Category Archives: Family

Silver Spoon Chimes

Forty years ago my parents loaded the station wagon and drove the family from our New Jersey home to the woods of Maine for a modest vacation.  We stayed at Gray’s Cabins, which had no central heat (but a fireplace) or running water, but an abundance of gorgeous views and rustic nostalgia.  At a small bait shop on a winding country road, while Dad bought lures and earthworms, I stood on the porch admiring a mobile of flattened silver spoons suspended from bent and curled fork tines.  The spoons met each other, as the breeze passed through, with surprisingly rich peals, as from a bell.  For two decades I haunted thrift stores for discarded silver-plate, and made dozens of chimes for family and friends.  I recently pulled out of a box the scattered spoons and fork of my last remaining set of chimes, polished the silver, restrung the spoons, and hung the chimes in my patio, where they tinkle and take me back to the green woods of Maine.

If plated silver is not available, you can make your own set with any inexpensive metal ware.  Tools you will need:

  • hammer
  • rag to buffer the spoons from the hammer and concrete surface as you carefully flatten them
  • power drill with very small drill bit
  • block of wood under the ware as you drill
  • needle-nose pliers
  • fishing line or stout threat (thick string will muffle the spoon vibrations and dampen their sound)
  • nail or hook to hang from

The colder your metal ware, the higher the likelihood the spoons will crack and the tines will break off.  Work with the spoons and fork after leaving them in the sun for a few minutes.

A Portrait of Sunshine as a Young Dragon

Sunshine began his life of friendship with Amy just seven months ago as a tiny young lizard.  Now he is in full adolescence, and still calm, patient, and pleasant.  Amy thought a portrait of her friend was in order.  Here is her first “peek-a-boo” angle.

And now, Sunshine’s full-color portrait, drawn expertly by Amy.  In Portuguese one would say, “Tal e qual,” meaning “Exactly so.”  Great work, Amy!

Your Package Has Arrived!

Amy and Sunshine decided to go into the delivery business, called “Delivery Squad.”  Watch out UPS!  Amy did all the initial heavy lifting by building the business headquarters.  And she designed and fabricated a specialty delivery van, backpack, and cap to fit her Bearded Lizard partner.  Perhaps unfortunately, Sunshine can deliver packages only from one side of the dining table to the other.  But the service is personal!

Ready for business!

 

Game Night!

Every Sunday night Amy’s family gathers for a nice family dinner, a spiritual or musical devotional, dessert, and games.  Even Sunshine joins in, munching his salad and playing along in a game of Sorry.  These special times have been important for Amy’s family bond and strengthen relationships, and could well be replicated in some form by other families.  Enjoy especially the desserts and games–only, Sunshine won’t be on your team!

Not the Zip Line!

Amy loves riding the zip line her dad built in the back yard.  What a thrill for to speed through the air.  But this is one activity where Sunshine says, Leave me out!  The whirring metallic sound of the pulley racing over the cable alarms the lizard, and is the only sound or event that has caused her to gape and frill.  And that’s okay.  Sunshine doesn’t have to like everything!

Sunshine’s Green Hammock

Amy loves swinging in her hammock under the big shade tree, or in the covered glider chair, with Sunshine in tow.  Thinking that Sunshine might like to have her own hammock, Amy sewed her a green cloth hammock.  Now they can enjoy hammocking together in the Arizona shade.

 

Sunshine Is Growing Up Beautifully!

In just six months, Sunshine has grown from a rather drab little pointy creature to a beautifully-hued growing pointy creature.  (Keep those crickets coming!)  Sunshine is as gentle as ever, and she and Amy remain the best of friends.

Baby Sunshine

Growing Sunshine, with Bracelet

Amy and Sunshine: “Buds and Pards Forever”

High School Graduation!

Thousands of high school graduations happened by pre-recorded broadcast with empty auditoriums.  Among the illustrious graduates were Amy’s sister, Afton, and cousin, Hyrum.  Unfazed, when Amy couldn’t go to Afton’s cap-and-gown, Amy brought the cap-and-gown to Afton, with a little help from Sunshine.  Congratulations graduates of the Class of 2020!

Intro to “Adventures with Sunshine”

Welcome to the new page “Adventures with Sunshine” on my Rabbit Lane blog.  This page chronicles the adventures of my niece Amy and Sunshine, her pet bearded dragon.

Amy discovered a You Tube channel called Snake Discovery.  She loved learning about reptiles.  Her good mama (my sister) started taking her on field trips to the Arizona Reptile Center to see many varieties of reptiles.   Amy’s interest deepened, and she began asking for a pet lizard.  In advance of her 8th birthday, Amy picked out a Bearded Dragon, and they purchased it and put it on hold for the day of the birthday celebration.  The week of her birthday, Amy became ill with the flu.  On her fourth day of fever, she looked up at her mama with sad eyes and asked if they could go get her dragon a little early.  Of course, my sister said, and brought home the 6-week-old lizard.  Amy named her Sunshine.  Sunshine is the perfect little friend and playmate for Amy.  They are inseparable.  Amy loves Sunshine, and Sunshine is gentle, patient, and even quietly affectionate with Amy.

Stay tuned for more Adventures with Sunshine!

She Gifted to Me a Treasure

In 2012 my daughter Laura and I joined a multi-week pottery class.  She turned and glazed many beautiful pieces (see photos below).  While the wheel tested our (my) patience, taking the class was a wonderful daddy-daughter experience.  As a younger child, Laura formed a clay blob of which she is not so proud.  But I love it because she made it, and it has become one of my treasures–which is why I wanted to write this poem.

She Gifted to Me a Treasure

It is
a blob of fired clay,

fist-size, resembling
a woven straw beehive

in shape—a slanting thumb hole
welcomes pencils and pens,
barred pheasant feathers.

I am so fond of this blob because her hands formed
this blob, the masterpiece of a child creating,

and she made a present of it to me
because she doubted

her creation’s merit
as a thing, a tapering firm-based thing
with a cream sky dangling turquoise clouds and royal-blue stars:

a treasure to me
as is she.

Laura at the pottery wheel.

With expert instructor Jon Wexels.

Laura’s little masterpieces.

 

Bid Them Come When I Am Quiet


(Mama and me in Rio, December 1964)

I seem to be always reading or writing or working–doing, doing, doing.  But sweetness of memory and poetry come in the non-doing, the quiet times, when we ponder and reflect.  I took a rare moment to reminisce, on this leap year day, and make this poetic offering.

