Carving a Life

wood 1

The other day I was visiting a friend with enviable wood piles stacked around her house. One stack in particular caught my eye. I took a few photos of the wood and asked my artist friends to help identify it. Sure looks like cherry (most agreed) although the bark is birch-like. See how it curls away like paper? For the first time in forever I had an impulse to get my chisels out and start carving again.

wood 2

I used to identify as a sculptor. To pay the bills, I waitressed and in Japan, taught English, working as little as possible so I might have time to hack at some piece of wood or stone. Mostly wood. After I left Japan, I moved to NYC and by necessity, worked in less noisy mediums like painting and collage. Then I went on mission with the United Nations, got married, had a baby, worked like a dog to hang onto my house and clothe and feed my daughter as (virtually) a single parent. I still count my pennies to hang onto our beloved home but Molly is a Senior in college now and starting to feed and cloth herself. We’re both at the cusp of something. And that beautiful wood stacked for burning, called to me.


I still have my incredible tools given to me 30 years ago by a remarkable Sensei in Kyoto – that’s another post entirely – a beautiful story. I have space in the basement and nobody would be disturbed by the repetitive thwonk-thwonk-thwonk of my mallet hitting my chisel into the wood. Even if I just get a piece and set it up and sharpen my tools and then — sit… just sit. That’s a lot of what carving entails for me: sitting and staring at the wood or stone. It can take days, weeks, before I want to touch it, before something comes over me, like a spirit – a weird force and I go at. The thing is to wait for that moment. It’s magical.  At least that’s what I remember.

me carving
Behind my house in Kyoto – with bad hair and worse shoes.

I have this feeling of being on the brink. Of what, I don’t know how but it feels exciting and mysterious. Maybe this is just what I need now — to go back to that mystical contemplation until I recognize something and can excavate – that’s the experience I remember from carving. And the sheer physical, emotional joy of that spirit moving me.

I thought I wouldn’t sculpt anymore – I have enough big wooden things collecting dust around my house (shipped all the way from Japan – oy!) and I discovered how much I love writing and that when it’s going well, I also can reach a kind of ‘zone’. And honestly, I don’t want more stuff and that’s what you end up with. But that wood caught my eye – like a chance at love and I don’t ever want to say no to love.

7 thoughts on “Carving a Life”

  1. Oh Tricia – that’s exactly it! The waiting, the sitting in anticipation for what it is to reach out to you, yearning to be released. I think writing is the same, and that each practice will feed and strengthen the other. And you can always sell the pieces, or set them out into the world as gifts! Don’t ever say no to love.

  2. A wonderful piece….and I love that an important and essential part of you is stirring again. It probably DOES require the removal of some of our acquired layers to excavate what is at our core – who we once were…what we once loved to do. I love the image of you sitting and staring – waiting for whatever awaits in the wood to call to you. Such a part of creation, that is! The quiet, attentive, openness. I am re-reading Anne Morrow Lindbergh’s Gift from the Sea and she says, “to be open, empty, choiceless as a beach”… That’s what I’m trying to do in this new phase of life and it sounds like that is sculptor/writer Tricia is doing as well. XXOO Lea

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