When I built my current house, I had my heart set on planting a Rowan tree in the front yard. I learned about the tree’s long, sacred history when visiting Scotland; that since ancient times people have been planting a Rowan beside their homes. It is known as the Tree of Life and symbolizes courage, wisdom and protection.
Celtic mythology says that when the goddess Hebe lost her chalice of youth, an eagle fought to recover the cup and return it to her. Wherever the bird shed a drop of blood or feather, up sprang a Rowan tree. Another legend states how the Rowan tree bent over a fast-flowing river and rescued Thor from being swept away into the Underworld. There are several recurring themes of protection offered by the Rowan. Pieces of the tree were carried by people for personal protection from black magic, and sprigs of Rowen were worn inside clothing and fastened above door frames to ward off evil. My favorite story has Merlin’s wand being made from the branch of a Rowan.
So, after a lot of research and effort, I determined that the climate in Chicago would be hospitable to a Rowan tree and ordered one. I positioned it in my front yard right outside my office window where it grew pretty quick for a tree, maybe because I regularly talked to it. To its credit, my house was pretty evil-free for nearly ten years, considering what I do as a side job, so it was fairly heartbreaking when my Rowen started looking a little sick. I contacted an arborist who informed me that though the climate in Chicago was good for the tree, the soil of Northern Illinois was not. Alas, my Rowan tree was dying and could not be saved.
The rowan tree
On the way to one of our Black Gate assignments, I told my sad tale to Black Gate photog Chris Z, who, as he is frequently want to do, came up with a brilliant idea. Why not save the trunk of the Rowan and make something permanent out of it? I had no idea what that could be, but as the wood needed to dry out for a year before it could be used, I had some time to think about it. I consulted a woodworking friend who told me the steps to take, and when my Rowan was cut down, I kept two large logs that were formerly the trunk of the tree.
Fast forward nearly two years to another Black Gate road trip with Chris Z who asked me what I ever did with the Rowan, to which I replied it was still in storage since I couldn’t figure out what I wanted to make out of it. He suggested I reach out to a friend of his, also named Chris, who made a hobby out of custom-making pens.
Now here was an idea I could get behind.
As a part-time writer who is also working on a doctorate degree, a pen is something I would use every day. And as someone who regularly dreams of a teaching gig at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, what better “wand” than a pen? I immediately contacted master craftsman, Chris Coul to see what could be done.
After accepting delivery of one of the Rowan tree logs and hearing my ideas for my perfect pen, Chris C got to work, sending me photos along the way. I loved seeing Chris’ process, and in the end, I ordered three pens which all turned out absolutely beautiful. Each one is unique and shows the grain of the original Rowan wood. I chose not to color them but leave the wood natural and as you can see, the result is perfect. Now I carry my magical Rowan tree with me every day and I still have enough of the trunk left to create more should I want to in the future.
Chris C is a true artist in every sense of the word, and you can experience his gorgeous work yourself via his Etsy store called Barrel and Blank. No need to bring your own materials either, as he has wonderful and unique designs of his own – just in time for Mother’s Day, Father’s Day and graduation. But if you do have special material you’d like to have Chris use to create a custom design, just contact him via his site.
And a special thanks to Black Gate photog Chris Z for continuing to have brilliant ideas…
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