The trail leads up a bush-clad mountainside
Singing with birds, redolent with earthy attar
Rustling with hidden afternoon activity.
I catch an occasional glimpse
Of furtive feathered ground dwellers
And fleeing lizards.
The path is rough; rock and root-strewn
I need my stick to steady my steps
The summit touches the sky, above the highest trees
Which are shrouded in evening mist that washes
In slow floating waves as on a time lapse shore
Branches reaching out like dark coral rock.
Above the washing white tide
Here at sunset, I made my camp
With one desire;
To sleep, and awake at dawn
To the bellbirds’ famed chorus.
The morning came bright
The birdsong, sublime under a clear sky, echoed.
The island below me a taonga of poenamo
Set in lapiz: Around my camp
Came curious weka
Enquiring after crumbs from breakfast.
On my descent I followed no path.
I had set my course on line of sight
Towards the green and black lakes
And beyond, to the obsidian cliffs
My second objective.
Though taking the obsidian is forbidden
I had set my heart on finding a piece
Suitable to nap a knife.
The going was slow. The bush impeding.
I came upon a place of silence
No birdsong, no rustling in the undergrowth
Eerie. The nape of my neck tingled
I fell into a hole
Unhurt I climbed out
And saw the overgrown hole was regular, square
And there were more; many more, man made
It was a place where people had once dwelt.
Lived and died.
I moved on as swiftly as I could
One lake was black, one algal green
I cooled myself but did not drink
I had a feeling Lethe might live within
At the foot of the cliffs I found
Tumbled shards of shining atramentous
The volcanic glass I coveted.
I took some; perhaps there and then
Began the curse that follows me yet.
I cannot return the tuhua; I no longer have it
I left it somewhere, some time, I don’t recall.
It is lost. It does not matter.
I think Andrew should video the knife making process.
What he describes so far is fascinating. The billet of Damascus steel is now knife shaped. The knife will have a brass liner under the scales and a brass section about 40mm long up near the blade. The main part of the grips will be blackbutt burl and he has made up the pins with green filler for contrast. The sheath will be embossed leather.
One of the little personal treasures stolen from my collection of memorabilia and mementos in the Great Donga Burglary was a beautiful hand crafted pichok knife made in Samarkand, the legendary ancient city in Uzbekistan on the historic silk road.
My knife looked very similar to this one:
It is unusual looking enough that I still have hopes of it turning up some day, though I won’t hold my breath. It was one of several ‘favourite’ knives I lost in the robbery. The only one I cannot replace.
I have never been to Samarkand. It is one place I would very much like to visit. My pichok knife was a thoughtful gift from a colleague and friend who was in Uzbekistan working for the UN in the 1980s after his stint in Solomon Islands, where we met.
I have always had a thing for knives, and this was a beauty. Sharp and comfortable to use. With that indefinably satisfying feel that comes from holding and using something crafted by hand in a centuries – old tradition.
A short while ago a Facebook Friend posted a picture of a knife he had made, using a billet of Damascus steel. Folded 256 times.
I thought that was pretty impressive. I tried to make a knife once from an old file. It is not easy. My effort was barely functional. So when Andrew casually mentioned that he would make another one for a price I took him up on his offer. Though I have been telling myself it is time to stop collecting and accumulating more stuff, I could not pass up the opportunity to have a handmade knife. Especially one made of such beautiful metal. I have paid a deposit and he has ordered a billet of teardrop Damascus steel, which is a modern version of the traditionally famous steel the technology of which is no longer fully understood.
Here is the billet from which it will be crafted;
With luck the knife will be ready in time to be a birthday present to myself.