A local chainsaw carver says it's the superstition that seeing a spirit's face in the woods brings luck and good fortune that inspired him to create a face on a dead cedar tree along Squamish Valley Road by the landfill.
"I love the idea of the wise old man," said Ryan Cook. "And then when I started carving it, I started to look for flow. There was no plan, other than I was going to do a face."
Apparently, quite a few other people liked the idea too. After Cook finished his sculpture on Jan. 8, his carving garnered much positive attention on social media when photos of it were posted online over the weekend.
Speaking to The Chief on the phone on Jan. 11 after he just left Walmart, Cook said someone in the store had thanked him for his work.
This is not the first time Cook, who grew up in Britannia Beach, has been in the spotlight.
The Kitsilano resident's journey to eventually carving out a small business for himself based in Squamish began on film.
Cook, who was initially pursuing acting, was introduced to woodworking on Saw Dogs, a reality TV series where he served as an apprentice to the featured carvers on that show.
Once the cameras went away, he ditched the stage for the chainsaw and continued to work on his new-found craft until he turned pro. His talent would then get featured again in Carver Kings.
Cook's most recent Squamish piece depicts the face of an ethereal-looking old man with big eyes and a long beard. Surrounding him is a series of swirling lines, all expertly etched into the remains of a western red cedar.
With this project, he hoped to breathe new life into a tree that lost much of its trunk and all of its upper body.
Cook said the moment he revved up his chainsaw to start creating the piece, he wanted to make sure it would be special.
"I just wanted to create some flowing lines and all of a sudden there was what looked to be as a teardrop at the top, so then I wanted to connect that down at the bottom and really give the piece flow and movement. And then, as I was carving, I started to think about how he would be looking — where's people going to be looking at it from," he said.
"I just kind of thought if he was looking down to the left, when you come around the corner and you see these big eyes looking at you, that's going to be some wow factor."
For the most part, Cook's been doing commissions for the past year where he's received specific instructions from clients on what to create.
However, he had a small gap of time that allowed him to pursue his own passion project, and a tiny opening of good weather at the start of January created good conditions for outdoor carving.
Cook took advantage of it, and within eight to twelve hours, the carving he's now dubbed the Spirit of Squamish was born.
A fallen tree now has a new lease on life.
"If you breathe love into it, you bring it back to life," said Cook, recounting local Indigenous lore that he was informed of.
For the next step, Cook said he hopes that if enough local support happens, he can create more carvings in the Squamish area.
As the carving resides on the Squamish Nation's land, The Chief reached out to the Nation for comment, but no spokesperson was available to speak by press deadline.
People can find the carving at this Google Map location.