Wood: “A Substance with a Soul”

My partner always jokes calling me “pagan princess” because of my deep love for and connection to nature, especially to trees. On Facebook, I list my religion as “trees” – to be funny, but also kind of seriously. I always feel comfortable in the woods, under the trees. I used to lay on the ground and just look up at the trees against a sunny summer sky. To me, trees have always been so majestic, mysterious, and profound.

My partner and I were recently introduced to the book, “Reverence for Wood” by Eric Sloane, written in 1965. It obviously spoke to us both, and the following is our favorite passage:

“In 1765 everything a man owned was made more valuable by the fact that he had made it himself or knew exactly from where it had come. This is not so remarkable as it sounds; it is less strange that the eighteenth-century man should have a richer and keener enjoyment of life through knowledge than that the twentieth-century man should lead an arid and empty existence in the midst of wealth and extraordinary material benefits.

That century of magnificent awareness preceding the Civil War was the age of wood. Wood was not accepted simply as the material for building a new nation — it was an inspiration. Gentle to the touch, exquisite to contemplate, tractable in creative hands, stronger than weight by iron, wood was, as William Penn had said, “a substance with a soul.” It spanned rivers for man; it built his home and heated it in the winter; man walked on wood, slept in it, sat on wooden chairs at wooden tables, drank and ate the fruits of trees from wooden cups and dishes. From cradle of wood to coffin of wood, the life of man was enriched by it.

One of the remarkable things about wood is in its self-expression. Whether as a handle of a tool, as a dead stump, or alive in a forest where every branch is a record of the winds that blew, it is always telling something about itself. This is why man has an affinity with wood not only as a mere material, but also as a kindred spirit to live with and to know. The children of a century ago were expert at knowing trees and their characteristics; they grew up thinking of trees as having human qualities and, almost Druid-like, the tried to acquire the qualities of trees. A man might be as “strong as an oak,” or “bend like a willow”; if he had proper “timber” he’d become all the stronger from the winds of adversity.”

“Reverence for Wood,” by Eric Sloane, (pgs. 72 and 75).

gorgous round of oak - you can see that it has two hearts (two trunks merged) and the blood red crease

gorgeous round of fallen (then cut) oak – you can see that it has two hearts (two trunks merged) and the blood red crease


5 responses to “Wood: “A Substance with a Soul”

  1. Pingback: Portraits of Orchard Beach Trees | EmaBee's Art·

    • Thanks! This was an oak that fell in a storm. You couldn’t tell they were two trees in one until we made the cut and when we saw that blood-red center it was such an exciting surprise – the majestic beauty of nature!

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