Haibun Today

A Quarterly Journal
Jeffrey Woodward, Editor
Volume 4, Number 1, March 2010

Laura L. Hill
Gold Bridge, British Columbia, Canada


Direct Stone Carver

Fall in Cape Dorset on Baffin Island; first snow already plowed from the streets and more small, wet flakes drift from a grey, low sky. Summer jewels, the tiny delicate gems of flowers, are now buried for most of three seasons with the sparse soil, sedge and grass beneath crags of lichen-blackened granite.

Grinders with toothed circular blades change pitch and tone as contact is made with stone throughout the town. Recycled electrical spools and weathered wood with adjacent heaps of serpentine and soap stone scraps are heaped outside the small wood residences stood on short stilts.

Not many women carve; unending traditional duties reduce available time. Boys learn as they watch fathers and grandfathers. Carving income buys both staples and luxuries required to survive in a treeless land of changing clime. On occasion, welfare payments are sought even by some of the most gifted artists of the community.

grey waves,
craggy rocks
in fog

An elder, a master carver, works a medium block of grey, unpolished serpentine. Straddled on a home made bench, he sculpts on the middle of three spools set at the edge of the road outside his house. One other spool builds a coat of snow, the other tools and the stone for the next sculpture.

He uses a full size grinder that most people would not dare touch with deft grace. A wind-blown musk ox, no longer found in the area, emerges from the block of stone. Even with the kerf of the large blade, the wind parted hair over the back, the billowing fringe over the hoofed feet is created with extraordinary detail.

I hop from foot to foot as I take pictures.

The elder wears sunglasses, an old baseball cap, thin work gloves, an old fur lined down parka with plain pants, lined rubber boots and no ear protection. Nearby snow is coated with dust; larger chips are carefully tapped off with a hammer. Periodically, he sips a hot drink delivered by a son or brushes debris away. From the waist down, he is immobile.

In mid-afternoon, street lights are on, snow continues to drift down. After work with a file, the exquisite piece is ready to go inside to finish with wet sand paper and shoe polish. He scoops up snow to wash his face and hands.

direct stone carver;
an animal emanates
from soap stone.




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