Bid Them Come When I Am Quiet

shall I sit here on the grass
under this old apple bough
and conjure some old memory—

as when I reclined propped and
pillowed in a wicker picnic basket
on Copacabana’s broad sands:

but that scene belongs to my Mother
who recounted it to me
her eyes still reflecting the Brazilian sea—

or when my friend snagged
his lure in my neck
on the dock at Lake Seneca

and I hollered good and loud
for the sting of fear
and a ruined afternoon of bass fishing—

perhaps that blue-sky day we stopped the car
on the way through Paraná to cut wild lemon grass,
its perfume lingering sweetly these long years—

I finally netted the elusive Red-spotted Purple,
and pinned its beauty to a board
where it never lived brightly—

we wandered through the meadow
with Mom to pick asparagus, and at home
picked the ticks off of us—

I felt happy to carry
my sister, who grew tired
on the hike to Sunfish Pond—

 

Copacabana Beach, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil (Image by ASSY from Pixabay)

 

Roger Baker is the author of Rabbit Lane: Memoir of a Country Road.  The book tells the true life story of an obscure farm road and its power to transform the human heart.  The book is available in print and for Kindle at Amazon.  See Rabbit Lane reviewed in Words and Pictures.

Homemade Granola

Laura compiled a family recipe book for Christmas 2018: A Little Bit of Everything.  My favorite recipe so far, her own, is for yummy homemade granola, full of oats, coconut, almonds, and flavor.  I decided to put the process to poetry.  (The full recipe follows the poem.)

Homemade Granola

A gifted daughter gifted
to me her granola
recipe for Christmas
with smiles and promises
of customer satisfaction
and I have made it these twelve months
one gallon at a time: it is so
very tasty and crunchy
with flaked coconut and almonds,
slivered, and rolled oats, ground flax
sweet from honey and brown sugar,
and that flavor enhanced with happy splashes
of coconut, almond, and vanilla extracts
all mixed
with melted coconut oil and baked
for 13 minutes then turned
and baked for 13 more
at 325 until golden
brown and glistening from the egg whites, oh,
can you smell it! the confluence
of aromas, warm and delicious and balanced:
they linger for hours and I do not even
need to nibble
though I no doubt will eat some in the morning
from my favorite clay bowl
the bowl with the chip and the bright
colored rings, with icy whole milk.
I say thank you with a slurp
I do not intend despite its
inevitability. But
no matter: I have no audience
to impress, and, if I had,
she would surely
understand
if not
approve.

The Recipe

Beat well in large mixing bowl:
¼ cup coconut oil, melted but not hot
1 egg white
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup honey
¼ tsp almond extract
½ tsp coconut extract
½ tsp vanilla extract

Mix well with wet ingredients:
3 cups rolled oats
1 cup unsweetened coconut flakes
1 cup slivered almonds
1/3 cup ground flax seed

Bake:
Spread mixture evenly on large cookie sheet. Bake for 13 minutes at 325F. Remove from oven and turn mixture well, then spread again. Bake for another 13 minutes, still at 325F, until golden on top. Remove from oven and turn. Allow to cool. Eat it up!

 

Starting the Old Chain Saw

I built this old wood shed as a raccoon pen, but Harvey sent his raccoons to live somewhere else–a good thing, probably, as the raccoons will have fared better, I fared better for not having raccoons to care for, and I now had a covered place for my wood stove firewood supply, all cut with a Husqvarna chain saw Reza lent me before he died, and spit and stacked with my children (see the photos after the poem).  That chain saw was complicated to keep running well and sharp, but I managed, and even taught my sons to use it, until I had to leave home.  And now the youngest must learn on his own, over the phone, and with his own considerable smarts.  I wrote this poem after yesterday’s phone call from Hyrum.

Starting the Old Chain Saw

Well, first you move the blue
lever forward (that’s the choke) then push-
squeeze the clear bulb

five times or so (you’ll see it fill with fuel)
to prime the motor,
and now you’re ready to pull the chord, but,

of course, you need fresh fuel in the tank
(old gas has water in it, and the motor won’t run with water in the gas)
and don’t forget the bar chain oil to cool and grease the chain.

Is the chain loose? The chain can’t be so tight
it binds on the bar, nor falling off neither,
but just loose enough. Pull and pull that chord,

and when the motor starts to putter,
ease that choke back and let that motor purr.
Ease that blade into that old cottonwood,

rock your way right on through.
You’ll know the blade is sharp if the sawdust flies in flakes;
powder means it’s dull.

I’m sorry I can’t be there to help you, son,
but I know you will figure things out:
you will cut the wood of your life,

make beautiful things,
beautiful things:
I will watch, and see.

And here are my children, splitting all that wood we cut in September 2015 and filling the wood shed.

Roger Baker is the author of Rabbit Lane: Memoir of a Country Road.  The book tells the true life story of an obscure farm road and its power to transform the human heart.  The book is available in print and for Kindle at Amazon.  See Rabbit Lane reviewed in Words and Pictures.

Dad Leads Me on a Bullfrog Hunt at Dallenbachs

Dad and Me (ca 1969)

At dusk at the abandoned Dallenbachs quarry turned deep lake in East Brunswick, New Jersey, Dad and I turned our attention from the bluegills to the bullfrogs.  This was a new experience for me, and I was wide-eyed and expectant.  Enormous frogs croaked, a loud, deep, rumbling song.  Spying a bullfrog, Dad pounced just at the frog jumped under his shoe.  Dad felt so upset about hurting the frog.  I didn’t know what to do or feel.  I simply stood quietly, then followed, quietly, to the car.  Fifty years later, the memory has reappeared and found its way into this new poem.

Dad Leads Me on a Bullfrog Hunt at Dallenbachs

From reedy black bank-water emanated the rumbling
thrum that I knew, at four,
came from big bullfrogs. Even the bluegills

eluded our hooks, so we skulked the flank
because we could and because we were serious and excited
and on the hunt. I followed his point to two

gray spheres, an iceberg of frog flesh, its ears
metallic yellow discs just below. Two things
happened then, a concomitance in four

dimensions, the giant frog launching
a great leap, the big man’s
wet sneaker falling hard on the frog

sitting dazed, pink tongue bulging, while dad cussed
a grimace, I watched
and I listened and I knew both were

hurt, the soft body and the gentle mind,
and I did not move or speak
and I did not know what to feel

and I did not know how to help the bullfrog or
the father, hearing not a gravelly croak
on the long lake shore.

 

Roger is the author of Rabbit Lane: Memoir of a Country Road.  The book tells the true life story of an obscure farm road and its power to transform the human spirit.  The book is available in print and for Kindle at Amazon.  See Rabbit Lane reviewed in Words and Pictures.

A Lamp for Aunt Cari

Hyrum has wanted to make a wood lamp for his Aunt Carolyn, who appreciates art and craft.  We began by spray painting the rough roots of an old stump.  But the wood was so cracked and rotten that we could not work with it without it crumbling into pieces.  We worried that no matter how nice the lamp looked, one fall would destroy it.

To strengthen the wood, we painted it with two coats of diluted wood glue, which sealed all the cracks and breaks and made the old root a solid piece of lamp wood.

