The Learning Curve

New tricks for an old dog.

Sawdust and kindling

Fifteen years ago I was involved in a weekly study group of Native American spirituality led by a local Cherokee elder named David. At one meeting David showed us a most beautiful native flute made of the wood from an osage orange tree. David had acquired the flute on a recent trip he made to Oklahoma. There are no native flute makers in Louisville, Kentucky.

This flute was an exquisite piece of handcrafted artwork. Even in the hands of a beginner like David, it produced the most haunting, and soothing, tones. I fell in love with it instantly.

David, being the wise man that he is, noticed my infatuation. Being the natural-born trouble maker he is, David asked me, “Do you think that you could make one of these?”

Without giving it any thought at all, I answered much too quickly, “Sure.”

Then I was stuck. By the rules of the game it was time for me to either put up or eat crow. The big problem was, at that time at least, there were no books, drawings, plans, or instructions available anywhere I could find on how to make one of these things. I know this because I looked high and low.

I retreated to the basement every opportunity to saw, whittle, sand, drill, and glue hunks of red cedar I had scrounged. I invented and tested quite a few ways how not to make a native flute, but for the first three weeks, or so, I couldn’t produce anything that made even the slightest sound. I could produce something that looked like a flute, but wasn’t. After each failed attempt, I would break the most recent effort over my knee and put the pieces in a garbage can along with the shavings and sawdust, to burn in the wood stove during the coming winter.

It took me about three months, and four garbage cans of kindling and sawdust, before I made a flute that was not a total embarrassment. Once I knew how it was done, it was easy.

This has been my general approach to learning web design.

Step one: Make a web page.

Step two: Repeat step one until it doesn’t suck.

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Written by Tom Fox

05/21/2007 at 9:38 am

Posted in Learning, Web Design

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