The Soul of a Tree: A Woodworker’s Reflections changed me for the better.
Mr. Nakashima tells the story of his beginnings, and compels me to love him for his strength to openly re-define himself towards what he thinks really matters.
My philosphical kinship with George Nakashima blossomed when I read of his time in India, and why he left the ashram utopia that he had made his home. “It became for me a question of living a life of great beauty in isolation, or of going out again into the world…I concluded I would have to fight for truth outside the ashram’s protective environment. It was the most difficult decision” p.67. Mr. Nakashima then went to the US.
Bombs in Pearl Harbor resulted in all those of Japanese descent being placed in concentration camps in Idaho. It was here that Mr. Nakashima (I’m referring to him as Mr. out of respect) learned woodworking from a fellow prisoner. Given the chance to leave the concentration camp if he didn’t re-settle on the west coast, he moved his wife and young daughter to New Hope, Pennsylvania where he set up a tiny woodworking shop.
Life didn’t seem to immediately smile on Mr. Nakashima. I also feel like he was the type of guy who, even starving in a white-out, still wouldn’t be able to stop admiring the shimmer and endless shapes of the snowflakes flying by.
Soul of a Tree was a real page turner from here on. I am in awe of his designs and chalk sketches. I felt immense respect and admiration with someone who needed to first see and touch each piece of wood before he could imagine what to do with it. I felt incredible respect for someone who could take their own being, infuse it into the tree, and ultimately highlight the beauty in both.
Reading this book made me love the world a little more.
It also made me recognize that while Mr. Nakashima was clearly an awesome individual, there are others out there too. I feel a little more lofty with hope for the world and all its people.
Below are some pictures of my favorite parts of the book.