Sunday, August 2, 2015

Patience

Pretty much every day I am thankful that I get to make things and people like those things enough to buy them so I can pay for things. It doesn't feel like a job really, just a super fun way to pass the time. Then there are those rare days when everything goes wrong I would rather pull my teeth out with the fret nippers that try to right those wrongs. Times like, when I spray seven coats of finish on a ukulele then somehow manage to knock a little hole down to the wood in the side of the neck. Superglue and respray time. Or when I take extra precautions to make sure there is enough room for the bushings that surround the tuners because I know the pressure can crack the finish on the headstock, only to watch a crack begin to run slowly but surely down the peghead. Respray, resand, rebuff time! Then to have the exact thing happen again (on multiple tuners) even though I had taken even more precautions after taking the time to repair the little cracks. Where are those fret nippers.

The most important lesson my dad has taught me in my luthier journey is to be patient. There is no such thing as perfection, but keep working and redoing things until it is as close as it can be. Mistakes happen, and things don't always go how you expect them to on the first try and that is ok, just fix it. No one exercises such patience like Wayne Henderson though. While I try to emulate his calm, 'we will just fix it' attitude when things like this happen, I tend to fall a bit short, at least for a few minutes before I collect myself and make a new plan. I am a type A planner, you see, and when my plans break and my contingencies have been exhausted as well, I tend to freak out, or at any rate, have to take an extra beta blocker. 

This week has tried my patience time and again but I am quite proud to say that I only took several minutes to decide on a new plan and dealt with each situation as it came, mostly because I had no other choice. My dad has been teaching a guitar class this week and hasn't been working in the shop so I have had to fix my own problems without the 'we will fix it' safety net usually set in place for me. The reason I had such and unusually tight schedule is because these particular instruments are heading to their new homes in Juneau and Anchorage, Alaska. I typically set a tentative timeline for finishing instruments once I begin them, but in this case the timeline was set by Alaska Airlines so things had to be completed on a certain date. 

If you don't know this about me, Juneau, Alaska is just about my very favorite place on this planet. (Maybe only slightly second to Haw Orchard Mountain in Grayson Highlands State Park.) One summer in undergrad, as part of my Outdoor Leadership minor I was working toward at NC State, I decided to apply for a plethora of outdoor jobs sprinkled all over the country and was then hired by a kayak guiding company based in Juneau. That summer and the summer following when I returned to work for a glacier guiding company were truly the best I have ever had. I grew as a person, learned my limits, and met some of the best people I could imagine. I am so excited to head back there next week and show Nick where I used to work and play. The time couldn't come any quicker though, now that my ukuleles are (finally) ready to go to their new homes. Hm, maybe my dad's rule of practicing patience will prove to be helpful in many aspects of life.


Stars of the Alaska flag on 12th fret
A year and a half or so ago I received a request for a ukulele from a fellow who's signature included at the bottom of his message said he was from Alaska. That piqued my interes for obvious reasons, and it turns out he is in charge of the helicopter safety for the very well respected glacier guiding company I used to work for. We missed each other by several years so he had no idea my connection to Juneau when he randomly came upon my work via my website. That is one of my favorite parts of my job, I never know when I will meet someone incredible, or have an opportunity to make something for someone with a shared interest. A few weeks ago I finally I set about making a ukulele that paid tribute to our mutual love of southeast Alaska. The time has finally come that I am able to deliver it, so Nick and I are flying up a week from today to do just that. Hopefully we will get to take a little walk on the Mendenhall glacier while we are at it. 



For good measure, I made another ukulele for some old friends whom I have known just about my whole life, but now live in Anchorage. I figure Nick and I might as well visit there while we are at it. I made a copy of my friend's OM-18 that my dad made for her several years ago, complete with the eight point quilt square on the headstock. I worked a trade on this ukulele, as I have been paid in fresh caught Alaskan salmon and halibut for the past couple of years. While this ukulele sounds great, I think perhaps I have come out on the winning end of that deal. 

Before you go, I want to share a little something with you. Below is an excerpt from an email I sent to my friends and family the week in May that I began working in Juneau that first summer. I was searching my email for 'Alaska Air' to send my itinerary to some friends, and this one popped up as a potential match for my search. While it has nothing to do with guitars or ukuleles, I hope you enjoy a little snippet of my time there, so you can more fully appreciate my excitement upon returning to the great white north next week. 

I started my job on Friday. The weather was chilly but not too cloudy. I had about 5 minutes to learn how to drive a trailer and be a tour guide. Saturday was my fist official day of work.That day I shadowed a seasoned guide leading a group then she had me lead the second group. The cove we paddle to amazingly beautiful, with a fantastic view of the Menedenhall Glacier in the distance. The water is definitely freezing since it is primarily runoff from the glacier, but the sun really warms up the air

As I lead my first group of tourists across the water, I attempted to rattle off some Alaska trivia. Unfortunately the only information I have retained so far are the strange random bits since I had about the time one spends picking out paper towels at the grocery store to learn the tidbits from a sheet of paper the company provided. So, now these people are aware that the whole of Alaska can hold 420 Rhode Islands...And Douglas Island (the smaller island running parallel to Juneau proper that we set off from each day) is named after the Bishop of Salisbury. 
Kayak guiding
I have met some interesting people so far.  The hairdresser of the US Olympic synchronized swimming team called one of her swimmers and handed me the phone, positive I would enjoy speaking to an Olympian (though the swimmer and I were equally confused but it was fun). Another rather ornery older man was removing his spray skirt and his trousers accompanied it. I am fairly certain I did not get a tip from him. I did however get a generous tip likely due to pity from the folks who watched as my $150 sunglasses tumbled down my back and into the 37 degree water, so that is good. Note to self: purchase floaty things for sunglasses with tip money. 

Yesterday the esteemed raft guides were not available to drive the chase boat, an unnecessary piece of equipment that is mostly there for the client's peace of mind, so I had to do that. Driving a motorboat around was a new experience. I learn I don't enjoy boats with motors very much. The Life of Pi, the book I had borrowed from the library downtown and what was enjoying while waiting for someone to overturn so I could race the chase boat gallantly over to them and pluck them from the water, dropped into the unpleasant mixture of gasoline and water that permanently sloshes in a vestibule next to the steering column of this ghastly vehicle. I am quite sure the library will not accept a book returned sopping with gasoline, therefore I will have to purchase it but won't be able to finish it without getting high on fumes. I have decided that, while more labor intensive, kayaking is significantly more enjoyable to chase boating.

Anyway, all little blips aside I am enjoying the new adventure here in Juneau. The weather has been amazing so far-it is beautiful and sunny at the moment. I hope it stays like this for a while but I won't get too comfy just in case it takes a turn for the rainy and cold. Perhaps then I will find a more pressing need for the rubber boots I was ordered to purchase immediately upon touching down in Juneau. Looking forward to more excitement as my adventure here continues!


Fritz Cove, my office as a kayak guide. We would paddle from the beach one the left of the picture to the islands and river on the ride side of the picture. The river is murky colored because it is 37 degree glacier runoff which is filled with silt. 

Ice caves at the Mendenhall glacier. Representing a Henderson Festival shirt. And my sunglasses that toppled overboard...


1 comment:

  1. Yes! You have a wonderful life Jayne ! ( and yes , you Dad is the most patient- calm human I have ever encountered )
    Thank you for sharing your thoughts with us ! Always a great read ! Best wishes on your travels ! Im sure you and Nick with have a fantastic time !

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