We all sculpt. Shaping, molding, fashioning our worlds, we may even learn to let a masterpiece take form. Our lives depend on it; the decisions made and the dealing with what happens next. Patricio and I carved out another detail of our own this weekend, hopping into Pedro's blue Mustang and going north toward Irapuato with the convertible top down and the stereo's volume turned most of the way up. I kept my hair from tangling with my gray, cat-eared hat, and we were all kept from boredom by thoughts beat out of wind and unfettered views.
We stopped along the way for gas, then barbacoa brunch, and finally took off on the free highway from Querétaro, driving past cow and goat herders in their fields to a town called Apaseo del Alto. Along the main street, outside the storefront doors, is evidence that residents do more than metaphorically sculpt out a life of their own. Workshop tables are covered with dust and angel wings, wax and tools of a trade. Wood carving defines the town by a common craft, fathers and sons turning roots, trunks and branches into Quijotes, holy Virgins, headboards and sacred hearts.
Leonardo Cardenas made me rethink the word 'workshop,' seeing that the individual elements in the compound word really coexist. Pedro remembered him from many years back, when he and his wife traveled up to buy furniture after reading about an international prize being granted to Leonardo for a carving he entitled "Diosa de la Primavera" (Goddess of the Spring). Pedro mentioned their meeting years ago, and the small, wooden statue that had impressed him and Laura so much. Disappearing into an alcove of a workshop of a room, Cardenas appeared again with the very statue in his hands. Sitting unnoticed on a shelf for anyone to touch, he simply said, "I just don't have the heart to sell it."
Never mind his uncanny resemblance to Caetano Veloso, the man still makes an impression. Unassuming but quietly sure, he talks about his work without either pushing it on a customer or feigning false humility. He has shaped, molded and fashioned a world of folk and traditional religious art. His life has depended on it. A masterpiece has come of it. In a way, being with him for a little while sculpted us, too.
We climbed into the Mustang with new thoughts for the wind to whip and fashion.