Oak boards lay in roughness upon my benchtop in silence and there they stay waiting for me as I look over them as for days I’ve done the very same in times past. I leave them alone, sometimes unmoved for a day and sometimes several more, until I stare some more as if looking for something unseen inside the grain; to see the tree still standing by its roots in time now past.
The rough coarseness from a snagged saw tooth caused ridges in arcs, successive with each shouldered shove along its passage through the saw bed, recording the advancing thrusts of a man’s labour in the mill. And I stop to see where he stopped and the snagged tooth burned the halt indelibly into the fibres for me and so I know that a stop took place for a moment while he summoned extra breath to fill and blow into his sales and lungs enough to make a finished cut.
I lower my hands to the rough scarred boards and listen for the chainsaw dulled by passing time twixt a man’s first cut and my wait at my bench -the woods are silent in the wake of my generation. They grow, in the open space of another the new growth of my generation and the cycle of life goes on.
My plane glances the roughness with its sharp slices, the edge removes the saw’s scars and reduces stroke by stroke that once sawn face to a new and seamless plain and the rays now catch the light from the window and smile in arcs over the finished surface as only oak can, reflecting my swipes in undulations side by side.
I smile at my reward, inside my heart now pounding with the work is gladdened by my find no man has ever seen before. My hands and my plane lift shavings in ribbons to separate the unwanted from the wanted board below and freed from roughness the work glistens in the sun like jewels catch the light but others never see what we craftsmen and women see.
It’s no wonder the wood remain the mystery unsolved by which we woodsmen work its fibrous cells and seek creation from the surface of the bench at which we work. Can the wood be born anew by saw and shave and chisel or the smoothing plane without my hands to do the work and separate the waste of wood from what I want to keep?
I stand amidst the tall trees in woodlands wide and forests deep and listen in the silence for a still, small voice and know the work my hands are made to serve are those who wait for beauty from a living tree.