Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Essential equipment.

Six weeks ago today I got careless while using the table saw for a project. For reasons not clear to me right now I ended up putting my left index finger into the saw blade.
The first thought in my mind was 'oh, no - guitar fingers!' . . .

Carbide-tipped saw blades can deal with much harder materials than flesh and bone - the blade didn't hesitate for a second to alter what I offered it. My injury could have been much worse - looking at the blade path tells me that another 3/8" would have meant that I was carrying the fingertip with me to the ER. As it was, the Doctor put about 12 stitches from the front, over the tip and down the other side to pull it back together. Well numbed, I didn't feel it when he put the stitches right through the fingernail. Funny to look at it now and see those little holes in the nail.

The stitches were taken out 12 days later - the healing process is going well. Somehow my body is pretty good about healing, especially my hands. I had done something similar - worse, actually - about 26 years before when working on another table saw. That accident shredded the tips of the middle and ring fingers on the left hand and they ended up about 1/4" shorter than they had been.
(I started a song a while back about the abuse suffered by the left hand of a right-handed carpenter)
Back then I was more actively pursuing the side career of pottery - it was my major in college and I had made various attempts to make a living by it. I think that working clay with the fingers as they healed had a positive effect on the whole process. It seemed to me that connecting the mind with the fingers in order to create something made the healing a more organic process - a less passive process. Actually, I've never tried to put it into words and so I'm finding it a bit awkward to describe what I thought I was doing . . .

I thought of that today as I went out to an old plastic tub behind the barn and dug out a small fistful of stoneware clay. It is a tub of scrap clay that has been sitting there with the lid blown off, just weathering for twenty years or more. The kind of clay you'd kill for if you were making some pots - it'll be really plastic from sitting so long. I've been thinking for the last few weeks that I should make clay-working part of the healing process for this injury, too. Shape and flesh-wise, the finger looks like it will be fine for guitar playing. The sensation in it is a mess right now - a weird combination of numbness and over-sensitivity. I know I've got six months until the fingernail is back to normal, but just watching the body go through the healing process is pretty amazing.

I was thinking recently, they say Eskimos have a hundred different words for snow - I should have two hundred words for luck.