Rossland’s first Wood Carving Symposium has begun!
It has already been a busy day already with the logs getting stood up and carving beginning. Please check out our instagram and facebook for videos and pictures of the progress!
Lars Baggenstos, a local artist, dreamed up his sculpture from a story. Here is the story:
Once, there was a bear in the forest.
He had no memory of a mother, nor father, but he could recall the very place he was born, and when.
In the Fall of all times, where the larch trees had turned golden and the mountainsides splintered into moss covered claws. Where the ice and snow hugged the mountaintops at sky.
Perhaps the mountains and forest had made him. His fur was thick with the red of Autumn, the browns of grub soil, and the golden pins of larch needle yellow. His teeth and claws were hard as rock, and moss grew in the folds of his brow. His eyes, like tarns, were dark and mysterious but for when sunlight lit their gray blue depths.
The bear was a giant, built of stone, undergrowth, the forest floor and timber.
And he was alone.
The first time he wondered what it was that had made him he had already been for many years. Had he not slept uncountable winters, denned in the bosom of the highest mountain, slept in the caverns where the earth warmed his floor? He could not count, and the lack of numbers did not bother him… except for one.
For he was alone.
The bear swallowed creeks, lumbered to and fro as a hillside might, his shaggy, shambling wanders taking him up and down his valley, to mountain tops and lake-bottom depths, through bogs and meadows few eyes have ever seen.
Sturgeons were plentiful. To the bear they were like minnows, and in those days the huckleberries grew as big as melons. But the bear was not greedy. He took only what he needed, and would always give back; a brook through a meadow, some shade in the summer, a resting place of cedar boughs concealed from the rain.
True, the bear was a giant, but he was no brute.
Possessed of a shy and elusive nature, embarrassed by his imposing stature and the enormity of his carriage, the bear, for all his size, kept hidden and away from most other creatures.
In spite of his mass, he could move swiftly and with nary a whisper, disappear in the blink of an eye. Those who encountered him, whether moose or wolf, might never know he had passed so near, a storm cloud or gust that blurred past them, overhead. He was a parting of the branches, or when startled, a gale that roared through the woods.
The bear left no scent, and few tracks, for his essence itself was spirit.
One day, while he fished at an elbow of the shining Slocan, the bear was approached by a man on a log. Or a man in a log, really, a tree that had been hollowed out as if dug in by termites.
The bear pretended to be a boulder rolled off of the mountain, a giant stone that had come to rest in the shallows and was now home to saplings, bird nests and soil. He stayed perfectly still in the hopes this man would pass.
The man paddled his canoe (for that is what it was) around the bear, all the while staring up at the giant creature.
“Bear, I see you,” said the man. “I see you and I know what it is you are.”
The bear had been holding his breath, and now, discovered, he exhaled. It smelled of moss and fern, dew and starlight. With his great exhalation, ripples formed on the water, and small waves lapped at the man in his boat.
“What do you want?” asked the towering bear.
The man did not answer. He circled the mighty bear again, considered its enormity. He sucked his cheeks in as if calculating his approaching winter’s meals.
The bear had seen only a very few men before, and never had one approached him. The man blinked in the afternoon sun, and returned the bear’s gaze as if they might be equals. It was unsettling. Men caused fires, fought with one another, and had grown in numbers within the valley.
The bear watched the man in the boat. The boat resembled an elder sturgeon, and the bear, for a moment, was impressed. He should like to know what it would feel like to float enveloped, on a lake within his valley. And as he observed the unwelcome visitor, he softened his pose and thought:
“This man is a color not unlike some of the stones polished at river’s edge or river bottom. Stones that have weathered the river for as long as I have roamed this valley. Perhaps, then, I might have cause enough not to eat him.”
“Have you ever devoured a man, mighty bear?” the man asked.
The bear was surprised. He had not spoken his thoughts aloud.
“I have not,” the bear retorted. And he had not.
“Very well then,” the man smiled. “That is all the questions I have.”
And with that the man paddled away.
For an instant, and just an instant, the bear was sorry to see him go, such an unusual, curious creature.
But the bear was solitary and unlike any other being, even those that resembled him closely. While he loved to watch cubs at play, to see them grow, explore, and to become large themselves, they always remained smaller, more fragile visions of what he was. While they bore a passing resemblance to him, they were not the same, skin, blood and bone to his stone, earth, rock and timber.
