August 18, 2017
“…human meaning is made by seeing into what is.” –Jane Hirshfield, Nine Gates
IT IS OFTEN NOTED that we don’t really know our neighbors, the people living next door. We can see them go to work, perhaps have a conversation with them, and we can watch their friends and families come to visit. We sometimes try to guess at what they are like by looking at their yards, the cars they drive, the clothes they wear, or the kind of barbecue grill they have. But we don’t really get to know them well until we step inside their houses and sit down and talk.
On Meridian Street just south of the traffic stop at Hodeck and resting on the shore of Cedarville
Bay, there is one such neighbor, some say a real gem. The neighbor has been there for 10 years now, and is still a relative stranger to many in town. Ironically, it may be better known around the country and even in other countries as members of its ‘family’ might attest. Who would have guessed a little school in Cedarville, one of four or five in the country which trains men and women how to build a boat, would gain such national and international attention?
Great Lakes Boat Building School (GLBBS) draws people (i.e. students) of all ages and all walks of life and from as far away as Australia and Sweden and France. Yes, and Montana, Washington, the east coast, and even Michigan. Some are retired from the military or from their work. Some are learning about boats in general though they don’t intend to build boats when finished. Some are learning skills and techniques to take home and complete those ‘honey do’ tasks they couldn’t do before, and maybe work at the local marina. Oh, and some are even real students becoming apprentices in the age-old craft of making boats.
“It’s like a family here,” one student said. “We learn to look out for each other. Once one student was sick and didn’t come to class. A number of us went to see her and made sure she was okay.”
“It’s like touching history, learning about some boat structures that date back to the Vikings,” another said. “And then making it.”
“I’ve spent most of my life flying jets,” one student who retired from the Air Force after 30-years said. “I’m learning skills here that will enrich my life, skills I’ve never had before.”
Another student, an oceanographer who works primarily on steel boats, said, “I’m here for my personal pleasure, I guess. Instead of working with ROV’s as in my job, (remotely operated vehicles for underwater research) I’m using my hands to build something.”
A young married man with one child (and one on the way) hailed from Montana. When questioned that there aren’t too many lakes in the Big Sky country, he calmly noted, “Yeah, but there are a lot of rivers. I can build boats for that.”
By looking inside GLBBS, I learned that my neighbor makes our neighborhood better. GLBBS quietly brings richness to this out-of-the-way place
economically, artistically, educationally and uniquely. My neighbor brings interesting and thoughtful guests to visit and who return to their homes enriched as well. My neighbor adds value and meaning to the entire community by teaching others the craft which is at the heart and
traditions of the islands.
And to think my neighbor has been there for 10 years and I never really knew much about her. I just needed to see inside, and now I understand how meaningful my neighbor is.