Wednesday, October 30, 2013

CLVII: Gray Sky

WHEN I am dead, my dearest,
Sing no sad songs for me:
Plant thou no roses at my head,
Nor shady cypress tree:
Be the green grass above me
With showers and dewdrops wet;
And if thou wilt, remember,
And if thou wilt, forget.
I shall not see the shadows,
I shall not feel the rain;
I shall not hear the nightingale
Sing on, as if in pain;
And dreaming through the twilight
That doth not rise nor set,
Haply I may remember,
And haply may forget.

Christina Rossetti, Song

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

CLVI: When that was done that should be done

There now the Squire awhile drew rein,
And noted how the ground again
Rose up upon the other side,
And saw a green glade opening wide
’Twixt oaks and hollies, and he knew
Full well what place it led unto;
Withal he heard the bittern's boom,
And though without the fir-wood's gloom
They now were come, yet red and low
The sun above the trees did show,
And in despite of hardihead,
The old squire had a mortal dread
Of lying in the wood alone
When that was done that should be done.
William Morris, The Earthly Paradise 

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Wednesday, October 23, 2013


It's a bit much in this context, but it's such a good quote I can't resist... When I can write poetry while weaving a tapestry, designing wallpaper and engaging in political agitation then like William Morris I will be a real man. It may be a while.

What thing but that same death
Had we left now to hope for? death must come
And find us somewhere an enduring home.
Will grief kill men, as some folk think it will?
Then are we of all men most hard to kill.

William Morris, The Earthly Paradise 

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Finished but Untitled

Untitled, walnut, spalt and wormy maple, 2013

In spite of my best efforts I sometimes finish things. This is the piece I started at the Openings residency on Lake George this summer. Thanks to Fr. Frank Sabatte for the chunk off the old log. I almost never work in a whole round section, but being 30 odd years cut this has showed no signs of additional cracking. I almost always have titles before I start on a piece, and if not come up with one while working on it, but this time round I've got nothing. Suggestions?


THINK, listener, that I had the luck to stand,
Awhile ago within a flowery land,
Fair beyond words; that thence I brought away
Some blossoms that before my footsteps lay,
Not plucked by me, not over fresh or bright;
Yet, since they minded me of that delight,
Within the pages of this book I laid
Their tender petals, there in peace to fade.
Dry are they now, and void of all their scent
And lovely colour, yet what once was meant
By these dull stains, some men may yet descry
As dead upon the quivering leaves they lie.

Behold them here, and mock me if you will,
But yet believe no scorn of men can kill
My love of that fair land wherefrom they came,
Where midst the grass their petals once did flame.

Moreover, since that land as ye should know,
Bears not alone the gems for summer’s show,
Or gold and pearls for fresh green-coated spring,
Or rich adornment for the flickering wing
Of fleeting autumn, but path little fear
For the white conqueror of the fruitful year,
So in these pages month by month I show
Some portion of the flowers that erst did blow
In lovely meadows of the varying land,
Wherein erewhile I had the luck to stand.
William Morris, The Earthly Paradise

Monday, October 21, 2013


We now return you to your regularly scheduled rant free tree stump...

Sunday, October 20, 2013


Waste not, want...

I've realized that waste is one of the underlying themes of this tree stump project. It's done and gone, as many people have observed to me, certainly can't do anything about that. But I'm still sorry for the waste of something unique for the sake of our imagined right to be free of fear, at least fear of things that someone easily identifiable can be sued about. Back in practical land, it is hard to quantify risk, and officials are tasked with protecting us from it. I can understand why this is the way it turned out. Yet the feeling remains that something irreplaceable was wasted, to make a tiny risk into zero risk. It is a waste I seem determined to fight against symbolically, both in my involvement in making things from the wood and in my efforts (which have hijacked what was meant to be a prosaic artist's self promotion blog)  to make the loss itself into a work of art. In some ways it's a very Italian approach: what you do with a martyr is make things out of bits of her, and make a very big deal over them.

Two guys spent most of Saturday morning loading this thing in front of my apartment with mysterious cardboard boxes, then covered the top with construction debris. I wonder what is inside, particularly since they don't seem to want me to have it, but not quite enough to really start digging through the heavy top layer...

More prosaically, I'm one of those people brought up in an environment strongly influenced by the lives of my depression era grandparents. People who saved bits of twine, didn't eat out, took things out of other people's garbage before it was (semi) fashionable. I've lived my entire adult life in a sort of haze of horror at the waste around me, a mouthful eaten and the rest thrown away, carelessly bought, still in the box but put on the curb because the moment of enthusiasm has passed, things people need loaded into a dumpster, because it's not worth a busy person's effort to get the things to those people.  If you weren't brought up so that you viscerally feel that waste is a horror, it's easy to miss. It's just the way things are done around here, time is money, mindfulness is expensive, it makes some sense. But these things drive me crazy every day. I've always arrayed my life against them personally, but feel helpless against the larger tide.

Fallen apples rotting at a U-pick place in western NJ.

