This Woodspirit carved in cottonwood bark is unique because the bark from which it is carved is very hard. This allowed me to include some detail in the carving that is usually not possible in a carving material like cottonwood bark, which is notorious for chipping, making finer detail attempts by the carver an exercise in maintaining control of his/her temper.
Ihad seen it for weeks as I walked by
the parking lot where the Farmer’s Market is held.
It was an odd looking piece of wood that
had probably been used to block a wheel of a trailer or used for some other
common need at the Farmer’s Market.I
tried to ignore it each day as I would pass by but I couldn’t help myself from
visualizing a face carved in this old chunk of wood.It was dirty and sandy and I had my work clothes
on, a white shirt that day with a tie, so I resisted the urge to pick it up and
examine it further.And that was my
relationship with this old chunk of wood for days.
Then one day as I was walking by, my eyes
automatically fell to the place that I knew where the chunk of wood would
be.It was a Monday after a week end
Farmer’s Market and the chunk of wood was no longer there.I was haunted with the fact that possibly I
had missed the opportunity to put some life in this neglected piece of wood and
now it would be too late because it is gone.A week went by and I had almost forgotten about this chunk of wood that
had occupied my mind for several days until just after a later Farmer’s Market,
almost in the same place, the piece of wood reappeared.An unexplained joy welled up inside of me as
my eyes fell upon this familiar chunk and for some reason I stopped and picked
it up to really examine it to see if it could be used to carve a face.Picking it up I immediately could tell from
the heaviness of the wood and its rough texture that it was hard as a rock, so
I dropped it to the ground with what would have been the carving face on the
bottom and started to leave.And then I
heard it . . . a Spirit of a Long Dead Tree was calling out to me.“Free me!”It was a pitiful and pathetic little interior voice that I heard and
once again it implored . . . “Free Me!”Startled, I replied “I can’t free you.Your wood is too hard and it would take too much carving and besides all
my tools are ground for soft wood like bass wood, and pine and butternut.”With that I resolutely walked away.The next day I decided rather than to be
confronted with a voice from a tree spirit I would take an alternate route and
by-pass this chunk of wood all together.But the very next day, I couldn’t help myself but take the old route and
walk past this chunk of wood that I had developed this relationship with, all
be it not particularly pleasant to me.As I walked by the chunk, once again I heard the voice of the wood
spirit cry out . . .
“Free Me!”I started to indignantly reply, “I told you that”
and then noticed that someone in a passing car was looking at me with the same
expression as one would have when observing a person playing an air guitar
along with a boom box.I hurriedly walked
on and didn’t indulge my urge to respond to this plea from the wood
spirit.I was able to do this for
several days and then one day as I walked by, giving my customarily fleeting
glance at the place where the wood spirit usually laid, I was alarmed to
recognize the fact that it was no longer there.It had been moved to another spot just about ten feet away and I was
more sure than ever that it had probably been used as a wheel block or
something at the Farmer’s Market.Instinctively I walked over to it and noticed that through whatever use
it was put through had caused a piece of the chunk to break off.Then, I heard it again. . . . “Free Me!” . .
.with this addition to the petition . .
. “before it’s too late.”I told myself
. . . “Well, I guess it wouldn’t do any harm to at least take it home and clean
it up to see if it really did have some possibilities.I picked it up and the wood spirit joyfully
dribbled sand and dirt all over my clothes.
Once the wood was home I washed it
thoroughly with oil soap and brushed up a good lather.That completed, the carving was started and
as I feared the wood indeed was rock like.The progress was slow and I heard no more out of the wood spirit that
would indicate its approval or disapproval.Now the carving is completed and from the expression the wood spirit has
I think he is both surprised and horrified to find himself in this world to
which he has been unveiled.Well Spirit,
I have to say . . . “Be careful for what you ask.Wood can be removed but can not be put back
on. So you, like the rest of us, are here to stay until we are called to something
better, so let’s make the best of it.
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