I am moving offices. Our school just brought a community pastor on board, and we want her to have an office with good visibility and high traffic. My home for the last 9 years fits the bill, and so I was asked if I would be willing to move. I am very happy to do this, and was offered a couple of offices that have recently emptied. The one I choose has good light, is a nice size and is set back a bit from the traffic. It will serve me well, and I am glad to have it. I was invited to move my furniture upstairs, or to leave it behind and get something from university stores (good, gently used goods). I asked to see what was in the office of the retiring colleague vacating my preferred location.
I had never really noticed before, but he had an old wooden desk with a matching credenza. I was taken by them, and asked if I couldn’t just keep these two. The Principal Dean agreed to this, and I seconded my wife to help me cart these old masters home. The following picture tells a little about the desk’s history.
In 1973, the Lutheran Church sold its university to the province, and Waterloo Lutheran University became Wilfrid Laurier University. Waterloo Lutheran Seminary, where I work is the founding institution of the old and new WLU, and is now a federated college. The sticker lets us know that the desk dates from at least that time, and possibly earlier. The cuts of the design hint at 60’s Scandinavian style, but the following photo from one of the desk drawers tells us that the desk was built locally.
I am currently stripping the finish. My wife is the wood expert in our household, but I have taken on this project with her advice as needed. I really wanted my work of mind to take place on a piece of furniture in which I have invested the work of my body. It seems right. It also seemed like an act of retrieval because old desks like this are often junked in favor of the modular furniture that serves the cubicle culture of the modern office. My office is a little old school, and so a 50 year old desk seems fitting.
I must say that I feel a little like I am in the midst of a holy task as I strip and sand and stain. I find myself thinking about the sacred conversations that occurred across this desk. I think of the professors writing articles, preparing lectures, and mulling over sermon ideas. I think of the craftsmen who first put together this work of art. I feel honored to be included in the history of this desk, and its credenza.
In working on this work of art, I find myself oddly at peace. I don’t think I’ll give up my day job and take this up vocationally. All the same, when I look down at the desk, it strikes me that as I caress this tree rendered in service of homo sapiens, the grain of the wood smiles at me, and I smile back.