The Work of the Hands

Written by Josh Braden, Ridgelines Facilitator


As I sit down to reflect for this piece, my hair is still wet from this evening’s Ridgelines swim in the Little River. We were surprised with brilliantly warm weather today and spent the late afternoon hauling tree rounds, splitting wood, and stacking it. Between the dirt, sweat (does your February body still remember sweat?), and a desire to celebrate the completed task, we found the water to be a welcome and playful friend. Half of us entered, the rest were splashed.


We’re really beginning to gather a space down by the river. There now exists a tin-roof shelter, a half-cord of firewood, and a set of stairs built into the bank. It’s beautiful what hands and mind can create. My eye sees the space and recalls who put what bolt in where, who dug which hole for the foundation, who broke which drill bit and how, and who totally missed with the splitting maul. That’s all of us at some point, so keep swingin', dude.

The work of the hands is the stuff of life for me. It is my practice. It is my joy, my burden, my place of creativity, a primary channel for my energy, and presently, how I make a living. Time and time again, I can think of no better context for mentoring than physical work. I can think of no better field for engaging teenage boys than an actual field - an actual field that we have to move a whole locust tree across, or that we ride and bounce across in the back of an enormous, crotchety pickup truck. These experiences require something of and ignite something in a person. The same goes for the tools we use. You should see how just holding an axe makes the boys feel. It’s amazing. Heck, you should see the way it makes me feel. I feel like one powerful man. The field, the hand-tool, like an honest friend, simply asks things of you in a way that Netflix or videogames can’t quite ask. And in our heart of hearts, the honest friend is the one we truly want. So I think we’ll keep returning to that field, our shelter-space, and our tools to see what might be asked of us.


Published on February 26th, 2018

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