Why Woodcraft?

Northern England in the age of coal.

For brick and mortar breed filth and crime,
With a pulse of evil that throbs and beats;
And men are withered before their prime
By the curse paved in with the lanes and streets.

And lungs are poisoned and shoulders bowed,
In the smothering reek of mill and mine;
And death stalks in on the struggling crowd—
But he shuns the shadow of oak and pine.

—Nessmuk (George Washington Sears)

Preface to Woodcraft

I sit beside the fire and think, by J.R.R. Tolkien

Camp-Fire-1877-1878-Homer-Winslow-Oil-Painting

Denney Home Place

It’s only the beginning of August, but there is a chill in the air in the mornings that awakens the wistful thoughts of fall, and this little song, sung by old Bilbo comes to mind.  It’s not just the fall of the year, but the fall of life that beckons.

beside the fire

I sit beside the fire and think

I sit beside the fire and think
of all that I have seen
of meadow-flowers and butterflies
in summers that have been;

Of yellow leaves and gossamer
in autumns that there were,
with morning mist and silver sun
and wind upon my hair.

I sit beside the fire and think
of how the world will be
when winter comes without a spring
that I shall ever see.

For still there are so many things
that I have never seen:
in every wood in every spring
there is a different green.

I sit beside…

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Ode to Oregon – Garrison Keillor

1w-us-orwa-1880Ode to Oregon

Our people aimed for Oregon
When they left Newburyport–
Great-grandma Ruth, her husband John,
But they pulled up in Wobegon,
Two thousand miles short.

It wasn’t only the dangers ahead
That stopped the pioneer.
My great-grandmother simply said,
“It’s been three weeks without a bed.
I’m tired. Let’s stay here.”

He put the horses out to graze
While she set up the tent,
and they sat down beside their blaze
And held each other’s hand and gazed
Up at the firmament.

“John,” she said, “what’s on your mind
Besides your restlessness?
You know I’m not the traveling kind,
So tell me what you hope to find
Out there that’s not like this?”

The fire leaped up bright and high,
The sparks as bright stars shone.
“Mountains,” he said. “Another sky.
A Green new land where you and I
Can settle down to home.

“You are the dearest wife to me.
Though I’m restless, it is true,
And Oregon is where I’d be
And live in mountains by the sea,
But never without you.”

They stayed a week to rest the team,
Were welcomed and befriended.
The land was good, the grass was green,
And slowly he gave up the dream,
And there the journey ended.

They bought a farm just north of town,
A pleasant piece of rolling ground,
A quarter-section, mostly cleared;
He built a house before the fall;
They lived there forty years in all,
And by God persevered.

And right up to his dying day
When he was laid to rest,
No one knew–he did not say–
His dream had never gone away,
He still looked to the west.

She found it in his cabinet drawer:
A box of pictures, every one
Of mountains by the ocean shore,
The mountains he had headed for
In the state of Oregon.

There beside them lay his will.
“I love you, Ruth,” the will began,
And count myself a well-loved man.
Please send my ashes when I die
To Oregon, some high green hill,
And bury me and leave me lie
At peace beneath the mountain sky,
Off in that green and lovely land
We dreamed of, you and I.”

At last she saw her husband clear
Who stayed and labored all those years,
His mountains all uncrossed.
Of dreams postponed and finally lost,
Which one of us can count the cost
And not be filled with tears?

And yet how bright the visions are
Of mountains that we sense afar,
The land we never see:
The golden west and golden gate
Are visions that illuminate
And give wings to the human heart
Wherever we may be.
That old man by dreams possessed,
By Oregon was truly blessed
Who saw it through the eye of faith,
The land of his sweet destiny:
In his eye, more than a state
And something like a star.

I wrote this poem in Oregon,
Wanting the leaden words to soar
In memory of my ancestor
And all who live along the way.
God rest their souls on a golden shore,
God bless us who struggle on:
We are the life that they longed for,
We bear their visions every day.

~ Garrison Keillor

oregonorbustI firsrt heard this 25 or more years ago.  It moved me deeply then and even more so now.  Enjoy, GTC.

Mythopoeia

by J.R.R Tolkien, an important and deep poem:

To one [C.S. Lewis] who said that myths were lies and therefore worthless, even though ‘breathed through silver’.

Philomythus to Misomythus

You look at trees and label them just so,
(for trees are ‘trees’, and growing is ‘to grow’);
you walk the earth and tread with solemn pace
one of the many minor globes of Space:
a star’s a star, some matter in a ball
compelled to courses mathematical
amid the regimented, cold, inane,
where destined atoms are each moment slain.

