When our first daughter was three months old … we learned that [she] had brain damage caused from the pertussis vaccinations she had been given; she was multiply disabled. I gave up my business and I gave up carving to focus on helping my daughter. She was a full-time job, a labor of love.
My second daughter, Alexandra, was born in 1991. When she was about nine months old, I wanted to give her a rocking horse for Christmas, but I didn’t like any of the horses I saw. So I had a local toy maker cut and laminate the wood in a horse shape, and I was going to carve it.
Ten years later, I still haven’t finished that horse. However, it got me back into carving, and carving has been my refuge in all the heartache I’ve had to deal with in raising a disabled child.
Alexandra is a real animal lover, especially of the big cats. I had just finished a carving and was wondering what to do next when she thought I should do elephant and lion spirits because they are endangered. It made me wonder about endangered people and I started to research African tribes. The Maasai were the people I ended up with because their whole way of life has had to change. The warriors used to hunt lions to prove their bravery and now they would go to jail if they do that because the lions are endangered. Now the Maasai are farmers and the warriors tend the herds. So, the carving’s theme is one of disappearance …
I started "Cry Maasai" when Kristen was about 12 years old. Her health had been deteriorating from the time she was about 11 …
“Cry Maasai” — more than I ever imagined when I started it — is about the disappearance of the things we hold dear to us in our world and in our personal experience. The warrior is crying for the lions. For all of the times I complained about not having time to carve while I was caring for my little gal, I do every carving for her now.
“Cry Maasai” measures 17" high, 16 3/4" wide, and 5 3/4" deep. The warrior is in black walnut and the lions are in butternut. I had to very carefully chisel the shape of the warrior out of the butternut in order to embed him into the lions. That was something I’d never tried before. I give new meaning to the expression “by guess and by God …”