This past Wednesday, the participants who we typically work with in the woodshop traveled to Haverford again, this time to work with trees. We have been using wood from white oak trees to build our boxes at the center, and wanted to engage directly with the source--of which there are many on Haverford's campus! I worked with Carl* and Natalie to measure around a tree (at about chest height) and use some calculations to convert that into how old the tree was. We talked about how amazing it was that this tree, at 55 years old, was older than all of us. We then used perspective and a wooden dowel to stand far back and determine the height of the tree. After that, some of the artists drew the tree, using clipboards made out of white oak wood, and we wrote the information we had calculated (along with the tree's name--Branch) onto a little white oak "tag" that we tied to the tree. Originally we had hoped to reconvene in a room at the DC for some conversation/get-to-know-you time, but since our time was almost up, we spent the rest of it eating together.
I was really grateful for this time out of the center, because it encouraged us to work together in new and different ways. We have spent about half of our time at Haverford (a space with which the students are very comfortable) and about half at the center (a space at which the artists are very comfortable), so our relationships have grown in this back-and-forth of leaning on one another and working through the discomfort of unfamiliar territory. Working with these trees and learning more about them, though they had not directly produced the white oak that we were using, felt in many ways like an exercise in mindfulness. To create our boxes, we were utilising resources offered by nature and by that variety of tree in particular, and the respect and reverence that we all demonstrated toward the trees as we measured and named them was noticeable. Though I can't say how conscious everyone was of the connection, I'm not so sure that that mattered--it felt like interacting with the material in all of its different states was enough to acknowledge (consciously or otherwise) our connection to the earth and its products.
Next week we will be returning to the center to complete our boxes. I'm not sure how much headway Carl made on our box while I was gone last week, but knowing his work style, I'm expecting that he'll have likely removed all of the wax, and we'll be prepared to put it all together. The next steps will take place back at Haverford, where we'll be planning and putting together the exhibit.