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Wood Turning that Uplifts the Spirit

At a show earlier this 2018 season a woman told me of an ash tree in her yard that had to come down. It made her very sad as she had sat under this tree many time for support when things were tough. Now, she said, it laid in piles on the ground. She did not want it all to go for firewood and was I interested.

Of course I said yes and made a date to visit her and get some wood. It was kind of a gray day when I left to drive about 20 miles to her rural home. By the time I got there It was snowing. By the time I got my saw ready to cut it was snowing hard.

cutting wood in the snow

The tree was covered with about a foot of snow. I made cuts as best I could and with the help of the woman’s husband got chunks of ash loaded in my van.

a little help

I remembered that when I was sent to Japan on business with the TM program that a stranger gave me a beautiful paper box and inside was a little bird carved of wood. I was told that it was a Kami. This is the Japanese word for spirit. They believe that there is a spirit that lives in everything. When a tree is cut and used for construction the spirit has no place to live. So the bird was carved as a home for the dispossessed spirit.

So I decided to make a Kami from this ash tree and give it to my benefactor. I turned the nest of the same tree and left the bark on. Inside sits the new home for the spirit of the tree.

small bowl

She deeply appreciated the gift and sent me this picture from her dining room table. Some of her work is seen on the right.

on the table

It is not that this is anything particularly artistic but it honors the meaning of that tree in her life and provides a space to keep the memory of her favorite tree alive in her awareness.

Over the years I have had occasion to make something of use or beauty out of wood from lots of favorite trees. When a tree has been part of our lives for many years we form a deep attachment to that living thing. When it comes down we have a feeling of loss. Giving it another life in the form of a bowl or a carving is comforting. It reminds us that material things come and go but the spirit in those things actually goes on and on.

This is a spiritual side of woodworking that has brought me a great deal of pleasure over the years.There is more to wood than just meets the eye.

I just got an e-mail from the woman. She painted the Kami. Picture is below.

painted kami
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