The process of carving


Until a few saturdays ago,  I associated carving with skiing. Carving your turns in the deep wonderful snow is an activity that engages your whole body as well as your mind. An activity that engages all of you.

You need to shift your weight,lean in to gravity,the steep,the terrain,in order to initiate a turn at the same time as you need to be clear in your intention as where you want to turn.

The shape of your skis in concert with your intention,weight shift,choice of force, timing and pathway makes up your very individual turn. The cool thing is that your next turn is different from the previous one. The terrain has shifted slightly, your thoughts might have shifted along and your body, your kinesthetic self, is informed by the experience of your previous turn.

Over a matter of several minutes to an hour you have carved your way down the mountain and maybe even through the glades( especially if you are skiing on the US Eastcoast). Once you arrived at the bottom of the run, you can look up the mountain and see the path you carved through the snow. You feel your breath and maybe even the burn of your muscles.

When I signed my family and myself up for a one day wooden spoon carving class, offered by the local parks and rec department, I didn't put much weight into the notion of carving. My excitement was fueled by the process of shaping wood into the luscious and intelligent shape of a spoon.

We were given a piece of cherry wood that was already cut to size. In addition to an intriguing selection of wood carving tools the instructor brought 3 shaving horses that we could use.

Since I wasn't interested in risking my knife to slip and cutting into my quadriceps muscle, which I will definitely need completely intact for skiing in a few weeks, the shaving horse was my place to enter the process of making this piece of wood into a spoon.

I loved how the shaving horse was able to support my body as well as the piece of wood. By placing my foot on a pedal, I was able to clamp the wooden piece.

The more weight I put on my foot,the firmer the wood was clamped and held in place.

The other students were sitting at the shaving horse. I found myself standing with one foot on the pedal and the other one on the floor. This way I was able to lean into the pedal as well as the carving tool with my whole body. I also had a better angle as I was now able to work from above into the spoon rather than obliquely or horizontally.

Depending on what angle and shape I needed to create with the wood, I found myself shifting my weight slightly, leaning from side to side, forth and back to center, all in alignment with my intention and the carving tool. The pointy end of the carving tool felt like an extension of my body and the contact with the wood felt effortless.

Just like skiing down the mountain, I paused from time to time, stepped back, looked at the shapes I had carved and felt the warm engagement of my muscles and breath.

At the end of the day I came home with a wooden spoon that now is waiting to be sanded with sandpaper and oiled to achieve its final usable state.  Just like at the end of a full ski day my skis are waiting to be waxed and edges sharpened.

This is the part of the process I am struggling with. I am still figuring out how to create the satisfying experience of flow while engaging in a tedious process that leaves less obvious results. I am wondering how I can engage my whole body while zooming into a rather microscopic level. I will play with the idea of carving  turns with steel wool and sandpaper. My breath will be free and full.  My body will remember complete immersion in the leaning and subtle weight-shifting within the activity in ever changing terrain.