Stacks Image 165

Ye Olde Wandmaker's Notebook

The Scientific Study of the Wizzon
Magically speaking, I have not found that milled wood works less well than a natural branch, but it is a question upon which it would be interesting to do some research.

One would have to have a number of mages at work with their wands of both sorts and see if they noticed any greater efficacy in the natural branch wand, or possibly in the milled piece. But, of course, this would still have a lot of uncontrolled variables. To be scientific about it you would have to have all the subjects casting the same spells, try to measure somehow the ability and level of experience of each mage, to get a group of approximately the same basic skill level. And then you would have to have a control group using placebo wands of some sort.

Since it is the wizard who does the magic and not the wand by itself, it is rather like testing wrenches made of different types of material. The tool itself cannot work magic alone, but the magic done is ultimately mostly a matter for the mage. So, comparing different mages would be rather hard to do scientifically. Before we could test the natural vs. milled question, we should be obliged to work out scientific ways to measure the skill of a wizard and the variables contingent on the casting of particular spells. A spell might be likened to a play in football and the mage to the quarterback (in American football). But to get any kind of statistically significant measure of whether a certain kind of let's say shoe, worked better in the execution of the play by 500 quarterbacks -- well, again, it isn't really possible to examine such things scientifically.
Stacks Image 197

However, scientists do manage to design experiments to test human actions, so I suppose someone very clever could figure it out. If they can figure out how to measure the way subatomic particles work on each other, you would think they could measure magical outcomes.

Of course, it would help to have a general theory of magic that fit in with the rest of the field theories and particles in the current cosmological model. Is magic done through "cosmos" -- i.e., the order of nature? Or is it done through chaos -- the underlying whatsit out of which all creation emerges? They are calling it the "membrane" I hear.

Wizards are a bit more difficult to study than particles. Maybe one of the particles they have already identified is the magic particle -- the wizzon. I thought quarks were promising for awhile, but now they've moved on to weirder specks of subatomic matter. Certainly if there is a wizzon, it would exhibit a high degree of that force the physicists call "charm." And it would certainly seem like both a particle and a wave like the photon. Some wizards think the photon might be a good candidate for the magic particle/wave. After all, the ancient sages have always referred to this potency in terms of Light.

Equally clearly, "Light" was a metaphor for something that the vocabulary of the ancients could not describe. But even if photons are somehow the stuff of magic, one still must wonder if the human will is a force, in the physical sense. More anon.
The Spirit of the Wand
This morning, as the acorns thumped and popped against the roof falling from the branches above, I received a lovely e-mail note from my own Druid tutor who truly saw into the deep spirit of the wands on display on this page. They spoke to her of their past, their elemental strengths and character, and several told her their names. These splendid meditations serve as superb examples for me of the kind of conversation I need to have when I consecrate and enchant my wands. They also are the kind of insight and naming and attunement that I want each wand to have with its new "master" (or "partner" seems a better term). The wizard needs to get to know the spirit of the wand as a personality with a past, likes and dislikes, quirks, and temperament.

Currently I am carving a wand of cherry - one of my favorite woods because of its silky texture and the gorgeous coloring it takes on over time, as it is exposed to light. I will have to have a talk with it soon... I have such mixed feelings about carving wands for other wizards. It is a noble tradition, if Mr. Ollivander in the Harry Potter stories serves as an example! But still, I derive such joy from carving the wands, relating directly with the wood and midwifing the emergence of its spirit, that it seems that others should want to do that for themselves too.

Of course, there's a small outlay in tools, vises, workspace, and some small skills too, no doubt. I hope that I can find homes for the wands I make, but I also dream of inspiring others to carve, maybe even teaching the art one day. Apprentices? That would make them the sorcerer's apprentice...
Stacks Image 193
Callings
It is interesting how wand branches will call to me in passing. Last weekend, while at the Minnesota Renaissance Festival, I was called over by a very old Elm who has often provided me shade and meditation. It is in a magical place, just behind the Scriptorium. This old grandmother called me over as I was passing and, sure enough, there was a branch at her feet just suitable for a wand.

