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patterns of ink

How fruitless to be ever thinking yet never embrace a thought... to have the power to believe and believe it's all for naught. I, too, have reckoned time and truth (content to wonder if not think) in metaphors and meaning and endless patterns of ink. Perhaps a few may find their way to the world where others live, sharing not just thoughts I've gathered but those I wish to give. Tom Kapanka

Saturday, May 28, 2011

From and Arm's Length...

I was going to plant tomatoes this morning and do yard work for the "wedding weekend" all day, but it was raining--just enough to postpone those tasks for a few hours. So I spent some time putting together a video that has been simmering on the back burner since 2008.

A few years back, before we sold the family homestead, I took some random video shots of the inside of Dad's barn. We always called it "the barn," but it was really more of a huge tool shed that Dad built the second year we owned the property. The story of how we settled the land and made it our home is told in many chapters beginning here. That first year we cleared parts of the heavily wooded land, and Dad set aside the straightest logs to build the barn, which was finished just before the first snow of '69. That winter, we sometimes spent the night "roughin' it" in the barn as Dad used to call it...just for fun.

The barn (which years later was deemed a work of art by the building inspector) became home to more and more stuff over time. Through the decades, it housed three different tractors, and though at first glance it looks a mess, in many respects (along with Mom's attic) it was the most familiar time capsule of my life for forty years.

When Dad died in '95, we continued using the work space in the barn, but many of the corners and overhead areas and the countless things that hung here and there remained untouched for fifteen years. Barns are like that.

As we anticipated selling the house and property, I knew that this familiar space with its smell of rope and creosote and sawdust and chainsaw oil would soon be a place for someone else to use as they saw fit, so I shot some footage, which remained untouched in my video files for three years. I knew at the time that I wanted to use this Newman piece from The Natural called, "A Father Makes a Difference." It has no lyrics, but its title gives meaning to every measure. The poem is something I wrote, framed, and gave to Dad on Father's Day 1994 (not knowing it would be our last). I first posted the lines six years ago.

I see my father’s hands in mine—
not in my clasp
but in the flesh and form and line
of span and grasp.
It’s not the look that came with age.
I see that when
my lamp-lit fingers press a page
or hold a pen.
But when my grip takes on a task
or holds a tool,
my palms and fingers seem to ask
if as a rule,
hard work alone gives hands their worth—
not just their pain.
If so, then sweat must mix with earth
as well as rain
to dampen new-sown dreams and seep
...into the soil
where hope takes root in things that keep
and call for toil.

But who am I to talk of such…
hard work I mean…
I’ve not attempted half as much
as what I’ve seen,
and what I’ve done is only more
or less child’s play
(like completing a morning’s chore
that takes all day).
Occasionally, however,
I’ve had to rise
to the call of some endeavor
that otherwise
I’d never do…or even try.
And when It’s done,
I stretch my arms toward the sky
and setting sun,
and in the glow I almost see
my father’s strength—
his hands are there (or seem to be)
from an arm’s length.
 Tom Kapanka
(8/4 count) © Copyright 1994, Patterns of Ink

By the way, I did get the yard work done and the tomatoes planted, but I must admit it was a case of "completing a morning's chore that takes all day."

For more pictures of the barn and its former suroundings, click this link to the November 2008 Archives.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

That sort of reminds me of the place my folks had when I was born. I was a "surprise" baby in their middle years...and they'd purchased the place about 3 or so years before (an acreage) to raise their young family. The thought was it would instill a work-ethic in the 3 as it had a large yard, a large Victory garden and orchard. My dad was very handy, an electrician by trade, so he had a building devoted to his "work-shop". This was where he retreated in the evenings to re-build, re-finish and sometimes build items. I used to like to follow him there and dig around in his tools etc. A fun place to explore (with supervision). My parents were somewhat, pack-rats, perhaps a lay-over from Depression days. So when it was time for The Hub and I to down-size and move and really NEEDED to re-adjust my emotional feelings about "things". Had to use the "want vs need" mentality HUGELY in the endeavor!! Watching your video brought back nostalgic memories. Thank you for sharing!

29/5/11 12:57 PM  
Blogger patterns of ink said...

WSL no longer in Wisconsin,
It makes me smile that total strangers can carry on a pleasant conversation over time. I imagine it was hard to downsize for the move to Florida. I hadn't thought of it that way, but I suppose the reason we never really cleaned out the barn until we sold the place was there was just no need to. It was a huge job, though. Most of the sort of "stuff" that had gathered there fell into the "might need that for parts" category. Scraps of metal and lumber, etc. Other than the tools there was not much of value out there. I did find the old Duncan Phyfe out there--the one from the story--and brought that home a couple years before we sold the place. It's down in our basement. Julie uses if for her sewing and crafts table, which right now means it's buried in wedding decorations. Thanks for stopping by and sharing. We enjoyed our five days in Florida last week. Came back to 50 degree temps in Michigan--not typical May weather.

29/5/11 2:26 PM  
Anonymous Steve Elmore said...

What a beautiful poem, Tom. I was naturally assuming it was written but Whitman or Frost. So when I read that you were its author, it was quite refreshing! Thanks for sharing your video and creativity with us. I remember your father as one of the kindest, nicest men I ever knew. It was always a pleasure spending time with your family when I was much younger. You have a fantastic family heritage to pass on to your kids.

30/5/11 8:36 AM  
Blogger patterns of ink said...

Good to hear from you. I trust all is well for you. Frost! Now that is high praise. He is one of my favorites!
I sometimes tell some of my experienced teachers that I have former students older than them. I'm not saying that to make you feel old; I'm saying that to make you feel experienced, but the funny thing is my former students are still "kids" in my mind. I can still see you singing "Supper Time" as Snoopy back in '83. I keep in touch with your folks, too. As I recall, your dad was also quite handy and helped me with some projects back in the day. Take care!

30/5/11 9:59 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If by hard work you mean physical labor, perhaps not Tom, but you certainly have toiled and put in the hours in your chosen vocation. It's the same work "ethic" in a different "field". (poetic?)

31/5/11 7:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing these thoughts.

31/5/11 10:13 PM  
Anonymous Debbie said...

I stumbled on your "Dad's Barn" video by accident, then came to your blog. The video and poem with voice over is beautiful. You have a God given gift. Thank you for sharing it with the world!

21/6/11 2:15 PM  
Blogger patterns of ink said...

Welcome to POI. Accidentally stumbling upon something is sometimes the best way to discover it. But thank you for sharing such kind word with a stranger.

21/6/11 11:10 PM  

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