It has been a week since I have been in the Ship Smith Shop in Mystic Seaport. The reason? THANKSGIVING. My break started early Sunday morning with a drive to Boston to pick up my mother who then stayed with me in Mystic for Monday and Tuesday. She had never been to the Museum before so I figured it was my job to see that she got the full experience. More than that, I wanted her to enjoy herself but also come to understand why I love being here so much and, if I may be needy, get her full approval on the spot. Now, my mom and I usually do not do museums together. Honestly, we are both a little bit too ADD for it and when you put us together our patience with static exhibits drops to a hair above nonexistent. Luckily for us most of the Museum is not static! True, there are some exhibits that act more like art museums than interactive maritime play havens but we did not focus on those. In the end, we did not get to see much of the Museum but we DID spend quite a bit of time in the Ship Smith and in the Print Shop.
I leaned a few things over those two days- 1. The terms uppercase and lowercase for lettering come from the actual placement of cases of letters in a print shop. The capital letters were kept in the “upper case” and the normal letters were kept in the “lower case” 2. Type setters did not look at the type they were setting for printing, much like a person who is good at typing does not look at the keys 3. I get many of my “I’m excited” mannerisms from my mother, including but not limited to exclamations with silent clapping, quick repetitive nodding, and talking out my thoughts about what is going on audibly to myself.
By the time we left I think she was truly excited about what I am learning here and does want me to continue learning for as long as I can make it work; an act of encouragement that, coupled with my father’s enthusiastic support, means a lot.
But anyhow, more on that and my life decisions later. It was then off to Lowell Massachusetts to see the rest of her side of the family (except for an Uncle and Aunt who live back in Florida). I am sure that many of you have done thanksgiving or some other holiday with family or a family of friends so you know how that goes. No need to detail my family and our craziness here. But I do want to let you know the many different reactions I got from people when I told them that I am learning blacksmithing. I learned to be ready for the seemingly mandatory but always stressful question of “so, what are you doing now?”
Responses: confusion, pride, excitement because I could make them something cool, happiness that I seemed happy, surprise, “why?”, a blank stare, “well what are you going to do”?, whole hearted appreciation and support because I need not do this forever and perhaps will not do this forever but the possibility and applications are endless and heck it makes for a damn good story, telling me that this is my niche so I really had better realize that and stick with it, “Oh my gosh don’t get hurt!!”, “A what? Those exist?”, and one of my favorites- the guffaw followed by a few slow appreciative head nods.
I can understand where most of those reactions came from and, weirdly enough, I think I am thankful for getting them all. The responses to what I am doing ran the gamut and in doing so made me ride an emotional roller coaster I experienced everything from seriously considering that I should just pack up my bags and leave the forge if I know what’s good for me, to wanting to stay for as long as possible learning everything I can about everything I see here. At this point I am leaning in the latter direction. I have basically decided that, even though my time on the Sprightly Fellowship will be ending in a few weeks, I am going to try to stay around learning for as long as I can. I am applying for a job in the Ship Yard to work on the Charles W. Morgan, which may or may not pan out, and am looking for a place within walking distance of the Museum to stay in for at least a few more months. This decision is not final for me just yet, I might figure something else out or need to do something else for whatever reason, but my Thanksgiving taught me how much I missed being in the shop every day and how much more I have to learn. I hope that my almost choice is not mediated by a fear of not knowing what to do next but rather by excitement for what I am doing now, but there are moments when the lines between the two are blurred. I hope that what I said to my good friend Stephanie this morning was true, that choosing to stay in a place is not the same as getting stuck in one. What I know is that I am excited by the prospect of learning more about this craft. I am excited about the people who I am learning from and the people I am meeting. I am excited to, potentially and if all goes well, to learn more about boat building and other essential maritime crafts as well as how they are being passed on. And sometimes, if I think hard enough, I am excited about this life on land with my body in work and heart contemplating the sea, solid in some ways but wafting hither and thither in others, turning my head to the sun and gazing at the horizon.