Conservation Corner: God invented glue

Published 3:46 pm Tuesday, December 5, 2017

This time in our country’s history is the most divisive, combative, and judgmental time in my memory. And I’m old, so there is a lot of memory stored away. Yes, we’ve had the Vietnam War and civil rights riots, but this period of history seems different. In the past we were trying to make something ‘right’; now it seems like many of people just want to ‘be right’, making it easier to hate all the others who are ‘wrong’.

This month I’m going to tell you a simple story, with hopes that it will give you something to think about when you are confronted with a situation where two sides are at odds with each other. My experience in dealing with people having to do with land use and conservation issues is that both sides often want the same result, but they do not know how to put the pieces together. That’s when glue is needed; finding the right sort of glue is the trick.

While working at Camp Glen Arden for the past 20-plus summers, I spent many hours teaching young girls how to carve and whittle. Over the years we coined many sayings that everyone understood to simplify the conversation. When a child was carving a bird or animal with appendages such as a wing or a beak or a leg, or tail, the mantra was always to “start at the middle of the animal and carve towards the ends,” leaving the appendages until last.

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

Of course, most often the beak would be cut off within the first ten minutes! Watching how that happened so often, I realized that human nature is to concentrate on the details at first, rather than confront the object as a whole first.

Instructions were shortened to “Stay away from the beak!” and that seemed to work a little better. But, of course beaks still got cut off. After years of trying to graciously tell the child that it was a simple mistake, even though she had obviously not “stayed away from the beak,” I came up with a different response: “Don’t fret. It’s okay. God invented glue, so we can fix it with a bit if glue and make it whole again.”

Many a (repaired) pelican, bear, or dog left the carving hut in beautiful condition, with only one small repair not noticeable to the naked eye. Only God and the little girl knew about the glue.

One afternoon I was in the carving hut with three girls, a shy and quiet 11-year-old beginner carver named Ella, and two 15-year-olds named Rainey and Grace, both who had a couple years of carving experience. I was trying to help Ella round the belly of a bird, and it required pulling the knife towards her body simply because of the way the block of wood had to be held in her hand.

Of course we all wear gloves and finger guards, so she was well ‘armored’. But, for some reason beyond my comprehension, Ella pulled the knife so hard that it slipped off the wood, skipped over her glove and made a gash in the soft, under part of her forearm. I saw it happen. It was a deep cut about two inches long, and the blood was instantaneous. I jumped up instantly, clamped my hand tight over the cut to stop the bleeding, held her arm up in the air, and we walked to the infirmary ever so quickly, with me assuring Ella that the cut was not all that bad because it was a clean cut and we just needed to get it cleaned and taped together as soon as possible. I was lying. I was scared, and I felt responsible for causing pain in that sweet little girl.

When we got to the infirmary the nurse unclamped my hand and Ella actually looked at the cut for the first time; only then did she get a little queezy. The nurse efficiently cleaned the cut and taped it shut, then took Ella to the hospital where she got 13 stitches.

Only as the nurse and Ella were leaving did I ‘let down’. I walked out of the infirmary and met Rainey and Grace on the way back to the carving hut. They asked about Ella, and told me that they had straightened up the carving hut, put everything away, and had cleaned all of Ella’s blood off the floor so that no one would see it the next day. At that point I could barely talk, but I wanted to thank them. All I could say was “Thank you for being the glue.” They knew exactly what I meant.

May we all aspire to be something as simple as glue. Glue takes what is broken and makes it whole. That is what community is all about.