Late Night Musings on Wood

(Stop smirking John, it’s not that kind of wood.)

Maybe I need to get out more; maybe I need to read something besides Fitness magazine at night (if I ever remember to get to the library!), but I was working in the kitchen last night, I think I was finally washing the dishes that I somehow managed to let pile up, who knows.  But I was looking at this beautiful cutting board that some friends in Kansas City gave me as a sort of going away present.  It’s a gorgeous board that I ran across at a reclaimed lumberyard (www.elmwoodreclaimedtimber.com if you’re interested).  I was out browsing for wood that we could use for award plaques at work and ran across this rather large piece.  Unfortunately I needed several sets of semi-matching pieces and this was a one-of-a-kind.  It’s got great color and texture, but the thing I like most about it is that they left the burn marks from the saw on the wood.  It adds so much character; I just kept going back to that piece.

So I was looking at this piece of wood setting behind my sink and started thinking about the beauty of wood.  I’ve always been fascinated by it.  Each piece is somehow familiar. Turn me loose in a lumberyard and I’m like a kid in a candy store.  I don’t know what it is, but it gives me a feeling of being grounded, connected and balanced; I find it calming.  Run your hand along an old piece of furniture, and you can feel the presence of the previous owners.  I love that you can feel a life force in even the oldest pieces of lumber.  My favorite yoga pose is even tree pose.

My mind tends to drift, and last night was no exception.  And soon I started thinking about childhood experiences and my connection to trees and wood.

In kindergarten or first grade, I can’t remember which, all of the students in my class were given seedlings for Arbor Day.  I brought my sad little stick of a tree home in its newspaper bag sleeve.  I was so proud of it.  Our yard had limited space, so mom & dad suggested that I plant my tree in a far corner of the yard behind the garage.  I watered it, and talked to it, made sure it was staked and had a ribbon tied to it (lest dad run over it with the lawn mower).  I watched it grow and privately celebrated each new branch for years.  Now I look at the tree–the largest in the yard; its limbs are tangled in all sorts of power lines (mom & dad never thought it would actually grow), but I never doubted that it would someday be magnificent.  Looking at it now, I can still see that little pigtailed girl watching over it.

I remember building my first dollhouse with my dad.  Far from the elaborate Barbie Dreamhouse that all my friends had, my dollhouse was a simple structure–no doors or windows, just 4 rooms and an attic, each room painted a different bright color.  My dolls weren’t the right size for it, but Barbies couldn’t have been better housed if they lived in a Barbie-sized mansion.  I think that was probably the first time I ever got to use a hammer.

Years ago, we used to laugh at my dad.  When the big maple in the middle of the backyard finally died, he took it upon himself to create a mini-forest in its place.  For years, we’d ask what he wanted for Father’s Day or his birthday–trees.  Always trees.  When we finally ran out of room, he asked for a wood turner.  I don’t think its a coincidence.

I thought about all of this as I looked around my living room.  At the coffee table and end table that dad and I designed and built.  They’re a little lopsided and sometimes have to be glued back together, but I wouldn’t trade them for the world.  They keep me (and my living room) grounded and connected to my past.

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