It’s a weekday morning as Haliburton’s Allen Luke sits down to his workbench. He places tracings of the word ‘welcome’ and a picture of a rooster on a piece of wood, his trusty wood burner at his side.
He’s surrounded by already completed works, including coat racks and hangers, clocks, candle holders and candle displays, plaques, animals and walking sticks.
It’s “stimulating,” according to Luke, born in Montreal, moved to Toronto when he was six for 45 years, before discovering the Haliburton area in 1988.
He’s had a life, for sure, including health challenges the past 10 years that have included five heart procedures and being in the midst of a second bout of cancer.
“I haven’t had many good breaks in my life,” he adds, relating he was on his own at 15, saw his job as pencil and ruler draftsmen go the way of computers, and subsequent workplace downsizing and financial challenges.
However, “you know what? It’s life,” he says. “Attitude is a big thing. If you feel defeated by the word cancer, you might as well just die now.” So, he lives life a day at a time, with a philosophy that, “if I was to die tomorrow, I would have not regretted having been here.”
Since moving to a property just outside of Eagle Lake, he’s found the peace and serenity he craves. Although he is close to 70, he said he feels like he’s in his 50s so doesn’t attend a lot of programming aimed at seniors.
He loves to spend afternoon on the deck watching the birds, which inspires the wood burning.
He dabbled in the hobby about seven to eight years ago but has gotten more serious since they moved into their current house.
“Everything was coming around nicely. And, so I made quite a few last year and I gave a lot away to people and I went to several Minden markets and had a couple of garage sales.”
However, he doesn’t consider his work garage sale quality. “I love them. I don’t think there’s one that I don’t like. There’s some unique ones. Like, I love making a walking stick.”
He sources lumber locally, then cuts it into the size he needs. He uses tracings and then burns the wood. He uses a belt sander and circular saw.
“It’s not that tough really,” he confides.
Glancing at one piece, he shares, “I’ve got an artistic skill of zero. Give myself credit. One out of 10. Like with those ducks. If you asked me to draw them by hand, sorry, I’d have stick ducks. But I was a draftsman for 35 years, so I was a bit of an artist, but with a pencil and ruler.”
“Believe it or not, when I’m working with it, I actually talk to them, just like on NCIS where the coroner is always talking to his corpses during autopsies.”
Not familiar with todays’ catchphrase of ‘mindfulness,” Luke says when he is working on this wood, “you don’t worry about a lot.”
As he continues to show off his work, he says he’s discovering that Indigenous and wildlife themes are his favourites.
His advice for other people new to the area, recently retired, or forced from work, is pretty simple.
“Find something that grabs you, stimulates you, makes you feel proud of what you’ve done because you lose so much coming into senior-ship, because people in general have less and less use for older people. It’s a young person’s world.”