Saturday, November 8, 2014

Reshaping the wood

What can be done when at the height of spring, lightening strikes, destroying a living, breathing tree?
If the heart wood is sound, it then becomes a resource.
I pick up my old saw and cut two pieces from the golden and red heart, one each for the little one and me.
Then we begin to sand, first with coarse sandpaper, because the wood is full of ridges and splinters. She gets the idea quickly, and sitting by the fire, keeps sanding while I make the dinner. I'm surprised by her focus, but then again we both come from a long line of wood carvers. My grandfather Tempest carved beautiful furniture which he sent out on the boat with his daughter Amy when she voyaged to New Zealand to marry my grandfather.

My father's father was a builder and creator of houses. Working with wood was in my father's blood, and in mine. Just the smell of sawdust as my saw bites into the kanuka gives me a thrill of long-forgotten things.
We change to medium grain sandpaper, and then the next morning to fine grain. It's exciting to feel the wood grow smooth and satin to the touch. With all the sanding, the colour has faded.
But 'wait!' I say, 'it will come back.' I dig out an old bottle of raw linseed oil from under the house. We anoint our pieces of wood, just as my father and grandfathers would have done. The wood glows golden and red once more. It smells good. And the pieces are beautiful.
In Maori tradition, when a significant elder dies, the event is often likened to the falling of a great tree.

Today I attended the funeral of my oldest client, who died just after her 93rd birthday. Even though her peers have long ago passed on, the chapel was full, for Betty was much loved by many generations.
Amidst the sorrow I witnessed a life being harvested, and like good heart wood, sanded and smoothed by much touching and remembering, already on the way to being reshaped into something new, beautiful and lasting.

Rest in peace, dear Betty.
Don't grieve. 
Anything you lose comes round again in a different form. 
Rumi

7 comments:

Nadezda said...

I like to work with wood too Juliet. I think you did nice job and the piece of wood looks pretty, golden and red.
Sorry about Betty, she had a long life and many people will remember her.
Have a nice weekend!

Juliet Batten said...

Nadezda, a fellow wood-worker! How nice. The wood feels good too. Thank you.

Juliet Batten said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Hotly Spiced said...

I'm so sorry to hear about your friend, Betty, Juliet. It does seem you have had a number of funerals this year. I do love how you and your father and grandfather are all good at working with your hands and working with wood is such a satisfying skill xx

Penny O'Neill said...

How you lovingly catch life and every corner, Juliet, and weave it all together so strongly. I'm sorry about Betty's passing. You honor her here, and the stricken tree- and especially your Mira in your teachings of life.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Juliet - I love smell of wood ... my father's family could be wood turners ... and did make things ... but I never got the bug as such. Sawdust we had plenty of ...

Lovely how you encourage the little one to share things with you ... and then how you share with a passing spirit - I bet Betty welcomed the heart wood.

This is exactly what you were meant to do with the lightning hit ...

Lovely to read ... cheers Hilary

Juliet Batten said...

* Charlie, it was such a pleasure to return to wood-working.

* Penny, Thank you for this lovely compliment. It is satisfying to find the interconnections between life events, and between the very young and the very old.

* Hilary, so you have wood-turners in the family, and enjoy that woody smell too. It was satisfying to make something from the stricken tree.

Thank you Charlie, Penny and Hilary, your comments are appreciated.