Mangle Board

My wife is more talented than I am. I have a plodding methodical creativity and work ethic that has served me well through periods of stress but has not always been productive of real creative output. My wife on the other hand is electric and fast-moving; difficult to contain in her velocity and volume of creative energy and output. It is part of what has shaped our marriage.

This board hangs outside her kitchen. Its called a mangle board. The tradition is for a suitor to carve it and hang on the door of the home where his beloved lives with her family. If she takes it inside, then she accepts. If she sees it and leaves it outside he has to destroy it and carve a new one before proposing to anyone else.

The board would be used in her daily work with the carved patterns facing her, so through her day she could remember her husband’s work on her behalf and his work would ornament her daily drudgery. A bit of a sexist notion in the modern world but like many old world traditions, I find a great deal of meaning in its complex acknowledgment of the beauty and the difficulty of romance.

This board took me 40 hours of whittling and I used it to propose to Katharine. She said yes. Now it adorns her creative work in a place I have helped build. Together, through drudgery and excitement we have a romance that I am so thankful for this Valentines Day.

Write your sweetheart a note, adorn her day with flowers, make sure that through the drudgery her work is adorned with the sincere ardor of a suitor waiting for her to say yes. It’s worth it.

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