The Wood is the Journey

Wood. It’s everywhere. It’s all around us. I’m looking at some right now. My feet are firmly planted on some too. I like it. I’ve always liked wood. That’s an ingrained thing. Wood makes me feel good.

I’ve always done things with wood, carving walking sticks or carving other things. But many years ago I put the more serious carving aside. You just know.

Perhaps you dear reader have experienced something similar with your toolbox of human talents and creative skills. You sense it and you can’t really ignore when something within you refuses to be abandoned, when the pilot light of creativity remains alight. Time goes by but the thoughts, ideas and dreams keep coming. And so it was. And so it is. And so I returned to the tools, the feel and the wood.

A dear friend was instrumental in this return and I am thankful for that. I simply joined the wood sculpting course he was in an the rest took and is taking care if itself. The feeling of relief a sure sign that I was doing the right thing. That I was doing what I should be doing. That it was good to touch the wood and to reconnect with the familiar. I began with a warmup piece, creating in a larger scale the same spiral lines I usually use on walking sticks, this time on a birch log. I still need to finish that one, it is roughed out and ready for finishing work it was a warmup piece and remains a work in progress.

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When the wood feeling firmed up, I bought tools and will buy more tools

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A second piece began to take shape and is leading me along an unfamiliar path which is intriguing and a bit frustrating at the same time because it is drawing me out of my comfort zone.

And then I found olive, or it found me. Actually a largish chunk of olive trunk wood. Wow. What a find. The possibilities …

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top view with wet core

The piece was wet wood, freshly cut when I put it in storage for observation and to let it dry out. Over the next few weeks I peeled off the rough bark, giddy with impatience to expose the fantasy shapes, twists, hollows and bulges that are this piece of wood. Ok, so olive wood is fairly rare in these southern parts of Germany. Finding a piece like that not an everyday occurrence and no, I didn’t find it digitally although a few of my carving colleagues in the course found and bought olive wood pieces online. I am fully aware of the coolness of this score. The trunk is approx. 45cm in diameter and 65cm tall and I guess that the tree must have been close to 60 years old when it succumbed to the worms that were working their way through the centre core.

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peeled with mirror

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rough start

It is one thing to begin a piece. It is another to finish it. And yet another to turn a project into firewood. THAT is not an option and so I bridled my excitement and only then laid tool to the wood when the moment felt right. But once I began the project grabbed my by the neck with such intensity and urgency that the first 60 hours few by.

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roughed out

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smoother

chiseled and riffled

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roughing out

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roughing out

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opening at bottom

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impression

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exposed and finishing

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hollow

So far I’ve whacked away at the piece with carving tools letting the mouthwatering olive smelling chips fly. I’ve spent days in an intensely focused meditative state with long thin riflers in nearly cramped gloved hands creating shapes, rasping lines and following as best I can the dictating flow of the myriad emerging flowing grains and contrasting dark/light patterns that make this wood so unique. And to satisfy my most irritating perfectionist urges, countless pieces of paper parted from sand in varying grades, shimmied to and fro, back and forth, across and with the grain to render by hand a nearly baby bottom smooth finish.

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riffling

 

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shapes

 

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lines & grain

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interior view

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smoothed surface

At this stage of the project I can see at least 60 hours into the future and perhaps beyond but there is not real rush and I have no deadline other than to create something interesting, something that takes the eye on a visual journey … into the olive wood and I have the finished piece also firmly in mind, yet open to changes as fluid as its grain. The openings into the core of the piece drawing the eye inward, the colorful grain triggering day dreams. All that said, a photo of the finished piece will be added as an update.  Das Holz ist der Weg

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The first soup of fall

Light high flying coastal clouds defuse a pale blue late September sky as my appetite and comfort needs turn to the soul enriching flavors of true soups, made from scratch and not a few cupful/handfuls of love and pride in the act of creating edible ecstasy in a large pot for the dinner bowl and spoon set.

My lime green cast iron/enamel pot is settled onto the stove, it’s lid firmly, nay heavily fit into place sealing in the goodness of my first autum sojourn into my world of hearty soups. I’ll check under the near manhole cover weighted lid in an hours time now. Let the ingredients relax and release their natural benefits.

Yeah, I did think of taking some photos while in the process of chopping and adding and stirring and now the waiting/cooking but couldn’t be bothered  much with fiddling around my my digital eyeball just then. I’ll show the finished result later instead (then it will be now for you).

I will tell of the idea and how I begat this particular version of hearty goodness.

It always begins with the mention of a certain food or a feeling I get at this particular time of the year. Soup is what begins. Soup season if you will and I love soup season.

Today I began with 3L of water into which I slow cooked two small roughly diced onions, one bay leaf and two beef bullion cubes (salted only much later); add to that a fair and reasonable yet not over the top amount of dried split peas and lentils of your choice. To this combination I added two bunches of baby carrots, again roughly diced/chopped, another diced small onion. For color I added on whole Okanagan red pepper, along with three thick sliced of ginger for medicinal flavouring. I also added four cubed yellow potatoes at the end for excess salt absorption. For meat I used two kinds. I roughly diced two red wine chorizo sausages that I got at Cioffis an hour ago. I started by frying it in a large skillet. To that I added a reasonably largely diced 1.7lbs of natural stew beef pieces. Fried those up well, adding the leftover of the super spicey raspberry jam (I mixed three drops of Dave’s Insanity Sauce (great color) for some extra flavor enhancement. I do this because then when the meat is transfered to the iron soup pot for tenderizing slow cooking its flavor mixes with the building/expanding/developing soup. I’m having a difficult time keeping the lid on the pot and not looking in on the process … but I am resisting.

After combining everything I wanted to add to the pot, I let the low heat and iron pot do their thing to the ingredients under the lid for as long as you can stand it.

After the fact: The big pot is empty now. The soup was incredible, hearty and oh so delicious.