I’m a Whittling Man

A week after I returned from Haida Gwaii, British Columbia I found wood shavings on the floor of my Brooklyn apartment.  Ok, my wife found them. I put them there. I had been teaching myself to carve while she ran errands.

“What in the world are you doing?” she asked.

“I’m whittling.”


“Yeah, whittling. I’m teaching myself to carve like the guys in Haida Gwaii.” I took another notch out of the wood in my hands.

“Where did you get the tools?”

“Hardware store on the corner.”

“Where did you get the wood? It looks like a bunch of sticks.”

“It is sticks. They are sticks. I found them in the park.”

By now, my wife had already thrown a pile of wood shavings in the trash and was heading towards the closet where we kept the vacuum. I put my blade down on the coffee table.

“I want to learn to carve like Jim and Christian,” I said. “You should have seen it. They make giant totem poles, like fifty feet tall. Eagles and ravens and bears. All sorts of designs. They’re amazing. And Jim doesn’t sand his pieces when he’s done. He finishes them all by hand and they are completely smooth. It’s incredible!”

“Marc,” she said. “I love you. But it looks like you’re making a bunch of wooden knives.”

To her credit, the couch was covered with a handmade wooden arsenal befitting Lord of the Flies. I could have gutted a deer with each creation. They were supposed to be finely carved miniature totem poles with whatever designs I could muster. But the round sticks kept getting slimmer with each cut and eventually tapered out to a flat, sharp edge.

“They’re…letter openers,” I said.

I stood up to help my wife pick up the shavings, which caused even more to fall from my lap.

She watched, dumfounded. “Is this going to be your new thing?”

“Maybe,” I said, eyeing an untouched stick. “I think I need to go back and apprentice.”

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