On Learning A Craft



Last night I was reading through my “new” Woodwind Quarterly magazines that I bought just a few days ago in a nearly complete collection from another repairman.  These are old, repair-centered periodicals that were published for a brief time in the 1990s until 2001.  Very geeky, extremely interesting, and packed with amazing knowledge.  I’ve never read them before, and I am finding them fascinating reading.  I also happened to be reading at night during a power outage, so I was reading in silence by oil lamp.

Among the many new ideas I found, I also found some ideas that I had come upon myself, or perhaps ideas I had nibbled around the edges of and found much more fully realized in the pages of these old magazines- magazines published while I was in middle and high school.  I also found a mention of an Georgia-based repairman named Sheldon Kanis, who I spoke to maybe a year or so ago after he found out he was sick and was looking to sell some horns (I had no cash at the time but pointed him in the direction of a few folks who might).  I hadn’t known at the time who he was other than a fellow repairman, and a very nice gentleman on the phone, who I was sad to learn that I was meeting just as he fell ill- and I found myself just last night wishing that I had talked to him more because it seemed he would have an awful lot to teach me if he had the time to spare.  I thought perhaps of digging through my emails and giving him a call.  And then I found out he passed on earlier today.

Late last night and this morning, before knowing Sheldon had left us but with him in mind, I got to ruminating on our craft, and this morning I put this on my Facebook wall:

“Learning a craft is like climbing a fog-shrouded mountain.  Tracks of others that have climbed are all around- at times densely packed on a well-worn trail you may follow, at times you are alone in the silence and mist.  Some tracks are recent and identifiable, some that disappear upwards are worn, obscured, ancient. Sometimes, the fog will clear below you, showing how far you have come.  More rarely, the fog will clear above you, allowing you to see how far you have to go- an immense distance; you will not reach the summit in your lifetime.  But you keep going because it is not about reaching the top, but about leaving footprints.”