Yesterday, while walking Brownie in Waveland Triangle and communing with the oaks there, I discovered two branches, again quite suitable. I thank the trees for these gifts. It is a good example of how trees communicate and "know." I asked the old grandmother Elm how she knew I was there and she sort of laughed, saying that not only her branches, but also her roots tie her to the other trees and the air and earth. It is a way of knowing like their way of communicating, that does not seem to be based in a symbolic system or language, but rather in vibrations that can be sensed and translated by the human mind. Vibrations like music, perhaps...

When I place my palm lightly against a tree I feel these vibrations and it opens a more direct path of communication which my mind translates into words, ideas, feelings. The translation is never simple, the feelings usually alien to me. Trees feel in a very different way, and they are not emotionally attached to their limbs as we poor four-limbed beasts are. They have wisdom enough to know that when the physical link has been severed, the limb is still part of the tree's own body and its spirit lives on even in what we call "deadwood."
Stacks Image 207

In fact deadwood is very alive: not the bark but the heartwood within, which is not so much "dead" as distilled to its quintessence. It no longer produces leaves and engages in respiration and assimilation the way a "living" branch does, but the dryad spirit is still powerfully "there." I suppose this explains why trees that appear completely dead and leafless are often the most spiritually evocative, silhouetted against the sky, branches bare, evoking Winter in Summer.

Another alien aspect of trees and their lives, one which is hard for a human to relate to, is their relationship with insects. Trees are regular insect cities, with ants climbing up and down their bark continually, and many other insects finding home, breeding grounds, and food within the leaves and bark of the trees. Birds, of course, feed on these insects, but they are only transitory visitors compared to the six and eight-legged creatures. As a modern American human being, I have rather an antipathy towards insects. We don't like them crawling on our bodies. For the trees this is no more odd than it is for us to have a cat or a dog curled up in our laps.
On Box-Making and the Nac Mac Feegle
I've been box making - wooden boxes. I've just completed a very complicated one with little partitions in it to hold bottles of essential oils and tinctures. I swear that everything that could go wrong did go wrong with that box and a few things that were clearly supernatural.

For example, perhaps the greatest example of supernatural going awry was when I went to the hardware store for brass screws. I put them in a little plastic bag in the shop, counted them carefully (there were ten) and paid for them. I put them in my pocket, went home, opened the plastic bag and there were only four. It has been like that for months.

I have two theories. One is that the large number of Scotch whiskey bottles in the house has drawn an infestation of Nac Mac Feegle. The other is that the spirits don't want me to apply my talents to box making. The reason for this, I suspect is that it requires power tools and they don't like the noise. Loud steel engines are very disturbing to the Elves. However, I am not prepared to give up quite yet.

For one thing, I still have another box commission I have to finish. I've been experimenting with design as well as technique, and have only made a total of three boxes so far, so it would be silly to give up. I think I'll try soliciting the help of the Elves, and maybe leave out a glass of whisky for the Feegles.
Stacks Image 221
Imbolc 2004
We await the new stirrings of the seeds of spring. In Minnesota it takes a lot of faith and imagination to believe that the fires of Brighid stir in the frozen earth. The year has emerged for me with many new seeds. The first is a new seed-group here in Minnesota which I am leading. Though just a few fellow Druids now, it is our goal to grow into a fully blossoming Grove of OBOD before many Winters pass.

One of the members of the Geal-Darach Grove is a promising young woodcarver whom I have taken on as my apprentice. Jeff Smith lives here in the Twin Cities area and is working with me to learn the craft of wandmaking. Soon we'll be adding some pictures of his work to the website and putting up a page of his own. I'm hoping that with Jeff's help I will get to work again on my languishing book project about wandmaking.

