Category Archives: Beauty

Susquehanna

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This scene from 2013 is in the town of Bird-in-Hand, Pennsylvania, is the most idyllic I have ever seen.  “I want to live here,” I whispered to myself again and again as I looked over the tall corn toward the farmhouse and barn.  “This is where I want to be.”  Have you had this experience of seeing your dream home, your dream town, and sighing loudly but forlornly with love and satisfaction? Boy did I fall hard for this place.  I didn’t want to leave.  But my wife and children were in Utah; my parents and several siblings were in Utah; my job (and my income) was in Utah.  So I went back to Utah, not unhappily, but leaving a part of me behind in Amish country.  My poem Susquehanna braids a dialogue between intimate partners with a description of place.  Do you sympathize with or relate to one person over the other?  Or are they both unrealistic, even extreme?  Do you have the courage to pursue your dreams in spite of opposing voices?  (I hope I do, but I’m not sure.)

SUSQUEHANNA

I could live here,

he dreamed,
gazing
from a ridge-top
road

And what would you do
Mr. Lawyer? It would
ruin the place—and you—to dive
into their divorces

at the far-off
river meandering
in graceful curves

and mangled hands
and rat poisoned livestock.

Still, I could
live here: right there:
on that farm:
see
the red barn, tilting?

where the feet
of mountains meet,
a reflecting ribbon,
shining silver
beneath a bright
sky,

I could right it,
help it stand straight
again.

You and whose budget?
Not yours, surely,
and not mine!
And what would you do
with a farm, anyway?

flanked in leafy
darkening green

You couldn’t fix
a door knob
let alone
a bailing wagon.

transforming
to iridescent gold
under the alchemy

You don’t know your rye
from your barley or oats
or triticale wheat.
You,
a farmer!

of the slowly setting
sun.

I could live here:
me: right here.

Wood Lamp: Joia

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Writing a letter to his Grandpa Baker (80) this morning for father’s day, Hyrum (14) turned to me and asked, “Grandpa has been finding some cool wood for me to make lamps out of.  Do you think he would like one of my lamps as a father’s day present?”  “I’m sure he would love it,” of course I replied.

Hyrum found the piece of wood for this little lamp when working for a friend to clear his yard and flower gardens of weeds.  Obscured by the weeks was the small stump of a dead evergreen.  Hyrum could see the potential in this dead stump.  He asked if he could make something out of it, brought it home, and began to give it new life as a lamp.

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We made bases for small lamps by cutting discs off the end of an old cedar fence post.  The wood was old and cracked, but we wood-glued the pieces together, allowed them to cure, then ran them through a neighbor’s planer.

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We named the little lamp Joia, a joyous Portuguese word meaning “gem.”  Hyrum gave Joia to his Grandpa today, the same Grandpa that inspired our lamp-making in the first place with his lamp Timponogos, about 55 years old.  Grandpa seemed as pleased to receive the lamp as Hyrum was to gift it.  This little gem of a lamp has connected the generations with memories and a common love of creation and beauty.

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Life Ethic

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As a boy I collected butterflies. I hunted them, killed them, and mounted them in an impressive display case. I knew their names, their habitats, their habits. Over 100 species. Unhappily, worms destroyed my entire collection. I see now that my youthful intention had been to capture the butterflies’ beautiful essence. I have outgrown my need to capture butterflies. I am content to view them alive and free, awed by their living beauty.

Working in the yard one day I watched my son Brian, then 9 (now 26), chasing a butterfly with a homemade pillowcase net. “I caught it!” he exclaimed. I held my breath as he peered into the net to examine his prize. He soon released the butterfly to live another day. A smile of wonder lingered on his face. I breathed a relieved sigh to see him possess the maturity I had lacked at his age. I had taught him to love beauty. And he had learned. Learned to love beauty without needing to clutch at it, control it, kill it, and mount it on a board, only to lose it in the process. He had learned a Life Ethic. Here is the poem I wrote about that occasion.  (Happy birthday Brian.)

LIFE ETHIC

“I caught it! I caught it!” cried the boy
over my weed-whacker whir
after waving his pole-clamped pillowcase
across the sky.
Two wide eyes and a victory smile
raced to the porch where
two trembling hands
coaxed the delicate creature
through the screened bug-box door.
A bundle of awe,
the boy sat still and stared
at this astonishing bringing-together
of color and form,
at this life.
Father watched from the garden rows,
remembering his own youth’s hunt
for small, helpless prey,
whose fate was to rot
with a pin through the thorax,
and a tag with a name and a date.
But the magical fluttering rainbows had faded
fast behind their showcase.
“Nice catch, son,” father admired
with a pat and a ruffle.
“What are you going to do with him?”
“Well, I think I’ll watch him for a while, and
then I’ll let him go.”
Good boy, father sighed, as
a boy released his heart’s hold and
a captive rainbow again
graced the sky.

