"My son David is one of those strong silent types. He lives in Berkeley and is a gardener. He keeps his tools in our garage. Today he mentioned that he was going to wash his truck, a task he does in front of our house. 'But it's so clean,' I thought. 'What's he going to do?'

"David's truck is ten years old; he's had it for four years and it looks brand new. He cleans it once a week, inside and out, and by the unhurried way he washes the truck, it's clear that he enjoys this routine. 'Why do you keep the truck so clean?' I asked today. 'Tomorrow it will get dirty again, especially if you have a hauling job.'

" 'When I bought the truck, it was in really good shape,' he answered. 'The guy that owned it before me kept it immaculate. So I sort of inherited that same practice. I just enjoy keeping it in top condition. Right now, I'm coming up to 100,000 miles so I've been extra good about maintenance. Hopefully, I won't have to rebuild the engine or anything, if I just keep it up.'

" 'Watching you wash your truck,' I told David, 'I felt I was witnessing an act of devotion, certainly not a chore.'

" 'I'm not sure what devotion means,' he said shaking his head, 'but I do think it sort of reflects that my business is in order when I have a clean, well-conditioned truck. It says something about me.'

"David's connection with his truck, his sense of pace and attention, the way he has of caring for the things he uses, made me think of a line from the poet Rilke:

" 'When a poet rubs a piece of furniture,' Rilke said, 'when he puts a little fragrant wax on his table with the woolen cloth, he registers this object officially as a member of the human household.'

"David is one my teachers."