Moving Fast to Build Slow

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A man who dares to waste one hour of time has not discovered the value of life.
— Charles Darwin

As 2017 winds down I’m thinking a lot about time. I’m already noticing, after only 2 days of working with Dan, how time means something different to the self-employed person. It’s Saturday, and I’m not thinking of it as a weekend, but rather a day in which there are decisions to be made about what to work on. Perhaps I might slow down a bit and tackle less than I would on a weekday, or perhaps not. After all, Dan is spending the day chipping up branches and milling timbers—tasks as onerous as any he’d tackle on any given Tuesday. I’m starting to suspect that Dan has always seen weekends this way, and when he’d tell me “I’ll be working this weekend,” it was mainly a term he used for my benefit, and that he hasn’t thought of weekends the way most people think of weekends, for many, many years.

And now, with both of us working for Ogonek Custom Hardwoods, I can see the possibility of the word “weekend” losing its meaning entirely, especially now that we are beginning to homeschool our son and no longer have the structured schedules of 9-to-5 work or school days imposed upon us. We are truly masters of our own time. I really hope what Jack Canfield said is true: “Everything you want is on the other side of fear,” because something feels a little scary about this to me, a person who has been ruled by schedules for as long as I can remember. It's going to take some getting used to.

Sometimes I explain timber framing as “slow building,” since people seem familiar with the ideas of slow food or slow fashion. A couple days ago I stood in the shop watching Justin expertly shave the flat surface of a lap joint with a hand chisel, one millimeter of red oak peeling off at a time. This slow, focused care is what makes timber framing so special. At the same moment, Dan wasn’t even at the shop. He was out on a day-full of errands to obtain materials, tools, parts, fuel, supplies, meet with current and prospective customers, suppliers, agents, bankers. Dan moves pretty fast all day to make slow building possible.

That same day he called me around sunset to find out if there was still time between Danny’s dinner and bedtime to squeeze in a snowman-building session. There wasn’t, but we made time anyway. Because we are also committing ourselves slower living, which ironically seems to require moving much faster. In this season for me of learning to think, and move and work differently, I wish the blessings of slower living for all.

Leah Ogonek