If You Put Your Nose to the Grindstone Rough

If You Put Your Nose to the Grindstone Rough

If you put your nose to the grindstone rough,
And keep it down there long enough,
You will soon conclude that there are no such things,
As a brook that babbles or a bird that sings.

These three things will your world compose:
Just you, the stone,
And your ground-down nose.

Shifting your attention ever so slightly, the grindstone can move from being something that has the power to create, to something that brings damage and ruin.

Nose to Grindstone

Recently I have been helping people make their very own knives.

Forgotten Arts is a business that runs workshops such as candlemaking, leatherwork, hedgerow weaving, and knifemaking. I manage their website and social media.

The grindstones used to create a knife rotate incredibly fast, and so full attention must be given.

When I show people how to use a grindstone, I position my head right above the blade, so I am looking directly down over the blade to see where the point of contact is. My nose, as such, is close to the grindstone.

There is some conjecture as to where the phrase ‘Put your nose to the grindstone’ comes from, but it refers to applying yourself conscientiously to your work.

Back in the day when this term came to be, the grindstones weren’t spinning around at thousands of revs per minute. Instead, the large onerous stone had a crank handle which was turned manually.

I think ‘Put your nose to the grindstone’ refers to the laborious element of a work that captures your close attention.

What gets your attention gets you.
Where you focus is where you will go. 

This is what the poem If you put your nose to the grindstone rough, draws our attention to.  Our world, our life, our existence becomes the grindstone if we keep our attention there too long.

Birds and Wildflowers

Jesus talked to a crowd familiar with an arduous grindstone existence. He focuses on worry as a common problem.

Isn’t it still the same for us?

“If you decide for God, living a life of God-worship, it follows that you don’t fuss about what’s on the table at mealtimes or whether the clothes in your closet are in fashion.

There is far more to your life than the food you put in your stomach, more to your outer appearance than the clothes you hang on your body.

Look at the birds, free and unfettered, not tied down to a job description, careless in the care of God. And you count far more to him than birds.

“Has anyone by fussing in front of the mirror ever gotten taller by so much as an inch?

All this time and money wasted on fashion—do you think it makes that much difference?

Instead of looking at the fashions, walk out into the fields and look at the wildflowers.

They never primp or shop, but have you ever seen color and design quite like it?

The ten best-dressed men and women in the country look shabby alongside them. Matthew 6:25-29 The Message

Jesus invites us to give attention to the gift of creation as a source of true north. To keep aligned with what is real and true.

The poem reminds us that we can easily conclude there are no such things as brooks that babble or birds that sing. We have left the garden and are caught up in the gears of a machine.

What gets your attention gets you. 

How to keep the brook babbling

  1. Discover your grindstone
    We all have them. Places of work and attention. But let’s go deeper to the grindstone of your mind.
    What is going around and around in your mind? Where are you grinding and grinding? Worry, fretting, pondering and ruminating.
  2. Examine the grindstone for its magnetic pull
    Every grindstone has a kind of pull that draws you to think you are in control of the outcome. That if you keep on grinding the outcome will be different.Yet, so often we don’t discover positive change. Instead, we reap worry, fear, depression, and loss. Recognition starts the journey away from the grindstone.
  3. Build nature into your everyday existence. 
    Have you spent time today smelling the roses? What about mindfully giving full attention to the taste of a carrot.As I write this the sun is beginning to rise. Light is piercing through dark clouds and colors are evolving and beginning the day, every day.
  4. Notice the little nature interruptions. 
    I was having lunch the other day in my car, and a little sparrow landed on the rearview mirror. With a tilting head, it interrupted me and caused me to stop and give attention to its needs. A crumb or two and I had it, and its mates, full attention. God brings little interruptions along our way to draw us away from the grindstone.
  5. Soak in it
    Enter into the fullness of the brook that babbles. Swim in it and be refreshed. Sing with the birds. Say hello and thank them for their song. Breathe deeply the salt air of a wild sea.

These three things will your world compose:
Just you, the stone,
And your ground-down nose.

It’s so easy to get a ‘ground down nose’. To be blunted by the churn of the mind. Instead listen for the brook, the birds, and the rustle of the wind through the trees.

Discover a rhythm away from the grindstone.

Further Reading

Quotes to consider

  • The antidote to stress, depression, anxiety, despair is to be on then off, work play, inhale-exhale, summer-winter. Rhythm is built into creation, and the problem with the modern world is that you can get tomatoes at 2 am Rob Bell
  • What I focus on gets me.
    Focus on the negatives/challenges will always take me down.
    Focus on the positives/ good things will always give me hope.
    • If we do not regularly quit work for one day a week, we take ourselves far too seriously. The moral sweat pouring off our brows blinds our eyes to the action of God in and around us. Eugene H. Peterson

    Questions to answer 

    1. What does your grindstone look like?
    2. How do experiences of nature interplay with your life at the moment?
    3. What is giving energy to your grindstone?

    Barry Pearman

    Image: Self-taken at Gumdiggers Park



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