We painted the wood again to cover the creamy film of the dried wood glue.  Most of our lamps are stained various shades of brown.  But this lamp we spray painted a glossy black, giving the rustic wood a sleek and exotic look.  “Exquisite” as my sister described it.  She was thrilled with her new lamp, and we were thrilled with her happiness.

Hyrum has become an accomplished lamp maker, with an eye for the right wood pieces.

Grandma’s Pressed-Leaf Greeting Cards

My grandmother Dorothy made thousands of homemade greeting cards from pressed leaves and flowers.  Encyclopedias stacked against the walls of her craft room were crammed full of drying leaves and petals.  Decades ago, she taught me.  And I have taught my children.  Hannah has just produced her first cards, inspired by her great-grandmother.

The process is simple: glue pressed leaves to wax paper, cover with tissue, apply more diluted white glue.  When dry, place the cards one at a time in a paper bag and iron to set the wax.  Then cut and send.  I provide more detailed instructions in the chapter Shirley and Lucille in my memoir Rabbit Lane.

Here are some photos of the process.  Give it a try yourself!

Arranging pressed leaves on wax paper.

Leaves and tissue glued on and drying.

Time to iron.

Match the card size and shape to your envelopes.

My sweet little Grandma with me (may she rest in peace), circa 1982 (when I had hair).

The finished product!

Roger is the author of Rabbit Lane: Memoir of a Country Road.  The book tells the true life story of an obscure farm road and its power to transform the human spirit.  The book is available in print and for Kindle at Amazon.  See Rabbit Lane reviewed in Words and Pictures.

 

Pals

My son Hyrum and I recently visited with one of my life’s heroes, Harvey Russell.  Harvey has been a mink rancher, tanner, mountain man, handyman, and friend to American Indians.  He helped me build my chicken coop and brought me to a four-hour sweat ceremony led by Sun-Chiefs.  His Indian name is Many Feathers.  Arriving at Harvey’s place, Hyrum and set to work helping Harvey with his chores and projects, during which he told stories of the “old days” and we laughed and enjoyed just being together.  The happy juxtaposition of these two men, one 16 and the other 81, struck me.  They got along marvelously together, each respecting and enjoying the other.  Kindred spirits, perhaps.  Those ruminations led to this little poem.

PALS

Two men
work together
one 16
the other 81
one coming up
the other moving on
little alike, perhaps,
yet
both keen
to learn
to fashion with sinewy fingers
to be busy in doing
to stand back, dusty and bruised,
admiring their handiwork:
two men
sitting, grinning, laughing
together
each helping the other up and on

Here are more pictures of our visit.

Roger is the author of Rabbit Lane: Memoir of a Country Road.  The book tells the true life story of an obscure farm road and its power to transform the human spirit.  The book is available in print and for Kindle at Amazon.  See Rabbit Lane reviewed in Words and Pictures.

Living

My youngest children came to visit me tonight, to share a meal, to talk about the day, to learn and to play: to be a family.  As they left with a wave and a “Love you, Dad,” I pondered the nature of life and relationships, and wrote this poem.

LIVING

They wave
a backward glance
Love you, Dad
are gone down
the road under
occasional street lamps
a white glaring gibbous;
just yesterday:
dull, dark, red.
They have blessed me
for an evening, as children
are wont, with stories
of their adventures,
kisses on craggy cheeks,
back-patting hugs:
mere youthful presence.
Some distance down
the road their own children will come
on an evening,
find them glad, and lonely:
grateful. I travel now
and again to my parents,
to ponder the passing of time
and story, the transfer
of character and contribution,
on loss and life:
loneliness. I have built
my crooked, creaking house
on robust stones. Flowers
will bloom above
my grave.

Roger is the author of Rabbit Lane: Memoir of a Country Road.  The book tells the true life story of an obscure farm road and its power to transform the human spirit.  The book is available in print and for Kindle at Amazon.  See Rabbit Lane reviewed in Words and Pictures.

Sparrows

Hundreds of House Sparrows took up residence in Harvey’s chicken and pigeon coops, eating several pounds of expensive lay mash and pellets a day, squeezing easily through iconic hexagonal chicken wire.  Our project together on my recent visit to Enterprise was to sparrow-proof the coops.  We measured, cut, and stapled fine mesh screen to the coop’s frames, over the chicken wire.  “Poor spugs,” Harvey chuckled, feeling half sorry for the little birds, with Winter coming.  “Don’t worry,” I ribbed, “they’ll just get to know your neighbors better.”  And we laughed.  Stepping through a narrow coop door to tack up some screen, I felt a mystical change in the air, and knew instantly I had a poem.

SPARROWS

hexagonal holes
in the chicken wire fence
contain
the gentle hens
perhaps
the neighborhood’s shy red fox
an escaped white-pelted mink
but not the house sparrows
who land and poke through
with ease
to gorge on lay mash
yes:
chicken wire was made for sparrows

entering the coop
through the narrow coop door
taut spring twanging
I feel a change
in the air
though the air within
is the same
as the air without
passing sparrow-like through
hexagonal holes
but I sense
I have entered
that mystical zone
where tame hens lay perfect eggs
and chortle
and brood
where brown-eyed mice scurry for mash morsels
where startled sparrows swirl
in a tight and dusty vortex
darting out past the propped door
for the last time
before it closes
newly-clad
with tight-holed screen

Harvey with his wife Mary

Harvey and moi in front of the homing pigeon coop

Hexagonal chicken wire overlain with fine screen

Harvey, Mary, and me on our way to church

Roger is the author of Rabbit Lane: Memoir of a Country Road.  The book tells the true life story of an obscure farm road and its power to transform the human spirit.  The book is available in print and for Kindle at Amazon.  See Rabbit Lane reviewed in Words and Pictures.

Lavender

To my darling daughter and her lucky groom.  May life’s blossoms ever bloom.

LAVENDER

My lavender has gone to seed:
soft blue blossoms
to brown scratchy scales;
perfume to dust.

You wanted
branches of blue blossoms
for your bridal bouquet.
But they won’t do,
I am sorry to say:
they simply will not do!

Trim the branches back,
you said patiently,
and we will see.
We still have a month,
and they may bloom again,
yet, blue and fragrant.

I trimmed,
I hope,
enough.

 

Roger is the author of Rabbit Lane: Memoir of a Country Road.  The book tells the true life story of an obscure and magical farm road and its power to transform the human spirit.  The book is available in print and for Kindle at Amazon.  See Rabbit Lane reviewed in Words and Pictures.

Coming Home (1940)

How often I have wondered about my grandfather, when he came home from work to find his family gone and his house empty.  Having recently experienced divorce myself, I could not help wondering about his grief as I wallowed in my own.  He died before I was born, so I know him only through stories.  I think I would have liked him.  I knew and loved my grandmother.  I do not judge or blame either one.  I am sure they each did their best.  Now it is up to me to do mine.

