Surprises in trying something new

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by Cathy Rae Smith

Never having had the experience of going away to summer camp as a child, it was with particular relish that I made the decision to attend a week-long stone carving sculpture workshop. It was held in the midst of a beautiful forest area called Silver Falls, aptly named for its multiple waterfalls. Stone carving was a new form of sculpture I had just dappled with and, though quite challenging, I found to be simultaneously quite satisfying.   Little did I know my adventure into the wild world of stone carving, an addictive preoccupation I have found, would begin with such a bang. That bang came in the form of my car suffering a complete meltdown on Highway 22, just a few miles past Salem and shortly before the turn to Silver Falls.

My first “camp” day was spent instead languishing for four hours in a hot car, eating a pack of saltine crackers, and hanging my feet out the open window to feel the breeze of traffic quickly whizzing past. After a long tow back to Portland and a kind friend offering me a ride the following day, I finally arrived and settled in to the distinctive tempo – chip, chip, chip, grind, grind, grind, eat, sleep, repeat.

Clouds of marble dust heightened the perpetual fogging of my safety glasses. However, Alex remedied the condensation issues, as it turned out, by providing me a decent dust mask if I promised to throw away the pitiful excuse for a mask I had been using. After that solution, I kept forgetting whether my safety glasses were even on until I would occasionally feel a chip bounce off my cheek. Foregoing the hammer and chisel after a day of minimal progress, I graduated up to the level of electric and air powered tools. I dazzled my contemporaries, I am sure, with my swift mastery of the air-powered pounding thingy and the electricity charged scrapping do-hickey, (now, don’t allow my freely tossing in all this technical jargon to intimidate).  I was a woman on a mission to pierce through the thick slab of marble. Happily, no make that triumphantly, I succeeded, with the support of kind and skilled sculptors around me.