At bidding of a Will, to which we bend
(and must), but only dimly apprehend,
great processes march on, as Time unrolls
from dark beginnings to uncertain goals;
and as on page o’er-written without clue,
with script and limning packed of various hue,
an endless multitude of forms appear,
some grim, some frail, some beautiful, some queer,
each alien, except as kin from one
remote Origo, gnat, man, stone, and sun.
God made the petreous rocks, the arboreal trees,
tellurian earth, and stellar stars, and these
homuncular men, who walk upon the ground
with nerves that tingle touched by light and sound.
The movements of the sea, the wind in boughs,
green grass, the large slow oddity of cows,
thunder and lightning, birds that wheel and cry,
slime crawling up from mud to live and die,
these each are duly registered and print
the brain’s contortions with a separate dint.
Yet trees are not ‘trees’, until so named and seen
and never were so named, tifi those had been
who speech’s involuted breath unfurled,
faint echo and dim picture of the world,
but neither record nor a photograph,
being divination, judgement, and a laugh
response of those that felt astir within
by deep monition movements that were kin
to life and death of trees, of beasts, of stars:
free captives undermining shadowy bars,
digging the foreknown from experience
and panning the vein of spirit out of sense.
Great powers they slowly brought out of themselves
and looking backward they beheld the elves
that wrought on cunning forges in the mind,
and light and dark on secret looms entwined.

He sees no stars who does not see them first
of living silver made that sudden burst
to flame like flowers beneath an ancient song,
whose very echo after-music long
has since pursued. There is no firmament,
only a void, unless a jewelled tent
myth-woven and elf-pattemed; and no earth,
unless the mother’s womb whence all have birth.
The heart of Man is not compound of lies,
but draws some wisdom from the only Wise,
and still recalls him. Though now long estranged,
Man is not wholly lost nor wholly changed.
Dis-graced he may be, yet is not dethroned,
and keeps the rags of lordship once he owned,
his world-dominion by creative act:
not his to worship the great Artefact,
Man, Sub-creator, the refracted light
through whom is splintered from a single White
to many hues, and endlessly combined
in living shapes that move from mind to mind.
Though all the crannies of the world we filled
with Elves and Goblins, though we dared to build
Gods and their houses out of dark and light,
and sowed the seed of dragons, ’twas our right
(used or misused). The right has not decayed.
We make still by the law in which we’re made.

Yes! ‘wish-fulfilment dreams’ we spin to cheat
our timid hearts and ugly Fact defeat!
Whence came the wish, and whence the power to dream,
or some things fair and others ugly deem?
All wishes are not idle, nor in vain
fulfilment we devise — for pain is pain,
not for itself to be desired, but ill;
or else to strive or to subdue the will
alike were graceless; and of Evil this
alone is deadly certain: Evil is.

Blessed are the timid hearts that evil hate
that quail in its shadow, and yet shut the gate;
that seek no parley, and in guarded room,
though small and bate, upon a clumsy loom
weave tissues gilded by the far-off day
hoped and believed in under Shadow’s sway.

Blessed are the men of Noah’s race that build
their little arks, though frail and poorly filled,
and steer through winds contrary towards a wraith,
a rumour of a harbour guessed by faith.

Blessed are the legend-makers with their rhyme
of things not found within recorded time.
It is not they that have forgot the Night,
or bid us flee to organized delight,
in lotus-isles of economic bliss
forswearing souls to gain a Circe-kiss
(and counterfeit at that, machine-produced,
bogus seduction of the twice-seduced).
Such isles they saw afar, and ones more fair,
and those that hear them yet may yet beware.
They have seen Death and ultimate defeat,
and yet they would not in despair retreat,
but oft to victory have tuned the lyre
and kindled hearts with legendary fire,
illuminating Now and dark Hath-been
with light of suns as yet by no man seen.

I would that I might with the minstrels sing
and stir the unseen with a throbbing string.
I would be with the mariners of the deep
that cut their slender planks on mountains steep
and voyage upon a vague and wandering quest,
for some have passed beyond the fabled West.
I would with the beleaguered fools be told,
that keep an inner fastness where their gold,
impure and scanty, yet they loyally bring
to mint in image blurred of distant king,
or in fantastic banners weave the sheen
heraldic emblems of a lord unseen.

I will not walk with your progressive apes,
erect and sapient. Before them gapes
the dark abyss to which their progress tends
if by God’s mercy progress ever ends,
and does not ceaselessly revolve the same
unfruitful course with changing of a name.
I will not treat your dusty path and flat,
denoting this and that by this and that,
your world immutable wherein no part
the little maker has with maker’s art.
I bow not yet before the Iron Crown,
nor cast my own small golden sceptre down.

In Paradise perchance the eye may stray
from gazing upon everlasting Day
to see the day illumined, and renew
from mirrored truth the likeness of the True.
Then looking on the Blessed Land ’twill see
that all is as it is, and yet made free:
Salvation changes not, nor yet destroys,
garden nor gardener, children nor their toys.
Evil it will not see, for evil lies
not in God’s picture but in crooked eyes,
not in the source but in malicious choice,
and not in sound but in the tuneless voice.
In Paradise they look no more awry;
and though they make anew, they make no lie.
Be sure they still will make, not being dead,
and poets shall have flames upon their head,
and harps whereon their faultless fingers fall:
there each shall choose for ever from the All.