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For Joy- and another Harvey

I pulled up and parked my truck and trailer on the shoulder of the Redwood Highway. Parts of it are called the Lost Coast. I have found so much here.  I was parked in front of what had become the most unusual collection of burl wood and burl art I know of, from Port Townsend Washington to Ukiah California.  It had become a roadside attraction over the years as my friend Harvey and his wife Joy built an unusual burlwood powered life by the side of that road. People from all over the world stopped by,  looking for a connection to America, and the part of it that was largely unknown and unattainable to most of them.  Roadside attractions used to be more prevalent when zoning laws, the highway system, and some people were much less uniform. This roadside attraction has a soul. 

 

As I often had, I saw the other Harvey (my name too) in his old golf cart driving a customer around the yard and side trails full of burl sculptures, raw burls, and just strange pieces of wood.  Seeing that he was with a customer I took a quick tour to see what I might want to take back with me to work into pieces my customers might like to have, and I might like to work with. No matter what I did with them, they would always have a little of that other Harvey in them. Several finished pieces at Forest Gems, and scattered around the world by some of you who support us, began their lives here.

 

 

 

That day I did my recon mission solo and wandered around funky buildings and sheds alone, remembering pieces to check out more closely later.  Work spaces and even more wood were scattered around the property. I know how the curious visitors who poke their heads in and discover for themselves what is within feel. Every square inch had twisted manzanita for table or chair legs, burl caps for bowls, burl stumps for whatever you wanted them to be, slabs for table tops and whatever, and more that defied description. Above it all in one area up some funky stairs were the tree houses and decks. Whatever images I have tried to place in your mind, they aren`t close to cool and funky enough.

 

The first time I saw this burlwood dream Harvey`s son was up in one of the tree houses working with a rotary grinder on a redwood burl bowl. It was getting late, and tiny lights strung around the property looked like fireflies coming out for the evening party. The center piece of the property was the  Gallery with its asymmetrical metal roof and wrap around covered porch, full of tables, benches, fountains, swings and pieces of burlwood. They were god`s own art. Wood wizards like Harvey honor the great tree spirit and leave it`s essence in everything they make.

 

Harvey`s home and life was a local jobs project which never seemed to be allowed to be completed. Brilliant misfits found a place making burl art, gathering wood, working on the house and buildings, and doing other things for that world of burls, creativity, and Harvey. He was a father, a brother, a counselor, and a friend to those who came and went. 

 

 

From the far end of the gallery,  the house section flowed upwards, even more amazing inside than out. Within, most of the gallery and home was held up by huge, nearly whole branching trees, the bark removed and the wood glowing with carved wood spirit faces, smiling at the humans who walked beneath them.  In the gallery was everything from burlwood telephones, to a funky sculpted wood bicycle, to rocking benches and sculptures large and small, honoring the wood they were created from, and the great wood spirit. It is and was a place of dragons and wizards and tree spirits. It seemed that Santana Abraxas was always playing in the background. Visitors often wanted to stay forever. I always wanted to, but my own burlwood life was in Port Townsend, which had morphed from what I used to call funkytown, to what I now call Monterrey North, taking me along on the ride.  I envied Harvey and all those I know and knew on the coast who`s world changes ever so much more slowly.

 

For now I took it all in unnoticed.  Somehow I knew this was the last time I would be there with its creator present in the flesh, although in a place like that the creator is always present, even when you can no longer see him. In the world of people and trees there are the  straight commercial ones and the gnarled beautifully twisted ones.  That other Harvey and the world he created down the Lost Coast was not commercial, and not straight.

 

Harvey finished with his potential customer.  He still hadn`t seen me and walked slowly to a curved and welcoming satin smooth manzanita porch swing at the far end of the covered porch. I headed after him, and as I rounded the corner I saw him. I really saw him. The grand wizard of burl wood wizards, ready for the next place. The sun was peeking through an opening and shined down on his face. Just his face. It glowed in the fading light. He was visibly weary but tranquil and almost absent at that moment. He was far away down a trail in an ancient forest  home I had not yet seen. I almost didn`t want to make him come back too soon.

 

I finally said ``hi Harvey, it`s Harvey`` and he turned and came back slowly to the world he had created. Smiling as he did with everyone, he made me feel welcome. We sat and caught up for a few minutes and he rested.  In a few minutes he would be driving me around in the old golf cart for our last time. As he drove me on the winding path behind the main yard I selected out special raw pieces that spoke, or whispered to me. Some for now, some for years from now if I am so lucky. We talked of things that only those with what we had in common could. The people visiting our worlds from far away , the folks we worked with, the strangers we got to connect with, and the uncertainty. Always the uncertainty. You can`t be interesting and appreciate the gifts without the uncertainty. It is a blessing. It is a curse.  Many years before I had the fortune to meet a beacon along the Lost Coast that helped light my way, shared my name, and much more. I will always remember our last ride through his world.

 

 

We made it back to the front of the Gallery and he sat down to rest again. Harvey`s wife Joy came up from behind him and smiled at me. She wrapped her arms around his neck and we exchanged a look. Just a look, no words. I left him there with her and headed down the road, somewhere along the Lost Coast, to my own uncertain future.   I knew that the other Harvey would be fine, no matter what his future. He had Joy in his life.