Wednesday, December 22, 2010

A Soul of a Tree - 2

"We were put into these camps in the desert of Idaho. It was a very rough life. It gets degrees below zero there. I think I had shoes, but sometimes I would wear wooden clogs even in mid-winter. It was much more difficult for my wife. She was very much concerned about whether she could feed our daughter properly. 
   "But we made the best use of our time. I found a very fine Japanese carpenter trained in the traditional manner. And he and I pooled our forces. I did the designing and became his apprentice as far as carpentry went. I learned a great deal from him. He would sometimes decided that the teeth in the saw weren't quite right. So he would remove all the teeth and then file them back in again. And then there were so many facets of fine woodworking that aren't even thought of in Western carpentry. For instance, you can spend a whole day dressing down a wood post. You take a bit and put it in a plane and get it adjusted perfectly and then you start from one end of the timber and go to the other. You come out with a perfect shaving. It has no skips, no thickness and thinness. You get a finish that shines like a mirror, just from the planing. It never requires any sanding to smooth if off. And then if you take this one stroke, you have to take your plane bit out and sharpen it again. And this is done for the whole post."

   The Nakashimas left the internment camp the only way they could - under the sponsorship of an American. A Czech-American architect whom George had worked for in Tokyo offered him farm work in Pennsylvania. In 1944, the Nakashimas came to Bucks County, where they still live today.
   "I enjoyed the area. I enjoyed the people. At that time, it was a series of sleepy little towns and farms and very beautiful stone houses that the early Quakers built. The stone houses are a marvel. They've been here for 200 years, some of them. Sometimes the walls are gone, but the stonework is as true as the day it was made."  
   George worked as a farm hand for a year and gradually got back into woodworking. At forty, his inner searching was done, and though he would continue to travel the world, he always came back to Bucks County - to his wife, to his daughter and son, and to the tradition of wood. 

   Now, forty years later, the end of his life is in sight.
   "Mentally, I'm not quite sure I am where I was before. But my aspirations and hopes are virtually the same. I have absolutely no interest in sitting on a beach or sitting in a rocking chair. I'm more interested in life than I an in death. I feel that I have things to do in this world that are necessary. Essentially, I'm interested in creating beauty. I'm still buying a lot of lumber, which I will probably never use. But I hope that my son and my daughter might use it. In a nice way, they're both interested in continuing on our work. Which is rather unusual in our society, because most young people like to get as far away from their parents as possible. If we can pass on our traditions and our skills and our knowledge to our children, I think the whole thing would be very much worthwhile. 
   "My son and daughter see things from quite a different angle than I do. But that's their prerogative - to tie the tradition together with their own lives. You can only reach a certain depth of influence with other people, and I don't think there's any use in trying to do more. I have no intentions of doing that, even to my own family. If they understand me and accept my beliefs, well, I think that's fine. But I don't think I should press it. 

   "There's an ultimate truth that's very important, and if one searches for it, one arrives at simplicity. And to search for this truth, one has to seek inwardly, There are no complications.There's no dogma. There are no rules. There's no necessity for great intelligence. Actually, intelligence is overrated anyway. In the Hindu concept, intellectual consciousness is one of the lowest forms. From it, one develops a very high from of consciousness of the spirit. It's something that can be developed by anyone. 

   "Good things flow inwardly, in an integrated way, so that you find the nicest things in simplicity, in directness. I have a one-man war against modern art, for instance. It's the predominance of a personal ego that bothers me. My ideal is that a craftsman should be unknown rather than known. He doesn't have to throw his ego around. This goes back to other civilizations. For instance, in the Sung Dynasty in China, the craftsman never signed his pieces, I think that's indicative of a healthy civilization. Everything that they produced was worth, artful, beautiful. In the thirteenth century, man of the northern European cathedrals were anonymous;there was no architect. They just evolved. I would venture to say that every little guy, say, in the town of Chartres, contributed to that cathedral - perhaps did one of the gargoyles or put up a stone. It's a wonderful, inspired piece of work. And what we need today. And I think that's why I got into the sort of work I'm doing. I wanted to come as close to the spirit of Chartres as I could. 

   "Until a few years ago, I completely disregarded getting old. But I'm afraid that there are certain things happening in my body that I can't deny anymore. I'm certainly curtailed physically. It was only four, maybe five years ago that I climbed a mountain in Japan, but I don't think I could climb anymore. We were looking for the great cedar. Did I ever tell you? 
   "There's a great cedar in Japan, which they say is around seven thousand years of age. I think it's considerably older than the bristle cone pine, which for quite a while was considered the oldest inhabitant on earth. I've always been interested in this cedar, for ever since I was in Japan, I've heard about it. But only recently did I have the chance to go there. 
   "We arranged this safari -friends of mine and myself. The lower part one could go in an automobile. And then we went on a little logging cart to the bast of the mountain. From there it was all on foot - pretty much a half-day climb. And I was determined to see this tree. Every once in a while the younger fellows asked me if I wanted to continue. And I'd say, 'Yes, we go on!" Parts of the mountain were almost vertical. We couldn't even climb up the rocks - we had to go on  ladders. But we finally made it. And it was a great sight. to see a spectacle like that. And actually going up to it and touching it was something else again." 

   Back in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, a huge oak stands near George's home. It's not nearly as old as the great cedar in Japan, but it's equally majestic. George has touched it often. 
   "I feel that trees have a soul. In my work, I have to find the living spirit in a tree, explore it and develop it. With a tree, you can read its whole history - if you have the eyes to see.
You can tell when there was a great drought. You can tell where there was an injury that was healed over. You can tell when there's great happiness in a tree - a joy that expresses itself in its grains and its bark and its fibers. 
Trees have their problems, too. They have their bad moments. They have joy and they have sorrow, just like human beings. Some trees have character and others end up in something that's almost futile. 

   "The great oak down below, I think, is a tree that has tremendous character. How it's going to end up is a little hard to say. It will die, eventually. And one of our jobs is to take these great living things that have died or will die and give them, well, a second life. If I can bring the nature and the spirit of a tree back, the tree lives again. It's the continuity of life that sparks from one thing to another. It's a great, great feeling to be a part of that - to be a part of nature and to be a part of life itself." 


It took me 3 months to read this book ; Seasons of Life. Not because I was lazy but because I wanted to contemplate what's written. I remember whenever my life was leading me somewhere, there has been great books. I had time to read it, I had time to think and write about it. And I believe this book was the most influential on my life as far as I concern.               12.02.2010 

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