Into the Woods: Blue Ebony (“But I Don’t Wanna Be a Chopstick!”)

When Ted first met Frank, the wandmaker, it seemed that anything and everything Ted touched that was made of wood could and might be made into a wand.

There’s a Chinese restaurant here called Dragon Buffet. It has the usual all-you-can-eat Americhinese items, like chicken chow mein, pizza, won ton soup, chicken fingers, egg rolls and French fries. But it also does a “Mongolian grill”; you put whatever raw ingredients you want into a bowl with your choice of sauces, then pass the bowl to a man who cooks it on a huge stir-frying surface. Also, on Friday nights, they have really good soup, made by an old man, and you know it’s good because all the Chinese people are lined up to get it. (Of course, the other thing the Chinese like is that it’s relatively cheap, but we Americans and Japanese like that, too.) They sometimes have pretty good sushi, and their desserts run the gamut from ice-creamlike non-dairy totally-artificial sweetly-flavored polymer (one of Ted’s favorites) to pineapple “tidbits” (yes, that’s really what they’re called on the can).

But back to the wands. About the time Ted first met Frank, Ted and I went to Dragon Buffet for dinner. We enjoyed the meal, but Ted also discovered that the restaurant had very high-quality bamboo chopsticks that he shaped into a couple of wands. I’ve still got mine, although bamboo technically is a grass, not a wood.


Anyway, months later, someone from Japan sent us two pieces of blue ebony that could be shaped into very fine chopsticks. It was beautiful wood, dark and smooth and shiny even before you polished it.

So, Ted took it to Frank’s and asked if he could use Frank’s power tools to shape the basic chopstick shape from each piece, to which Frank said sure.

While shaping the first piece, though, the wood had other ideas apparently, and instead of applying the sander to it, Ted applied it to his finger. He had to cancel clients for a day and complained that he wouldn’t be able to swing a sword. Maggie and I, trying not to seem too mean, kind of laughed because we knew the wood didn’t want to be made into a chopstick, at least not that piece, anyway.

Even after going home that night, his finger scraped and swollen, Ted mourned the loss of a perfectly good potential chopstick, especially since now there was no way he’d ever have a matched pair.

I took the piece of shaped wood in my hands. I decided I’d be the one to polish it. So Ted gave me sandpaper in various gradations of fineness (from 80 grains per square inch all the way down to 10,000 grains per square inch), and, following the instructions he’d gotten from Japan, I sanded, ran under water, oiled and sanded some more until I had a glassy smooth wand in my hand.


Every time Ted looks at it, he still sees “chopstick”, and, truth be told, it’s a rather suggestive length and thickness. But to me, it’s a wand, and it was the first one I polished for my own use.

Polishing wood takes time, so it’s a great way to clear the mind and quiet things down. You can’t be in a hurry when you’re doing it, and the only limits on how smooth you get the wood are those afforded by your patience and willingness to go over the same small area countless times.

Anyway, people seem to think that ebony is the obsidian of woods. I’m not really sure what I think. All I know for sure is that the story behind this blue ebony wand is fun to recall and fun to tell. Perhaps when I polish my next ebony wand, which never had any inkling of the possibility it might become a chopstick, I’ll get more insights into what the wood has to say. As for this little wand I’ve made, all I get when I pick it up is deep gratitude. Certainly that’s a good reminder to me.

Explore posts in the same categories: Family and Friends, Food, metaphysics, Properties of Wood, spirituality

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