One day, when my son was eight, he came home from school and excitedly asked me if he could join cub scouts. Outdoor activity, camping, fishing, I thought. “Sure,” I said. I attended the meetings and was happy to help out, so it wasn’t long before I was asked to be the leader of my son’s den. Well, as the newly appointed leader, I sat down with the book and began brainstorming fun things we could do to earn their badges without any “classroom time.”
One of their badges was learning the water cycle. Another badge was learning to identify at least 10 different trees, and describe the various properties and uses of their wood. And another was a wood working project. I always looked for points of convergence where we could earn as many things as possible at once, so I determined we would go to Noland’s Fork Creek. Here, in the summer, while standing in the stream, we would see where the run-off from a farmer’s field formed a creek, which fed a larger creek, which fed the Whitewater River, which filled the Brookville Reservoir, and in time dumped into the Ohio River, and on down emptied into the Mississippi, and then the ocean before returning as rain. I took maps, we had lunch on the bank, skipped rocks, identified trees, and each boy collected a piece of wood we could turn into a clock at our upcoming lock-in. Get a boy in a creek and tell him he can get wet, muddy and dirty and there is fun aplenty!
Most of the pieces of wood came out of log-jams in the river. As I collected each boy’s gray, dirty piece of wet wood and tagged it with their name, I hoped we would have a variety of different woods when it came time to make the clocks. There really wasn’t much to the idea outside of requiring some simple woodworking tools and a five-dollar clock face.
It was so much fun to see the creativity in each boy as he decided how he wanted to turn his piece of wood into a clock. The excitement on each boy’s face was priceless as I cut through the gray “veneer” the river and elements had given it and the inner beauty of each piece of wood was revealed. Cherry, oak, walnut, maple, locust, we had all different types! We ate pizza, and while they watched a movie before lights out, I gave the clocks two coats of lacquer before carefully inserting the clock faces. Each boy proudly presented his clock to his parents at pick up the next morning. I went home and took a nap.
That was many years ago now. When I look in the mirror I see an older man…but the lines in my face and the gray in my hair sometimes make me think of that wood. It seems to me that the river of life does much to weather us and turn us gray, hiding the beauty inside. Society has very specific rules for us: don’t reveal too much, or you will get hurt.
I know we are all made unique. The lines in my face and the light in my life have given me the wisdom to understand one thing. The voice inside that says to keep hidden the things that make me different…that voice is telling the same lie to everyone else.