Thursday, May 20, 2010
Saturday, May 1, 2010
“Ya know, I've been working out here a long time,” Uncle Alan began, “and the more I think about it, the more I've come to understand that people are just like trees.” Making his way over to the old wood splitter he used for firewood, he was silent. As we approached, he slowed and came to a stop scratching his beard and turning to me said, “every type of tree is made up of certain character traits, just like any human being, and I suppose I judge people as I would judge any tree.”
I looked down at the ground as he paused for a moment before going on. “Ash is a white wood. It grows pretty darn straight, with few limbs, usually a brown heart, and splits and burns nice for firewood with no seasoning needed. That right there is your straight and narrow type of person. There's no mystery there. They follow the rules and do what they're supposed to and never wonder any different. They're the type that are perfectly planted and harvested by societies ideal standards.”
“A white pine is a useful wood for building barns and such. It grows fast, and is soft and easy to work with. For an evergreen, its needles are soft and generally unoffensive to the touch. White pine people are soft, good natured sorts who are useful and kind. They aren't the type to hide anything and are pretty straight and friendly.”
He went on while I dug my toe into the ground unsure how long he would talk before setting me to work. “You've got hickory too. Now, them there are some good burning sticks. A stove full of hickory will crank out some high BTUs, and keep a place nice and hot... it grows with a white wood and a brown heart, and is a real pain to split. I figure, hickory people are the type who work hard, and only care about things as much as they need to to get through life. They don't let people get to close, but they're useful in making the world run.”
Thinking that this was maybe a little interesting I nodded to Uncle Alan before he continued. “Now, Maple, that's an interesting one,” he said. “There's your soft, fast growing maple, and then there's your hard slow growing type, but overall there are many species. Maple's got mostly no heart, but the hard maple is the one you can get syrup from, so it has good use. I think a maple is a government sort of tree. Looks all showy when its got its shiny leaves on, but is really heartless underneath, and once in awhile you might get something good out of it, but for the most part its a real pain in the pants.”
Finally genuinely amused, I let my eyes light up a little to encourage more, and though he didn't seem to notice, he kept right on talking. “The birch tree... now that one there grows fast and straight most of the time, has a nice red heart, white wood, and it smells real good inside... almost sweet,” he said. “That kind of person is okay, good at heart, and real nice to be around. Most of the time, they're straight forward, but every now and then you get one that's all twisted up and crooked inside. When you split twisted birch for firewood, it can be a real hassle, just like getting involved with a person who's all sweet smelling but twisted up ugly inside.”
“Oak comes in three colors. There's red... it grows straighter than others with a nice salmon color that shows through its rough bark. It's used for hardwood floors because of its straightness and color, and a red oak type of person is real nice on the inside, a good soul, but they tend to get walked on a lot. Black oak is a lot like red but its got darker grains and isn't nearly as pretty. It tends to get used for railroad ties and telephone poles. Another walk all over me type of person is a black oak, and they don't even get the benefit of looking good on the inside.” Going on with oak, he said, “white oak is heavy and dense, and rot resistant. Of course, that type of person is impenetrable. They are thick-headed and there's no getting through to them.”
Uncle Alan stopped talking, turned, and started up the wood splitter. He began demonstrating how to use it, though we didn't speak over the sound of it. Suddenly he idled it down and turned to me, “you know what kind kind of wood I am?” I didn't, so I shook my head, and he said, “I'm termite infested.” Thinking that was odd, I said nothing as he idled the machine back up and we got to work.
Two months later, Uncle Alan passed away, and I found out that he had cancer. It took me two days to recall his story of the trees and the people, and when I did I understood.
by pages full of carefully chosen words
in black on white with size twelve font.
Writing is the medium and letters
get placed on a paper canvas
just as precisely as pigment was once
massaged into place on masonite slabs.
An artist with an ability to arrange anything they will
into a masterpiece
has not relinquished the craft of creativity
by putting aside a brush, but instead
has conquered having quit
by picking up a pen.