Discovering the world through wooden spoons
Sitting quietly in the last few rays of October sunshine whittling the edges off of the bowl of my spoon I had forgotten the rest of the world. The spoon had my full being. I was absorbed by the smooth movement of shaving off a slither of wood along the grain or the slight snag when you went against the grain. As the light faded it took shape in my hands whilst all my worries and troubles were forgotten.
I haven't really done much green woodwork (or bodging as its known) I was introduced to it on my Permaculture Design Course in the spring, where under the experienced supervision of Ritchie a little wooden spoon was born (the one on the right). Not the most elegant one in the world, some might even call it chunky, but I was very proud of it. I had used several different sharp tools to produce it and I hadn't cut anything off and as I learnt the techniques it had got easier and more meditative. You really have to listen to the wood to make it work, if you fight it then it's a lot of effort. You have to pay attention to this raw material, this direct product of mother nature. You have to consider the grain and knots, you learn to appreciate the difference seasoning makes - it gets a lot more solid the longer you leave it - you start to relate to it in a different way, its no longer just matter.
Although I was inspired by this new experience to purchase a proper wood carving knife I hadn't had much opportunity since to practice. I wasn't really sure where to get wood from either! But helping out on the autumn permaculture course I got stuck back in. This time I went big. A giant spoon for my friend, for stirring giant pots of food. There was a bit more room for experimenting this time, it was big enough to just remove the bits that had gone wrong! So I tried some different tools and learnt how they effect the wood. It is not an opportunity you really get in modern life, to use proper tools. Such a feature of being human, we now rarely use tools that require much degree of skill or dexterity, often tools are electronic or electric powered. It creates another division between us and our world.
I have done quite a lot of reskilling in Transition, but nothing quite like green woodworking. It gave me a different perspective on the trees, what was their wood like? How did they feel to work with? What did they have to say? I think it is very important to engage people in reskilling in the things which reconnect us to nature. Maybe it is because I have been involved in particularly urban Transition Initiatives that the reskilling has been more removed from the original raw materials, that there wasn't access to them or there weren't people around who knew how to work them. Or maybe it just wasn't a raw material I was familiar with, after all foraging is definitely dealing directly with the raw materials!
Whatever the case I think working directly with raw materials such as wood or earth iand with proper hand tools is definitely something that Transition Initiatives should encourage and facilitate in their communities. If nothing else it is definitely good for wellbeing.
Photos: beautiful spoony creations & woodworking on the spring 2012 Permaculture course (Kirsty Morris)