There’s an environmental side to living lightly, minimizing your impact on the Earth. But there’s also a personal side, keeping your living expenses low and affording yourself the means to do the things you enjoy. Carpentry is a perfect example. I’ve written before about the rhythm of working outside and the joy of making physical structures appear (or disappear). This is my first time mentioning the financial reality. Carpentry is not a high-paying job… but if you have low expenses then you don’t need a high-paying job.
Recently I heard a piece on NPR about Nina MacLaughlin, a writer-turned-carpenter who describes the satisfaction she gets from this labor far more eloquently than I can. Her story is similar to mine: holding a coveted desk job for years, she grew frustrated with the demands, the time spent staring at a screen, and she decided to take matters into her own hands. I love Nina’s account of the patient but firm mentorship of her first boss, who sounds a lot like Terry. Read the summary of her piece here (click within the article for audio, it’s just four minutes long) and also check out her book, Hammer Head: The Making of a Carpenter.
A month from tomorrow I’ll celebrate one year since I gave up designing bridges in Boston to start my own civil engineering practice in Vermont. I always intended the carpentry to be a side business. So far it’s been my main source of income, but even when PERCH has a steady stream of clients I expect to make less than I used to. I assume Nina took a pay cut as well. She’s making it happen, and while I certainly haven’t been the poster child for living lightly over the past year, it’s something I strive for in the long term. Think small and you can have any job you like.