The autumn our daughter Carly was two and a half, we admired the fallen leaves together. “But, Mommy,” she asked, looking up at bare branches, “how do the leaves get back on the trees?”
Our old house in New Jersey had a smoke alarm in every room. The one in our son Matt’s bedroom was directly over his crib. He loved that smoke alarm. A little red light on it blinked once a minute to show the alarm was operational. As an infant, Matt lay on his back, watching for the red light, gleefully waving his arms and legs every time it blinked.
In our old neighborhood, people invited trick-or-treating families into their homes on Halloween. Most children headed straight for the treat bowl. Two-year-old Matt walked right past it, located the home’s interior hallway, and checked for a smoke alarm. Then…
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Found on The Book Blogger:
My husband, Greg, is a lifelong enthusiast of the sport of shooting, including reloading ammunition, plinking, target shooting, and skeet shooting. He collects books about guns, and he pores over the illustrations, admiring the craftsmanship and aesthetics. He improved a few of the guns in his own collection, rebrowning or rebluing the barrels as appropriate, and refinishing the stocks.
His appreciation for workmanship led him to try his hand at building derringers (nineteenth century pistols like the one used notoriously by John Wilkes Booth) from kits. This involved taking a rough-cut wooden stock and shaping it to fit comfortably in the hand, carefully inletting it to accommodate the mechanical workings of the gun, and staining and finishing his product. It was largely a process of trial and error, with some unsatisfactory results, and other more successful ones, some of the better pieces found new homes as gifts to friends and admirers.
Greg also built several flintlock and percussion rifles, and three cannons.
Then he built a blunderbuss, a muzzle-loader with a flared barrel (like the Pilgrims might have used), and decided to do something more with it—carve the stock, like some of the historical examples he saw in his books. So far he’s made four, each with a unique design. (Click on the images for a larger view.)
Greg bought himself a Ruger® 10/22® rifle and the plain stock suddenly looked like an empty canvas to him. Yielding to his artistic impulses, he removed the factory finish, and carved patterns into the stock. He’s since carved six more with various designs, including a dachshund who looks suspiciously like Rudi, who lives at our house.
When he starts working on a stock, he spends time visualizing what it could become, sometimes choosing a theme. For example, one of his blunderbusses has a boat on one side and a bluefish on the other, a reference to his youth on the New Jersey shore, when he spent many days fishing with his father. “I’m taking a common thing and making it into something special,” he says. His main carving tool is a simple X-ACTO® knife. He buys ten packages of blades at a time. He also uses a Dremel® tool, an engraver, a woodburner, various sanding tools, and tiny paintbrushes capable of depositing stain in the skinniest of indentations. He keeps Bandaids® handy for the occasional carving accidents.
Greg often starts by marking the boundaries of his design area in pencil, then carving the borders. He’ll sketch out his motif on paper first, then transfer it to the wood in pencil. First he’ll carve roughly, then go back and refine, rounding some edges, beveling others, gouging some backgrounds, and stippling other areas, producing a variety of textures. After staining, he applies multiple coats of oil to finish the stock.
Retired after thirty-plus years of teaching in elementary school, Greg feels fortunate to have the time and means to immerse himself in wood stock carving.
What creative interests do you have that you are pursuing now, or hope to, once you retire?
Photo by Shonna Slayton:
Then Moses said to the Israelites, “See, the Lord has chosen Bezalel son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah, and he has filled him with the Spirit of God, with skill, ability and knowledge in all kinds of crafts–to make artistic designs for work in gold, silver and bronze, to cut and set stones, to work in wood and to engage in all kinds of artistic craftsmanship.” (Exodus 35:30-33 NIV)
Last month I promised I would post about the Unicorn Tapestries that hang in The Cloisters (see my post Cloister Me). They have special meaning for me. I first saw them as a freshman in high school on a field trip. And they figure largely in the mystical fantasy I am writing, about a high school freshman who is uniquely impacted by seeing the Unicorn Tapestries while on a field trip to The Cloisters (any similarities between this character and, um, any living person is strictly a coincidence).
Taken together, the tapestries tell an allegory that would have been familiar to medieval audiences. The story is called The Hunt of the Unicorn as an Allegory of the Passion. It begins with a scene of hunters equipped with spears and dogs.
The second tapestry is called The Unicorn is Found. A unicorn dips its horn into a stream flowing out of the fountain. The hunters stand by and watch, as do a group of assorted animals, including lions, pheasants, a hyena, and a deer. According to legend, serpents could release their venom into streams, and any person or animal drinking the water would die. The unicorn purified the water with his horn, making it safe to drink again. Interpreting the allegory, the serpent is Satan, and the venom is sin. Anyone who partakes of it dies. The unicorn is Christ. He purifies the stream, counteracting sin, and restores life. Because of this legend, unicorn horn was a highly sought-after prize in the middle ages, and royal families reportedly owned them. Wealthy nobles might have a piece of one. They were used at the table to purify food and drink, since poison was a fairly common means of murder in those days. (Click on the images below for a larger view.)
The next tapestry is called The Unicorn Leaps out of the Stream. The unicorn is surrounded by hunters with spears drawn, tormenting him, just the Roman soldiers beat and mocked Christ. Then in the next tapestry, The Unicorn at Bay, the attacks escalate, and the fierce unicorn fights back.
The next tapestry, The Mystic Hunt of the Unicorn, is parenthetical to the story, and is partially destroyed. The two fragments that remain show the unicorn being attacked by dogs in a fenced garden. At his side is a woman who appears to be signaling a hunter standing a short distance away. This is addressing another legend about the unicorn, that it is so fierce it can only by tamed by a virgin. In the allegory, the hunter is the angel Gabriel, by whose announcement the unicorn (Christ) succumbs to Mary and becomes incarnate. The woman we see, however, in not Mary. The portion of the tapestry showing Mary is gone. If you look carefully at the unicorn’s neck, you can see Mary’s fingers caressing his mane, and her sleeve below the unicorn’s goatee.
The unicorn is pictured twice on the tapestry called The Unicorn is Killed and Brought to the Castle. In the upper left hand corner he’s being stabbed with the hunters’ spears and bitten by their dogs; in the center, he’s dead and hanging over a horse’s back.
Finally my favorite tapestry, The Unicorn in Captivity. The unicorn, alive but wounded, sits corralled within a little fence. This is the quintessential depiction of a unicorn, probably familiar to everyone.
When the Bible was being translated into English from 1604-1611 (known as the King James Version), the scholars didn’t know how to translate the Hebrew word reym. As far as they could tell, it was a swift, fierce, horned animal. That suggested a unicorn to them. The word appears nine times in the KJV. Subsequent translations say “wild ox” in its place.
Did the unicorn ever really exist? Sightings of unicorns have been documented going back to the third century B.C. If you search on YouTube, you can find dozens of cheesy videos of unicorn sightings along with the UFOs, chupacabra, and bigfoot. Unicorns appear in the historic household inventories of royal families all over the world. Who knows? But isn’t it interesting it was such a pervasive theme in old literature and art? And so beautifully crafted in the legendary Unicorn Tapestries.