Meanwhile, I have been absorbed in trying to get my house in order from a business standpoint, instituting better book-keeping and record-keeping for Bard Woodcrafts and the Bardic Institute. The Institute continues to serve as the magic cauldron of gestation for Avalon College of Druidry, for which I am working on details of the curriculum plan and articles of incorporation while the search for land and start-up capital continues apace rather like the Quest for the Holy Grail.
Stacks Image 231
Samhuinn 2005
Making Avalon College of Druidry a Reality
Much has changed at Bard Woodcrafts in the past year. Most notably, my apprentice Azrienoch Mellessar has moved on to other things, having found that the wandmaking business was not quite what he thought. I think he got tired of the Elves pinching him and all the owl poop. And working in a dungeon is no picnic, I'll have to admit.

In the past year too, I have become aware of many more wandmakers selling their wares over the Internet. Almost all of these are people making Harry Potter style wands on lathes. Although, I have roughed out a few wands using a lathe borrowed from a friend, I still do not have space or money to set up my own lathe, and as lovely as these wands are, the style does not appeal to me much. They haven't the life and personality of a wand made from an actual branch and allowed to have its shape. In any case, there are so many adept turners making wands, there hardly seems much point in my doing so.

In the past year also, I have completed my Druid Grade studies with the Order of Bards, Ovates, and Druids, and have been managing Avalon College of Druidry as a sort of cottage industry. At present we have no physical campus but are offering distance learning courses over the Net. I spend a good deal of time each day cudgeling my brains to try to figure out how to establish the institution in the physical world. This will require me to marshall the commitment and energy of a number of partners. It will require a critical mass of teachers who are willing to take the risk to move to the campus and contribute to its operations on the ground and not just in the aethers. It will require some kind of endowment by wealthy donors who believe that a Druidic college is something they want to see realized.

Unfortunately for the dream, I am not personally very well-experienced in developing land or seeking out wealthy donors. My experience lies in the realms of academia, so that I can do what I am doing at present -- namely, teaching and administration. But there are serious limitations there too. One person can only do so much to recruit teachers in a culture completely without professional organizations and young master's and Ph.D. students ready at hand with some teaching experience and training. So, a very tricky business.

And it is this, principally, that has taken me away from my wand making. However, I have kept up a steady flow of wands and in the past year also added athames, wooden boxes, and staves to my repertoire of products that I can offer my clients. The craft of working with wood is more than a hobby to me. It is a spiritual discipline, a way of communing intimately with the spirits of the trees and the flow of life. As such, it must be a continuous quest for new horizons.

Box making is a good example. It involves skills and a relationship to the wood that is utterly different from than involved in wand making. The carving is much the same, but the construction of a box is something else -- an engagement with the mysteries of measure, dimension, and geometry. It is about the intersection of planes in space and about allowing the wood to express itself.

All's well here in the Purple Hat Sect of Druidry. Geal-Darach Grove continues apace. Although many of the peripheral folks who have attended grove meetings in the past have drifted away, there is new hope in the two new OBOD bards I helped initiate this Samhuinn. It might be nice if more of the OBOD members in the region would attend and contribute seriously to the grove, but Druidry is an individual spiritual path, a search for one's own meaning and one's own relationship to nature. I'm not sure if there is any way to entice more members out of the woods, but they will be welcome if they come. OBOD groves don't lend themselves too well to visitors who don't want to join the order, I think.

Merely going through the seasonal celebrations the year round is not likely to give anyone much satisfaction if they are not pursuing serious inner work at the same time, which is really what the order is about. It isn't about neopagan worship of old gods -- not principally. OBOD is about seeking the inner wisdom of one's own spirit guides, encountering one's ancestors, establishing relationship to the land and the trees. I feel sorry for the urban druids who cannot manage to feel connected to the land. I would rather live in the country myself, but that doesn't mean that I feel no connection to the trees, plants, animals, and the spirits of the land here in Minneapolis. The Great River runs through the Twin Cities. On only needs to open one's eyes.

