‘Made by hand’ sometimes means bricks and mortar

Beyond my office window on this late September day, masons are mortaring and stacking bricks that create the outer skin of the new Cross Insurance Center arena in Bangor. They place the bricks one by one, gradually covering the pink insulation panels enclosing the silo-shaped section of the building at the corner Main and Buck streets. The height of the precisely and neatly placed rows of bricks grows day by day. Clearly, the men take pride in what they do. They are part of the unsung stalwarts of labor who make it possible for such an edifice to come into being.

As I watch them, I wonder if 100 years from now, when new technologies of building construction have evolved and made obsolete the ones used to create the arena, if someone will ask, “How did they build that?” That is the same question humans have posed through the ages about Stonehenge in Great Britain, the great pyramids of Egypt, the Parthenon of Greece, the Coliseum of Rome and the Empire State building of New York City. In some instances, the “hows’”of constructing those monoliths have been lost to time. In others, the “hows” have involved steam engines and clever, daring men who knew how to walk a steel beam hundreds of feet in the air without a safety harness — which hadn’t been invented yet.

Putting complex technology aside, lost or otherwise, the answer to the how did they build that question is still the same. All those edifices were built by human hands guided by agile minds that figured out how to build on such a monumental scale, with and without diesel-powered engines. Pretty much all that is wrought in the world comes back to human hands with opposable thumbs. Hands and the skill and training needed to do the work are responsible for all that shelters us.

The masons are out there, trowels in hand, buttering those bricks with mortar of just the right consistency, giving the new arena its outward personality of substance, its unmistakable air of permanence. It’s a fine thing to witness.

The bricks conceal the steel bones of the arena, the beams set in place by huge cranes operated by human fingers and thumbs (and probably feet), the operators’ work aided by their talent for understanding spatial relationships and their ability to focus on the parts in order to create the whole.

The masons are just the latest in a long parade of steelworkers, roofers, carpenters and concrete experts who have made their mark on the arena. All those workers have left, literally, fingerprints behind somewhere in the building, hidden as new layers of the edifice are added but there nonetheless.

When we think of things created by hand, small things come to mind — knitted socks, a quilt, a length of crocheted edging, a rag doll, a necklace of pretty beads. But we ought to think about the large things, such as the arena, the homes we live in, the cars we drive. Those, too, are the work of the human hand.

Stop a minute and watch the men work.

The future is our hands. In our hands.


The Abbott Library in Dexter will offer a series of knitting classes with a focus on knitting mittens at 2 p.m. beginning Wednesday, Oct. 10. Nettie Cormier of Dexter will be the instructor. Participants are asked to bring one skein of either wool or acrylic yarn and two sets of double-pointed needles size 3 and size 5. To register, call the library at 924-7292.

The Fort Kent Recreation and Parks Department will host Halloween Crafts Workshops 9:30-11 a.m. Monday, Oct. 1, for children ages 2-5 and their parents, and 9:30-11 a.m. Thursday, Oct. 4, for children in kindergarten through grade six, at the Fort Kent Municipal Building on West Main Street. The fee is $3, payable at the time of the workshop. Advance registration is required by calling the recreation office at 834-3730.

The Ellsworth High School craft fair, sponsored by the class of 2014, will be held 9 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 1, at the school. Table reservations are being taken on a first-come, first-served basis. The cost is $25, which must be paid when the reservation is made. Reservations must be received by Friday, Nov. 23. Indicate any special services that may be required, such as electricity or placement in front of a wall. To make a reservation, contact Sandra Finley or Robin Clark at sfinley@rsu24.edu or rclark@rsu24.edu, or call 667-4722, ext. 5534.

Call Ardeana Hamlin at 990-8153, or email ahamlin@bangordailynews.com. Don’t forget to visit her blog at byhand.bangordailynews.com.

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