But I was also brought up to believe that what you feel is less important than the practical consequences of what you do. We're still trying to live in the moment, to be blind to the damage we do while just trying to get by, and to what is done in our name, by poorer people somewhere else, also just trying to get by. But the consequences of that waste are getting harder to ignore, we dimly see the time ahead when we cannot ignore them. Habits of a life time are hard to change, both personally, and in systems that encourage perverse behavior on a massive scale, but ultimately there are no other choices but slide to the bottom or start climbing. So, do you really need to buy that? How much effort is it to go on freecycle or craigslist, and give that other thing away now, rather than throw it out the next time you move? Do you need any of the material things you think you do? Maybe we can change before it's too late.

Saturday, October 19, 2013


Northern Jersey Woodcarvers Show Oct 26th and 27th

Once again I'll be at the Northern NJ Woodcarvers show, October 26th 10am -5pm and 27th 10am to 4pm. The Wayne PAL in Wayne NJ.  It's a fun low-key show and one of few opportunities in the NY area to see a room full of woodcarvers. Come by and say hi. Last year Sandy dropped a tree on my van the day after, hopefully this year will be calmer... 

Wednesday, October 16, 2013


In lieu of a tree stump, the first, albeit minor, completed project from the Cedar lane oak. A wooden spoon, which I've donated to the auction at Teaneck Creek Conservancy's Sustainability Dinner (may still be time to sponsor a table for you and 9 of your closest friends)   I was impressed by how red the wood is, I've worked with red oak plenty before, but it's usually been much lighter in tone.

Speaking of Teaneck Creek, a giant puffball just off the trail, edible, but I resisted:

Sunday, October 13, 2013


It's been a while since I've done a good lichen post.
Thanks to Julia Moore Vogel for the musical suggestion below to accompany this post.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

CXXXIX, and Some Work in Progress

Getting a little work done this weekend, which as usual primarily consists of trying to finish up projects started long ago. Out of the seven projects visible here,  five of which I tinkered with today, the newest is a couple weeks old, the oldest probably 3 years... oy.  In good news four are pretty close to done...

Tuesday, October 8, 2013


I'm not strictly sure this can be considered a non-depressing quote, but it is good, and seems appropriate for a tree stump in darkness. Thanks to Patricia Bellucci for suggesting the author.

I wake and feel the fell of dark, not day.
What hours, O what black hours we have spent
This night! what sights you, heart, saw; ways you went!
And more must, in yet longer light’s delay.
    With witness I speak this. But where I say
Hours I mean years, mean life. And my lament
Is cries countless, cries like dead letters sent
To dearest him that lives alas! away.

  I am gall, I am heartburn. God’s most deep decree
Bitter would have me taste: my taste was me;
Bones built in me, flesh filled, blood brimmed the curse.
  Selfyeast of spirit a dull dough sours. I see
The lost are like this, and their scourge to be
As I am mine, their sweating selves; but worse.

Gerard Manley Hopkins, Poems

Monday, October 7, 2013

CXXXIV: Go to Nature

...go to Nature in all singleness of heart, and walk with her laboriously and trustingly, having no other thoughts but how best to penetrate her meaning, and remembering her instruction; rejecting nothing, selecting nothing, and scorning nothing; believing all things to be right and good, and rejoicing always in the truth.
John Ruskin, Modern Painters

I have resolved to use less depressing quotes in future, the result may be that I post more unadorned photos. Send non depressing quote suggestions...

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Some Other Projects in Progress

Two work in progress shots of  projects that I got a little work done on this weekend. Above is the currently untitled  walnut carving of a woman I started in Lake George this summer. She's pretty close to finished, with a bit of refinement and cleanup mostly left.
 This piece in cherry Predator Overhead  I exhibited as finished years ago, but was never quite happy with it.  I've been tinkering with it for a couple years now, and it's almost at done again...

CXXXIII: In the Distance

One of the penalties of an ecological education is that one lives alone in a world of wounds.
Aldo Leopold, A Sand County Almanac

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Progress, slow but steady

Someone who will remain nameless installed the turtle in a hole about 5 inches too short for the post.  That same person almost injured themselves trying to lift it out with straps.   So until I can find a few guys to help me drag it out the turtle is sitting up on a log.  I have to say the state of preservation of the poplar logs makes me wish I'd made them bring in something more durable, rather than working with what came down right there. Lessons learned.

The rabbit from several years ago is still looking pretty good, however. Locust is a really durable wood, I was struck by how the sun was angled just so to put a highlight on its eye.


Turn right at the corner...

I used to be young
Now I'm old
I used to be hot
Now I'm almost cold
I used to be hard
Hard as candy
Now I've been sucked on too long, so long, so long
The Nields, I Need A Doctor

Friday, October 4, 2013


Sin, he reflected, is not what it is usually thought to be; it is not to steal and tell lies. Sin is for one man to walk brutally over the life of another and to be quite oblivious of the wounds he has left behind.
Shusaku Endo, Silence

Wednesday, October 2, 2013


Apart from the desire to produce beautiful things, the leading passion of my life has been and is hatred of modern civilization. 

William Morris, How I Became a Socialist 1894

Tuesday, October 1, 2013


I found many of its stories disquieting. But I think it is important to remember that these emotions are our baggage, not the animals'. Endangered plovers, pupfish and picture-wing flies know nothing of dignity. But they can know death.

Emma Maris, from a review of Jon Mooallem's Wild Ones: A Sometimes Dismaying, Weirdly Reassuring Story About Looking at People Looking at Animals in America,  in Nature, Vol 497, May 2013