(I took the above photo of a Milbert’s Tortoise Shell in 2007 on the banks of Duck Lake in the high Uinta Mountains of Utah.)

Wood Lamp: Timponogos

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Wood Lamp Timponogos by Owen Nelson Baker, Jr.

In the late 1950s, when my mother was my dad’s girlfriend, the two of them hiked to the peak of Mt. Timponogos in Utah.  (Nelson and Lucille have been married for 54 years.)  The 20-mile hike ends with optional slide down a steep, half-mile-long glacier.  (I made the mistake of sliding down this glacier 60 years after they did.  I slid so violently and fast, hitting dozens of rocks and holes on the way, that I thought I was going to die.  My backside was black-and-blue for months!)

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Timponogos Glacier

Owen Nelson Baker, Jr., my father, returned from that trip with a large piece of twisted root-wood on his shoulder.  He sandblasted it clean and smooth, drilled it, wired it, stained it, mounted it, and switched on the light of this gorgeous wood lamp, which I have named Timponogos.  The heavy iron base he hack-sawed off of an antique bird cage.  The root-wood still contains a sizable stone around which the roots grew.

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The antique oak table on which Timponogos rests was made by my father’s grandfather, also Nelson Baker, who was a machinist and mine foreman for the Prince gold mind in Pioche, Nevada.

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Notice the solid brace construction.

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I have decorated the Timponogos table top with antique tools made and used long ago by great-grandpa Nelson.

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My father’s beautiful lamp, which I have admired all of my life, is the inspiration behind Baker Brothers Lamps, an enterprise in which I join my three younger sons–John, Caleb, and Hyrum–to make beautiful wood lamps that we sell to fund our attendance at the National Boy Scout Jamboree, and for their future college expenses.  (Sorry to disappoint, but Timponogos is not for sale.)

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Dad and the Baker Brothers on 9/11/2011

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John, Dad, and Caleb coming home tired from the 2013 National Jamboree

We continue to enjoy making beautiful wood lamps together, the pictures and stories of which I will continue to post on this blog and offer for sale.  Here are links to some of the lamps we have made thus so far.  We hope you like them.

Dolphin

Grace

Smoke

Waves

Reach

Little Guy

Stone

Snow

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A snowy Rabbit Lane

In arid Utah we are grateful for snows that persist through March, April, and sometimes even into May.  I remember a May 1993 snowstorm that dropped a full three feet of new snow on the streets and yards of Salt Lake City, the year after I returned from being a Fulbright Scholar in Portugal to live with my grandmother, Dora.  These Spring snows add high-mountain snow pack that continues to slowly percolate thousands of feet through fractured bedrock, into valley aluvia, recharging the aquifers that allow us to turn the desert into a rose.  So, even though I post this poem at the end of March, it is still snow season in Utah.  I hope you enjoy the poem.

SNOW

Sky lets down her snow
in slow and heavy flakes
all the long day
as if the world, everywhere,
has never known but snow:
slow and easy, flakes
perching undetected
in my thinning hair,
granting shy moist cool
kisses on the bulb
of my nose, on my soft
sagging cheeks, crystals resting
on lashes looking up
to a distant gentle font.
Wind does not dare to blow.

Wood Lamp: Stone

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Stone by Hyrum Baker

Though made of wood, Hyrum and I thought Stone a good name for this little gem of a lamp, perfect for an end-table or night-stand.  Stained a dark Jacobean, we thought its swirls reminiscent of cooling magma on some ancient volcanic seashore.  Note the brass electrical tube wound tightly with jute twine.

This was one of our early wood lamp projects, before we embarked on more ambitious projects like Waves and Smoke, both masterpieces envisioned by Hyrum (then 12).  Waves sold for $500.

Along with Reach, we traded Stone for in-kind services, provided by my journeyman friend Justin, to power my chicken-coop studio.  We had set the price at $145.

Wood Lamp: Little Guy

Little Guy

Little Guy by John Baker

Not all of Baker Brothers lamps are large (like Dolphin and Grace) or ornate (like Smoke and Waves).  Some are small and simple, but still beautiful, like Little Guy, pictured above.  Made from a fairly flat piece of drift wood, it resembles a small floating barc.  A decorative stone placed just so balances the lamp perfectly on the wood’s natural three contact points (don’t worry–it won’t fall over without the stone, just tip slightly, as if riding a wave).  The brass tube containing the wire and holding the shade is wrapped with jute twine for a rustic, seafaring look.

Little Guy can accompany you on your next maritime imagination adventure for $180, proceeds to fund the Bakers brothers’ attendance at the National Boy Scout Jamboree and their college funds.  (An assortment of lamp shades is available.)