- James Aichinger
Love to Spoon?
Updated: Nov 12, 2019
The road of love is long and winding, and so full of opportunities to get things wrong. That’s why we write poetry, compose music and create works of art; to communicate what we feel in the most heartfelt manner.
So how then, in the days before these skills became commonplace, could you tell your loved one how much they meant to you?
As a number of people know, my family descends from Wales. A land of my fathers, land of legends and (possibly) the most mind-twisting language in the world. But beyond the stories of King Arthur and the Red Dragon lies a tradition that, although unclear in origin, speaks deeply to the heart of love: the welsh lovespoon.
It is easy to imagine where the custom began. Wooden utensils were common enough and a suitor who was skilled at carving would spend the dark winter evenings working on the spoon as he thought about his affection for his beloved. He would focus on his llwy (spoon) by firelight, making cuts and smoothing edges until that single piece of wood took shape beneath his hands.
But, like so many young men, he was undoubtedly shy and unwilling (or unable) to simply spell out his intentions and emotions. So what then? What could you put on this delicate piece of art to show beyond a shadow of a doubt what you felt inside?
A dragon for protection? A heart for love? A Celtic knot for eternity? The story you wrote would sit on her wall for the rest of her life.
You can imagine the time, effort and skill that went into creating these marvellous pieces of art. It spoke volumes, sagas about the depth of love that inspired them.
Although the practice was likely not confined to Wales, it is in my ancestral homeland that the tradition has survived and many of the most intricate designs have been found.
I know something of creating a gift for those I love; I crafted my wife’s engagement ring and both of our wedding bands. I’ll admit it had been a few years since I had made jewellery and I ended up making the engagement ring too tight (oops), but those long hours I spent shaping, smoothing and engraving were used to think back on our time together and imagine a future that was ours to shape.
In this consumer-centric world it would have been easier to go into the nearest city centre and simply buy the rings from a professional jeweller. It would almost certainly have been of higher quality and cost me less of my skin. But it would have meant next to nothing, only the value of the money that I handed over. It would have had no story, no message to the person I cared about most in the world.
Instead, when I proposed, I gave her something that I had forged with my own two hands and bore a simple message on the inside: ewig (eternal).
People forget that there are so many ways to tell a story and so very many reasons to do so. Maybe they don’t have the skill to forge a ring or carve a lovespoon, but a story of your love will always mean so much more than anything you can buy in a shop.
Love is always more complicated than a single gift can describe, but I believe that some things can speak to the very heart of what makes us human and what are we if not the stories that we tell ourselves?