...Warning— potential soppiness...
One of the great joys I have stumbled across in my line of work is pounamu carving. Pounamu is hard and highly valued stone that is commonly known as greenstone or jade. Because of its significance to Maori, both the stone, and in the shapes carved, I currently only do pieces for friends or loved ones.
I have just been carving an infinity twist for a friend of mine to give to her husband as a special gift on their wedding day. For me this was deeply satisfying to create.
It is hard work to carve pounamu. When I say hard work I am meaning that pounamu is extremely hard to work with, steel tools don't even scratch it, and sandpaper (which is made out of glass) only polishes it.
To cut pounamu you need tools made from diamond, the hardest of earth's materials, and these tools really need to spin at high speeds. It is a long, patient and intricate process to polish hard things.
The piece I last carved was very similar to the one that I carved for my wife (who was my girlfriend at the time). Instead of buying a ring I wanted to propose to her with something that I had made with my hands, which had taken me many hours to bring to smooth and beautiful finish.
As I made it I took time to think of who she was to me, and imagine our lives together. At the time, over two years ago, I was doing a lot of flying and I used the flight time to polish it up. I must have looked funny sitting on airplanes with a tiny bit of sandpaper rubbing this little green stone. It was very special to finally give it to her and see that she not only said 'Yes' to marrying me but that she genuinely treasured it.
So as I recently put in the hours polishing up another hard stone, carrying similar meaning to my wife's one, I couldn't help but ponder on what I was doing and what it meant. Yes, it was special to be able to carve this for a friend, but what was really special was reliving my time carving my wife's necklace, and thinking about the last two years being married to her.
We have had some low points since I gave her that necklace, but we have had many mountain-top moments too. All of these things danced about in my mind as I sat with a tiny piece of sandpaper rubbing the small, green, hard stone. It was a deeply enriching experience.
One of the insights that I gleaned from that time was that even though I was carving among the hardest of earth's materials, far harder, and far tougher to work with, is the human heart.
Carving pounamu takes many, many hours. What you arrive at in the end is something of great beauty. And so too in journeying life with another in marriage, you are working with almost unworkably hard hearts— but as we continue I am seeing more and more beauty.
As you select a raw piece of stone in order to carve a masterpiece, so too do you select a raw heart to love, and as you put in the time you start to experience the joys of hard things becoming polished.
When this article is published I will have known my wife Sierra four years to the day. This time has been a joy—may we keep polishing!
Jared Diprose's previous articles may be viewed at http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/jared-diprose.html