Go On, Shepherd

Go On, Shepherd 2020 wood engraving 4″ x 6″

Go On, Shepherd is a new wood engraving available for sale in my online store Baumwerkshop. As a shepherd, often I find myself in this position, kneeling on the ground tending an animal. It is a humble position, yet, to be nearer to the earth by half or more is significant. Don’t forget that you are dust. Great comfort that is. When I learn of the soil I am learning about God, creator and king of the Universe. It is good to be humble, kneeling on His earth.

What do you think? If a man has a hundred sheep, and one of them goes astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine and go to the mountains to seek the one that is straying? And if he should find it, assuredly, I say to you, he rejoices more over that sheep than over the ninety-nine that did not go astray. Even so it is not the will of your Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish. Matthew 18:12-14 NKJV

“I am a steward because I am not here for very long”, I heard a farmer say once. The land remains and was here before. The sheep flocks – the good ones, are like an organism or a nation, and they persist, reflecting the decisions of the shepherds over them. My flock carries the intention of many shepherds before me and it will reflect mine after I am gone. The sheep too will remain. Any ownership I have is really only stewardship for One who is greater, and it is good to take care of life for Him and with Him. This too is comforting.

These are some of the thoughts I have, kneeling on the earth with lambs.

The Spiritual Mechanics of Labor and Rest

Linocut Print of The Spiritual Mechanics of Labor and Rest, 2020, 15″ x 24″ printed on archival paper: Zerkall Book Smooth 145 GSM, made in Germany torn to size, 18″ x 27″

The Spiritual Mechanics of Labor and Rest is a relief print edition carved and printed by hand from a block of linoleum. It is available for pre-order in the Baumwerk Shop. It will be an edition of 100 prints. Numbers 1-75 will be black ink on white paper, while numbers 76-100 will be sepia ink on cream paper. There will be a separate listing for each color option. The black and white prints will be ready for shipping sooner on March 23rd, while the sepia and cream prints will be available a few weeks later.

The Spiritual Mechanics… began as a way of building a repository or archive for many of the symbols that help me to understand my place and function in the world and the Kingdom of Heaven. It is, after a fashion, an info-graphic which serves a developing theology around the ancient kinship of labor to worship.

At the heart is a worldview which sees an holistic unity between what is spiritual and what is natural. These are crude words and a crude image which is looking towards something that is deep and nuanced in its beauty and inherent goodness within the mind of God. My hope is that in here is an echo of God saying of the earth and creation, “It is good”. Also the echo of the Words of the Creator resident in every atom and particle. May it be an echo of John the Baptist saying “change your hearts and minds, because the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand!” May it be an echo of Jesus saying “it is finished” on the cross. Heaven is coming to earth and our labor here is not in vain.

The Spiritual Mechanics of Labor and Rest is also a prayer and an offering.  It is the noise my heart makes towards God, offering the smallest and most mundane moments of my days as He simultaneously offers them to me.  It both seeks to say and asks if it’s really true that labor spent shoveling dirt in a garden , roofing a house, or cutting a stone before God can be as significant a spiritual lever as the most noble words of the priest in the cathedral, or the pastor behind a pulpit, or the hands of a healer in a tent.

I have more openly exposed my heart in this image than in my previous work, where it is shielded by narrative. In following posts I will seek to lay out the symbolism and stories behind the details depicted here, but it should be understood that I have sought to use images like these because for me the words are fundamentally insufficient to describe what it is that I see and seek.

I also hope that you will consider purchasing this print. Many of you know my ambivalence towards the marketing. However, I believe I am called to engage the “marketplace” with my work in a way that settles with my conscience and ethics. Here is a link to pre-order The Spiritual Mechanics of Labor and Rest.

Relief Carving The Spiritual Mechanics of Labor and Rest

working subtitle…

The Mundane Sheds the Cloak of the Secular

Concerning the invitation to occupy the sacred rhythm of labor and rest and to engage the “resistant materials” not for provision first, but for relationship, for worship, for knowing God. I’ll share more on this when the print is done. The block is about 75% carved. I hope to be able to start making some proofs of the image in two or three weeks.

the original drawing

The Late Spring Farm

The month of May was wet for nearly the whole of Kansas, and we happened to be one of the wettest spots in the state with over 30 inches for the month. Spring rains make grass grow and the lambs are good and growing. Photography and blogging has taken a back seat in a year of heavy labor on every front, but I managed to take my camera with me a few times while I did my rounds on the farm.

The Spiritual Mechanics of Labor and Rest

(And the Kingdom of God?)

The Spiritual Mechanics of Labor and Rest, 12″x18″, ink on paper

When drawing becomes a prayer, the image becomes a repository for the questions and thoughts offered to God, which then settle on the page. At first like a fine dust. Then into ridges and furrows. Then into fields and gardens.

I thought I had some language to accompany these developing drawings, but they are dissolving into new perspectives without words.

Spirit and Truth, Labor and Rest, 18″ x 12″, graphite on paper
center detail
detail of Mary Magdalene
Detail of the Martyr, Antipas

Almanac of the Wheel of Life: The Farm at Mid-Winter

What does it mean to be a steward of life? It is an unspoken question threaded through my days. Each winter we carry more lives through to the hope of spring. It is the nature of a farm and a family grow, a response to a holy invitation. In our stewardship, we learn to leverage the outward death of winter to build the inner life. Roots and bones. Back to the earth in the compost of the old year, manure and trampled hay, sawdust and wood shavings, in cover crops and dormant roots, even the bones of the dead under the heap or in the earth. Those failures of the past year kindle study and deeper investigations into the principles of agriculture and life. The wheel of life rolls away as a witness to the nature of God, always redeeming death and turning it into the living.

