Mary Blazanin

Woodcarvers are remarkable folks. I know because we have a group which gathers at our Senior Center every Wednesday morning to carve wood of all types, shapes and sizes.

They come to share ideas and resources, learn new techniques, and even teach some local kids the tricks of the trade. I am always amazed by their ability to shape a piece of undefined wood into something of depth, beauty and purpose.

Even nature loves to carve. We’ve seen the beautiful cliffs and caves carved out by oceans or Great Lakes; or lime and sandstone carved into beautiful formations and magnificent canyons. The Arizona’s Grand Canyon and Utah’s Bryce Canyon come to mind.

But none of this happens in a day. A small wooden statue or walking cane handle may take days, weeks or months to create. Caves and canyons take centuries. Most carvers hone their skills over many years. They master the different cuts and tools, creating increasingly complicated and intricate works of art.

The scars of learning their craft are etched into their hands and fingers; yet, they remain undeterred and even a little more emboldened in the process.

Carving requires patience and caution, but also resoluteness, creativity, adventure, and resilience. And, to carve well, there are certain rules to adhere to along the way. It strikes me that these rules correlate nicely to our own lives, as we focus on aging well and strong. And, in light of keeping our brain healthy along the way, to reduce our risk of memory loss related diseases.

Rule No. 1: Learn to sharpen. A dull tool is both dangerous and ineffective. Sharpen your memory by practicing memorization, engaging in strategy games and puzzles, and learning something new (painting, playing an instrument, another language). Change up your routine: take a new route; eat with your non-dominant hand; rearrange your closet; and vary your daily habits to create new brain pathways.

Rule No. 2: Know the intended use of each tool. Not knowing how to use a particular tool correctly is ineffective and time wasting. There are many tools available in your community to help you age well. Carve out time to meet new people. Seek out instruction and resources when you need them. More frequent social contact has been linked to a lower risk of dementia. Your senior center is a great place to start.

Rule No. 3: Take away wood. Carving is a take-away medium where removing wood improves the product. Michelangelo was once asked how he created such a beautiful angel out of a large marble block. He replied, “I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free.” Learn to carve the unhealthy habits out of your life. Cut down on sugar, add more fresh fruits and veggies, drink less caffeine and more water, and eat omega-3 rich fish and whole grains. Exercise a little every day. Learn to whittle away stress.

Rule No. 4: Learn proportions. Carvers learn to proportion facial features and limbs to fit the sculpture. Proportion your personal sleep needs. Quality sleep is key to a healthy brain. Establish a regular sleep schedule and create ritual around it. If you snore, get screened for sleep apnea, which has been linked to some memory loss conditions.

Rule No. 5: Add highlights. A little contouring and color adds dimension and fun. Learn to add fun and humor to your day. Take the road less traveled for a day. Volunteer your time. Write an old-fashioned letter to a long-lost relative. Nourish your sense of creativity and adventure.

Take a swipe at carving some new things into and out of your life. Stick to a plan and give it some time. There’s always time to become more resolute, creative, adventuresome, resilient, patient, and emboldened.

Stop by or call the Chanhassen Senior Center to get our newsletter or find out more about our programs. 952-227-1125


Upcoming events at the Senior Center to help you carve out fun and learning:

Lunch at the Senior Center: Monday-Friday, 11:30 a.m. Call 952-227-1127 at least three days in advance to register. Suggested donation per meal, $5.

Parades, Polio and Peaceniks: A History of Carver County’s Fair. Tuesday, Aug. 6, 10:30 a.m., $3.

Meet Sheriff Kamerud: Thursday, Aug. 15, 10:30 a.m.

Overnight Trip to Ames, Iowa: Oasis in the Heart of Iowa, Sept. 25-26. Stop in for complete details.

Mary Blazanin is the Chanhassen Senior Center coordinator. The senior center is located at 7700 Market Blvd., Chanhassen. More info at 952-227-1125.

Community Editor

Mark Olson, the Chaska and Chanhassen community editor who has worked in Carver County for 20 years, makes any excuse to write about local history. In his spare time, Mark enjoys perusing old books, watching blockbusters and taking Midwest road trips.


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