nature and mind

As I sit pondering how to begin this blog, I am looking through the window above my desk at a late winter scene: morning sun on a fresh bed of snow, swirling snowflakes glinting in the slanting light, shifting shadows made by passing clouds, dessicated flower and herb seedheads swaying and rattling in the wind, juncos and chickadees visiting a rapidly emptying feeder…………..but what is most striking to me, by far, in this scene, is the silent presence of innumerable trees, standing like sentinels around the periphery of my vision.

For reasons that I am still coming to comprehend, I have from childhood felt drawn to the forest, to trees, and, eventually, to wood. Growing up in a highly suburbanized area, the small tracts of undeveloped forestland around me were where I first experienced feelings of wholeness, timelessness, and connection to the natural world in a way fully unmediated either by my own thoughts, or by the linear boundaries of human culture. While I had little context for understanding these feelings then, I was overwhelmed—and overjoyed—by the degree to which my worldview had expanded, and knew that my path thereafter would be rooted in the  natural world, and for me specifically, in wooded landscapes.

As a teenager, I first worked as a carpenter, an avocation that I continued (with a few small detours) over a period of two decades. All the while I sought out majestic forests to explore, and slowly began to educate myself in the more exacting skills of woodworking and furnituremaking, which increasingly became the focus of my creative energies. In 2003, my wife and I purchased a wooded 33 acre homestead in central New York, which has become a laboratory for experimentation with sustainable forest management, as well as the primary source of raw materials for practicing my craft. More recently, I have turned to woodworking full time, and am continuing to deepen my relationship with woodlands and with wood.

So, on one level, trees are the unifying theme of what I intend to explore in these posts: 1) a woodland owner’s attempts to gain working knowledge of the myriad and interdependent components that make up a forest, and of how to go about  stewarding a small wooded acreage toward maximizing its productive potentials; and 2) a woodworker’s journey toward practicing his craft in as holistic a way as possible, from felling individual trees, through the intricate processes involved in hand-working rough slabs of lumber into durable, functional, and hopefully aesthetically pleasing configurations. Additional topics to be explored over time are some of the varied tasks involved in creating and managing a small homestead, such as organic orchard and garden management, cultivating and using medicinal herbs, coppicing, and creating wildlife habitat.

From a more philosophical standpoint, I aim to explore the nature of handcraft, and what it still has to offer an industrialized society; questions of the nature of place, culture, and the pursuit of ecological integrity in the ‘globalized’ world; and ultimately the nature of mind, and its ever-present potential for presence, connection, and peace.

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