7. Tools

For the tool that shapes the maker and the made. We see its marks upon the craft, the kerf of saw teeth or the grace of a nib, the fine dice of an onion or the coarse hewing of logs. We see its owner’s marks upon it: the wooden handle of an ancient tool, its grip worn smooth, valleyed soft by one man’s fingers, shaped by one man’s hand. But what of the hand that shaped it? How was it shaped in turn? Not the scars that surely hatch its skin—mere leftovers of temporary hurts, forgotten like frost in May. To take a tool into your hand is peril, not from its edge but from its handle, and to the hand that takes it. I mean its shape — the fingers cramped around the knife, the saw, the axe, the pen, that wield it in their sleep, that hold it invisible, that move it unbidden as if conscious. And what of the arm and the shoulder that move the hand? What of the old man’s heart and mind that after endless practice learned to desire what the tool desires, what its subject needs? When the mind’s own paths are worn and valleyed soft, when will cedes the work to hard-won habit, who then is the maker, and who the made? Who is in whose grip? The man’s is quick and firm but easily released: the tool’s is slow but loth to let him go. Handle it with care, and not too lightly.

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