The Gift

We all face crises at one time or another. It is a common experience of the human race. But the other night I was given a gift. In my mind’s eye, I stood looking over the edge of the abyss, feeling all the usual emotions of terror and dread at the ordeal ahead. Then I saw something I hadn’t seen happen quite like this. Where fear and uncertainty had been at the heart of my being, now there was peace and assurance, as though one picture had slid into the place of the other. Oh, the abyss was just as dreadful, but gone was the certainty that I was going to end up at the bottom.

The Cabinet

We are told, by those who know such things, that necessity is the mother of invention. But what isn’t mentioned in that bromide is the central role played by that inward assurance and peace in giving us the ability to think creatively in the grip of the crisis.

I have heard many “sermons” about the indomitable human spirit. But this gift wasn’t from me. I know its source wasn’t me because I am good at magnifying the terror to the point of paralysis.

Our creativity doesn’t have to be driven by the demands of crises, but there always is that element of peace and assurance at the bottom.

The cabinet I recently devised to house my turning tools and lathe accessories is a case in point. (The plans are available for sale for $2.95 from That idea came in response to the need to fit my shop into a too small space. I could say that necessity was part of the impetus for the idea. So was that inward sense of tranquility.

Or consider the photo in the header of this blog. That was the view from the site where I was building our current straw bale house. That photo was taken a short time before the 2006 Casper Mountain fire that has left those trees blackened snags. The fire burned up to within 50 feet of my building project and stacked straw bales. Again necessity was a component, but what really saved us from being burned out was an insight whose source came from that inward peace and assurance that “no harm will come to this valley.” It was the result of that insight that allowed us to make adequate preparations in the time between the thin thread of smoke in the east and that inexorable march of flame over the ridge two days later.

Vessel from Juniper

My last example is the juniper vessel pictured here and in an earlier post. There was no necessity involved in its construction. It was not necessity that tipped the balance as I stood considering it when about half completed. “Was it going to turn out to be any good, or should I just throw it away and start something else?” Many’s the time I have sat at a vendor table with my turnings and watched people come past. They would pick up that juniper vessel, close their eyes, and rub their hands over the waxed surface. No matter how harried they may have been earlier, they always had a look of peace on their face until, with a sigh, they set the vessel down. They always remarked something like, “I love the feel of wood,” no matter how many times they came back to go through the same motions. Alas, somebody bought it!

Enough for today’s rampling.

Ellis Hein, author of The Woodturner’s Project Book

Have you seen the plans I have up for sale for the space saving cabinet?

About Ellis Hein

I am a woodturner and the author of The Woodturner's Project Book. I have a life-long interest in the gospel preached by George Fox and the early Quakers. You can see some of my material on that subject at
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