Thursday, August 18, 2022


I'm in Indianapolis this week with the Central Indiana Woodworkers We had great attendance last night for my presentation. It is an amazing group, very dedicated to education and service to the communities and kids in the Indianapolis area. 

Among their various activities is making thousands of toys for holiday distribution to kids. At the Indianapolis State Fair this week, they've sold thousands of dollars worth of toys and had hundreds of kids making and decorating tops.

Today and tomorrow I'll be teaching box making techniques.

Make, fix and create...

Tuesday, August 16, 2022

Central Indiana Woodworkers

I leave by air on Wednesday to spend 3 days with the Central Indiana Woodworkers teaching short classes. I begin with an evening session with their monthly meeting. Coffee and Cookies begin at 6:30 PM August 17 with presentation and club meeting to follow. The program is described as follows: 
"Author and unique boxmaker Doug Stowe will be our guest presenter for the Wednesday, August 17, 2022 monthly meeting at the Carpenters Union 301 Hall, 3530 S Rural St., Indianapolis, IN, starting at 7:00 PM. The topic of hs presentation will be the Personal Satisfaction of Working with our Hands. Based on his most recent book, The Wisdom of our Hands, he will share his life-long journey of finding meaning and satisfaction in the woodworking craft and will talk about how woodworking can have a positive impact on communities." 
You can find more information at

My presentation will be followed by two days of classes.

I have been reading an interesting book published in 1985 called "Chain Carvers: Old Men Crafting Meaning." written by ethnographer Simon J. Bronner. In it, Bronner introduces old men living in the Indiana area and describes how work with their hands brings the men comfort, and helps them to cope with the changes taking place in their lives and in their communities. It also illustrates the way crafts extend meaning forward between generations. 

The photo from Chain Carvers shows a hand made knife similar to ones we've made at the Clear Spring School.

Make, fix and create...

Sunday, August 14, 2022

fiction and the real world.

Yesterday I had a pleasant book signing and talk at the Fayetteville Public Library, and as is usually the case when speaking to the public, there were things afterwards that I wish I had said, but did not.

I was very pleased that a few old friends showed up, and new ones as well.

There is a difference in the market place between fiction and non-fiction. Fiction can change lives, but most often does not. We read fiction, not to get closer to reality, but to escape from it or to gain insight into it by seeing things from a different point of view— that of the fictional characters in the book. We often read non-fiction to gain a better understanding of things, but I think you will find it true that a better understanding does not always lead to physical change, particularly in the short term.

My book, "the Wisdom of Our Hands," is my first book in which a table saw is not needed to harvest full value, but like my earlier books, it is a how-to book, in that it describes the human potential for transforming self, family, community and human culture by crafting things of useful beauty. 

The point of the book is not mine alone to make, but yours as well. Were we each to realize and reward the hands in our thinking of things, and as we observe the lives surrounding our own we might move away from the perversion of isolated thought toward a more harmonious community of mankind.

Heather Cox Richardson wrote this morning about the anniversary of the Social Security Act as initially conceived by Francis Perkins.  

When asked to describe the origins of the Social Security Act, Perkins mused that its roots came from the very beginnings of the nation. When Alexis de Tocqueville wrote Democracy in America in 1835, she noted, he thought Americans were uniquely “so generous, so kind, so charitably disposed.” “Well, I don't know anything about the times in which De Tocqueville visited America,” she said, but “I do know that at the time I came into the field of social work, these feelings were real.”

And in the real world we discover that we are deeply connected, and indebted to each other. 

And so that brings me to the point I forgot to make. When we, in our educations, are brought to an understanding of the skills of others (including manual skills) and the labors through which those skills are developed, we have a least some potential of appreciating the contributions of others, even if we were to reside in the loftiest planes of business, academics or politics. That means, of course, that manual training in schools has the potential of transforming even the loftiest of institutions toward a better appreciation of each other. 

The great error in American education came when they decided that the education of the head, and the education of the hands should be separate tracks. That is, of course, something we can fix.

Make, fix and create. Assist others in learning likewise.

Thursday, August 11, 2022

two events...

This Saturday, August 13, 2022 from 2-3 PM I'll be at the Fayetteville Public Library for a talk, display of boxes and readings  from my new book "The Wisdom of Our Hands." The Fayetteville Public Library is located at 401 W. Mountain St. Fayetteville, 72701

On Wednesday evening, August 17, I'll begin a series of demonstrations with the Central Indiana Woodworkers in the Indianapolis area. You will find more information on their website. 

I have been organizing tools and materials for a series of demonstrations. My talk on Wednesday evening August 17 will be open to the public and be held in the Carpenter's Local 301 Meeting Hall 3530 S. Rural St, Indianapolis, IN 46237 Coffee and Cookies at 6:30. Meeting and presentation at 7:00 PM.

Make, fix and create... Assist others in learning likewise.

Monday, August 08, 2022

the real world out there.

There is a real world out there. The Hindu concept Maya suggests that what we see is an illusion, but that's not to deny the reality of what we see, hear or touch but rather, our interpretation of it. Punch the door and your fist will hurt. Pet the cat and it will purr.  Throw the stick and the dog will chase it. The door was real. your fist is real, the pain is real, the cat is real and the sound that the cat makes is also real. The stick was real and if you're lucky the dog will bring it back.