I'm still dreaming of traveling to England again -- and wishing also to travel to Ireland, Scotland, and Wales, Iceland, Scandinavia and Brittany. But the family finances need to be attended to and the money has to come from somewhere. With luck we will all go over to England for the Midsummer gathering and annual assembly of OBOD in 2006. Meanwhile, I have lots of books to read and they are predicting snow tonight....
On Being Peevish and Making Voluntary Societies Work
Stacks Image 243
December 2012. It is almost the Winter Solstice yet again and I add an entry to this old notebook for old time's sake. I wish to reflect momentarily on my failings in running various voluntary organizations over the years.

My Grove has largely evaporated, not in any angst or ill-feeling, but due to the lives of many involved simply drawing them away to other things. My own Owlishness did not probably help. I think I haven't a charismatic bone in my body, or else I ruin whatever leadership potential is there by becoming peevish and annoyed with other people.

In the past five years, I have been involved with my Masonic Lodge as an officer in several capacities. Certainly, I have not be "running" the organization. Lodge's of Masons have a well-established structure of officers who are meant to do the work. However, as with most volunteers, getting them to follow through with new ideas is tough. So it goes. Heck, getting myself to follow through on my own projects is difficult. But Masonry does teach one very important lesson and that is to treat your lodge brothers with brotherly love and affection, even if you disagree with them.

I have a hard time not being in charge. I don't like it when a group decides to do something different from what I wish, or think should happen. That is my Leo Moon Rising in the First House! Bossy! I was bossy as a lad and still am, I fear. One of the numerous passions I have yet to subdue in order to truly enter into the state of Grace we all desire.
Stacks Image 181
Ebony and Lignum Vitae:
Really Hard Wood.
A recent order for a carved wand of lignum vitae proved to be a good learning experience. Lignum vitae is one of the hardest and most dense woods there is. Because of this it is very hard to carve. The wood actually dulls the cutting edge of carving knives and while not impossible, using knives would only shape the wand through a very long, painful process. So, having determined this, and after rounding the squared piece of milled wood, I decided to apply my Dremel rotary tool. This is essentially a handheld electric motor with an assortment of cutting blades that can be inserted into the head. The blades can rotate very fast and so cut far faster than one could do with a knife.

I don't really like using the Dremel tool. It makes a lot of dust and noise and I have to wear eye and breathing protection while using it. However, in the case of lignum vitae it was definitely the way to go. A lathe might be a good choice for a symmetrical design, but the freeform design on which I was working needed to avoid symmetry.

The shaping of the shaft and point of the wand was not hard and all but the noise and dust was an interesting kind of sculpting. Carving the owl in the handle of the wand and setting the turquoise was more tricky. However, using increasingly smaller bits on the Dremel, I roughed out the owl and then worked in more and more detail, finishing up with a v-tool by hand and then sanding. Not only is lignum vitae difficult to carve because of its hardness; it is also difficult because of it's grain. The wood splits easily and the grain is made up of bands of harder and softer wood. The rings are very wide in these milled pieces and I only wish I could get my hands on some branches.

Natural branches always seem better to me as wands because their growth rings are then concentric from the core outward to the bark and sapwood. In a milled piece of wood, the alternating rings of harder and softer wood end up running the length of the piece. Of course it wouldn't have to be sawed that way, but that is what I typically see. My lady wife said she liked the stripes of the lignum vitae grain. So, obviously it is a matter of aesthetic taste.

The look of the wood is unquestionably marvelous, as is the heft, and most especially the scent. Lignum vitae is a very oily wood and so it gives off a scent something like vanilla. It is a very sweet odor and pleasant. It is good to know that I can carve this wood and it is also good to know how difficult it is and how much patience and planning it takes. I shall have too look for more of this wood and make some smaller wands from it. The owl wand I just made, as you see is pretty stout. What do you think?
Stacks Image 187
Yew, Pine, and Elm
I recently received payment in kind in the form of yew branches and am having a delightful time with these. Cantankerous and powerful, these branches definitely did not like being packed in a box and shipped all a-jumble just after having been trimmed from their tree. The branches included many short twig-ends projecting off the ends and I was immediately taken with their power. Some seemed like antlers, others like a starburst, and others like runes. Looking for rune-shapes in the branchings of twigs is something my friend Sharon pointed out to me and I shall have to pay more attention to this when trimming other branches.

