Cherry wood touchstones and a search for meaning…
I like to think that I’m pretty well adapted to the fast-paced, whirling world of digital realities …and yes, digital illusions, too. But I have noticed that at my core I am still very much a child of analog loves.
I love stories, spoken aloud, for the glimpses they offer into the souls that tell them and for the life insights gleaned from those people, objects and events they describe, but also for the sounds of breath being drawn into an intentional body, then passed back into the world over lips and teeth, and tongue, air reshaped into complex and beautiful meanings.
I love things that I can touch, smell, taste, lean against.
That cold wind blowing in my face and down my neck when I stand on a wintery beach, that is analog. There are no ones and zeroes chained together in some particular order to provide me the illusions of cold and motion, and that briny, olfactory soup of life, death and iodine. There is just that moment …utterly analog and alive.
These wooden plates are as analog as it gets, stories told by the imagination and skilled hands, the carefully trained fingers of a real life magician living in the woods of northern Vermont. David Brown is a man that I am pleased to know as a friend, a calm, intentional intelligence and force for good. He is a photographer, a masterful bread baker, a carpenter, a birder, a gardener, a canoeist, an adventurer, storyteller, woodsman, husband, fly fisherman and good listener. He is an artist.
I have walked parts of David’s Vermont woods, stood beside him while craning our necks and standing on tiptoe, searching for telling glimpses of elusive songbirds high in leafy hardwood trees within the yet dim, early morning cool. I have taken turns casting flies to aggressive smallmouth bass from the front of his canoe while mist floated along the water’s surface and loons inadvertently serenaded us while courting each other.
I have eaten on plates very much like these at his table and learned of the simple and refreshing magic of rhubarb juice while sitting in the shade of the house that he built with his wife and his own weathered hands.
If this sounds like a love story of sorts …perhaps it is.
David’s was the first of many kind faces that greeted me when I arrived a few years back at Sterling College, eager to immerse myself within the hopeful unknown that was that year’s Wildbranch Writers Workshop, a soulful collaboration between Sterling College and Orion Magazine. David, you see, in addition to all of those other things listed above, is also the director of this esteemed workshop, and as soon as he grinned that elvish grin, stepped toward my car and addressed me by name I felt an immediate kinship. He had gone to the trouble to learn about me before actually meeting me. What a wonderful, calming gift.
I’ve called upon too many words already and might just as well have let the artistry of these wooden creations speak for themselves, though I feared that in this rush-rush digital world, without the ability to actually run your analog fingers along the tactile, analog edges of these cherry wood wonders you might have missed much of the backstory that these plates bring with them, having travelled so recently westward.
I swear you can feel the man’s heart in these beautiful things he makes.
That too is analog. Definitely analog. And big and wise, and generous.
To learn more about David Brown and the wondrous things he makes:
David W. Brown: Woodworking Fine and Fussy. Specializing in wooden bowls, plates and platters of local hardwoods. PO Box 15, Craftsbury Common, VT 05827. He takes custom orders, you know.
Thank you Mary, for listening and seeing so wisely, for seeking out this magician from Vermont to help feed this ache within for an analog table within an ever more digital maze of days.