Many years ago our family vacationed in Door County, Wisconsin.
A beautiful peninsula which extends from Green Bay out into Lake Michigan.
One morning, as we walked through one of the communities I stopped in the shop of a wood carver. Besides decoys and toys there was a sign which read Wood Carving Lessons $20.00.
I signed up.
The next morning I was back.
I paid my $20.00 and was handed a carving knife and a basswood blank told I was to turn the wood into a loon. With that instruction I was directed to a bench where I was to sit and work.
I had a blast.
And, only cut myself a couple of times.
That first loon led to other attempts at carving.
I then decided to try my hand a relief carving.
Turning a flat piece of wood into a picture.
I had an idea for a gift I wanted to make and to give to close friends.
But, the carving included a tree and I did not know how to carve a tree.
All my attempts turned out looking like a tree a four year old would draw.
Finally, I asked for help.
Several days later the person I asked came back with a piece of wood with a tree carved in it.
A tree that actually looked like a tree.
When I asked him how he did it, he said I needed to look at a tree.
When I did what I realized was whatI really needed to do was not just look at a tree, but to see a tree. See the shape, the branches, the spaces.
I remembered that experience this morning as I went for walk and looked across the meadow at the mountains and trees. I see them now in a way I did not before. I see the interplay between the birch and the maple and the oaks and the pines. The different shapes. The different shades of green. The see the overlap of the trees and the empty spaces created by the reach of branches. I am far from being an artist, but I think the first task on that journey towards becoming one is to learn to see.
If that is true, then maybe this is true as well.
The first task on the journey towards becoming human is the same.
To learn to see.