May 2014 = Tools

The monthly theme is tools.

The tools we use; the tools we no longer use; the tools we care for; the tools we take for granted.

The web tells me that tool, the noun, is a device or implement, one held in the hand, used to carry out a particular function -- gardening tools, for example.  The synonyms are great: implement, gadget, device, contraption, gizmo.

Tool, the verb, means to impress a design on something (usually leather, also stone).  Another great list of synonyms: work, fashion, shape, cut, embellish, ornament.

And then there is one one of my favorite expressions: tooling around.  ("We were just tooling around on our bikes.")

What are your tools?  What do you do with them?

Is there a particular set of tools that mean something to you, that carry emotional weight?

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For example, I saw my 99 year old friend Gladys's address book.  That's her tool, for sure.  It is an extension of her hand, her mind, her life. She is one of the best letter writers I have ever met.  The book was frayed around the edges and, seemingly, made of ball-point pen (by now), not a single blank space on the pages.  The entries were written in three different languages.  It was a wonder to behold.

Tools become us, comfort us.  I recall the way my ice hockey teammates would treat certain pieces of equipment.  One player I know was still using her elbow pads from grade school although she played for both Harvard and the US Olympic team.  She had access to the best tools (equipment) on the planet, but that set of elbow pads was more than just protective (were they even protective anymore?).  There was something else about them.  Were they comfortable?  Obviously.  That was part of it; our tools need to be comfortable; they need to "fit" us.  Did they contain some magical quality? Maybe. 

Our tools can have an inner glow of mystery or radiance, as if the thing itself has supernatural or shamanistic powers. Many guitar players I know obsess over their guitar picks; they have one or two with a certain kind of juju in them. My teacher John used stone guitar picks that he made himself. Each one had a kind of aura.  It was the stone he used -- agate, but it was also his own reverence for them.  They were always with him.  I am sure he's using one now, up in heaven.  It is probably on fire, that pick.  

I'm a singer; my voice is my tool.  When I had my vocal surgery in 2002 to remove nodules from my vocal chords, I almost lost the ability to sing.  Did I almost lose a tool?  The tool was badly damaged and needed a long time to recover.  I didn't talk for 3 months.  It wasn't until a year later that I could really sing anything with any kind of accuracy.  I had lost control over my voice.  And when I got my voice back -- I called it my "new voice" -- it was weird, higher pitched, did things I didn't ask it to do.  Didn't always behave.  I was just learning to how handle it again.

What isn't a tool, really?  When you get right down to it.  Is there a threshold you have to cross with an object that really makes it yours?

Talk to me.  What do you think?

Do your tools have special qualities?  Have you ever lost one, broken one, left one somewhere?  What did that feel like? Tell me a story. 

Take me somewhere.  Let me in.