Dan Aubrey’s pieces in the June 23 paper about the life and legacy of woodworker George Nakashima prompted longtime reader and poet and recent recipient of the Nakashima Foundation Peace Award Scott McVay to submit this time capsule, first read on June 9, 2009 at the re-dedication of the first Nakashima Altar of Peace at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine.

The Log Is Terribly Real

On August 9, 1983,
Hella and I celebrated
our 25th wedding anniversary.
After a hot air balloon ride
at dawn from Lambertville
we went for breakfast to New
Hope to a restaurant called
Mother’s where George
often ate and entertained.
Then we motored to the Jersey
shore to swim, enjoy fresh fish,
soak up the sun
& drove home.

Our mailbox that evening
was empty but for a
letter from George beginning
“Dear Scott and Hella,
Herewith a dream I had
in the hospital
recently (gall bladder).
I don’t know whether
it makes sense or not
but the log is terribly real.
It is the finest I have bought
in my career and
I feel a great responsibility….

“It is a great walnut tree.
It is a tree that should be

a symbiosis of nature
and man in the deepest
spiritual sense….

“The ultimate creative concept
of this presence becomes
a prime decision.
Too often great trees
are chopped up into
knife handles or pistol grips…”

As Thoreau noted,
“Can he who has discovered
only some of the values of whalebone
and whale oil be said to have discovered
the true use of the whale?
Can he who slays the elephant for his ivory
be said to have ‘seen the elephant’?
These are petty and accidental uses;
just as if a stronger race
were to kill us in order to make
buttons and flageolets of our bones…”
(“flageolets”…small fipple flutes)

George said further that
the bole
“should be used with
the fullest width possible
and about four inches thick,
two slabs at the widest
to make a rough
heart shaped triangle….
“the most expressive
piece of furniture ever made…
an Altar to Peace!

“…the pure spirit to Peace
for which all people yearn.…
A shrine for all peoples
and owned by none.

“Perhaps this is all a dream
but peace is a dream,
a dream dreamt by an
overwhelming mass of millions
upon millions of people.”

These thoughts, here excerpted,
were re-said more briefly
nearly 14 months later in
The Prayer of October 1, 1984
found at the website of
The Nakashima Foundation for Peace.

In September, 1981, George
inscribed to us his immortal
work, The Soul of a Tree.

In a letter to Marion of
January 2, 1982,
I wrote “the next step
beyond the book is a film that is sensitively made and
one that (she is) truly
comfortable with.”

I proposed, too, the creation
of the George and Marion
Nakashima Foundation.

In April of 1985, the National
Geographic Society aired
the documentary,
Nakashima.

The next year
on New Year’s Eve
the power of the peace
table around the Earth
was declared in the original
dedication here.

Only in January a year ago
did Hella and I get to Pondicherry
and Sri Aurobino’s ashram,
a transforming experience.
I began to understand
why George was
so profoundly inspired
by Aurobindo, his
prodigious writings, 35 books,
and the Mother, 17 books.

This past Monday, June 1st,
Father Thomas Berry, 94,
died. Author of The Dream of the Earth
and The Great Work: Our Way into the Future,
Berry, too, was a kindred spirit in our quest.

The words uttered in Cairo
on Thursday by President Obama
speak to the desires and urgency
felt by us all for a coming together
of humanity to join in peace
to save a planet in peril.

Later this month, Glenn Paige, who
has written urgently for
”No More Killing” in a book
published in 2002 and now in
17 languages, will turn 80.
Glenn is in the vanguard of
a world sick of all the killing
and wars
aching for a world
where we have moved past
this scourge.

In her book, Nature, Form,
and Spirit, Mira caught
something of her Father,
an Eagle Scout with
a wee grin and
a twinkle in his eye,

“Work for him was
a spiritual calling,
a linking of his strength
to a transcendental force,
a surrender to the divine,
a form of prayer.”

As George said,
“Peace is more than
the absence of war.
It is a creative spirit
a great light
that can ultimately
take over the world.”