My Copalation Story

Harry Drabik

It’s not what you might at first think, nor is it anywhere near interesting and exciting as it sounds. Copalation is a made up word to suggest coping with an accumulation of things with which one has to cope. If you can suggest a better term let me know because maybe a simpler approach will aid with coping.

For me the word coping has nice associations with a small hand saw with a wide throat. Use of a coping saw allowed cutting out an intricate pattern so long as it fit within the throat of the tool. My first exposure was in Grade Seven shop where we novice copers plied the hand tool while looking with lustful glee at the electrified jig and sabre saws we aspired one day to be allowed to use and master. Among the would-be copers were those aspiring to marry and mate with the best built of the cheerleaders. A beginning mastery of pine doesn’t cover the needs of a pining heart; another form of learning to cope.

Ah, the woe of being limited and reduced to turning out stacks of poorly done moose outline wall shelves to gift mothers, some of whom kept the ugly things forever on a wall to remind us of our meagre beginnings. It becomes a cope of emotion to find a reminder of an awkward adolescence in the form of a ghastly wall decoration. Good grief they saved the thing. All these years they saved it. An unwanted lump may rise to the throat as an unwanted question forms: “What am I going to do with it now?” There are simple answers but none that are uneasy.

In wood, one of the more pleasant ways to cope, we cope around trim to get a nice fit or we cup and cope, using a scribe to guide us, a log to fit atop another. A cope can be sloppy or it can be art. A good cope is a masterful mating of wooden pieces so nice and neatly joined they seem to be of one eternal if wooden soul. I’ve never been and never will be that good with wood. There are places I’ve been known to be damn happy getting pieces to fit within an eighth or even a quarter if it won’t be seen. Depending on the material under consideration some of us cope far better than another. Some are craftsmen and others are not. In many cases the others who do well enough will do, but not for window trim, window seal, or that for doors. There good enough will not do despite the fresh air potential the lesser craftsperson will espouse as beneficial. And those who cope well enough are correct saying that the boat hull laid up to leak slightly will help to wash your feet. I prefer a warm tub.

Cope these days is often limited to a sense of putting up with something. This comes of coping being disconnected from the finer forms of working in wood to join and fit rather than merely tolerate. A proper wood joint isn’t about compromise and concession. It needs to be tight and solid not wiggly and weak. You can’t really apply to the human kind the same standards in cope as you’d use for boards going into a frame. But it is good, I think, to recall the standard in wood being to form a decent joint. Coping should best result in creating things that will work together rather than merely get by or tolerate each other’s presence. The coping tool with the widest throat is the heart able to reach out and beyond, but unless it can also bring parts together in a wholesome whole it hasn’t quite worked. The standard of a good fit in wood is a good one to remember. A cope that fits nothing is not a cope at all.

Ah, but I did begin with a bigger picture and called it copalation, didn’t I? That was to get your attention and see what fit could be made of parts belonging to you, me, and others. The cut and cope of life is much on my mind as I cope with issues of moving and rearranging my life on a new platform. Coping is fitting, and this is not always easy. The decades long habit of turning right from my house now faces a two way. This is simple but somehow upsetting to my balance. I’ve always turned one way and now I can’t. Should I damn the street department or shoot the pavers? Either might provide a degree of emotional relief, but neither is an act of coping to fit a new situation. What I say is “Lucky the pavers that I am a reasonable man.” For now their luck holds. Tomorrow I could forget coping and go for the bloodletting jugular of rage.

I’m confident my word will be overlooked and overshadowed by its kissing cousin word that makes the world populated if not spun round. Copalation is less fun than its cousin and is in fact a fair degree of work on the fore end whereas copulation can give decades of work after the wahoo of the moment is a long gone echo so far away it can hardly be remembered. Good copalation and worthy copalators should begin early in their desire to cope and fit the talents of their hearts with the needs of the world. Makes me think of those who feel the world should cope to them not they to it. The suggestion that it is more work and possibly impossible to cope the world to one self might not be appreciated by non-cope specialist. But since there would surely be not enough world to cope to all those individuals I’ll go back to the model of coping to fit rather than throwing a fit over an impossibility. This reasonable advice will not register with the non-coping, will it?  I’ll try regardless and wish them the finest in copalation.