I've been wanting to do more with pine and spruce branches but have not solved the sap problem yet. They are so sticky with sap that I couldn't even strip the bark without my tools becoming hopelessly gummed up. Pine and spruce and other evergreens should be relatively easy to come by in Minnesota, except that those trees tend to hang onto their dead branches rather than drop them conveniently at your feet, so pruning will be required. I do find that the trees I prune are quite nonplussed and cooperative. Sometimes they feel compelled to swat me in the face just to make sure I know who is the superior being, but they are relieved to have a druid trimming dead branches rather than those chaps with chain saws that are running around South Minneapolis right now.

So many Elms are coming down from the Dutch Elm disease! It breaks my heart and makes me think back to my childhood when the streets were canopied with the branches of huge old elms three feet in diameter. Now there are so few of these left, but they are such beautiful and wise trees.

Sarah has become my indispensable assistant in the wand works now that we are actually sending out some orders. She is the box maker extraordinaire and we have been constructing boxes for the wands. Much more than mere "packaging" in the modern industrial sense, Sarah's boxes are each handmade works of art measured to match each wand. They are meant to be permanent homes for the wands when they are not in use, to protect them from disturbing vibrations. I do find, however, that my own wand rather likes being out in the air where it can see what is going on at all times!

After receiving the reflections of several other druids on the tree-spirits, I have realized that the dryads in these wands are not only still spiritually linked to the living trees from which they came, but are very complex ancient immortal spirits. Trees live long lives if they are allowed to do so, but their spirits, like our own, are much much older still. They have had their own past lives and are very powerful and mysterious
On Sex and Power Tools and the Obsession with Speed
by Hamish MacAllan O'Toole

Our discussion of power tools versus hand tools (or no tools) was very interesting, not least because it was clear to me that I was not able to communicate my own subjective and metaphysical impressions of the matter. One of the things the Baron von Drum was arguing was that the use of power tools is not intrinsically different from using hand tools in terms of "distancing" one from the materials of the work. I had expressed my feeling that using power tools made me feel as if I were removed from the wood, when woodworking. I have such a spiritual and personal relationship with the wood when I am woodworking that it seems to me like a living thing, not a dead object to be objectively manipulated. Yet, of course, in carving there is a certain quality of manipulation; however, the process for me involves a mental and emotional connection to the spirit of the wood.

I also was inclined to agree with Baron von Meyer's assertion that taking time and going slow is a virtue. Rather like lovemaking: One wants to take one's time and the use of power tools seems a bit kinky (though certainly not unknown in human behavior). The importance of touch and attention is integral to the relationship of creator to material. The physical touch matters on a spiritual level. Or put another way, the state of one's consciousness is altered by engagement through the sense of touch and indeed through slowness. Compare going for a hike to riding a bicycle, to riding in a car or airplane. Each time speed is traded for loss of consciousness of one's surroundings - the world of the present moment, of Nature, and even of the human-built environment.

In using power tools this sensual engagement is, for me, disrupted. The noise of the engines, the high-pitched whine -- indeed, one has to be careful not to touch, or to touch in highly ritualized ways for safety. The push stick is the condom of the wood shop. Wearing ear protection is another dimension of this sensual dulling and removal. A further aspect of distancing is, as I said at the moot, like using a computer to write rather than a fountain pen or a pencil. There is something valuable in the movements of the human hand. In the case of writing with a pen, one is engaged directly in the formation of the letters and sentences.

Every stroke contains and embodies some of the writer's personality, and the hand feels the ink, the quality of the paper. The modern world's drift away from the quill and fountain pen to the cheap disposable biro and poor quality paper (or none at all) reflects a lack of bodily engagement, a lack of aesthetic appreciation, sensuality, a move toward that disembodied idea of Rationality freed from Nature that has driven Christian culture for centuries. Such a move says that the act of writing is nothing important, a merely Utilitarian action. Freud would say that the pen as tool has become a depersonalized thing, and like the dehumanized penis the pen is merely for reproduction, not love and ecstasy.

