Posted December 13, 2011
What is the most meaningful gift you have ever received? I will give a gift to the person with the most interesting answer – a copy of my new CD “A Midnight Clear – Christmas in Mitford.” It includes a special cover designed by best-selling author Jan Karon who also chose the title for the album.
My cousin Dr. Mark Williams of Grand Rapids, Michigan sent me a wonderful gift last week – a ballpoint pen he crafted from olive wood. Mark bought the wood from a distributor who buys it from olive farmers in and around Bethlehem. This particular piece of wood is believed to be at least 1500 years old judging from the grain. Here is the rest of my cousin's story:
“There are lots of groves in the Mediterranean world that have trees that are probably 2000 years old. The Greeks have a saying that olive trees never die, and that's almost true. Near Athens there was a tree that the locals called Plato's olive tree, because it was near the Academy and was so old. It was right by the road, and one night the bus from Thebes ran off the road and knocked the tree over. The trunk is now in a museum somewhere (what I wouldn't do for a few board feet of that wood!), but they did not dig up or grind the stump. Sure enough, it sprouted again the next year. By now it is probably producing olives again.
Olive growers regularly prune back their trees after the olive season is over (usually in December or January in that part of the world); the trees are cut back pretty radically. Unproductive trees are cut off at the roots, which is where a lot of the wood I use comes from. So, while I cannot guarantee that the wood in your pen was there when the angels sang their glorias, there is a pretty good chance that it dates back to the Roman era.”
It’s a beautiful pen and I will cherish it. Thank you kind cousin!