And as soft creatures, they were only shortly for the world; it saddened him that while he seemed invincible, those little creatures’ spirits eventually abandoned their fragile forms, spirits scattered, lost, leaving shells and bones behind in their wake, remains left strewn to the world.
The bear was not proud of his habit, but when he knew of an abandoned form, especially that of another bear, he would consume it whole. He took no joy in it, felt ashamed even, but for some brief period of time it had him feel less alone, a part of the world.
One day, the bear traced his way along some mountaintops. At a favorite waterfall, he paused to take his fill and cool himself under the melt.
Scratching his back against the granite surround, loose rocks and matted foliage released from his coat. He closed his eyes, ecstatic, the detritus an itch that had long needed scratching.
“Bear, I see you.”
The bear gave a start, his massive skull crashing into the lip of the waterfall above, the flow thence redirected into several smaller cascades.
A man stood below, where the waterfall pooled before finding its way down the mountainside to the rivers and lakes of the valley.
The bear, seldom angered, jutted his head down to the level of the man and huffed his displeasure. The man’s clothing wrinkled with the snorts from the bear’s nose.
“What do you want?” the bear demanded. Men, new, different men from the people before, had been blighting the valley, dug tunnels into the mountains like ants at a hill, like bees at a hive but with no lick of honey.
Unafraid, the man held a stick to his face and lit a small fire in one end of it. The bear wrinkled his nose in disgust, smoke, fire, paths, trails and roads sullying his range.
“Bear- do you fear darkness?”
“I do not.”
“What of fire?”
“I do not!”
“And of men?”
The bear snorted and abruptly took his leave. The mountains surrounding were pockmarked with holes, and he scowled to hear the booms from within, the rot of man that bore deep into hilltops, a disease that gnawed like a glacier within.
Did he fear men? The audacity, the impertinence of the question provoked anger, but fear? He thought not.
The bear moved further from the din of these men, but the inklings and proclivities of settlement, industry, soon proved relentless.
One morning, the bear loped towards a grove of trees that, like him, were giants of the forest. As he neared it, he squinted in the dawn light. As if in a dream, the woodland was no more, stumps and discarded trees all that remained. Stacked heaps of wood smoldered in the mist, or smoke, or tears that welled in the bear’s eyes.
“Bear,” a voice called out.
The bear ran his gravelly forelimb over his face. It would not do to shed a tear, not in front of a man. The bear sighed and promised himself he would recall these old woods later, would spend time with the memory of them from seedlings to giants.
“What do you want?” the bear murmured.
A man with a metal hat and a sharp-toothed metal box sat at center of the largest stump. The stump was so enormous it was but a hair shy of matching the bear’s massive paw-print in girth.
The man grinned, and shrugged, “Will you do nothing?”
The bear imagined squishing the man flat, grinding him into the remains of the stump, his woods and his sanctuary. But he did not.
“What can I do, but be?”
“That’s a fine answer,” laughed the man.
The bear sat back on his haunches and surveyed the valley walls across the lake. Men and their machines gnawed at the canopy, chewed roads along shoreline, poured rock of their own design in uninspired, ribboned tracks. He sat a long time, long enough that caterpillars in the thick of his coat turned butterfly, lupines and fireweed ran their course for the season. And soon enough a thin layer of frost began to collect on his muzzle.
The bear turned to reply to the tin-head, but the man, of course, was long departed.
There was a hollow forming within him, and it ached to be alone and without the old woods. Even if the man had remained, what could he possibly have said? The bear had no counsel to give.
Snow threatened to overtake the valley wind. The bear had not fattened properly for winter, and now had to gorge on whatever he might find. He rose to all fours, looked back over the mighty hump of his shoulders to the losses laid waste behind. The bear left that place, alone once more.
He walked a long time, cold creeping through the roots of his joints. He stopped and sniffed the air by a blackened ring of rocks. A familiar scent.
Nearby, he found the remains of some others, bears who had been stripped of their fur and their claws. Skinned, it surprised him how much they resembled a man, made naked and left to waste under the Autumnal sun.
