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Writing has forever been my port in the storm, my therapist on a blank canvas, and my sounding board for the highs and lows in life. Ever since I could hold a writing instrument in my hand, I have found great pleasure in creating something out of nothing. The blank page has always called to me, begging to be filled. Who knew that writing could become such a bridge between generations and a way to meet people whose paths I may never have crossed, had it not been for my columns?

Every now and then, I receive an email from a person who strongly related to what I have written. I hear stories that perhaps may never be shared with others, but are “safe” to share with me because I have already bared my soul with my experiences. I connect with others who sometimes stare at me a little too long in the grocery store and finally come over to me whispering, “I like your columns!” Sometimes I even receive gifts in the mail, one of my favorites being a DVD of a favorite Christmas movie I wrote about a few years back.

Last week I had the pleasure of receiving a gift made from the heart. A reader sent me an email, telling me he liked my columns and wondered if I would be interested in receiving a handmade wooden pen from him. A person just doesn’t receive messages like this every day, so of course, I responded affirmatively.

We made arrangements for me to pick up a pen at his house, and my husband and I arrived there one evening to find this man named Karl having a little late supper of corn on the cob and fresh tomatoes. “Excuse me while I finish,” Karl said. “Have a seat.” Marc and I sat at his dining room table and got to know Karl a little better. I never asked his age, but after some research on my computer, I discovered that he is in his 90s.

Wow, I hope to be that nimble when I’m his age! Although he walked a bit slowly with a little shuffle to his gait, he got around from room to room in his house, proudly showing us some of the treasures he has made. From wooden lamp stands to salt and pepper shakers to pens, Karl can make a piece of wood into something special.

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He started making pens out of wood, deer antlers and even corncobs about four years ago when he discovered someone selling materials as they were getting out of the business. Karl read a couple instructional books and wood has probably never looked the same to him ever since. He said he likes to make pens and give them away, and when his wife was still around, he asked for her permission to do so. He chuckled as he told us her answer that of course it was OK … it kept him from doing other things like going out to the bars at night!

If you’re a doctor in the Mason City area, and especially one of Karl’s doctors, you probably have received a special pen from him. He has made awesome pens in honor of women who have gone through breast cancer, and he also has made special pens made out of deer antlers that receive a hefty price at hunting group fundraising auctions.

I guess it’s never too late to find your niche. If you had asked Karl a decade ago about what hobby he would grow to love in his later years, it may never have occurred to him what some wood, a lathe and a plethora of other saws and materials would mean to him.

For me, I’m treasuring my beautiful pen made from an ash tree while my husband is treasuring his sumac pen. Even more than that, we’re treasuring time spent with a lovely older gentleman who took the time to read my columns and share a little of his life with us.

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Michelle Sprout Murray is a freelance writer who lives in Mason City with her family. She may be reached at sproutmurray@gmail.com.

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