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home : health : health May 26, 2018

4/17/2018 6:47:00 PM
Creating love - one spoon at a time
Mike Bush carries his hand-carved love spoons in a pocket — because there’s always an opportunity to spread the by Katy Yoder
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Mike Bush carries his hand-carved love spoons in a pocket — because there’s always an opportunity to spread the love.

photo by Katy Yoder

By Katy Yoder

Mike Bush didn't want to be a retiree with too much time on his hands. So he thought about things he always wanted to do but never had. He remembered being intrigued by the old guys in Western movies sitting on a front porch whittling. It looked like fun!

It wasn't as easy as he thought. He burned up several Dremel tools that couldn't handle hard woods. Finally a friend steered him to the right equipment and he became a carver. He bought a book and began replicating what he saw. He carved several spoons and cut himself numerous times.

"Copying ones from Europe wasn't good, I wanted to do something on my own. I started doing my own designs," he said.

Then life - or, more accurately, death - got in the way. In 2006, he says, he had a heart attack and "died."

"In the middle of the night, I realized I wasn't breathing and my heart wasn't beating. I was in a lot of pain and didn't know what to do. So I just relaxed and everything went black. I heard nothing. There were no worries. It was strange but I was euphoric. Then the pain came back and I was covered in sweat. By daytime I convinced myself that I didn't have a heart attack. A week later, I was walking up a hill and went to my knees, then down. My wife, Fran, called for help and three days later I had open-heart surgery."

Bush tells people about his life, about love, and how almost dying changed his personality.

"I came from a family of migrant farm workers. Everybody smoked, drank and fought. Fran's family brought me out of that but I was still not a nice person. Dying really changes you!"

A man who had a similar experience asked Bush why they'd survived. Bush had thought about it for years.

"I survived for my wife, Fran," he said. "I told him there are three things in life: love yourself, give love, and receive love. Love is why I survived."

From that time on, he decided to make love spoons.

"Every time I give one away, I tell my story," he said. "I have given away over 500 spoons."

There are beautiful and touching stories from Bush's gift-giving.

"I carry a love spoon in my pocket just in case," he explained. "One time, I was waiting for three hours for a doctor appointment. I saw a woman with a sick child in her arms with a temperature of 104 degrees and other children playing nearby. She told me about her situation and we sat together for two hours. She said her husband was in Portland, then began to cry. She sat there rocking her son. I took the spoon out and told what it stood for. She cried at first and then became so happy and gave me a big hug and walked away."

The history of love spoons goes back hundreds of years in Scandinavia and northern Europe.

"The poor people of Europe didn't have a lot of metal," explained Bush. "Husbands would carve bowls and utensils for their families. They had time during cold winters or out in the field while watching their sheep. Sometimes workers copied what they saw in rich people's houses."

Young boys were taught to carve. Once the household had spoons the young man would keep the spoon they'd carved and contact a girl that they wanted to marry. She would invite him to her house to eat and he would walk in with a long spoon hanging from his jacket. If the girl took the spoon and ate with it he could court her. The better the carver the better the chance he'd get a yes.

"At the spring festivals there'd be dancing and the boys would bring in a big spoon. If he asked a girl to dance and she did not take the spoon, he knew his answer. That's where the term 'spooning' came from," said Bush, laughing.

Bush plans to continue carving his Welsh love spoons, which keeps him "sparked and happy." Sometimes mistakes can be opportunities for new things.

"There are times that the wood makes you do what it wants," he said. "Mistakes make me more creative."

The Bush home has love spoons on the walls, in baskets and of course, there's always one in Mike's pocket. Love seems to guide his hands as he carves his next creation. He recently finished a spoon for a new grandson. Hopefully, someday his grandchildren will all carry on his tradition of carving love out of any circumstance.

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