Had he known them? Were these bears he had seen frolic as cubs, bears he had seen splashing amongst the trout and the salmon? He did not know.
This time he wept unabashedly. The bear lashed out, pulled down the mountainside and released a torrent of tears, mud and land. He buried those abandoned forms, those humiliated remains deep beneath a layer of his own, tore strips from his back to blanket them whole.
At the end of his grief, the bear emerged more diminished, thinner and more sorrowful than before. His coat had begun to pull away in great clumps, and he shivered against the cold.
For the first time he felt fear, though not for himself.
Weak as he was, the bear limped down to the valley in search of food. His belly ached and he stung with upset as he lost his way on the maze of roads, pathways he once would have straddled or leapt.
Where had his power gone? Would it return? And if he couldn’t be as he was before, what then? What would become of his home?
The bear arrived at the valley floor. It was not as he remembered, the creeks dried up or diverted, the forests once fringed by streams now cropped-short grasses bordered by gravel beds where men and their machines tore to and fro through the mountains.
Dusk, glaring lights on a rain wetted road had him fearful, this in spite of the fact he was still much larger than any of these bothersome machines.
The bear shivered, sleet collecting in his coat.
His nose was cold.
He was starving.
On the ground, near a den lit by man’s devise, fruit lay rotting in softening piles. The bear cautiously scooped the apples into his maw. And then another scoop. And soon he was gorging. Where once he would have concealed himself, been discrete, he forgot himself and feasted on these easy pickings. Leaves, soil, gravel intermingled with the discarded and neglected orchard fruit, his hunger so fearsome that he did not care what it was he swallowed.
Until he heard, “Bear!”
A woman stood at the edge of the orchard, a bowl of firelight hung from one hand. She was angry, and despite the darkness the bear could not conceal himself.
“This is how you repay my kindness?” she shouted over the snowfall. “You don’t belong here, and you cannot remain.”
The bear was confused. What kindness? What payment? What debt did he owe?
Apple mush dropped from his jaws to the lawn.
“I,” he began.
“You do not belong here, and you cannot remain,” the woman repeated, hands on her hips.
The bear considered her words. The woman glanced furtively over her shoulder as if concerned they’d both be discovered. The bear stood up to his full height, shifted his weight awkwardly from one foot to the other.
“But I,” he started.
“You are a thief,” the woman shouted, “A common thief!”
The bear surveyed the orchard, this patch of land that had once been a forest.
Perhaps she was right. It was no longer his to roam, as he had done nothing to make this strange, new place thus. He had not contributed to their world, and these people did not want or need him. These trees were not familiar, and the light filled, wooden den of these people was only an echo of the forest. The dead wood was bleached an unnatural white, the cedar lid like a thousand wooden scales.
Everything was unrecognizable, darkened, but for the bear and his perceived transgression.
“Go, now!” the woman yelled pointing to the hills.
Guilt-ridden, he ran from that place, escaped from the glare of the man-made lights, the glare of the woman that guarded her orchard.
He went to the mountains.
He was exhausted when he arrived, gasped at the mountain air. Had the trudge ever been more difficult? His ears had burned with shame as he fled the valley bottom, the woman in the orchard that had stamped her foot.
“Thief,” the bear whispered.
He could see man’s lights twinkling far below. Would they begrudge him this mere glance, this curiosity, too? Once he had been welcome to wander and witness all things in the valley. No longer.
The bear pushed the curtain of roots and boulders away from his door, dug the entry into his den, slow and ceremonious, carefully and dutifully, calmly and quietly. The bats that shared his cavern did not seem to notice his cautious, considerate entry.
But bats, as we know, do not see much of anything.
The bear paused in his excavation. He had performed this task a hundred thousand times, but never had his thoughts been so unquiet. He was restless. He stared out of his den and regarded the sky, moonlight illuminating specks of snow, and stars like snowflakes pinned to the darkness.
Was it no longer enough to simply be? While he had always been alone, was he destined to now be made the outcast, too? Why had these people seen through his hiddenness, seen through his camouflage and spoken his tongue? Why, when they all looked so different, did their words and behaviors seem so much the same?
Riddles and mysteries. The bear regarded the winter night sky and muttered to himself, eyes fixed on a star pinned opposite his den.
