Restore, Recycle, Remember

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.

Meeting my Waterloo (Street)

This afternoon I went to the dentist, or rather, to the dental hygienist.  She was really very kind to me.  She gave me some floss and a new toothbrush, and after I paid my bill, and collected my things I began my trip home.  On the days I walk, I generally meander down King Street, which takes me through uptown Waterloo, and then across the twin city border, after which I mosey through downtown Kitchener, down Ottawa Street and then home.


But today I took a different route, since my normal path would have meant a significant amount of back-tracking.  So, instead, I walked against the one way traffic on Bridgeport, turned right on Moore Ave. N and then took a left onto Waterloo St, which winds through an interesting part of Kitchener that I usually only see from the car.  (These days, when I drive, I take Waterloo because the more popular Weber that I would normally take to work is under construction.  In fact, I have become rather fond of Waterloo, and have started taking it as a matter of course, but only on the way to work.  I tend to take a more convoluted route home. )


It was interesting, indeed satisfying, to walk down Waterloo.  You see a street differently when you walk what you normally drive.  The difference is doubled when walking in a contrary fashion.  Waterloo is a mostly straight street connecting, in earlier days, the not yet twin cities.  The street is now flanked by houses from the early twentieth century, brick in the main that are more often yellow than red.  Every now and then you see a house hinting at the German provenance of its builder – the odd flourish reminding me of Black Forest sensibilities.  The ethnicity of the area changes with the times, and the one house that I have taken note of while driving boasts an Italian flag above its grape vine arbor.  In the summer the home vaunts a lovely canopy of green, but in this in-between time, when the earth is hardly clothed, the yard looks vulnerable.  Walking, I noticed a dog-run on the side of the house that came right up to the street.  I wondered it this canine sideline successfully keeps raccoons at bay in the fall.


Not far from the yard-come-vineyard is a new home being built, full of sharp angles and strangely placed windows.  I must say I was rather taken by it, taken in by it until the walk along Waterloo dropped me off just shy of the Kaufmann lofts: a once beehive of factory activity making the famous Kaufmann boots.  We would buy these out West, not imagining that one day the factory floor of this profitable business would host halls leading to domestic spaces.  I crossed the Kaufmann parking lot and made my way onto Duke, where I saw down town Kitchener in various states of gentrification, modernization, and obfuscation: a city finding itself.


South of downtown I slipped past Kitchener’s Farmers Market, being guarded in its off hours by the Korean Presbyterian Church and the Kitchener Waterloo Racket Club.  Krug carried me to Weber, and I split off at Sterling, which left me at the edge of Sheppard School, where my children attended so many years ago.  I wistfully traversed the playground, a little sad that those days are behind, but proud of my three darling daughters that have never looked back.


From there, the way walked me home just as I used to walk my children home, and a kind of peace settled into my feet, my soul.