The illusion refers to our making unreal distinctions between things that deny the complex yet simple relationships between things, drawing and redrawing those lines that keep us apart and separate from each other... lines that prevent us from seeing the real world that surrounds us. There is life and there's death, and in the non-duality of the real world, there's only life.

There is an interesting text from the zen tradition called the "Hsin Hsin Ming" that I have found influential in my own thoughts. A fragment of the short text follows: 
The Great Way is neither easy nor difficult for those who have no preferences. When love and hate are both absent everything becomes clear and undisguised. Make the smallest distinction, however, and heaven and earth are set infinitely apart.

Friedrich Froebel's Kindergarten was conceived as a means of awakening children to the richness of their surroundings in both the worlds of nature and of man. Froebel's concept "gliedganzes" meaning member-whole suggested that even though a child was an individual, he or she was also a part of the larger worlds of family, community, nation and even nature itself. 

For a time Kindergarten had become so influential that folks tried to make conventional schooling more like the real world. Due to decades of domination of education by standardized testing schemes, things have gone way off track and even Kindergarten was reshaped to be more inline with standardized testing schemes of measuring reading an math rather as opposed to integration with life.

Things have become a mess. But can be fixed. Reconnecting with the work of our own hands can help.

Make, fix and create...


Sunday, August 07, 2022

the world is real and the self seems abstract.

We tend to see ourselves, not from within, but as a reflection of our interactions with others. I  reach out and grasp the nearest object, and feel its weight and texture. It is a bit harder to do that with myself, so when it comes to grasping my own purpose in life, there can be a challenge. I suspect that's true for others as well.

Yesterday I shared a poem about Khing, the master carver, whose work, and the perfection of it, required work first upon himself, on the discovery of self that led to finding the perfect tree without whose participation the work would have been trivial and of little account.

The interesting thing is that when one commences upon the search for the realization of self, we discover no distinct boundaries. There are no distinct lines between me, sitting on the bench on our front porch, and the dog laying at my feet, for we are intertwined. She watches the forest as I write. If something stirs in the forest, she looks up, and my own eyes follow her gaze into the woods.

I was surprised this week that my newly arrived copy of Fine Woodworking  contains an article illustrating a technique written by another but that I had discovered, taught, and demonstrated to them when an editor was here taking photos for an article on box making. 

My first feelings were that something had been taken from me, as the technique illustrated is clearly one of my own discoveries. My second thoughts were the remembrance that we are deeply connected and indebted to each other, and it's a reminder that we can choose one of two directions in the course of our own lives. One is that of centrifugal force, moving ever outward in the loss of self. The other, inward offers the discovery of who we are.

Yesterday, I also shared a quote from D.H. Lawrence, my sharing of which was also inspired by the article in FWW. We will each be forgotten. What we share with others will live. This is the simple lesson from sitting on the porch, watching the wind flow through the trees, seeing Rosie's nose lift and pull in the aromas of life brought from distant places by that same wind ruffling the leaves. The sound of a jet flying overhead is a reminder of folks flying from one place to another, lifting bags from the overhead compartment, each on journeys of their own fabrication and isolation, and yet not fully disconnected from my own life, or from the winds rustling through the leaves of this forest.

The job of education is not that of filling heads with facts, but that of enabling kids to make and sustain connections with a broad scope, seeing themselves in others and as connected beings within the fabric of reality.

Make, fix and create... Assist others in learning likewise.

Saturday, August 06, 2022

warm still

"Things men have made with wakened hands, and put soft life into are awake through years with transferred touch, and go on glowing for long years. And for this reason, some old things are lovely warm still with the life of forgotten men who made them."—D.H.Lawrence

We will each be forgotten at some point, and yet what we've created and passed along selflessly may live in other hands through extended self.

Parker Palmer, suggests this poem as an allegory for teaching.
Khing, the master carver, made a bell stand
Of precious wood. When it was finished,
All who saw it were astounded. They said it must be
The work of spirits.
The Prince of Lai said to the master carver
"What is your secret?"

Khing replied, "I am only a workman:
I have no secret. There is only this:
When I began to think about the work you commanded
I guarded my spirit, did not expend it
on trifles, that were not to the point.
I fasted in order to set
My heart at rest.
After three days fasting,
I had forgotten praise or criticism.
After seven days
I had forgotten my body
With all its limbs.

"By this time all thought of your Highness
And of the court had faded away.
All that might distract me from the work
Had vanished.
I was collected in the single thought
Of the bell-stand.

"Then I went to the forest
To see the trees in their own natural state.
When the right tree appeared before my eyes,
The bell stand also appeared in it, clearly, beyond doubt.
All I had to do was to put forth my hand
And begin.

"If I had not met this particular tree
There would have been
No bell stand at all.

"What happened?
My own collected thoughts
Encountered the hidden potential in the wood:
From this live encounter came the work
Which you ascribe to the spirits."
Simple, elegant... most of the work was on self, then with the self in control and alignment, the work begins. The results are ascribed to the spirits, and the teacher's job is to bring forth that which is unique.
Make, fix and create... Assist others in doing likewise.