尼娜•麦克劳林，毕业于宾夕法尼亚大学的英语与古典文化研究专业，曾任《波士顿凤凰报》的编辑，并为 《信徒》 （Believer）、《书痴》（Bookslut）、《洛杉矶书评》（Los Angeles Review of Books）等刊物供稿。2008年，尼娜毅然辞职，告别了熟悉、稳定的传媒行业，转而成为一名木匠助理，开始了全新的职业生涯。成为木匠并没有降低尼娜对文字的敏感度，在打磨木料的同时，她还经营着自己的博客，用键盘记录、分享作为一名木匠的经历与见解。
The jobs change. We go in and out of other’s people’s homes. A room becomes a different room, altered, with some of its essence intact. Loose tiles become a floor. Boards become shelves. Wood becomes a wall. Places change. Homes change. Weather changes. We change. How do we decide what’s right for our own lives? The question never gets easier to answer. If we’re lucky and we pay attention, pieces here and there will start to fit together. Parts shift into place, feel flush underneath the skin of the fingertip. For a moment, the bubble dips and shifts to show you level, at home with what you are, what you have become, and what you are becoming.
The novelist Gabriel García Márquez once told the Paris Review that “ultimately, literature is nothing but carpentry. . . . Both are very hard work. . . . With both you are working with reality, a material just as hard as wood.” It’s true that writing and carpentry both require patience and practice, and both revolve around the effort of making something right and good. Both involve getting it wrong over and over, and being able to stay with it until it is right. In both, the best way of understanding something is often by taking it apart. In both, small individual pieces combine and connect to make something larger, total, whole. In both, we start with nothing and end with something.
every problem on the job—in fact, very few of them—could be solved with brute strength. When a piece of trim wouldn’t come out of the window frame, or a cabinet wouldn’t settle to level, or when things seemed jammed or stuck or too thickly glued or caulked or impossible to square or non-cooperative in whatever way, it was my impulse to opt for muscle over mind, to accomplish what needed accomplishing by force of body and will. My reservoir of patience was shallow and quickly drained. Thwarted, my mind got tight and hot, and body reacted in kind, fast and dumb. In this way, I broke things. I broke drill bits, pieces of trim, glass. I put dents and punctures in walls and floors, and, in one unfortunate slip, the soft meat of my palm where a scar marks the spot. “Finesse,” Mary said often. In other words, be gentle, go slow, don’t rip and yank with all your might. Let the materials tell you which way they want to go. Use your mind and listen closely. Allow physics and the tools and patience to get the job done. “It’s all about coaxing,” Mary said. “Knowing where to put the pressure.”
Poplar is a creamy colored wood with swirls of green and sometimes a streak of purple in the grain like a final strip of a winter-sky sunset. It’s an inexpensive hardwood and resistant to the dings and dents of a high-use space like a pantry. Hard- and softwood qualification has to do with how the tree handles reproduction. To raise ghosts from freshman-year biology: angiosperms, the ones that produce seeds with a covering, typically deciduous trees (the ones that lose their leaves), are hardwood trees. Mahogany, walnut, oak, teak, and ash are examples of hardwood. Pine, spruce, cedar, and redwood, coniferous trees, are softwoods, gymnosperms all. Their seeds fly naked in the wind. Softwoods grow fast, and are usually cheaper than hard. Hardwoods are typically denser (balsa wood, of those swooping two-piece airplanes from summer backyards, is an exception).