Last Chapter


If I were to write my memoirs,
the title would be “Reaching.”
The chapter headings:
How Far
How High
How Pretty
How Wealthy
How Meaningful
How Memorable

Maybe not in that order,
but probably so.

There would be a Foreword to explain
I’m not competitive (even against myself),
nor am I status-conscious, greedy or an overachiever.
Well, maybe just a little of all that.
It’s not about aspirations, goals, achievements…
just… reaching.

A reaching born perhaps of the low-key work ethic instilled by my parents.
(is that an oxymoron, “low-key work ethic?”)
Like this:
If you take one step, you might as well take two.
If you’re an apprentice, you might as well become a journeyman.
Once you’re a journeyman, you might as well aim for foreman.

There might as well be a chapter in my memoirs called “Might as Well.”

My memoirs would describe how I progressed through life in this mindset.
And how one day it flipped.
If I lost a step in my journey, I would likely fall back two steps.
If I missed a rung in my ascent, soon thereafter
I’d likely land on my butt at the bottom of the ladder.

And so it was.
Until finally I just stopped.
No up, no down.
Just full stop.

◊ ◊ ◊

Two summers ago I took up whittling.
I sit on my deck on warm afternoons
in the shade of a lopsided black walnut tree.
Opportunistic squirrels steal green nuts from the branches above me.
I place a glass of water or sun tea next to my chair,
and I whittle.

I don’t whittle to carve shapes into wood,
or to carve wood into shapes.
It’s just relaxing to take a sharp knife and a found piece of wood,
and shave away layers until I’ve reached… no, not reached…
until I know I am done.

Maybe this is the perfect last chapter for my memoirs.
I will call the chapter “Whittling,”
and I’ll describe my practice of peeling back layers
to see what’s beneath.
Not like some deep introspection, where I
lay bare the depths of my soul to reveal all the
rot and grisly scars.

Much simpler (and much more interesting) than that;
kind of like a low-key work ethic.

I just whittle
on found wood,
one shaving at a time
to discover the layers
of life,
of nature,
of squirrels,
of being in this world
on my deck on a summer afternoon.


In response to the NaPoWriMo prompt: What does y(our) future provide? What is your future state of mind? Seems I had to go to the past to get to the future. 

RE: Journeyman/Foreman: my parents were of a non-gender neutral generation, but they never discouraged my career choices based on gender. 

About Maggie C

Stained glass artist, writer, respecter of life.
This entry was posted in daily prompt, humanity, poetry, serious stuff and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to Last Chapter

  1. Oh! I loved reading this and I’d read the book! And thanks for providing an example because it’s the first time I hear of whittling. It’s gorgeous! I’d guess it was a card game.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. lillian says:

    This is wonderful! I liked that line about a chapter being “might as well.” Funny how our background sets a tone, whether we like it or not. The words that hit me up for many many years were “see what you made me do.” I’ll let you figure that one out….needless to say, I just wanted out of the house all the time. Maybe that chapter for me would be “running.”
    The last three stanzas most especially appeal to me. I think we all become whittlers, one way or another.
    Wonderful response to the prompt!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Maggie C says:

      Thank you! I don’t know that we all become whittlers. I think maybe some folks get stuck in the prior chapters. But how fortunate for those of us who get to whittle.


  3. Oh, this really resonated with me. I love this: “There might as well be a chapter in my memoir called “Might as Well.” I think I’ll take up whittling, too! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Peggy Lemmer says:

    Love this one. I have built model boats from balsa. I whittle the pieces into a function shape. I have also whittled small branches like yours to add to a diorama or craft. Another functional shape. Although that can be relaxing, it was never to uncover the next layer. Perhaps the difference between a carpenter and a sculptor. But I have always reached for the next layer of knowledge. To learn something seems always to leave even more to be learned. Maybe these are two different ways of sating ones curiosity. Yours, however, uses that truly creative muse to express and communicate to others. I have no muse, I can’t communicate well, but I love uncovering layers of life and nature. Especially squirrels. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Maggie C says:

      I think everyone has a muse of some sort. And your paragraph here demonstrates that you communicate your thoughts and ideas quite well. I always find your take on things refreshing. I bet Brisco is very good at uncovering squirrels, too.


  5. JANE says:

    Maggie… please keep whittling away with your words. I so admire how you write. I can be separated from blogging for a while, but always reassured when I come back to your site that my heart or soul will be touched. Thank you💕

    Liked by 1 person

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