I have a day job that allows me to have a nice office full of furniture that I built. The office doesn’t have a window to the outside, but rather 2 walls of glass that turn inward to the building. It calls to mind a sort of human zoo, where I am one of the attractions.
I have a number of interesting things placed in those windows for everyone to see, hopefully distracting them from looking at me.
One of the stranger things that I am often questioned about is a stack of 100+ structurally identical boxes, stacked in 10 towers. The boxes are constructed from a wide variety of species from interesting and strange places, collected by me, a person who is not immune from pulling things out of bogs, ditches, dumpsters or woodpiles.
I have boxes from the tree I used to play in as a child; the tree outside of my college dorm room window; several from trips to the Boundary Waters Canoe Wilderness; exotic wood from a casket maker in Nicaragua, as well as exotics from the local Rockler store. I have wood that came from the same tree that I built my own cremation urn from, and wood from the milking barn of the farm where my wife grew up. Trees that died 35,000 years before I was born, trees from my youth, from my adolescence, from these my middle years, and from some borrowed from trees that will long outlive me.
In rare, thoughtful moments I find myself staring at these boxes, recalling the story behind each one. It causes me to think deeply about the life that these trees witnessed. I’m not a druid, so I don’t think the trees had souls, but they were intimately connected to the places and the people, that when added up, create a sum total that is my life.
The boy climbed the massive willow branches of one; played on the hardwood maple courts from another; and smelled the sweet fragrance of a third when it was a forest of popple surrounding the family cabin. The man appreciates even more the trees that witnessed us bringing home our newborn children, or Christmas trees that graced our family room.
Someone once asked me if I thought they were sacred. “Hmmmmm….” Was the best answer I could muster. Some time later I realized that they themselves are not sacred…they were scraps of wood that meant little to anyone…most of them originally looked like kindling for a bonfire.
I realized that what they actually are is a metaphor for what is sacred in my life. Not stuff…nothing I could own, could I consider sacred.
The boxes remind me that what is sacred is the people, places and memories that tell the story of my life
-- Greg, from the Broke Yoke workshop