““It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see.”
—Henry David Thoreau
It’s early February and I haven’t ridden much in weeks due to weather, but I have kept myself busy with other motorcycle-related projects. I find myself at a crossroads physically, dealing with the still lingering side effects of Lyme disease and nerve pain associated with a spinal stenosis flare-up. This while I watch my mother undergo chemo treatments without complaint. Compared to her trials, mine seem miniscule, but when you’ve self-identified as an athlete for most of your life and then are no longer able to, it’s a difficult transition.
I wasn’t raised to complain, but pain is pain and causes limitations that you can’t ignore forever. Once you’ve raised a child and buried a parent, however, life loses some of its ability to knock you off your stride. I do find myself having to adjust course, redefine myself, and accept some new physical restrictions, though. Thankfully riding isn’t one of them; but the time I would normally have spent working out has been replaced by remodeling my home and, of course, tinkering with and upgrading my motorcycle. This year’s additions included LED headlights, engine guards, grip pads, tank pads, and a peg lowering kit.
Last summer I replaced a worn-out chain and sprockets and, rather than throw the old parts out, hung them on a pegboard in my garage in a pattern that resembled a sort of misshapen face: the draped chain formed a wide smile beneath two dirty, mismatched sprocket eyes. I started thinking it’d be a pleasant diversion, and a nice addition to the home I’m decorating, to make something from the parts. A clock seemed like an obvious choice.
I’ve never considered myself particularly crafty, and if you’ve read any of my old blog posts you know that my history with tools is at best a humorous one. I found the clock-making process, however, to be cathartic and motivating. I figured I’d either end up with something original to hang in my home, or a mess of a conversation piece to hide in the garage and laugh about over a beer and to remind me of a pleasant distraction during a particularly stressful winter.
I’m happy with the way the piece eventually turned out. I’m glad to have had a few hours every other day over the weeks it took to finish it to focus on creating something unique, rather than dwelling on mom’s impending treatments and my own nagging pains. The welcome distraction of cleaning and painting, finding the right clock movement and perfect curved glass to cover it and the materials to hold it all together, served as a metaphor for me. Though the parts may be worn-out and past being useful in the manner intended, they needn’t be discarded and can, with a change of focus and intent, be put to another use: to start over and live a second, previously un-imagined life.
The clock I made now hangs in my sunroom. The chain and sprockets it is made from propelled me some 15,000 miles over the better part of two years. I’m sure each link represents a dozen memories from that time. Several people have told me I could make them to sell, but the value to me isn’t in what it might be worth but rather in what it represents. By craftsman standards I’m sure it would be considered amateurish at best. Just like motorcycle riding though, the lasting value is never in the arriving, in the completion. The lasting value is in the process; in how much you change, reflect, and grow along the way and in what memories the effort leaves you with. In the words of Henry Miller, “One’s destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things.”
Regarding my recycled timepiece, I will always see far more in it than there is to look at. This may even become a winter ritual. When the weather warms, I’ll get started on the next recycling project, maybe a pendulum clock this time, or a lamp of some sort. I can’t decide; but I’m in no hurry. It’ll take another 15,000 miles or so to get the parts ready …