    The extract about the emerging butterfly was very moving - I will try to keep it in mind.

  7. Patience is simply the ability to wait comfortably. Some day you can ask me for the second half of the statement. Just not anytime soon.

  8. You crack me up. If only you could learn patience quicker! Ha, good one. For me, learning to accept that things aren't instantly accomplished and if I give myself a break and stop expecting myself to make immediate changes, I am able to gradually re-learn in such a way that it is lasting. Not fleeting.

  9. I ain't no saint when it comes to patience. I need to somehow suspend my
    will,urgency, pushiness.
    When my back was turned,a hope became
    expectation- while I was sleeping, expectations got poisonous and I woke up with a resentment or two...Now I am cleaning up a mess I wasn't expecting...

  10. "If I could only learn patience faster."

    I love that. You're great Syd.
    Now, get back to varnishing.

  11. Love that quote.

    I know that doing anything takes God. I wish I could muster patience, but that too is beyond my reach without a power greater than me. Interestingly, when someone points out that power is available, and also points out that my lack of power has been granting me chaos, restlessness, irritability and relationship destruction, well... then I'm willing to pray. Especially when, given the absolute knowledge (a little writing and prayer before, and perspective (sharing what I've found of myself with another human and finding they understood at an even deeper level).

    I'd much rather be the channel than a wall today.

    Thanks Syd!

  12. Great story, I am always amazed how things happen so much more smoothly when I am patient and let them unfold in their time. The wood is beautiful. I like a high gloss too, and I find painting, or trim work, or restoring something to be very methodical and relaxing too. Most people look at me like I'm nuts when I say this but there is a simpleness is repeated motions that is very calming.....

  13. I wonder why humans always are in such a hurry for the next thing when it is the moment we are in which is so very important? And really, the ONLY thing.

  14. Forcing growth to another level is what I try on a regular basis in recovery. Learning compassion for where I am at and to sit still is difficult. I survived by constantly moving in many areas of my life to avoid pain.
    Today in Alanon I learn to sit with my thoughts and practice trusting there is a HP to help guide me through rough times.

  15. I love the butterfly story. I've heard it before and think it's my favorite. Thanks for reminding me about the butterfly story, and about patience.


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