“I do not wish to be bothered further. I prefer to be alone, and… unknowable,” the bear said.
Closing the curtains to his den, snow and winter were barred entry to his sanctuary. Curling up beneath the tree roots, the blanket of mountains and rocks above, the bear closed his eyes and hoped he would dream. He wished for dreams where the forests grew back in full, where the rivers flowed freely and the fish would return.
He wished for berries and beetles, forage and long-grass. And he wished for the people to leave with the winter.
Not all of these wishes came true, though the bear did dream, did slumber and sleep so deeply.
He slept ages, a generation, and dreamed every tale he had been witness to once more. It seemed to him he dreamed his life over.
The bear awoke in the darkness. A gnat, a mosquito or hornet droned and whined its way around the den. Louder, and louder, its volume rose until the bear thought it might have alighted in his ear.
The bats above him shifted uneasily. The bear swatted at the sound, but there was nothing there.
The high-pitched whine of the insect ceased. It was replaced by a new sound, a lower, grumbling growl, and the bear wondered now if a mad wolf had come to his door.
The sound stopped. The bear listened intently, could hear something tramping in the snow outside of his den.
(“Bear,”) a muffled voice could be heard through the curtains.
The bear scowled. He did not like to be roused while sleeping.
(“Bear, I know you, and know what it is you are.”)
“Go away,” grumbled the bear. He did not wish to speak to humans.
(“Ha! You still think me a man, old friend?”)
The bear was angered, forced his paws the size of boulders through the gap, claws extended, a hundred years of growth torn asunder to reveal-
A man. It was a man standing knee deep in virgin snow, a flaming red branch spitting sparks and smoke, hissing at the bear’s winter door. The man smiled.
The bear did not smile.
“Liar! You are a man, and you have disturbed me!”
“Is that not what men do?” the unwelcome guest chuckled.
“Yes, and I have grown tired of it,” fumed the bear.
“Will you devour me then?”
The bear squinted against the smoldering flare. The man and his question were familiar.
“I will not,” replied the bear.
“Do you yet fear darkness?”
“Still, I do not.”
The bear sat back on his haunches. The man stepped forth into the den, seemed taken with the arrangement the bear had made for his rest. Sparkling red light lit the walls and made the rocky interior dance, flicker in the dim.
“What of fire?” the man asked.
He locked eyes with the bear. The bear snorted at the stick of fire.
“Fire does not frighten me, even when held by men.”
The man nodded.
“And bear, will you still continue to sit by and do nothing?”
“I have slept a long time.”
“That was not my question.”
“I do not know what you want in answer… is it not enough to simply be?”
“No longer,” the man frowned.
The bear and the man observed one another for some time. Droplets of water fell from the ceiling of the den, stalactites formed like teeth sharpened on darkness.
Finally, the bear asked, “Then what shall I become?”
“Ah,” the man brightened, “Will you let me show you?”
The bear considered this invitation. He thought of the roads, the fires, the mines and the forest. The tortured bears he had found in the woods.
“That was an ugly business,” the man nodded sadly. “I don’t propose to understand them.”
“Them? You belong to them,” the bear accused. “You belong amongst them.”
“A little,” the man conceded, “but not much. The question is where you belong, bear. Will you come?”
“I will not. Why and what are you, if not a man?”
The man set his torch between two rocks. Its glow intensified.
“I have been your protector and friend. Even in the orchard, my goal was to save you.”
“I do not require protection. And I do not desire friendship.”
“I did not mean to offend. They cannot know you. You are one of the loneliest beings I have ever known. Perhaps that is why I care for you.”
“What are you?” demanded the bear.
The light from the fire brightened again, sparks and smoke and flame leapt out. The bear’s eyes, ears and nose all stung as he recoiled from the light.
And then that light began to fade.
The bear blinked against the fire, the darkness and the man. What had been a man was now undone. The shape of a man, yes, but freed of its skin, muscle and blood.
The bones of a man stood before the bear, hands on hips, and at last the bear understood.
“I see. I will follow you,” said the bear.
“We will walk together,” said Death, “And we will see what remains of you scattered and spread. You will become something they and all other creatures will treasure. They will love you.”
“I would like that very much,” spoke the wilderness.
And the bear stood up to walk with his friend.