"Every craftsman, whether in wood or stone or words, strives in the shadow of hidden possibilities, searching for a means of making the mystery visible," writes Ross A. Laird, an award-winning poet who lives in Vancouver, British Columbia. "What happens in my shop is no exception. Though sometimes I must sit in silence for a long while, waiting for an answer to come, opening to the descent of the unfathomable." The author has organized this impressive examination of the creative process around eight Taoist symbols of life energy — wind, earth, thunder and lightning, deep water, mountain, shallows, fire, and the unfathomable.

Laird is very fond of Karl, an old-time craftsman who is a plain talker and a straight shooter. This fellow has great respect for his projects. Laird talks about his own tasks with equal respect. They include making a hand plane for himself, a marimba for his children, and a box to contain the ashes of his grandmother-in-law.

The author knows a lot about wood and has reverence for it: "The curious thing about wood is that it does not allow me to give up. It cajoles and prods, it demands that I keep my end of the bargain and bring out its hidden forms. . . . I'm not sure exactly how the wood makes its demands — saying that it speaks is only a shorthand for something more elusive and mysterious."

Laird's spiritual listening to the wood he works with is right in sync with his respect for the tools of his trade that he calls "collaborators" in making the wood come alive. This is a well-written and enlightening volume on creativity, craft, and personal transformation.