COMING HOME (1940)

The man came home
from his lab at Utah oil
to find
an empty house.
The rooms stared,
bare, open-mouthed.
She had left,
taken with her
his own little tribe:
Weezy—6
Sonny—5
Wiggy—3
Gone.
The man sat
against a wall—
it does not matter which wall—
he sat and
he cursed and
he roared and
he sobbed and
he rocked and rocked and rocked and rocked
as he sat
on the floor
against a wall,
looking at the white walls,
looking at rectangular patches
on the white walls
where portraits and landscapes and mirrors had hung,
looking at white textured cobwebbed ceilings,
looking at the fixture with the bulb burnt out,
looking at the worn tan shag,
worn except where the sofa had been,
where he sat,
against a wall,
wondering how, and where, and why
everything
had vanished.

Roger is the author of Rabbit Lane: Memoir of a Country Road.  The book tells the true life story of an obscure and magical farm road and its power to transform the human spirit.  The book is available in print and for Kindle at Amazon.  See Rabbit Lane reviewed in Words and Pictures.

Wood Lamps

My children and I worked for months (and in the case of the featured lamps, years) to be ready for the Tooele Arts Festival, a gathering of more dozens of artists and crafters from around the American west, held June 14-16.  I purchased a booth space to sell the family wares.  This post highlights several wood lamps I made with my sons John, Caleb, and Hyrum.  Displaying our art for three days was an intense and rewarding social experience as we interacted with many hundreds of people, not pushing for sales, but just being personable.  We sold three lamps, five rag rugs crocheted by my mother, eight wood bird-beak back scratchers carved by Caleb, and two dozen papier mache floral jars made with my daughter Hannah and my sons, along with 40 copies of my book Rabbit Lane: Memoir of a Country Road.  Making these lamps with my sons has been a meaningful father-son experience for me, and hopefully gave them a sense of creativity, beauty, and business.  You can see our other lamps on the Woodcraft page of this blog.

Burl wood in Sedona red, by Caleb.

Burl wood in Provincial brown, by Caleb.  (Sold $49.)

Cottonwood with larval etchings, by Hyrum.

Root stump, by Hyrum.

Forked branch, by Hyrum.

Slender branch, by Hyrum.

“Anchor” by Hyrum.  (Sold $49.)

“Little Guy” by John.

Hyrum’s first lamp from 2014.

“Old Timer” by Dad (me).  This one is on my night stand.  (Made in 1993,)

“Stone” by Hyrum.

“Ripples” by Hyrum.  (Sold $29.)

On Hangars

Baker Boys

I have seven children.  Yes, seven.  Four boys and three girls.  I am proud of them and love them.  Sitting at my writing desk tonight, I remembered them when were younger, and chuckled at their antics, one of which was the boys shedding their Sunday go-to-meetin’ clothes after church for more comfortable clothing in which to play Legos and ping-pong and do their sword-fighting, “ching! ching!”.  After one such Sunday, I wrote this little poem.

ON HANGARS

Day’s end of a Sabbath,
and their clothes lie on my bed,
black slacks and black socks,
white shirts inside-out with the sleeves
still rolled and the ties
still under buttoned collar flaps,
left by young ones so eager to play,
while I right each shirt,
loose each button,
extract the slip-knot ties, and
drape three shirts and slacks
on hangars in the closet,
between the dresses and the suits,
where they wait
for the next Sabbath day.

The Worth of a Man

Harvey Russell

I closely watched Harvey and his family as they celebrated his 80th birthday.  They spoke warmly of memories and sang his praises.  How nice, I thought, that they, at least, recognize his worth.  Harvey, though elderly and arguably past his prime, embodies an enormous wealth of tradition, strength, virtue, memory, and love.  Though a quiet obscurity to many, he is a hero to me, as recounted in my book Rabbit Lane: Memoir of a Country Road.  So many in western culture write off and even ridicule the elderly, seeing only weakness and faded glory. This fact I sorely lament.  We would do well to remember their strength, their sacrifice, their accomplishments, their contributions, their legacy, and their love.  Rather than relegated to the “old” category, implying uselessness, they should be lifted up as timeless mentors to be followed, learned from, cared for, and revered.  As you read this poem, ponder for yourself, What is the worth of an aged man and woman?  I hope your answer is bounteous.  Consider sharing your thoughts in a comment.

THE WORTH OF A MAN

What is the worth of a man
when his ears refuse to hear
and shrouds eclipse his sight,
when his back bends low
and his hands quiver,
when he forgets things large and small
and the young lose their scant patience
with his remembrances and his gait?

He has made whatever difference, whatever contribution,
he is going make.
If he hasn’t said it by now, it won’t be said.

So much counsel.
So much love.
So much poetry.
Unspoken.

He is a mere memory,
and fading at that.

That is what you think.
That is what so many think.

Remember when
he taught you to tame a fox and skin a weasel and splint a songbird’s wing?
Remember when
he bought you a thrift store bike and taught you to fix a flat?
Remember when
he slogged in from the smelter each day after dark, slimed with sweat and soot?
Remember when
you took turns tossing the ball to the family mutt?
Remember when
he told you how to treat a woman, with fidelity, with respect, with tenderness?
Remember when
he called you a numbskull for smoking behind the barn, and stomped the butt out?
Remember when
he carried you, and even sang, and even cried, when your body burned from fever?

But you do not remember.
You spurn the soul what made you.
You rush break-neck from your cradle to your own aged obsolescence.
Tomorrow, as you shuffle and stoop,
they will glance at you and ask,
What is the worth of a man?

Wood Lamp: Hope

“Hope”

My friend and business associate Randy S. commissioned this lamp, affectionately named Hope, as a companion to our beautiful wood lamp Waves.  Randy selected the wood for Hope from several photographs I sent him in October 2015, seen here from three different views.

Hyrum (15) and I worked slowly over the next year and a half to transform this rough piece of wood into the beautiful lamp featured above.  The first step was, as always, to clean and smooth the wood.  Next we drilled the small surface that would support the bulb socket, stained the wood with several coats of dark Provincial stain, and inserted the nipple pipe and socket.

Preparing the table-top base came next.

We mounted the lamp wood onto the base with wood glue and several three-inch screws, wired the lamp, varnished the base and lamp with gloss polyurethane, and caulked around the lamp base.  We routed the base bottom to house the lamp chord.

The final step was to suspend the lamp upside down between two padded chairs and attach black felt to the bottom of the base.

Randy took the lamp to his home office to join Waves after nearly two years.  He said it was worth the wait.

(Purchase Price: $500.)

