Afterlife and Soul

Sometimes I touch things that reach my heart, my soul.

Sometimes it’s a touch of natural things: earth, sand, wood, water. The touch of an iPad screen can reach a satellite orbiting Earth. But what I feel scooping garden-earth with my bare hands reaches further than any satellite signal.

Sometimes it’s the touch of personal things: my long-gone dad’s folding carpenter’s ruler, the brass he wore on his policeman’s collar. I think there’s a satisfaction there that the soul feels and responds to. And I don’t think I’m alone in these feelings.

Which brings me to the things that surround us. You know of recycling. But did you know up-cycling is taking discards and up-cycling them to re-use, often better use? Sometimes up-cycling becomes soul cycling.

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Surfer, Gianni Ferullo with his wooden surfboard

Recently, on the shore of Long Beach I spotted a surfer toting a surfboard from sea to sand for another run of the waves down the beach. There were about 30 to 40 surfers before me in the sea that glistening day. They had all manner of boards in a wide range of colors, aqua, vermillion, white and gold. But only one stood out. It was a wooden surfboard.

The sight of lustrous wood and sea water took me back decades when wood-on-waves was the seagoing standard, and the post WW II word, “fiberglass” was foreign to humankind. When I glimpsed the tone of this wood board I was raptured to the times of wooden decks over lapstraked hulls of speedboats and sailboats many of our grandpas graced the seas with.

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Surfer and surfboard creator, Dave Murphy

So, I “foot-surfed” down a scarp of sand to the water’s edge and spoke with Gianni Ferullo and Dave Murphy.

Dave made the Paulownia wood boards they had in tow, but he also makes boards out of old NYC water-tower timber as well. Those up-cycled woods are of cedar and old redwood.  I thought, “Water tower wood into surfboards? The perfect soul up-cycle.”

Dave told me he mills the wood then builds layers around a foam core. This makes them light and strong. The milled sheets are then hand-shaped to become the final form that will ride the curls. His site will soon include photos and info on them:

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Dave surfs, sole to soul

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Gianni cleaves the surf with wood

So much ironic poetry came together for me. This aged wood that has been the steward of countless tonnage of potable water now rides beneath the agile feet of surfers who skim the salty seas. The planking that has caressed gallons of water that once quenched a thirst, now slakes a thirst for fun.

Dave makes boards of other materials too but he seemed particularly proud of his water-tower boards. I suspect there is a certain surfing satisfaction in having soul beneath your sole.

There is satisfaction too in up-cycling in our American one-use culture:

While walking Bailey Cheryl spotted someone discarding an old Singer sewing machine. She realized its potential and decided on an immediate rescue. But she soon found it was very difficult toting home her “Curb Mart” acquisition. She’d walk a bit then put the thirty-pounder down, then walk a bit more.

But her stars were in alignment. She spotted a stroller tossed to the curb. This too was unusual in that it was a heavy duty eight-wheeled job, up to the task of hauling sewing machine freight. So of course she put its transport value to use.

So there she was pushing her new baby with one hand while keeping Bailey tethered with the other. Tenacity, thy name is woman.

sewing machine IMG_5153A local motor repair shop was unsuccessful in rehabilitating the machine. But when she spent $160 at a much more professional shop she found herself delighted. The owner of the pro shop said of the forty-year-old machine, “Today’s machines are made with plastic over a toy motor. They are made to be disposable, to last two years. This old heavy machine, if maintained, will last another forty years.” The machine sews everything from cloth to leather flawlessly. This Singer went from potential landfill to creative hand-fill.

Great shop: Sew Time, Westbury:

Among other things, Cheryl makes bracelets from sofa leather. Her etching of “Michelle’s Magic Hands” adorns it. She created this one for her hairdresser:

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Recycled leather from the back of a sofa lives again

She has a unique pendant made from a remnant of a porcelain Frozen Charlotte doll. The piece was reborn into a pendant with the addition of a salt shaker crown atop it.

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Recycled Frozen Charlotte piece with a salty look

Some up-cycling touches the soul.

There’s the Merchant Marine cuff link of Cheryl’s dad. She turned it into a necklace medallion. Because her dad’s fingers worked the stud into his starched Captain’s cuffs, she feels a power that resides there. Yes, there is soul satisfaction in that silver that carries right into the heart over which it rides.

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You may know what of  I speak. Have you ever placed your hand on an item that was once part of the everyday life of a loved one? Maybe something precious to you, that you still hold dear? I do…after forty-something years. When I touch it I go way back, across the years of laughter and tears. To a time of breath of milk…and hair of silk:

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Sometimes there is extra utility in old stuff, sometimes there is even soul.

Be well,


If you have about 20 minutes you might want to check out this “Story of Stuff” video that a sweet young lady told me about.

If you don’t have 20 minutes, because you have a lot of shopping to do, fast forward till you see the golden arrow in the story.

5 replies »

  1. Wow! Hi Michelle. So glad you love your up cycled bracelet. Yes, Cheryl is very creative. So glad you were the recipient of her work.
    So glad I was able to show it to the world too.


  2. I’m Michelle, and I love my up-cycled leather couch bracelet! Cheryl is so creative, I hope to be as imaginative with my craft as she is with hers! ❤️


  3. Nice blog! I remember that type of sewing machine. Mom won it in a court-the-bubbles contest in the newspaper. I learned on it! Nice find, Cheryl.


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