Whittling Away the Hours

Well, by now I have pretty much got the hang of this “Staycation/Quarantine” and in truth I thought it would be easier. After all, I’m retired and I live in the woods of the Olympic mountains in Washington State. I thrive on self-isolation.

But staying put and being told to stay put are two different things. I’m a bit of a rebel, but I am smart enough not to try to tempt the hands of fate with an actual plague. I was tempted, though, when the TV said that the vulnerable aged must stay home. And I thought of the sweet 103 year-old organist at my church. Then the guy in TV said, “You know ,over 60.” What? And my husband had to remind me that I almost died of an autoimmune disease. Oh yeah. That! Bummer.

Self-isolation by choice is a lot more fun. I once went on a month-long painting retreat. It was awesome. To be honest, I did more playing and drinking than painting. But hey, we creative types get our inspiration from life.

So I decided to make the most of the current situation. However, my plans to reorganize every closet ended when I realized I had more stuff than closet so I ended up putting all the extra in a farther away closet. I was beginning to get despondent. My first attempt to deal with the reality of the quarantine was to cut it in half — not by refusing to self-isolate, but by sleeping until noon.

Then the homemade bread phase kicked in. It seems all of America hoards ripe bananas in their freezers. Once I dislodged the bananas from the freezer there was room for an entire 25-lb turkey. The problem is, of course, once you make the 35 loaves of banana bread what can you do with it if you are trying to stay away from people? Yeah, back into the freezer. But at least this time the square loaves can stack like bricks. The bread thing ended when I accumulated the Quarantine-ten on the scale. It was time to exercise.

About week four, my husband took me for a ride into the mountains to hike on old forest roads. These are seriously deserted roads. There I stumbled, literally, over my destiny. A piece of driftwood. Well, an old stump to be exact. It spoke to me. Okay, I spoke to it first and it wasn’t Sunday School language. But there it was, begging me to bring it home. I had little choice.

You see, I have a condition called pareidolia. It’s not contagious, but my husband has it too. We see faces in everything: shag rugs, toast, tapioca, and wood. There in front of me was a sculpture of slithering, hopping, and crawling creatures that would make Dante’s Inferno proud. Well, it would be once I carved its greatness into being. I got out my tools, which included my Cutco knife because they say it will cut anything. And remembering my whittling days as a Girl Scout in 1964, I kept the knife blade away from me and started chipping away. If you have never whittled, may I suggest starting with a soft bar of soap and a plastic knife. That way you likely will not draw blood and if you hate it you can always wash your hands with the chips and the sculpture. Can’t get enough hand washing, am I right? I

While I whittled, I felt like Grampa Walton on the front porch. Here are the benefits of a slow, creative project.


One, you can ignore all your chores because your art calls you.

Two, you aren’t as likely to boredom-binge food because you are hyperfocused.

Three, you can afford a simple craft and it gives you satisfaction that you have accomplished something.

Four, you can dream about being discovered and selling your handmade art for millions. Go Gramma Moses.

Let’s face it, we have the hours now. Never too early to make Christmas gifts either.

Hobgoblin Tango Sally Franz

Photo credit: Hobgoblin Tango, whittled by Sally Franz

Sally Franz and her third husband live on the Olympic Peninsula. She has two daughters, a stepson, and three grandchildren. Sally is the author of several humor books including Scrambled Leggs: A Snarky Tale of Hospital Hooey and The Baby Boomer’s Guide to Menopause

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