I love wood—midcentury modern furniture, sparklingly maintained wood floors, guitars, art (please join me as I swoon over Ariel Alasko‘s work). Wood is warm. Wood is artefactual. Wood is the memory of a tree’s self-sacrifice.
A gorgeous piece of wood came into my life this week. While shopping for Mother’s Day at Salt and Honey Market, Christiana and I found Alan Peck‘s booth. Hand-turned bowls in a variety of woods decked the shelves. We cradled them in our hands one by one and read the names burned onto their bases: apricot, cottonwood, spalty Apple. Without authoring their grain, the artist would have nothing to shape. For the bowls to retain their names next to the artist’s felt right. Reverent.
Metallic bits glinted at me as I examined them. Alan used Kintsugi, the Japanese technique of pottery repair that fills cracks with gold, giving the pot new life while honoring the breaks as integral. These sweet gestures were minute witnesses—passersby would never see such subtle mending unless they looked closer.
From the top shelf, one bowl practically glistened. It glowed like translucent amber. Some of the bowls appeared planetary, the whorling grain and knot holes creating a tumultuous atmosphere like Jupiter’s. My gem looked like Creation itself. Two partial hemispheres shaded from molasses to honey with colliding swirls. The molasses curled around the honey, trying to swallow it. “Cottonwood,” the base read.
A dark line stood out, hatched with a bunch of little light lines into a little scar. (Zoom in on the photo and you’ll spot a few bright dots. Notice how the bowl practically glows?) I held the bowl to my chest and felt my heart’s electromagnetic field contained in that space.
As I write this I’m listening to Leonard Cohen sing “Anthem” in his raspy voice: “Don’t dwell on what has passed away/ Or what is yet to be. . . . Ring the bells that still can ring/ Forget your perfect offering/ There is a crack, a crack in everything/ That’s how the light gets in.”
This glowing piece of wood reminds me that light will always win, that the dark streaks matter as much as the light ones, and that the tree will never be the same after it’s turned into a bowl. Wabi sabi. Still, it glows
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