Baker Brothers Lamps was founded to help my sons earn money for the 2013 and 2017 National Boy Scout Jamborees and to pay for their high school athletic activities and university studies.  It has been so fun for me to work on this hobby with my sons, transforming rough wood into beautiful lamps.

Red Rock Trail

Living in Utah, I have come to love what we call “red rock country.”  Bizarre twisted shapes dominate canyon landscapes, in every hue of red and orange, remnants of ancient tectonic upheavals and eons of erosion.  On the trails winding through these hills I have found inspiration and wonderment, pondering the forces of creation and nature.  I have held my young children’s hands as we scrambled over boulders and up screes.  We have marveled at the prickly-pear’s crimson bloom and the aromatic sagebrush.  We have laughed at the lizards and cottontails scurrying for cover beneath black brush and Mormon tea.  All, the stuff of awe and sweet memory.  In this poem I look back at an early red-rock-country explorer on horseback.  Enjoy the trail.

RED ROCK TRAIL

shod hoofs
stumble on stones,
leave glintings
behind, sparks,
scramble to rise
to the high red butte;
desert varnish trickles
below, springs
sprout cottonwoods,
beaver chewed,
beaver felled,
feeding, damming
all but flashing
floods from distant rains
beyond, where
snows melt
under desert sun
on the high red butte

Snow Canyon, Utah

You Showed Me

My assistant city attorneys and I have prosecuted domestic violence perpetrators for 24 years.  I have come to loathe the mentality that allows a perpetrator to use violence to maintain power and control in an intimate relationship.  The very person the perpetrator should love with tenderness he beats into submission.  A cherished friend recently confided in me that her estranged husband had clobbered her in the face with a work boot he was holding, breaking her nose.  As painful as was the injury to her face, the deeper injury was to her spirit and her mind.  That strike caused her eyes to swell and blacken, but at the same time opened her eyes wide to who and what he was, and to what a future with him would bring.  I wrote this poem to honor my friend’s courage to see the truth and to seek a place of safety for herself and her children.  I dedicate this poem to all victims of domestic violence, those who survive and thrive, and those who have not yet broken free.  God bless.

YOU SHOWED ME

You bashed my face
with your boot,
steel-toed,
to show me
who you are:
tough, in control,
powerful.

You broke my nose
with your heel.

Our lambs watched, and
wept.

I am bleeding now,
swollen, my face
red and sore.

Yes, you showed me
the man you are.

But I say
to your face:
You missed!

Bereft I may be, but
I am not destroyed!
Because
you beat me,
you bruised me,
you cut me,
but you missed
my heart
my mind
my dreams
my soul
my will.

Yes,
you showed me.

Christmas Barn

 

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Amidst all the holiday gift-giving, certain gifts stand, gifts of more than things but also of the heart.  My son Hyrum’s gift to his sister Hannah was one such gift, a gift to always remember. Hyrum (14) conceived of the idea, drew the idea, and saved his money for the materials. Together we engineered the structure, bought the materials, and began construction.  His gift: a miniature barn with hinged roof.  This series of photographs shows each step of the construction process, culminating with Hannah (10) opening her gift on Christmas morning.  I think of Hyrum’s gift as a miracle gift, for he gave part of himself along with the present.

The base frame, 18″ x 18″, allowing for a two-story central main building with an attached lean-to on each side.

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Adding posts to support the main barn roof.

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Completing the barn and lean-to frames.

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The completed frame with the interior floor installed and the wall siding begun.

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Wall siding and lean-to roofing completed with lathe.  The roof frame sit, hinged, on the main barn structure.

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The completed hinged roof frame atop the barn.

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The completed barn, prior to painting.

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Hyrum painting the barn.

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And . . . the completed barn project.

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Most importantly, Hannah on Christmas morning opening her special gift, inside which Hyrum placed a wrapped bucket of perfectly-sized farm animals.

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Hannah’s Christmas barn became my favorite Christmas gift, too.  I enjoyed working with my son for weeks to engineer, construct, paint, and wrap the barn.  I witnessed the joy on my daughter’s face (and on Hyrum’s face) as Hannah opened her special gift.

Smashed

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I have lived alone for 1 year now: 52 weeks: 365 days.  The highlight of my life is to see my children.  They grew a gorgeous garden this year, and shared with me their harvest: sweet corn; swiss chard; cucumbers.  And a pumpkin.  Their front porch is adorned with two dozen perfect orange pumpkins.  Hyrum and Hannah offered me one, perfectly round, with a spiraling stem. The pumpkin reminded me of them each night when I came home from work.  It looked so cute sitting by the front door, until one evening I found it smashed on the rocks.

SMASHED

To Whoever
smashed my pumpkin:
I wondered
how long
my pumpkin would survive
you.

Not long.

My little daughter
raised this pumpkin
in her garden.

I love her.
I do not get to see her much.
I miss her.

So, I set by my door
her pumpkin, my pumpkin.
It reminded me of her.

I dared to hope
you would let it be.
But you smashed
my little girl’s
pumpkin.

(PS.  She gave me another yesterday.  One can hope.)

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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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

No Diving

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Photo by Liddy Mills

I live in an apartment now.  My children come to visit.  Mostly I am alone.  But I have books, music, poetry, crock-pot dinners . . . and a hot tub.  My children and I sit in the roiling 110-degree water even when the ambient air is 20 degrees F, and the steam has condensed in frozen icicles hanging from the hot tub railing.  We talk about life, their soccer goals and rugby tries, sore muscles, ornery pimples, church dances, dates and the prom, stubborn cowlicks and bad haircuts, good books, good movies, hopes and dreams.  We flex our biceps and splash steaming water at each other and laugh.  Sometimes after work I soak alone, watch the steam rise, and write a poem.

NO DIVING

in the hot tub
three feet deep
no diving sign in the tile
ice clings to the chrome railing
steam, and contemplations,
billowing, billowing

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.)

Wood Lamp: Grace

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Grace

The piece of driftwood that became the lamp Grace leaned against my shed for about a decade, a temporary decoration with which I might do something someday.  It joined my other decorations, antiques, hanging from the shed by nails, though the wood lay on the ground, frequently obscured by weeds and grass.

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This lamp posed the special challenge of mounting its lithe and twisting form to the base.  At first I used a single nut and bolt, with washers at each end.  But no matter how tight, the lamp still wobbled.  Eventually, after staining and wiring, I added another bolt, and the lamp now stands firm like a ship’s mast to a ship.  While drilling such a lamp for wire would normally be a challenge, only minimal drilling was required.  The wire follows mostly natural cracks running down the back of the wood.

At 4.5 feet tall, a possible companion piece to Hyrum’s lamp Dolphin (4 feet even), we suggest a value for this lamp of $850.

