Sawdust to Stardust: Building in Beauty

Today was a long day, as was yesterday, as tomorrow will also be. We are especially tired because our park is like any big artistic task: starting is the hardest part. We had to try a few more times than we might have liked to get the dimensions to leap from our plans into the physical world. I suppose that is the way things go when you are all learning, and that’s the beautiful reason we’re here: we are all learning.


And the park site is naturally spectacular — right on the ocean! It sits right between lapping waves and a strip of forest of ruby red Plum trees, Fir trees, Ginkos, Pines, poppy patches and more. Every morning spider webs glisten with dew, strung above the poppies.


We build with our backs to the ocean. Susurrant waves propel us onward, providing a constant beat we match with our hammers and a breeze for our heated bodies. When the sun peeks out of a morning cloud cover, our jackets come off and our hats come on, and we are sure to sweat. Our sweat flows like salt water from our hearts. We are honored to place a pearl for the future nestled like a crown of flowers on Yantai’s sweet head.


The natural beauty around us is only matched by the friendship and excitement we’re receiving from the local community. Everyone we encounter is outgoing and helpful. All are excited when we tell them of the our work. For example, today Easton and I were working away, cutting wood a bit far back from our build. There we were, buzzing power tools shooting sawdust,when a young girl appears and hands us peaches and seaweed snacks. We are surprised and grateful and look up to see her family setting up a picnic nearby.


A few minutes go by and the family insists that we join them for tea. So, covered in sawdust stuck to layers of sunscreen, Easton and I cozied up to the portable tea table. They shared their homemade tea in homemade tea cups. The father took out his phone so we could pass it back and forth utilizing the recording option of google translate to facilitate our conversation. He spoke into the phone in Chinese and it spoke to us in English saying, “We saw the article about you in the Yantai paper about the park you are here building.”


We sat there for awhile, enjoying this unexpected tea party, until the next urgent wood project came our way. We thanked them and got back to work wondering at their kindness and generosity. It seemed dreamlike — perhaps they mistook the sawdust on us for stardust? Or maybe the tea party was just an illusion—a collective hallucination at the peak of a hot afternoon combined with the inhalation of sawdust — except Tanner saw it too.


However slow we may have started, the momentum is picking up, stardust and sawdust are in the air, and we feel that this work is well worth it.