My wife and I have been married for 8 years. And to celebrate our most recent wedding anniversary we took a trip to the Biltmore Estate near Ashville North Carolina. The estate was beautiful, the trip was a lot of fun, but there is one part in particular that stuck out to me and I want to share that with you all here.
On our second day at the Biltmore Estate my wife and I wander over to this cool little area that has a petting zoo, and old-timey farming equipment and much to my surprise a smithy. They have, on the estate, a blacksmith. The Smith himself was an older man with a head full of dark grey hair that spilled down into a well-manicured light grey beard. He wore glasses and denim jeans and a pair of suspenders that sat between the two. He had a grandfatherly air to him as he walked back forth through the workshop smithing and explaining as he went.
I’m giddy, standing there amongst all the other tourist who admittedly seemed impressed, but me, I was in awe. There is a coal forge being used to heat the metal, he has to rotate a crank on the side to feed oxygen into the fire. He pulls a small piece of metal from the flames of the forge and sits it on the nearby anvil, this little shard of iron is glowing bright orange.
Have you ever seen something so hot that it glows? I mean consider this for a moment. This piece of iron is not reflecting light, it’s not shiny, it is giving off light, but it’s not on fire. It has absorbed so much heat that it is glowing bright orange. It looks like he has grabbed a small piece of the sun.
So this guy has this glowing hot metal laying on the anvil and then he starts wailing on it. He is hitting it with the hammer molding it to his will and while doing so, he is explaining to us how he has been doing this his entire life. How he has taught his sons to do it. And as I stand there in awe, I realize this man has dedicated his life to this craft, and it is that dedication in itself that has enraptured me more than the craft.
There was a period in human history where everything revolved around the sword. The making of them and the wielding of them. And among both the crafters and the wielders there were those that excelled beyond belief. Masters. Master swordsmiths and master swordsmen. A master of swords.
I am not perfect. I am not even a perfectionist, but I am someone who is obsessed with the idea of perfection. This is part of the reason why I have always had this distant fascination with blacksmiths and even more specifically swordsmiths. These are craftsmen that rarely ever achieve it, but yet and still are obsessed with perfection, and in the pursuit of that perfection they take a simple concept, heat the metal, hit the metal, and repeat it endlessly until one-day perfection is achieved. That is my romanticized view of black smithing at least.
I want to be a black smith, only with words instead of metal. I want to take molten ideas, glowing orange and hot with imagination and mold them into stories that teach, entertain and inspire. I want to master my art by practice and repetition and intense study. Like the ancient swordsmiths and blacksmiths that came before me I want to dedicate my life to a pursuit of perfection that I know I can never truly achieve. And when I die, they’ll say I was a husband and a father and a brother and a son and a friend and I hope… A Master of Swords.