Sunday, March 31, 2013

To Niggle is a good thing

Occasionally, things do work out for the best.  The other day while volunteering at the elementary school, when I heard that "my kids" in the 5th grade would be having a test and I wouldn't be able to help, I said to another tutor, that I'd sit and read the dictionary while they worked.  I told her that there was a wonderful quote that went: "Most of the things that I've learned were when I was looking something else up."  That's a paraphrase, I can't seem to find the correct original quotation.

As luck would have it, I flipped open the dictionary and the first thing I saw was: "niggle".  (niggle; v. i. To work fussily; to pay too much attention to details, to putter.)  That's ME!  I make thingies!  I will obsess over details and processes and parts that will never show (or likely make any difference in the long run).  I can niggle for hours in my workshop, making parts for thingies out of copper and brass and searching for just the right kind of home made wood for this or that part (and certainly not using up a piece of wood than is 20% bigger than I need).  Not to mention that the thingy itself has a very questionable reason to be made in the first place.

Many years ago, I read a story by J. R. R. Tolkien called: "Leaf by Niggle".  I never knew whether I was pronouncing the name: Niggle correctly and I didn't connect it with a real word.  I recall that the story was about a man that worked his whole life on one single painting and that at the end of his life, "The Powers of the Universe" kept one little part of his painting: a single leaf.  And they laughed.  I have a home made guitar stool in my shop that I have been building for more than a decade.  It has seven or eight different kinds of wood in it (all made from trees, not purchased wood from the hardware store).  Years ago I stamped the words:  "Leaf By Niggle" on one leg.  On top is written: "Worlds Ugliest Guitar Stool".  I'm not done with it yet.  Now I need to stamp "Leg by Ralph" on one of the other legs.