Charles Darwin is often quoted (and some would say, misquoted) to have said, "It is not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change."
That came to mind this week as I was trying to fashion a handle for my wooden bucket that is part of a group project posted on the LumberJock website.
Four times I tried to coax a narrow strip of spalted birch into a nice, round half circle; by soaking it overnight, by steam bending, by hot pipe bending - all with the same result. I'd get a few degrees of deflection and snap! I'd be holding two separate pieces in my hand. It was getting discouraging to say the least.
I decided it just wasn't going to happen, so I changed tactics. Finding a clear, 2 inch diameter section of willow from the trimmings pile under a snowbank outside, I headed for my band saw. Minutes later I had several nice, flat, 3/8 inch strips in my hand. After placing the kettle on the stove, I fashioned a short tube to act as my steam chamber. Ten minutes after the steam started to flow the willow was as compliant as my children are when promised an evening at the movies.
So what made the difference? I'm sure there is a scientific explanation that in some way involves lignin and white rot fungi which would take way too much effort for me to uncover, so I'm happy with the obvious.
The strip of birch didn't want to bend. It liked things just like they were. After all, that's how it was made to be, had always been that way, and would change over its dead body! So with all the resistance it could muster, it balked all my pressures to bend and as a result ended up broken and discarded.
Oh, to just have the courage to change.