Not just my sons have raised money for the National Boy Scout Jamboree.  I join them in both the fund-raising and the scouting efforts.  I attended in 2013 as an assistant scoutmaster, one of four men accompanying a troop of 36 Boy Scouts.  I will attend again in 2017 in the same role.  I am pictured here with my sons John and Caleb, in the Salt Lake City International airport, exhausted but happy after our three-week adventure.

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I will post pictures and stories of additional wood lamps soon.

Wood Lamp: Dolphin

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Dolphin by Hyrum Baker

Hyrum (14) and I have worked on Dolphin for the better part of a year.  This lamp began as an unassuming piece of weathered drift wood, distinguished by its beaver chew marks at both ends.

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Not owning an air compressor (yet), Hyrum devised an ingenious, low-cost method of cleaning the wood of sand and dust: a bicycle pump fitted with a ball needle.  Quite effective.

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Drilling this piece of wood, 48 inches from nose-tip to tail, was a challenge, due both to the length and the twisting curves of the wood.  We bored several holes with a long 5/16″ bit, then enlarged the holes with a 3/8″ bit.  Having the end of one bore meet the beginning of the next bore was indeed a challenge, but we made it work.

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For convenience, we decided to stain the lamp wood laying flat before mounting it to its base.

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With the lamp stained once, we were prepared to mount it to its base.  I learned the hard way on another tall lamp that a single bolt leaves the lamp wobbly, no matter how tight.  So we used two bolts, ratcheting the nuts down hard, with large washers on both ends, and with a little lock nut to keep them tight.  Black caulk filled the holes and covered the bolt heads.  We drilled and routed the base to accommodate the electrical chord.

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The next challenge was to thread the lamp wire through the several angled drill holes.  We first used a coat hangar to thread a length of electrician’s tape through the lamp, then used the tape to pull the wire through the lamp.

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With all the hardware work complete, we now applied more coats of Provincial WiniWax stain, then three coats of gloss polyurethane.  We often use different color stains for the base and the lamp in way that highlights the lamp (see Waves, Smoke, and Reach), but for Dolphin, a floor lamp, we thought using the same color stain for both was more effective.

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(Dolphin, in the final stages, is pictured in the background, with Grace in the foreground, and Smoke looking on from the sidelines.)

With black felt on the bottom and a simple but pretty shade on top, Dolphin is ready to swim into someone’s home.  We suggest a value of $850 for Dolphin (though we are confident that it would fetch more in many boutiques).  As a reminder, Hyrum is making these exotic wood lamps to fund his way to the 2017 Boy Scout National Jamboree, and then to college.

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Making these lamps together, while each one poses its own unique challenges, has been a true father-and-son joy.  I hope to continue our hobby into the future and Hyrum and his brothers become fathers themselves.

Three Quilts

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All parents have had the experience of children wandering into their room late at night, afraid or disoriented, and asking, “Can I sleep with you?”  Rather than be angry or annoyed, we merely laid out the spare quilts, sewn by the children’s grandmothers.  And we all fell asleep again.  Waking early for work, I tip-toed over and around my sleeping children.  Home in the evening, their quilts lay on the floor like the discarded skins of pupaed caterpillars taken flight.  I hope you enjoy my poem memorializing that recollection.

THREE QUILTS

Three quilts lie in a corner of my room,
folded, again, neatly, again;
three queen-size quilts
sewn and tied by gifting grandmothers
who rest under blanketing memory,
leaving to me these warm tokens.

From night-sleep stupor,
I hear distantly the click of a switch, and a flush,
an apologetic knocking, and a whispered “Dad,”
more like the hiss of heavy breathing than a name.
In my knowing, I find the corners
of a folded quilt and toss it out its full length
upon the floor, by the bed, where there’s room.
I could order them back to their beds, but
there seems to always be room.

In the obscurity of my morning,
I have sense enough
to step gingerly over and around
the boys, asleep in their quilted cocoons;
my boys, rising each day
with a deep life-breath yawn and
a stretching of slumber-stiff limbs,
flying from their crumpled quilts,
like the discarded skins of metamorphosis, with
only air and sky ahead.

Climbing Wall

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For my son John’s 17th birthday he asked me to help him engineer and construct a climbing wall in our garage.  That was the gift he wanted from me, his father.  I let out a heavy sigh, knowing, as a lawyer, my engineering limitations.  I write contracts and ordinances.  I don’t build things.  But I couldn’t disappoint him.  Testing his commitment to project, I promised I would help him if he did all the research.  He spent hours on the internet compiling a book of various designs and techniques.  He had done his part, so now it was time to do mine.

We carefully drew out our plans, bought the materials, and got to work.  The first step was to assemble a kick plate and wall foundation to attach to and cover the garage footing.

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The most difficult step was designing two wall sections, the first at 20-degrees and the second at 40-degrees.  We began this process by cutting angled joists, the climbing wall’s ribs, if you will.

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The angled joists rest firmly on the kick plate/foundation wall, bearing much of the climbing wall’s weight.  This low wall is also where the climbing starts, with the climber in a sitting position.

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The angled joists were also secured to ceiling braces, screwed into the garage roof trusses.

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My good friend Paul (who is an engineer) instructed me that roof trusses are designed to withstand snow loads bearing down from above, not weight pulling down from below.  So I climbed up into the garage attic, crawled through fiberglass, and braced the roof trusses with 2x4s.  We also insert a portable vertical 4×4 post whenever anyone climbers, just to be sure the roof won’t fall in on the climbers.

Next came assembling the climbing wall surface.  Before we mounted the 3/4-inch plywood, John drilled numerous holes and inserted threaded T-nuts, into which the climbing hold would later be secured.

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With the holes drilled and the T-nuts set, we attached the wall to the angled joists.

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(Note the antiques with which I decorated my garage, several made by or belonging to my great-grandfather Nelson Baker.)

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With the most difficult work done, it was time for John to have fun planning his bouldering “problems” and setting the holds.  The climber completes the “problem” by touching the top of the climbing wall.

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2015-08-20 John

In this photograph, John is hanging from holds on a box he built on his own to add to the climbing’s wall’s challenge.  He also built the pyramid.

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Note the crash pads underneath the climber.  Crash pads are mandatory.  These are surplus martial arts mats, to which we add several foam sleeping pads.  (John is a third-degree taekwondo blackbelt.)

Weeks later, John removed all the holds and painted his climbing wall, adding sand to the paint to add texture to the wall.  He used paint scraps left over from previous house painting projects.  Tapes of various colors mark the different bouldering “problems” or routes.

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Building this climbing wall with my son John, though intimidating to me at first, turned out to be a most meaningful experience for us both.  We enjoyed working through the design and construction challenges together.  John learned that he can dream and make his dreams come true.  He, his brothers Caleb and Hyrum, and his friends spend hours in my garage bouldering through the various “problems” John has set.  Just one year after completing his climbing wall, John off on a month-long NOLS (National Outdoor Leadership School) course learning real-life leadership and climbing skills.  He dreams of following in the footsteps of climbing heroes Alex Honnold and Chris Sharma.  John is pictured with Chris here.