Likewise the chisel and the plane. There is a direct act of love involved in working with chisel and plane, a simplicity in the need to hand sharpen the blades. For me, it is the same difference as that between going into battle with a sword, facing one's foe eye to eye, and the modern sort of warfare that employs bombs, missiles, and automatic machine guns. There is no respect in such killing, and war without respect is pretty much just murder. The sword has a mystique, an elegance, which is not just attributable to romanticism. So too, in miniature, the chisel. One does not necessarily think about it all the time, but the relationship to the sharpened blade is something primordial, that goes back further and runs deeper even than reading and writing.

The use of tools that may seem archaic and outdated today is a distinctly pagan act too, quite apart from religion, because it is a particular philosophical attitude toward history. History, by this view, is not something that happened in the past and cannot be recovered; nor it is something old that needs to be superceeded in the linear course of "progress". Such concepts are essentially Christian. Rather, history is something here and now, part of our present moment. It is our relationship to the relics and remains of our ancestors, here and now. To engage with tools used by our ancestors instead of the latest, newest thing, honors them and creates in our souls the relationship to those ancestors.

The craftsman who was apprenticed by his father who was apprenticed by his grandfather is the old and clear example of this kind of continuity. But one can forge a relationship to such ancestors by spirit as well as by blood (though the blood relationship does make it easier to learn the craft by virtue of hands-on demonstration and regular beatings when you do things wrong). Such a relationship is not static, of course. Craftsmen have always improved their tools and invented new ones, as well as inventing new techniques. But the age of the machine has seen our civilization lose so much. We have changed our relationship to the present moment in the love affair with engines and speed. A love affair that has largely replaced our love of other human beings -- ancestors, masters -- and our love of the spirit of the material world, which has become soulless an inanimate.

There must be something deep-seated in the human psyche (in men at least) that loves speed and power. The ability to use a machine or another animal to do more than what one can do with one's own body and skill seems to hold a great allure for many people. There is an element of "practicality" to it, naturally: One is pressed for time by the competition of others. Or one simply wants to grow rich and powerful as fast as one can. The use of machines permits things to happen faster but is that a good thing on a spiritual level? Have we created more security along with more wealth in the mad race to accumulate in order to assure survival? One is driven by this insane obsession with survival beyond all reason. I'm reminded of something I read about chipmunks. They only live for a year, yet they spend all summer gathering enough food in their den to last for many years -- far more than they can eat and more than they need. And then, of course, they get eaten by the cat. The mad obsession with accumulation of wealth to assuage one's fearful survival urge is, in humans, simply greed, a sickness. Similarly, the boredom that afflicts those who cannot wait and must speed ahead, even to the point of breaking the civil laws because they are in such a hurry -- this is also a sickness of the soul.

Where has this mania for racing, for competition rather than cooperation, gotten us? Where has a culture that finds virtue in pitting one maker against another taken us in that speedy, thrilling ride of "progress"? I am skeptical. It seems to derive from the old warrior caste mentality that pitted one knight in competition with another, constantly testing and striving for who would win the champion's portion at the feast. Arguably, this kind of competition leads to greater skill, for those warriors who are not motivated by the inner fire to simply improve themselves.

I'll admit, in woodworking it is important to be able to see the wonderful achievements of other wood workers, masters of the craft. But I don't consider myself motivated by competition. Of course, I'm not making a living by the craft. In the case of the warrior caste, being good at the craft might be a matter of living or dying. But then again, among the old Celts, fear of death was not in the warrior's vocabulary. It was art for the sake of art and sacrifice for the sake of the honor and safety of one's tribe. Those sentiments are still there at the bottom of the Puritan work ethic.

