Monday, November 14, 2016


a reliquary of woods
A number of years back, I made my first "reliquary of wood," a simple case, or box, for samples of 25 different Arkansas hardwoods. As you can see, it is a simple thing made of maple. This one won best of show in a 4-state regional exhibit at the Springfield Art Museum along with a cash prize.

It was first made for an exhibit of shrines at the University of Arkansas in Little Rock, and when I was invited to participate in that show along with a number of other local artists the suggestion was to create a shrine to some of those things that were most important in my life. This photo was taken for the UU World Magazine where my reliquary of wood was featured as religious "art".

What could be more important to a woodworker than the beautiful woods that are found in and around his home state? This piece is also based on the child's finger play, "here's the church, here's the steeple, open the doors and see all the people." The turned hardwood samples are the "people" of this church, and for some, God is as much likely to be found in the forest as anywhere else.

Thanks to my friend Barbara and her mother, I learned that:
a "schreiner is the box maker, a joiner. Schreiner comes from schrinaere, the Middle High German and old English similar, a little chest or box. In Norwegian the same word for chest or box,  is 'skrin' or 'skrine'. To write is 'skrive', the latin scrinium, a writing box or chest.
Barbara notes that it is "Always interesting to follow words around." And I learn that I am a schreiner who made a shrine. Along those same lines, I looked up the etymology for the word case, and found that it in turn equaled reliquary, a word associated with the small chapel shaped boxes that the Catholic Church once used to house  important religious relics. A small tin reliquary served as the inspiration for my own reliquary of wood. Can you see the way words and things are interrelated in ways that both defy and inspire the imagination?

I learned from a blog reader that he was greatly distressed (angered and insulted) by my opposition to Donald Trump's election as President of the US. I pray that he and others find no further cause for remorse and that Trump, a man who conducted a campaign as mean spirited as his, based so strongly on generating fear and insulting others,  and infused with such outrageous proposals can rise to the responsibilities of guiding our nation toward greater justice for all, and most particularly for those he insulted and threatened during his campaign.

In any case, when we begin to realize the overwhelming interrelationship of all things, we begin to realize that even the most minuscule act when performed for the right reasons can lead in some way toward the goal of the good even in the face of outrageous behaviors.

I learned from a parent that her daughter being in her first year of wood shop at the Clear Spring School, had been terrified at the prospect of tools. Thinking of them in the abstract, they, for her, presented the risk of sharp and dangerous edges. Using tools, has helped her to overcome her fear. May the same happen for each of us, that as we learn more about each other, we find less to fear and that those who have successfully used fear against us, will lose all their power.

Woodworking, done with right mind, can be an act of devotion that can change the world, admittedly only a very little bit at a time, and while that may never seem quite enough, persistence helps.

Today in the wood shop at the Clear Spring School, children will be making toys.

Make, fix, create, and offer others the chance of learning, and growing likewise to find connection in the vast interconnectedness of all things.

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