Without paying particular attention to anything around me I feel calm and gently soothed by the sound of a wood pigeon calling high up in a sycamore tree. In the distance the leaves of an old ash tree whisper words of gratitude that only the wind can understand and as I turn and look to my left I watch as my fellow spoon carving friends carefully remove the small fragments of wood from the bowls of their spoons.
In this moment nothing else matters. I am embosomed by natures sounds and the sense of belonging that, with the advancement of our technological society have become increasingly difficult to find. In this moment our small community of crafters are silent but we don't need words to connect, the flickering campfire paints invisible lines that connect each one of us by some distant spiritual thread and our shared desire to connect with each other, nature and our craft binds us closely together.
In recent studies carried out by Jules Pretty he unveils treasure troves of information that instinctively we have known for thousands of generations; through scientific methods he confirms that by engaging with our green spaces, be it woodland, forest, rivers, meadows, national parks and urban parks, our mental and physical health improves. These experiences also bring us into contact with other nature enthusiasts and small communities begin to establish leading to further improvements in wellbeing; and it doesn't stop there. As we spend time connecting with nature and community we begin to develop a strong sense of place and in doing so we develop a love and affinity for the spaces we visit and for all of life in general, further boosting wellbeing levels.
There is another connection taking place in our small sun dappled circle too, one between the branch of green goat willow, that I hold in my hand and my spirit within. Nobody else in the circle can hear the conversation but it is one of gentle understanding and compassion. It begins as I admire the straight branch for all of its symmetrical beauty, I envision it as a long handled spoon, how great and glorious a life it shall now lead...and I begin to chip, carve, and scrape. Underneath the smooth polished surface I discover a 'twist' in the wood, well hidden out of view, impossible for anybody taking a superficial and passing glance to notice, but not me, I am not taking a passing glance. In a careful and gentle way I am digging deeper, I am asking simple questions of the wood and slowly as the layers are removed it reveals a twisted heart- I try desperately to whittle away at the handle, to remove the imperfection, to bring it closer to the perfect ideal picture that I originally held. I try every technique I know possible, I ask for help, I despair...and then I stop! I lay down the spoon take a deep breathe and listen...
I feel calm and gently soothed by the pause. I listen intently to the emergence of a voice, the sound of what I believe an ancient teacher might sound like. Deep from within the grain of the wood it speaks of a twisted heart, hidden imperfections, a striving and desire to be that polished symmetrical ideal with a glorious life lying up ahead in the distance. It then firmly reminds me that it is the unique and imperfect fragments within each of us that bring character and diversity to this glorious world and that a twisted heart is not only the remnant of loss but also of much love, that our collective imperfections are our venerate beauties.
Then as gently as it arrives the voice leaves, it bids farewell in a much more familiar tone and as the final syllable fades, I realise that the voice is not unfamiliar at all, it is the voice of my inner self.
I lean forward and pick up my spoon, a contemplative smile appears on my face and I remember that in one way or another nature always reveals herself as our greatest teacher. I look to my left and then to my right and see an array of different spoons, each carrying their own weird and unique characters, each on their very own journey, each with their own beautiful twisted hearts, and I am reminded that all that really matters is connection.
Our next spoon carving workshop takes place on September 8th 2019- you can find out more here: http://bit.ly/adulttraining