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Tuesday, January 17, 2006


"Behold, good Cabinet Maker, the ancient and mysterious forest! I command you, turn this into a fine dining room set! Upholster the chairs in red leather, and I'd like real leaded glass panes in the curio cabinet."


"Here, take this screwdriver and paint brush. You'll need these to screw the boards together and of course to spread the polyurethane after you sand and stain everything. No too much, though. Matte finish, please. I will leave you to your work." He leans over and pushes me out of the truck, closes the door tips his hat, then drives away with a truck full of tools and Joe, the lumberjack, who's dozing in the back seat.

"Ummm... Really? OK. What?"

I stare at the wall of trees and vines for a week. Eventually, the barest outlines of plan start to form: I must find dry wood on the ground to build a fire, find rocks, iron ore, smelt it, fashion a saw of sorts, maybe a dozen different saws, etc.. The more I think about it, the more confused I become; I am astounded at the scope. I'll need to find and cut down hardwoods, saw them into boards. Build a lathe, a chemistry bench, formulate a stain, re-invent polymers, produce polyurethane in quantity. Make nails, screws, glue, glass, sandpaper. I sigh. I try a few times to throw the screwdriver just right so it sticks in the ground.

This project will take many years. I have a month. I call my boss to ask for assistance. "Do you really want abalone shell inlay? Where do I get that?"

"From the ocean."

"Is there an ocean nearby?"

"Of course there's a ocean nearby. It's on the other side of the forest. Once you've cleared a road through the trees, paved it, and installed street lights, you'll be able to tow your boat out to the lake."


"Yes, a small one should do. I figure you'll have enough lumber leftover - look how many trees there are! Oh, GPS might be useful too. Your choice, though. Whatever you think is best. Anyway, you need to cross the lake, sail north 60 miles then through the channel with the whirlpool. Or is it south? Whichever, just look for the volcano. Once you get past the whirlpool, you'll see a fishing village. Win the trust of the tribal chief, marry his daughter. When your first child is born, offer it to the god of the volcano. At sunrise the next day, the sun will appear atop a distant mountain peak. The ocean is just beyond a desert on the other side of that mountain."


"Just holler if you need some help. I'll be on the beach with Joe."

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