The Puritans believed that the more you worked the less likely it was for Satan to grab you and drag you to Hell. No dancing, singing, card playing, or sex, and certainly no idle loafing thinking about things. Just good hard work. But the mercantile and craft ethos that also came to underly our culture had in it this idea of free competition as a good in itself that would inevitably lead to low prices and quality goods. If we look back over the historical record and at our present age, there is no question that we have tons and tons of stuff. Neat electronic gismos abound, engines of creation and destruction. Distractions from engagement with the natural world and our neighbors every one. Machine interaction has replaced human interaction. Well, just look at this blogg! I never did write the Piltdownerblatt with a fountain pen, and certainly this medium has many advantages of speed to create a neat and aesthetically pleasing medium. However, the paper Piltdownerblatts in the mail had their own appeal -- so I'm told. That is lost along with the pleasure, joy, and permanency of exchanging handwritten letters in the mail. A collection of my grandfather's letters is one of our family's treasures.

The Internet and computers are the tools of our trades these days and it is perhaps this constant engagement with the miraculous machines of speed in my work that leads me all the more to need to get away from engines and precision and try to do things with just my hands and the bare minimum of tools. I've had fellow druids suggest that wands should be made with a knapped flint for the truly prehistoric touch. I'm not inclined to go that far. The line for me comes with the whirling speed of engines. Give me a pony, an ox, a trowel and a hand saw and the skill to use them well.

I'm the same way with cooking. I'd rather cut vegetables with a knife than use a food processor. However, to be sure, there are power tools that can do things that humans cannot do otherwise. For example, take the lathe. Now, I would like a pedal lathe that I could run without an engine, but there is no question that the machine is necessary to make things perfectly round and symmetrical. The lathe is a very old tool. Archaeologist have found evidence that the Iron Age Britons had them. Similarly, the Cuisinart is my tool of choice if I have to purée a soup or grate potatoes for hash browns. So, don't think that I am a complete Luddite. However, it is worth thinking about how using machines can disengage us from our food as well. For the sake of saving some scraped knuckles and time, I lose an opportunity to engage on a personal level with the potatoes. (Still, I do peel them by hand.)

That may not seem important until one realizes that the cultivation of that attitude of lack of attention spreads into our relationships to each other. Suddenly we are processing our family through machines too - televisions, telephones, and gameboys, computers, and cars. Even when we are together, we may be "plugged in" and so tuned out from each other. Is that good? I don't think so. Some people apparently do think it is good. Plug into your iPod instead of making the acquaintance of the person next to you on the bus or train. Put on a walkman instead of listening to the birds and the wind in the leaves. Such a life is inimical to the druidic life I seek. How can one ever expect to hear the voices of the tress or the rest of the non-human animal world if one is so totally wrapped up in the manmade world of technology and things? Stuffed animals are all well and good, but they should not be considered replacements for a real puppy.

So, this business of power tools is something which, for me, goes beyond one's practical exercise of craft. It connects to everything else through the medium of the soul. We are what we make. And we are how we make it. Making machines and revering robots does not need to turn us into robots and mechanisms, but in order to prevent it from doing so, we need to understand the difference between living as a human being and machinery. Our culture has for centuries been built on the myth (the metaphor) that bodies are machines, that Nature itself is a machine. That is, in my estimation, a mistake. A mistake of metaphor for literal truth. Let the machines be themselves, and let us not forget what we are and that machines are not "superior" to us. They are just different. They have their strong points, but so do we, if only we will pay attention to the spirit that resides in us.

The myth of the machine needs to be exposed for what it is, so that we can disentangle our souls from the gears and circuits. We do not need to strive to be better by becoming more like machines. And we do not need to satisfy our fantasies of being super speedy and super strong by building more and more machines. Those fantasies are in some ways natural but they are these days fed by vast propaganda machines and have reached the point of pathology. People strive to get rich by convincing us that we need to buy more stuff -- more technology, electronics, cars, cosmetics, consume more mass media news and entertainment. Are we convinced? Are we convinced that machinery and mechanization is what gives our lives value? Is that being human?

I'm going to go cut some dados now with my fancy new dado blade, and first I have to make a jig. But I wish I didn't have to. I wish I could saw a straight line with a hand saw. I think that would give me much more self esteem and gratification than learning to use the power saw. We'll see.