Photo of a Paleolithic carving of a woman's head, the Venus_of_BrassempouyWhittling at the fireside of your campsite or sitting on the porch, methodically removing tiny bits of wood from a stick with a pocket knife.    

Nothing apparently useful going on here.  No work getting done.  No networking, e-mailing, web browsing, TV watching, or animated conversation.  

Just whittling on a stick with the slightest of movement, piling up a tiny pile of curled translucent whisps of what was once a tree.  

Perhaps making a notch or a point or a spiral groove, and then erasing it with the next pass of the blade.  

Watching the wood give way to sharpened steel, revealing the grain, the layered rings, the beauty that a tree unknowingly laid down during years in the sun. 

Maybe seeing a little figure emerge from inside the wood and carving around it to set it free.  Or making a wooden tool or a walking stick.  

Or just whittling, letting the fine wood shavings pile up.

Whittling looks very much like just sitting and thinking.  Not much difference really.

People used to spend more time engaged in whittling and undistracted thinking.  Cave people carved ivory figurines, sailors whittled scrimshaw tusks, country folk have always whittled.  

If you’ve never whittled or just haven’t done it in awhile, here are a few books on whittling that might kindle your interest.  

Whittling techniques can be enjoyable to learn and practice, even if you don’t plan to carve anything. There is satisfaction in mastering the use of different blades and pocket knife tools.  Have you ever tried whittling?

The Mysterious Benedict Society

The Mysterious Benedict Society, by Trenton Lee Stewart, is, as the title implies, an enrapturing mystery.

Four children,

  • Sticky,who remembers every thing he’s ever seen, read, or heard,
  • Kate, who used to live at a circus, possesses amazing physical abilities and carries a red bucket filled with tools like: a spyglass, a Swiss army knife, and her flashlight,
  • Reynie, an orphan with incredible intellect,
  • and Constance, whose powers are to be discovered throughout the series,

read an ad in the newspaper requesting that all mysteriously gifted children go to the Monk Building.  After being tested in several odd ways, they are taken to see Mr. Benedict, who gives them a mission to find out what Mr. Curtain, the owner of the Learning Institute for the Very Enlightened (L.I.V.E.), is up to.

When they arrive, they discover that Mr. Curtain plans to use the children in the Institute to achieve world domination, and he will attempt to do so with a machine he invented, called the Whisperer. Mr. Curtain is taking no chances concerning the safety of his precious machine.  He has it locked in a hidden room surrounded by every security system imaginable.  The children have to find it, defeat the security systems, and destroy the Whisperer.  The big question is: will they succeed or die trying?