About a month ago, I made a decision to take an interest in what my dad does for a living. Having been a cabinet maker and sculptor his whole life, the world of wood working was always at my fingertips, but something I never explored. I regret not spending more time with my dad as a kid, or at least taking more of an interest in what he does. With one of his projects on the go back home, I took a month out of my all important life to help my dad build a guest cabin.
Helping my dad build the guest cabin is like helping David Beckham kick a soccer ball. Every move I make or question I ask is a trip, snag or full blown haemorrhage in the plans of the master. My dad is not a sporadic person. The idea of a guest cabin came into existence more than 6 years ago. Due to back pain, long winters, and paid work, the hobby house was constantly being pushed to the back burner. During that time, its finer points were constantly under refinement until now, when all of the speculation becomes a course of action.
The guest cabin is affectionately named “Fort Conger”, after an outpost at the northernmost point of Canada where an expedition of men became stranded and ate each other. Many of the last alive kept rigid journals of their descent into madness before marching off into the snow and dying. After many lengthy explanations, Dad clarifies that the title is mostly used in jest, but the cabin’s theme is pulled from the winters of solitude the men endured there. “Our Fort Conger will be a place of contemplation.”
On top of many structural and artistic decisions, each piece within the house was specifically chosen: a Norwegian stove representing Fridtjof Nansen who lived at Fort Conger, my great-grandfather’s armchair, and the phrase carved by one of the explorers, “Inveniam Viam Aut Faciam” meaning, “Find a Way or Make a Way.” Within the creative vein of my father’s past, the guest cabin has become more than a place for guests to stay, it has become a work of art.
So here I am, a twenty-two year with a diploma in acting and a semester of high school woodworking under my belt as his apprentice. On his turf, with his careful gaze upon my every move, my hands respond like over-inflated water balloons. After two days of doing almost everything wrong, I had to accept that my place was to carry things, move stuff out of his way, and observe.
As a young man, you don’t look at your father much, not unless he’s mad at you. In a desperate fear to build an identity away from our parents, it seems that we overlook them as sources of influence or knowledge in our life. I look at him now: a middle-aged man on 10 acres of property in one of the most beautiful places in world, married to my wonderful mother, doing what he loves and with only one shit-head son to support. Perhaps my youthful ambition to become super rich and famous has blinded me to the subtle things in life.
After every day of working, my dad goes out to the job site to look at the work he has just done. He compliments, reflects on, and revels in a job well done and plans for the day of work to come. He wakes up in the morning and tells of thoughts he had while falling asleep to further improve or build upon the task at hand. He mulls it over at breakfast, lunch and dinner. He discusses the next step from every angle before stepping outside to put it into motion. Obsessive compulsive? Semi-neurotic? Or passionate? Whatever it is, it’s hard to imagine finding something in my life that is as fulfilling and totally my own as this is to him. As I prepare to head back to school for another semester, I can only hope that I find something that makes me slightly as obsessive compulsive, semi-neurotic and passionate as my dad.
Happy Father’s Day Dad, and to all the other quirky fathers out there.