I’ve been busy in the studio since school ended, with new sets of oil and ink paintings underway. The wood shop has been getting plenty of use as well. I was fortunate to reclaim several truck loads of red oak base moldings which were otherwise destined for the landfill. There are plenty of nails to remove but the wood cleans up well, as you can see in the photo above. Because the oak is red and flat sawn, there is not much to compel a full clean-up. Instead, the wood tends to hold more life in the median state– refreshed without being made new, cleaned up without being stripped of its history. During this process I happened to be reading Aldo Leopold’s A Sand County Almanac, and came across the following resonant passage:
The spring flood brings us more than high adventure; it brings likewise an unpredictable miscellany of floatable objects pilfered from upriver farms. An old board stranded on our meadow has, to us, twice the value of the same piece new from the lumberyard. Each old board has its own individual history, always unknown, but always to some degree guessable from the kind of wood, its dimensions, its nails, screws, or paint, its finish or the lack of it, its wear or decay. One can even guess, from the abrasion of its edges and ends on sandbars, how many floods have carried it in years past.
Our lumber pile, recruited entirely from the river, is thus not only a collection of personalities, but an anthology of human strivings in upriver farms and forests. The autobiography of an old board is a kind of literature not yet taught on campuses, but any riverbank farm is a library where he who hammers or saws may read at will. Come high water, there is always an accession of new books.