Man's mind, once stretched by a new idea, never regains
its original dimensions.
Oliver Wendell Holmes
Last evening, Oliver and I attended another workshop with Jim Robertson out at Malibu Creek State Park. We arrived at 3:30 and stayed through the rising of the full moon until after 9:00. We learned how to start a fire from little more than a nest of pine straw, a rock and flint, a bow-like tool and some serious back and forth movements. Here's the City Lady, getting ready to fire up.
Oliver, of course, is much more talented and created quite a fire with the help of Jim:
Jim taught all of us how to create a burn bowl. The burn bowl is a primitive container that you make by slowly blowing on an ember that you've placed in the center of a split piece of wood. The blowing is a slow and mindful activity. Jim told us that you can do it over a period of days.
Oliver took to this with his usual focus, blowing slowly and steadily until the ember had carved out a small indentation. Over the next few hours, the indentation became a dark bowl with smooth sides that Oliver periodically scraped out.
Jim told us that the bowl is a part of us and we are a part of the bowl.
Oliver then carved the piece of wood, softening and rounding the corners. He'll sand and polish it at home.
I guess I could make metaphor here -- the deep breath, the slow out-take, the burst into flame, the ember that erodes the grain, the carving out, the smoothing -- but I won't. As Jim said, the bowl is you and you are the bowl.