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Grandmother carves grandchildren’s animals in stump

In the months Patty Metzger has been sequestered at home away from her grandchildren during the pandemic, she embarked on an artistic and spiritual venture in her back yard.

Carving spirit animals in tree stump was a spiritual and artistic journey for member of Fox Island UCC. Photos courtesy of Patty Metzger

She began carving the 10-foot stump left after she and her husband George had an old maple tree in their yard cut down in 2018. 

She envisioned carving a pole with her six grandchildren’s, her husband’s and her own spirit animals. Patty spent the spring removing bark from the stump, “a nasty job” because many bugs crawled out.

In July 2018, she participated in a five-day retreat at the Grunewald Guild in the Cascades on carving wood and stone with carver John Thompson, who began his 30-year sculpting career carving wood dragons and ponies for the Missoula Carousel.

She began carving outlines of the grandchildren’s spirit animals, but then set it aside. Patty learned about spirit animals, which are part of the spiritual tradition of Native American in the area, but has not yet connected with any tribes.

“Spirit animals are animals that resonate with a person through dreams. For example, I am drawn to eagles,” said Patty.

Two years ago, she first talked with oldest granddaughter, Madrid, now 12, who readily said her spirit animal was a black panther.  Grandson, Evan, now 9, was playful and goofy like a monkey, she said.

Patty Metzger carves female figure in back of the stump.

Louisa, now 6, said she was like a lion.  Wesley, now 5, chose a frog, because he always leaped around on family hikes in the forest and liked finding frogs. Gian, now 4, would spin around like a honey badger. 

The family decided Elizabeth, now 2, seemed like a wise old woman while in the womb, so they decided an elephant would represent her.

Louisa chose “Animals on a Safari,” as the theme of her fourth birthday party, so Patty and a friend made models of the animals.

After going to the Grunewald Guild workshop, she returned to start carving.

“I realized the stump was too hard, so I left the wood to cure two years,” Patty said.

In July 2020, she walked into the yard and decided the tree had “cured” enough to carve.  For a week, she used a chisel, but then she went into her husband’s shop and found bigger tools, power routers, dremels and air line tools, and bought a face covering. 

She decided to carve a three-dimensional eagle at the top. 

Her husband, George, built scaffolding that would rise to six feet high around the stump.

Patty decided to carve a blue female figure that was part tree and part spirit, modeled after a photo of her from the back. The figure’s arms reached around the tree toward the animals. The arms became like branches and the legs, like roots.

“She is the energy of the love who holds us all together in love.  She has many names, God, Mother God, the divine feminine, Pachamama, ancestor, grandmother,” said Patty.

George decided his spirit animal was the honeybee, so she carved one above a one-foot hole where they carved out rot and set octagonal shapes for a honeycomb.

Realizing there was rot, she and George decided that rather than leave the stump to disintegrate they would drill holes into the stump and inject copper naphthalene to get rid of termites and other bugs.  Then they injected foam to fill the void and plugged the holes with silicon. 

On the top, there were open channels. They sealed them with epoxy so water would not drip into the core.  She decided to use exterior house paint on the animals. By October, lichen was growing, so she sprayed it.

In 2005, Patty read the book The Artist’s Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity, a self-help book by Julia Cameron. Patty spent a week coming up with her mantra: “I am a channel of God’s love and creativity.”

Doing this project she felt she was living that mantra, working for hours, waking up at night with ideas, energized and inspired. 

“To me this is part of a lifelong spiritual journey of letting go of my ego, my false self and opening to the expansive love of Spirit, humbly touching on the ultimate reality of my true self,” she said. 

“I offer my hands, but the creativity comes from my loving Creator. I am simply the channel,” she said.

The project took Patty back to her practice of meditation.

“Meditation puts me in the present moment,” she said. “Carving the pole totally consumed me.”

Living on three acres of forested land, Patty has since then taken her carving tools into the woods and carved in other stumps and on stones, particularly heart-shaped stones.

Walking in the woods, she has been aware of Indian people who were on the island and that land many years.

“I have not connected with Native American communities here yet, but I wonder how they would feel about it.  I have walked the land they have walked.  I feel the forest is sacred ground.  I spend time in the forest meditating and think of whose feet walked the grounds.  Friends have walked with me in the forest—at six-feet distance,” she said.

Patty, who grew up Catholic in California, also lived in Georgia, Maryland and Saudi Arabia, pursuing careers—in engineering, construction, decorative painting and as a school principal.

After she retired in 2008, she and George moved 10 years ago to Fox Island, because her daughter lives in Washington. 

In church shopping, she attended the Fox Island UCC, and they decided to attend there.

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Copyright © December 2020 - PNC-UCC News



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