The oblique light comes with a more subtle potency not felt in the haste of summer, illuminating details made bare by the dearth and otherwise overlooked. It is not all romance of slanting light. There is the mud and the death and sickness. There are the broken systems and the unfinished jobs, and the detritus of unclean life scattered everywhere. The butcher sighed and smiled and cried “Ahh, life!” and thanked God as he cut the throat of the lamb. It seems that to live is to accept and know death, and to die is to understand and accept life. It is a mystery that I don’t claim to understand.

“For I know that this shall turn out to my salvation through your prayer and the support of the Spirit of Jesus Christ, according to my earnest expectation and my hope that in nothing shall I be ashamed, but that with all boldness, as always so now also, Christ shall be Magnified in my body, whether it be by life or by death. For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” Philippians 1:19-21

A Profile in Plough Quarterly

My family and our work were humbled to be featured in the most recent edition of Plough Quarterly.  There is a profile by Susannah Black, and a feature on Go On: Inner Man Version, an altarpiece I made back in 2003, and also an excerpt of my responses to some questions about our lifestyle, called Farming the Universe.  If you choose to take the time to read some or all of them, I sincerely hope that you enjoy them.

Go On, Inner Man Version, 2003, oil on wood panel, closed position

Go On, Inner Man Version, 2003, oil on wood panel, open position

 

The Farm in Mid-Summer

celebrations of lucerne and other legumes, solar crescents, roots, and the husbandry of even toed-ungulates

sward of chicory, crimson, and white clovers

inquisitive crossbred pig in a paddock of rye and vetch

hampshire pig eating bolted chicory

improvised by a previous farmer, well worn window weight cover chains

nitrogen nodules formed on alfalfa (lucerne) roots

lucerne (alfalfa) roots and crown, pulled from the vegetable garden

garlic, un-earthed

root fire works

sonar malfunction (?) allowed us a daytime visit from a strange and fierce nocturnal beneficient

windrows in the alfalfa (Medicago sativa) meadow

the rusty old New Holland swather in contrast eating alfalfa

I read once that the Arabic word from which the name “alfalfa” came meant “best fodder”

Louis Bromfield justly brought attention to its role as a soil healer. It seems to live up to its names, feeding livestock, pollinators, humans, the soil and its inhabitants, and the atmosphere.

I feel grateful that I get to farm my own patch of lucerne. In the background is a mobile chicken coop with laying hens working the perimeter of the meadow. We’ve learned that alfalfa is a key ingredient in good eggs.

the angus bottle baby

bellows for milk

lambs in the illuminated profile of humid dawn

the young shepherd studies his flock

compact paddocks of soybeans and milo forage, bloody butcher field corn, and the Quonset barn looking at home in the landscape

the great blue heron disturbed from his breakfast, as we head across the creek to do the morning chores

sun in hand

interplay of lensing leaves and the light of 92% totality

solar shield

transfixed

the image of the solar eclipse projected through on half of pair of binoculars proved to be the most successful of viewing contraptions

photographing under the helmet, layers of eclipse and lense

contractions of the dry months

elevated mundane details; oxidations of copper and steel

a barn that is part celebration of geometry, part dog house

the colors of the barnyard hens grouped together over their dawn ration

wax goldenweed of the many cousins in the sunflower family

emergence of the inflorescence of Indian grass

dr. Seuss hairdo of thistle

snow-on-the-mountain

snouts and ears

coreopsis growing in a wheat field we are converting to perennial pasture

Prints of “The Living Tree” Are Available for Sale

at the BaumWerk Etsy StoreDear friends,  I thank you for all of your kind words and interest regarding this new print of the Living Tree.  I am grateful that it seems to have struck a chord with many of you.  A number of you have made inquiries into when and if prints would be available to purchase.  As of Friday, a limited number (there will be more as I continue to print the edition) have been listed on my ETSY store.  I am selling these first fifteen for $125, after that the price will increase to $150.  Click here to go to the listing.   Please read more below for some details about the print, and thank you again for your support!

The image itself is 12″ wide and 22 1/2″ tall and is printed on French’s 100# Butcher Off White Dur-o-tone paper, which is 18″ wide and 25″ tall.  French’s paper is American made in Niles Michigan.The edition will be 1oo prints, which is the biggest edition I have ever made.  Every single print is hand made by me on my Wepplo etching press in my Rose Hill, Kansas workshop. The print is made using three linoleum blocks, as a composite image.  It took me over a year to design and carve the image into the blocks (although I was doing lots of other things during that year, besides carving linoleum).Many hours of painstaking carving went into creating all of the details in The Living Tree.The Tree and it’s roots are loaded with life, like this little owl. There are many spiritual and natural beliefs and dreams symbolically represented in this print.  There are many things which I see and believe about who my God is, and also things which I strive to cultivate in my life and stewardship on the land.  I don’t have many words as a companion for this image just yet, but perhaps in the future I may try to lay out those ideas for those who are interested.