The Patience of Trees


Knowing trees, I understand the meaning of patience.

— Hal Borland, Countryman: A Statement of Belief, 1965

As the oil began to reveal the rich variations in each growth ring, I found myself thinking about the tree from which this bowl came.  It was a walnut tree that grew beside a winding stream at the bottom of a wooded ravine.  As its branches grew over the water, its roots reached into and under the flow.  Each year brought blessings and challenges of one kind or another.  Through it all, the tree stood steadfast, knowing that bitter winter gales would be followed by warm summer breezes, that a year of drought might be followed by soothing rain.

IMG_6158For over a century, the tree did what trees have always done, as humans whizzed around above the walls of the ravine.  But now it lies beside the stream, it’s roots finally giving way to the wind, and I am privileged to work with it. As I do, the story of those years is revealed in a rich tapestry of hue and pattern unique to this tree.

No apologies for the sentiment.  Maybe it’s the design of a bowl like this that sends such a message so strongly to me. An upside-down bowl, the rim lies just beneath the bark, and each ring reaches further back into the story of the tree.  From rim to bottom, there are over a hundred years of this tree’s patience revealed.

IMG_6164With no decorative carving, a bowl like this appears deceptively simple.  The challenge  lies in reading the log before carving, then achieving graceful lines and a pleasing surface.  This bowl is very high and full; it would cradle a basketball quite nicely, but might look better with fruit.  It is 16 1/4 inches long, 12 1/2 inches wide, and 6 5/8 inches high.  It’s on the website here.



This entry was posted in bowls, green woodworking, trees, Uncategorized, walnut and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to The Patience of Trees

  1. Amy says:

    Well said, well wrought. Beautiful, all of it.


  2. herebrooks says:



  3. Kalia Kliban says:

    I’m curious about how that beautifully pared surface looks once the grain starts to fuzz with washing. Any tips on maintaining that lovely slick surface?


    • Dave Fisher says:

      Good question, Thanks.
      I have found that sanded surfaces fuzz up (sometimes pretty badly) after washing, but not cut surfaces, and I nearly always leave the surface cut right from the tool as it is with this bowl. There is simply no scratching of the surface wood fibers to swell with water. Even when new, the surface doesn’t feel slick; just fresh from a sharp tool, and finished with a blend of flax oil and beeswax. Of course, after repeated washings, the surface of a wooden bowl or spoon will look a little more dull compared to when it was freshly oiled, but its easy to freshen it up with a wipe of a little more oil or an oil/wax blend. That’s what I do with the ones we use regularly.
      Also, the reality is, some choose not to wash them at all. Some like the patina of use, and some might not. I have some more information about treatment and use here on my website.


      • Kalia Kliban says:

        Ah, I was wondering if there might be a difference in water response between cut and a sanded surfaces. And the “slick” description was about that beautiful, inviting shimmer, more a product of the chisel than the oil. Thanks!


      • Dave Fisher says:

        “…more a product of the chisel than the oil.” — Yes. Well put! And some woods are left more polished than others right from the tool.


  4. A beautiful post, and a beautifully crafted bowl David. You sculpt language and wood with the same grace.

    I have carved beef bone, and the process of preparing the bone prior to carving takes many stages and is similarly reflective and humbling.


  5. Paul Anderson says:

    Love the bowl!! That sounds like a book I will have to order.


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