The Tao Of Wood

Trees are sanctuaries.  Whoever knows how to speak to them, whoever knows how to listen to them, can learn the truth.  They do not preach learning and precepts, they preach undeterred by particulars, the ancient law of life. ?

 —Hermann Hesse


It started innocently enough with the annual New Year’s gift from Harry Sumagawa, who brought a very small juniper tree snuggled in a pot. He greeted me with “A bonsai tree you must have,” in his best Yoda voice. Harry was like Yoda; he was the wise old Jedi of the green world. He was my Greenman.

Harry was 87 years old when he died back in 2002. He was a survivor of the Japanese prison camps that America provided (no extra charge) during World War II, where all the "nice Japanese folks" could sit out the war. “There was never a spy in the whole lot of us,” Harry once said.  Harry spent his idle time studying the way of the green.  He raised food from his vegetable garden behind the barbed wire. After the war, he dove into the world of bonsai and moved to California where he opened a nursery. Harry had “the eagle eye.” He would look at the green and squint like he was trying to look inside the cracks to find the balance, the esthetic, and deep connection with the plant or tree. 

That tree stopped making green one fine day, yet the connection I had with it is still alive. 


These images are taken from my collection of wood sculptures. The insects are the architects. I let them guide me lead me and tell me where to go; the cavities, the curves, the valleys, how fast, how hard. 

This music was performed and composed with Zakir Hussain using sound created from the architecture of the wood. I play the wood with mallets, brushes, clenched fists and fingertips, scratching, rubbing and tapping. All of the sounds that you hear were recorded at very low levels; it was imperative not to destroy the thing I loved in a moment of creation.