I will not live to finish this carving.
I work on it, though, every day that I can. Every day that my hands are steady enough, that the pain allows, I work hour by hour, to do what I can do. I can not walk anymore, but I can still carve.
I will not live to finish this carving, but still I continue, even though it would be easier to rest. Even though it will not be finished, there is something of me in the shape of the flowers, in the curl of the vines, in the soft feathers of the birds. I chose where they sit, and someone looking at this carving once I’m gone will still be able to see something of me.
If it were finished, though, more might see it. Unfinished, perhaps the only one to find it will be whoever takes care of my things once I’m gone. It will never be put on display somewhere, for my children, my grandchildren to see.
Still, I work.
The knife slips in my shaking fingers, slashing across flowers and vines, ruining the bird I spent so many hours on. I stare in disbelief, while cold fills my heart. I could almost die this moment. Ruined, I think. My carving destroyed. Not that it mattered. I would never live long enough to finish it. I want to set it down, to leave my tools aside, perhaps to never pick it up again. So tired, I am, why do I keep working on this? My hands are too unsteady, my eyes too dim. Look, by my ambition and stubbornness, I have destroyed it!
I lay the carving in my lap and lean back in my chair. The pain in my heart is stronger than the pain in my body.
I will not live to finish this carving, but I can not leave it marred.
Though my tool feels like lead in my hand, I lift it again. Gently, carefully, patiently, I begin to remove all the things I ruined. Flowers, leaves, I change the bird so that it is turned, twisted, the part of it’s body I cut is free now behind it. It leaves an empty gap, dark, sad, across the middle of the carving.
An empty gap, an opening, to what might be behind. I take my knife and begin to explore the space. It is not emptiness back there, but something in the distance, something I could not see before the curtain of vines parted. There is a house, tiny in the background, with porch steps and a partly open door. I scratch in the lines, the roof, the smooth sky behind. It invites, it beckons.
All this time, I was carving a house. I never would have known it. The vines and flowers I labored over were only a part of the picture. It is that house, deep inside, a place to belong, a place to go, that I wanted to make for those to come after.
I may not live to finish this carving, but what I have finished is beautiful.