Wednesday, November 26, 2008


I Will Bow and Be Simple*

I will bow and be simple,
I will bow and be free,
I will bow and be humble,
Yea, bow like the willow tree.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone.

*Shaker melody


Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Old Friends & New

I was recently asked by the West Alabama Woodworkers Association to demonstrate banjo making.

The presentation was last night. It was a great group and I enjoyed meeting and talking to all of the woodworkers, and I got to see some amazing work as well.

One of my favorite professors at the University of Alabama, Dr. Bing Blewett, is a member of the group. I took an environmental science class under him, and hung out/worked with him in the paleontology lab. That's him standing beside me wearing a baseball cap.

It was nice seeing an old friend and making new ones.


Wednesday, November 12, 2008

New Mythology

Amy and I were fortunate enough to be invited to do a demonstration of our crafts at Rickard's Mill.

Rickard's Mill is in south Alabama, about 20 miles north of Monroeville.

We stayed in Hybart, Alabama, one of the prettiest places I've ever seen, and the festival was amazing.

On Thursday and Friday school children were bussed in from all over south Alabama. Thursday was reserved for elementary school children, Friday was reserved for high school and home school children. Each day brought around 600 children. I took the kids through the different elements of banjo making, the tools involved and how they worked. Then I explained different styles of playing. I even lead a sing-a-long for the smaller children. All of the kids were very interested, engaged and well behaved.

Saturday was open to the public. I mainly worked on building a banjo and people stopped to watch, talk and ask questions. Rikard's Mill festival is one of the best festivals I've been to, and I would strongly recommend stopping by next year. I met a lot of very nice people over the weekend. You can read more about the mill here.

Tuesday I voted, then built a workbench that would be sturdy, but one that I could break down for portability. Essentially I had to pack a majority of my tools and a bench, along with Amy's spinning wheel and spinning paraphernalia into a mid-sized car. Tuesday night Amy and I packed and listened to election returns. The next day we loaded up the car and headed down to Hybart. We just got back Sunday night.

It was exciting traveling down to Rikard's Mill on Wednesday. As we listened to NPR, the landscape mingled with the news...the changing leaves reflecting the changing country. We have a new president elect, and the hope in the air is like electricity.

I thought of something Joseph Campbell said in a lecture entitled Experiencing the Divine where he spoke about the moon landing:

"[A] point that strikes one when one sees the earth this way (from the moon) is how small (the earth) is. It's really a space vehicle, flying at a prodigious speed and revolving. How perilous our position. Still, another point about it, how beautiful."

"When those astronauts came down, the first group from the moon, they said it was like earth was an oasis in the desert of space. And this feeling of love for the earth, and a sense of reaffirmation of our relevance to the earth was a beautiful thing, I thought."

"After all, we have come out of the earth. We are not delivered into it. That was an old theory that no longer can stand. Man has come out of the earth, as plants do. And man is thus an organ of the earth. And man's eyes are the organs of sight of the earth, and man's mind is the thinking of the earth."

"This is a new mythology, a quite new mythology. And furthermore, it's whole earth, and we are its citizens, so that those old, tribal mythologies which said, 'we keep love for our village compound, or for our tribe, or for our nation, and we project our hate outward, that won't work anymore. There has been [an] elimination of racial and of tribal and even national differences.

These remain, certainly, and are to be honored in a certain way, but they can no longer be dealt with as they have traditionally been dealt with."

Joseph Campbell

Monday, November 3, 2008

Seeds of Change

I plan to plant a vegetable garden in the spring. The above photo shows the spot that I have picked to plant. Since the land has been damaged over the years, I will have to build a raised bed structure to plant in. Because I have to gather the soil and enrich it by composting throughout the winter, now is the time to lay the foundation and framework of the garden.

It is, in fact, the same location as my grandfather's garden.

Since the rich soil has been covered with gravel, I will have to approach the garden in a different manner than my grandfather, but I have faith that with time and work, I can plant seeds and grow nourishing vegetables. I can transform the land, which has been so damaged, into a healthy land where I can plant, grow and harvest.

And because my grandfather loved and worked this land, so do I love and work this land. And even when it has been damaged through neglect, I know that, with heart and hands and mind, I can repair it and make it better.

I want to encourage everyone to vote tomorrow. With heart and hands and mind, it is time to sow the seeds of change.