Originally Published September 9, 2014 | Updated March 13, 2022
Some places are just places. They’re dots on a map to which you can drive, fly or walk. Other places are experiences. Rich and vibrant, they are filled with the essence of souls who came before you. The old souls whose wisdom and skill – whose life – was responsible for the very walls which mark the spot.
The Carving Shed at the Wickaninnish Inn is such a place. Here, I can say with utter certainty the spirit of master carver Henry Nolla lives on. You can feel him. His essence is palpable. It’s tangible. It reverberates through the Carving Shed’s wooden walls and sawdust covered floor.
It’s embodied in the handshake of “Feather” George Yearsley – Henry’s mentee and the Inn’s current carver in residence. It’s seen in the tools Henry crafted and the carvings he created. Heck, it’s there in the stories told about his love for taking a dip in the buff.
When you visit the Carving Shed and see the care with which the wood is handled and the respect given to nature’s bounty, it’s difficult not to leave treading a little softer. It’s hard not to walk away breathing a little easier.
Walking up to the Carving Shed for the first time, I approached it like a heavy-footed Westerner – two stomping feet and a clicking camera. I came from the beach: the mussel shell covered, sand sprawling, wave breaking expanse of beauty. Up the small hill I came, squinting in the bright sunlight, even with my glasses.
There, just beyond the shade of the trees, sat George. His leather-tanned skin broke into a plethora of smile wrinkles as I approached. The man didn’t know me from Adam’s off ox, but there he was – with a huge smile on his face, asking me to join him as he soaked up the view.
I introduced myself and he introduced himself. Then he asked me to remove my glasses. He wanted to see my eyes. “That’s where you really get to know someone,” he explained.
It struck me as I left, how all too often we fail to make eye contact. Why does it take going to a place where wifi is non-existent and George’s cell phone is carved in yellow cedar for us to think about how we interact with one another?
And though the Carving Shed is about carving – about wood and how it can be manipulated into beautiful, functional items – it’s also about preserving a time when we talked to one another. It’s about holding onto a craft that celebrates community.
Are you ready to experience the magic at the end of the road?
George is there. He’s at the Carving Shed. Sometimes he’s inside, his hands working with the wood in one continuously smooth motion. Sometimes he’s outside, sitting by the sandy steps. And, sometimes he’s on the beach, throwing the ball for his dog. But he’s always ready to look you in the eye and introduce you to Henry through stories.