With The Grain

I’d like to extend thanks to Ross Laird for his generosity in sending me a signed hardcover edition of his first book, Grain of Truth, free of charge. Ross always writes with an attention to details minute and profound and with a clarity that is truly rare. I can’t recommend his works highly enough, whether the essays and short works on his website or his remarkable books.

Among Ross’ recent postings on his website, I found “A Craftsman’s Guide to Ethical Wood Use” to be quite relevant to my own experiences of the past couple years. Having witnessed the unnecessary clear cutting of a wood behind my parents home and the devistation of forests across this province by a hurricane, I’ve become increasingly interested in forestry conservation and management. Due to the massive number of trees uprooted by the hurricane over a year ago we have an overabundance of of wood. Ross encourages craftspeople to make use of such natural harvesting when possible, and surely that is vitally important in situations like the one Nova Scotia finds itself. There is wood that will go to waste if artisans and others with use for wood don’t take the inititive to claim it now. It’s an excellent opportunity to protect our forests from needless harvesting in the future. My family alone has found enough firewood for years of home use and use in the family business of maple syrup production.

Even today I was dealing with wood. In the afternoon I continued the task of moving firewood that was gained through windfallen trees on this lot. There was quite a lot, so it took a rather long time for the wood to make it through the stages of being cut into initial logs, drying for several days, being cut into usable pieces by a wood splitter (a remarkably simple divice that is essentially a sharp wedge and piston combination that pushes the wood into the wedge, separating the grain) and then more days of drying. The scent of the wood, the feel of its grain and the rhythm and care involved in stacking it within my father’s shed made for pleasant work and will surely help in the fending off of a cold I’m currently afflicted with. I’m not sure if I’m an abnormality, but in addition to sleeping well and drinking fluids, I find that being active helps to speed the rejection of viruses.

In revisiting Ross’ book, reading several translations of the Tao Te Ching and personally working with wood, it’s obvious to me that the lessons of Tao are given a great example and support in working with wood. Recognizing natural cycles and properties is of course important, whether it’s working with the grain to ensure a proper cut or working with the growing cycles to have forests remain the renewable resources and personally renewing places of spiritual peace we need them to be.

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