John and Chris Sharma

*  *  *

The week before Christmas 2015, Caleb (16, also a taekwondo blackbelt and climbing enthusiast) whispered to me that he wanted to add to John’s climbing wall by building a “campus board” as a Christmas present for his brother John (now 18).  (Another sigh from dad.)  A campus board is an angleled wall with horizontal rungs cut for hanging and climbing, to strengthen the fingers, hands, and indeed the whole upper body.  Caleb designed it, and we set to work.

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Caleb used his great-great-grandfather Baker’s plane to shave off one corner of the 2×4 rungs so that they would be parallel with the ground, or angled slightly inward, making it possible to grasp with the fingertips.  I felt proud of Caleb for working so hard to bring his holiday plan to fruition, but mostly for wanting to make a meaningful Christmas gift for his brother.

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These are experiences and memories that we will always share as father and sons.

Rag Rugs

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(Large rag rug crocheted by my mother for my kitchen–October 2015.)

When my mother, Dorothy Lucille Bawden Baker, was a child, perhaps age 6 or 7, she accompanied her mother, Dorothy Erma Evans Bawden (born 1915), and her grandmother, Dorothy Ellen Beagly Evans (born 1895), to visit her great-grandmother, Elizabeth Esther Pierce Beagly (born 1875).  Grandmother Elizabeth was crocheting an oval rug from strips of cloth cut from old clothing.  My mother noticed it and told them she liked it.  Looking back, what caught her attention most was the notion of making something so beautiful from practically nothing: rags. My mother’s matriarchs encouraged her interest and offered to give her a crochet hook and strips of cloth.  Grandfather James Edmund Evans (born 1889) carved for her an oak crochet hook.  Her mother cut some cloth strips from old clothing for my mother, and taught her the crochet stitch.  After my mother’s marriage in 1962, she began her serious crocheting of rag rugs, for she and her new husband, Owen Nelson Baker, Jr., had no carpet or rugs in their home.  For her first project, she sat on the floor and crocheted an enormous round area rug.  After retiring and moving to Utah in 1998, she began crocheting again in earnest.  She found her sheets at the Deseret Industries thrift store, and bought a cutting board and cutting wheel.  Her rugs can be found throughout her home and the homes of her children.  She has given away many rugs as gifts to family and friends.  I recently asked her to teach me to crochet.  These small rugs, intended as prayer mats, are my first efforts to crochet something from nothing.  I made them for my three daughters and my daughter-in-law for Christmas (2015).  I hope that my girls find enjoyment in them, and in knowing that they hold a humble work of art six generations in the making.

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The beginnings of Hannah’s rug, with a sun at the center.

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Ringed with a light sky, ready for a darker ring of sky.

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The sky is complete.

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Ready to be circled with dark, rich earth.

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Hannah’s rug completed.

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Laura’s rug: blue evening sky trending toward sunset and night.

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Erin’s rug: sun, sky, and atoll surrounded by ocean.

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Avery’s rug.

Shoe Shine Boxes

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ONB

When I was a boy, my father scrounged scraps of oak plank and made himself a beautiful shoe shine box, of his own design, with his initials “ONB” carved on one end and chiseled greenery on the other.  He made a similar box for me, bearing my initials “REB”.

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REB

As boys, my four sons often watched me shine my shoes, asking me if I would please shine theirs.  Then they began asking if they could use my shoe shine stuff to shine their own shoes. They have enjoyed using my shoe shine box during their boyhood years.

This Christmas I presented to each of my sons their own shoe shine box.  It was time for them to have their own, to carry on the tradition.  For lack of tools, time, and skill, I simplified the design.  But I still find their shoe shine boxes elegant.

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I had planned to make the shoe shine boxes over the Thanksgiving weekend while staying with my parents.  Caleb (16) asked if he could stay one night with me, so I decided to let him in on the secret and help.

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After Caleb left, Grandpa, the original shoe shine box carpenter, helped me finish the boys’ boxes.

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My sons may be the only living boys to have such shoe shine boxes, in a three-generation genealogy of shoe shine boxes, made by their father and grandfather.

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I hope my sons find years of enjoyment and pride in shining their shoes with their shoe shine boxes.  And who knows: perhaps they will make such boxes for their own children someday.

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I hope you will find a unique and meaningful way to connect with your sons and daughters, and to carry on the traditions of your generations.

Christmastime

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My favorite part of Christmas is playing Christmas music all the month of December.  For me, Christmas music brings out the Christmas spirit like nothing else.  And I’m not talking about songs that celebrate a reindeer’s red nose and such, but about the hymns and carols that celebrate the birth of Jesus, the Savior of the world.  My family gathers each Christmas Eve to recite the story of Jesus’ birth and to sing the songs of Christmas.  I previously posted my little Christmas lullaby Nativity.  With this post I bring you the happy song Christmastime.  What it may lack in musical sophistication it hopefully makes up for in simple Christmas cheer.  Here is the sheet music for you to enjoy: Christmastime.

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The star on my 30-inch-tall Christmas tree is this Pysanky egg blown, waxed, and dyed by my daughter Laura (20).  I treasure it.

Dreaming

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My children, when they were young, liked to be put to bed with a song.  I composed many little lullabies and songs, some of which are posted on this blog.  I tried to compose tunes and lyrics that would sooth and inspire each child.  But sometimes I composed something to just make them smile and laugh.  “Dreaming” is one such song and contemplates a child’s nonsensical but humorous dreams, ending with mother’s call to wake up in the morning.  I hope you enjoy it! Click here for the sheet music: Dreaming.

Morning

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At a recent Thanksgiving Day after-dinner gathering of my extended family, my father expressed his tender feelings for my mother.  With tears in his eyes and voice tight with emotion, he told of gazing at her as she lay sleeping one morning, the suns rays streaming through the window, and feeling that he loved her with all his heart.  That is as it should be, I thought, and wrote this poem.

MORNING

Warm sun in winter
hurtles white-capped
peaks and rushes through
wide windows
to halt and hover
over a head of tousled white
hair, aged, peaceful
upon her pillow.

Not Today

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More than any other child, Caleb’s bicycle tires always seems to go flat.  I would patch an inner tube one hour and have it be flat the next.  Those awful three-pronged “goat-head” stickers were his bane.  Caleb was too young to patch his own inner tubes, so he was constantly asking me to do so.  “Dad,” he would ask, “can you fix my bike?”  I grew weary of his frequent requests, and often put him off.  Each time I avoided the task, however, I could see the disappointment in his eyes and hear it in his voice: “OK, Dad.”  I would come around eventually, but my delinquency deprived him of many days of happy riding.  When I began to realize what I was doing to him, and to our father-son relationship, I started patching his tires more quickly, began to teach him to patch his own tires, and wrote this poem as a reminder to myself to exercise patience and love with my children.  (Note: each stanza diminishes by one line in length, symbolizing Caleb’s diminished faith in his father.)

