Friday, November 6, 2009

Growth, Wealth, Accumulation

The Ontario Bee House allowed me to guiltlessly indulge my love of looking at and evaluating every bit of stray lumber, fallen stick and broken piece of furniture we stumble upon on our walks. There was an immediate use, a project, and so all the little bits I carried home went directly to the workbench.

And so the oak chair seen here was sought out to be part of the next Bee House I am making as a gift. This chair spent at least three nights in the rain (and a rainy three nights they were) until I could get back to the train tracks where I first found it. Dumped in the weeds and grass, only a leg and part of the arm visible, I imagined it was, at best, smashed up, at worst, had been part of bonfire. (I thought I might salvage the wheels, too). But it was intact. Completely and perfectly intact. The varnish had a wet bloom, but one swipe of a towel and an afternoon in the sunshiny sewing room and it was gone.

I can hardly imagine that something as precious as oak could be waste- thinking back to a talk by a speaker from the Nature Conservancy during a walk in the Clear Creek Forest, I thought to calculate the age of this chair in real time. It could have been manufactured any time between the 1920s and the 1950s; the H. Krug company has been creating these gorgeous chairs since even earlier than that, but the lable on this one dates it to after WWI. But- how old was the tree that was cut down to make the chair? Was it a century old? Maybe two? There is a century maple about twenty feet away from me, just outside the front windows here, and it seems just big enough now to produce lumber. Oaks, however, grow slowly, much more slowly than my beloved sugar maple.

How could something as precious as oak be waste? Having the garden has sharpened my concerns about 'waste', or rather about what constitutes wealth. Is it the accumulation of strengths, durability and permanence? You know, deeper roots, richer soil, more diverse biota? These are the things that are accumulating in our gardens here; like the oak in the chair, this is a process that occurs over time in excess of what humans have.

Next time to leaves. Or 'there is now a gold mine in my back yard'.

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