Woodworking and Life #1: Wood as a metaphor for what is sacred

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Blog entry by TheBrokeYoke posted 03-18-2014 02:42 AM 2206 reads 0 times favorited 7 comments Add to Favorites Watch
no previous part Part 1 of Woodworking and Life series Part 2: My urns »

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

7 comments so far

View summerfi's profile


4383 posts in 2699 days

#1 posted 03-18-2014 03:08 AM

Very nice post. Wood is something special that most people take for granted. When that wood is entwined with personal and family history, it is even more special. I too have a collection of special wood, and I fully understand what you are saying.

-- Bob, Missoula, MT -- Rocky Mountain Saw Works -- ~Non multa sed multum~

View CoachSchroeder's profile


97 posts in 2615 days

#2 posted 03-18-2014 03:20 AM

Good stuff.
Thanks for sharing.

-- -Sam, in Wisconsin

View jinkyjock's profile


488 posts in 2586 days

#3 posted 03-18-2014 11:59 AM

Like and empathize with your thoughts. Some people have photos, you have your boxes. The fact they are made from wood and with your own hands gives them a deeper, perhaps even Primal, resonance.
Thanks for sharing.

View Monte Pittman's profile

Monte Pittman

30599 posts in 3350 days

#4 posted 03-18-2014 02:04 PM

I agree. When my shop burned, everyone kept asking about the tools. The loss of tools has never bothered me. But I had spent years getting the lumber in there. Some of it is very hard to find in my area. It still just kills me to think about losing the wood. I love just being around it.

-- Nature created it, I just assemble it.

View gfadvm's profile


14940 posts in 3702 days

#5 posted 03-19-2014 12:13 AM

Great story but no pictures of the box collection?

Around here: “no pics, didn’t happen!”

-- " I'll try to be nicer, if you'll try to be smarter" gfadvm

View TheBrokeYoke's profile


10 posts in 2548 days

#6 posted 03-19-2014 02:35 PM

I’m new to Lumberjocks and learning the ropes…here is a photo of the stack of boxes. Thanks for the great feedback!

-- Greg, from the Broke Yoke workshop

View gfadvm's profile


14940 posts in 3702 days

#7 posted 03-19-2014 10:40 PM

By Golly, it did happen!

Interesting collection.

-- " I'll try to be nicer, if you'll try to be smarter" gfadvm

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