NOT TODAY

On Saturday Caleb said, “Hey, Dad!
I ran over a sticker,
and my bike tire’s flat,
so I can’t ride my bike.
Can you patch it for me today?”
Dad sighed and then replied,
“Not today, son, can’t you see?
I’ve far too much work to do.
Maybe tomorrow.”
And Caleb said, “Thanks, Dad.”

On Sunday Caleb said, “Hey, Dad!
My tire’s still flat,
so I can’t ride my bike.
Can you fix it for me today, please?”
Dad sighed and then replied,
“Not today, son, don’t you know?
On the Sabbath day I cannot do such work.
Tomorrow would be a much better day.”
And Caleb said, “Thanks, Dad.”

On Monday Caleb said, “Hey, Dad.
I still can’t ride my bike at all.
Please, can you fix it, maybe, today?”
Dad sighed and then replied,
“Not today, son, I’m all tuckered out;
I’ve worked so hard all day.
Maybe tomorrow, or next week, sometime.”
And Caleb said, “OK, Dad.”

On Tuesday Caleb said, “Hey, Dad.
I’d really like to ride my bike.
Could you help me, sometime, fix my tire?”
Dad sighed and then replied,
“Goodness gracious, son, how you pester me so.
I told you I’d do it sometime. Not today.”
And Caleb said, “OK, Dad.”

On Wednesday Caleb said, “Hey, Dad.
Today’s probably not a good day, huh?”
Dad sighed and then replied,
“I’m afraid you are right, son, not today.
Today is definitely not a good day.”
And Caleb said, “OK Dad.”

On Thursday Caleb said, “Hey, Dad.
Do you think, maybe, tomorrow?”
Dad sighed and then replied,
“Sure thing, son—maybe tomorrow.”
And Caleb said, “OK, Dad.”

On Friday Caleb said, “Hey, Dad.
Tomorrow’s Saturday, right?”
Dad replied, “Last time I checked.”
And Caleb said, “OK.”

On Saturday Caleb said, “Hey, Dad.”
And Dad replied, “Hey, Son.”
And Caleb walked away.

Wood Lamp: Waves

Waves

Waves, a lamp by Hyrum Baker

My son, Hyrum, made this gorgeous natural wood lamp, with a little coaching from me.  Like his lamp Smoke, the wood for this lamp came from a Russian Olive tree root.  For this lamp, however, Hyrum chose a dark brown Jacobean stain.  The lighter Sedona red base reflects light up into the twists and curves of the darker lamp, bringing focus to the rich glossy brown.  Standing at about 27 inches tall, this lamp presented Hyrum with the challenge of drilling in hard wood with long bits at awkward angles.  Hyrum, aged 12 at the time, turned an otherwise ugly root into a beautiful piece of artwork that doubles as a lamp.  Hyrum named the lamp Waves, the delicately curving arms evoking images of rippling water.  We suggest the value of this lamp to be $590 or more, depending on the market.  Waves is waiting to adorn the office or living room of a discerning decorator.

Wood Lamp: Smoke

Smoke

Smoke, a lamp by Hyrum Baker

My son, Hyrum, and I made this lamp together.  For his first lamp project, in 2014, he chose a difficult piece of wood, which required drilling with long bits at awkward angles.  We rescued this Russian Olive root, standing about 36 inches tall, on a firewood cutting expedition.  Encrusted with mud, Hyrum worked for weeks to clean and sand the wood, filling the cracks with putty, and staining: he chose Sedona Red.  The putty didn’t stain well, so we used a matching barn-red paint to cover the still-pale putty, then stained over the dried paint, all for a rich rusty red result.  I am particularly proud of Hyrum, aged 12 at the time, for this excellent piece of artwork that happens to also be a lamp.  (I helped a little, of course.)  He named the lamp Smoke.  We suggest the value of this lamp to be $650 or more, depending on the market.  It is waiting to be taken to the perfect home.

Here is Hyrum pictured recently sitting at the bench of a federal district court judge during a recent scouting expedition for the Citizenship in the Nation merit badge.

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After visiting the courthouse and other state and federal buildings, we enjoyed sandwiches at the Boston Deli, a downtown Salt Lake City lunch spot featuring jazz vinyl records, instruments, and music.

2015-08-21 Hyrum-04

Woodcraft: Introduction

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Working with natural wood has always been a source of pleasure and camaraderie for my sons and me.  On hikes we often spy gnarled driftwood or twisted tree roots that would make beautiful lamps.  We decided to make a number of these lamps and sell them to fund our way to the 2013 and 2017 National Boy Scout Jamborees.  For those unfamiliar with the Jamboree, it involves ten days touring the historic sites of New York City, Philadelphia, Gettysburg, Mount Vernon, and Washington D.C., then ten days at a high adventure camp in the mountains of West Virginia.  About 40,000 scouts attended the 2013 Jamboree.  Here is a picture of our troop’s camp area.

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Pictured above are myself (one of four troop scoutmasters), my sons John and Caleb, and my nephews Thomas and Todd (four of 36 scouts in the troop), posed before a reconstructed winter quarters cabin at Valley Forge.

We hope to make Baker Brothers Lamps a successful going concern.  But in the meantime, we are learning skills and making memories together.  Each post on the Rabbit Lane: Woodcraft page will feature one lamp or other woodcraft project created by my sons and myself, pictured here on September 11, 2011, before attending Sandy City’s 10th anniversary commemoration of the World Trace Center attacks.

Dad and Boys 09-11-11

At Midnight

Waves

(Lamp by Roger and Hyrum Baker-2014)

We may think that as parents we have plenty of opportunities to shape and affect the lives of our children.  And we would be right.  But some opportunities, when missed, cannot be recaptured.  They are lost, and we cannot know what we have missed or how we may have helped another.  The best we can hope is that we won’t miss the next indispensable opportunity.  This poem is about opportunities gained and lost, and hints at the need for making a commitment to make the most of them when they arise.  Our children need us.

AT MIDNIGHT

I lay on my back
at midnight
and wondered if I should
go to his room,
where his light still shone,
and talk to my son,
a young man.
I lay on my back and wondered.
I lay on my back and thought.
But when I at last arose,
I found his light too soon turned off.

(Note.  This poem is not about suicide.  But it could be.  If we suspect that our child is depressed or sad or lonely or wanting to take their own life, we need to take a moment to reach out, to express love and support, and to ask the hard questions that will help pave the way to safety.   QPR training–Question, Persuade, Refer–is a useful tool for all.)