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The Woodcarver

When I walk in nature and see the panoramic creation, I recall this is a gift. Each day I am present and stop to meet what is there, is a day I move beyond my ego. I am grateful for simply being . It is the greatest gift.

The Woodcarver

Khing, the master carver, made a bell stand

Of precious wood. When it was finished,

All who saw it were astounded. They said it must be

The work of spirits.

The Prince of Lu said to the master carver:

“What is your secret?”


Khing replied: “I am only a workman:

I have no secret. There is only this:

When I began to think about the work you commanded

I guarded my spirit, did not expend it

On trifles, that were not to the point.

I fasted in order to set

My heart at rest.


After three days fasting,

I had forgotten gain and success.

After five days

I had forgotten praise or criticism.

After seven days

I had forgotten my body

With all its limbs.


“By this time all thought of your Highness

And of the court had faded away.

All that might distract me from the work

Had vanished.

I was collected in the single thought

Of the bell stand.


“Then I went to the forest

To see the trees in their own natural state.

When the right tree appeared before my eyes,

The bell stand it also appeared in it, clearly, beyond doubt.

All I had to do was to put forth my hand

And begin.


“If I had not met this particular tree

There would have been

No bell stand at all.

“What happened?

My own collected thought

Encountered the hidden potential in the wood;

From this live encounter came the work.

Which you ascribe to the spirits.”


Palmer, P. J. (2004). A hidden wholeness: The journey toward an undivided life. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Parker Palmer attributed his source as The Way of Chuang Tzu by Thomas Merton and published by The Abbey of Gethsemani in 1965.


About ivonprefontaine

I completed a PhD at Gonzaga University in Spokane, WA. Previously, I taught for 20 years and spent the last 14 years teaching in an incrediable hybrid school setting. My dissertation topic and research were how teachers experience becoming who teachers, as human subjects. For me, teaching is a calling and vocation that allows me to express who I am as a person. Currently, I am waiting and listening to what will call me. We have begun a small consulting and leadership firm called Rocky River Leadership & Consulting Ltd.

6 responses »

  1. Ivon, loved this. My grandfather was a woodcarver.

    • David, I enjoy the skill people who work with their hands have. They take time and invest something of their soul in the creating. A line from a song by one of my favourite singer-songwriters, Guy Clark, is “anything that is worth cutting a tree down for is worth doing right.” I see that in the work of the craftsman.

      Take care,


  2. This reminds me of a story I heard many years ago, that was told by Ravi Shankar, when asked to put his sitar in the baggage compartment of a plane. Perhaps, because mechanical reproduction is so common in this age, and throw away objects too… we tend to forget the relationship of craft and intention as they invest spirit even into inanimate objects. This is a beautiful story. Thanks for sharing it.

  3. I agree with Shimon..very beautiful


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