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Friday, April 14, 2017

The weighing of souls

In which I paint the schooner Mercantile and am reminded that in God’s eyes, all men are equal.

Schooner Mercantile in drydock, by Carol L. Douglas
I awoke this morning laughing heartily at a chemistry joke. It evaporated as soon as I remembered that what chemistry I know would fit in my wash cup. People who assume I am well-educated ought to have known me in school, is all I can say.

That’s why I don’t quite understand what they’ve been doing to the masts of Heritage this week. It comes under the broad heading of “refinishing.” Each step involved being hoisted up and down the mast in a wooden basket, and there’s lots of scraping and buffing and brushing involved. If you want to feel particularly dumb, watch craftsmen at work in a discipline you don’t know.

Working on a mast of Heritage.
Meanwhile, Captains Doug Lee and John Foss are using the Little Giant crane to drop floating docks in the water. The crew of Mercantile has busy caulking and painting, because it’s her turn up in the cradle.

Mercantile was launched from Little Deer Isle, Maine in 1916. Until 1943, she was in the coasting trade, after which she briefly went into mackerel fishing. She is one of the earlier boats adapted to the tourist trade. She’s called a “bald-headed schooner” because she carries no topsails.

That's Mercantile at the back of The Three Graces, by Carol L. Douglas
I’ve painted Mercantile many times, mostly at Camden harbor. “I didn’t know she was so pretty,” exclaimed a hand after he looked at my painting. Actually, she’s beautiful, especially when her green undercoat is replaced with its glossy black topcoat.

I’m always at a loss about how to treat the flotsam that accumulates on the shipyard ground. It’s part of the scene but it can be distracting. The crew had made themselves a long trestle table with sawhorses and planks. I put it in in various places, dissatisfied each time. I moved it again this morning because it was cutting off the bottom of my composition.

Mercantile, 2016, by Carol L. Douglas
It was so warm in the morning that I wore clamdiggers instead of long pants. I always forget that the open water at Rockland makes it cooler and windier than at my house. I was glad that I had to be back at Rockport in the early afternoon, because by the time I quit painting, my teeth were chattering. 

I was meeting a young man to finish burying the power line to my commercial sign. “She tells me I’m dumb,” he said of one of his employers. I’ve heard several variations on this theme recently. As a person who was never much good at school, I find it irritating.

There are many ways in which “judge not, lest ye be judged” can be applied. If you have the good fortune to be particularly smart or talented, bear in mind that these are gifts for which you paid nothing. And remember that there are many kinds of intelligences and talents out there. You may mock that humble man today, but in a hurricane his ability to tie knots may save your life.

In God’s economy, all men truly are equal. They are not measured by their looks, talents, race, or achievements, but by the weight of their souls, as mystics from the Egyptians onward have poetically observed. Once you start seeing the world through that lens, you will be kinder to yourself and others. Today is Good Friday, the historic date of the assassination of Jesus Christ. If you take nothing else from Christian faith, remember that in God’s eyes we are all equal.

Have a blessed Easter.

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