The love of wood, the smell, the heft
whether split or sawn, adzed or planed
polished or varnished, raw or painted or stained
sanded or milled or bark-on or weathered
all gathers with exposure:
long years reaching for the sun delving
tapping for moisture winters mulling
the idle drifting thoughts of trees
dreams that establish themselves in the
twisting journeys in a red and pale journal
etched in the code of slowly inscribed time
husking over thicker bark after occasional
flash fires thin out the lessers, clear space
until finally the woodsman brings it down
to begin its physical journey downhill
out onto the ice to wait for spring
then down river to the cove where
the log boom arranges the herringbone
finally selected by a pick from a peevee
fed up the clicking clacking jackladder
to the carriage where it is rough-sliced into
planks, which soon make their way to a barn
where they sit, piled flat, airing and drying
until over time all but one are dispersed
and this one sits for ages, finally ends up
years later in a lot of odd boards sold
to empty a barn.

My hand plane is a lovely tool: maple body
with a slot chiselled by hand to perfectly
receive the frog, which receives the plane iron
the plane iron cap, all held in place by the lever cap
but of these most important is the plane iron
which must be sharpened perfectly and sweetly
this I learned in a class given at night by
a man who knew and seeing I wanted to learn
this one thing and was serious about it
kindly took the time to teach me
how to grind the iron hollow on a grinder
how to set up the sharpening stone with oil
how to place the iron on the stone just so
how the oil squeezes out when it is right
how to be patient with the circular motion
how to test the edge and finally know
it is ready to use.

I had this old rough-cut but very heavy board
that I had bought as part of a lot of boards
mostly basswood and oak and maple and ash
but this was heavier very rough-sawn
grey with age but not split and very straight
I carried it over to the trestles and laid it flat
it was at least two inches thick, a foot wide
about twelve feet long: solid whatever.

I adjusted the iron of my plane to take
just a slight cut into the wood, just a hint
I slid it along the rough plank, hearing it
snick-snick-snick over the curved kerf gouges
some circular saw had left in a quick pass ages ago
the fresh wood was surprisingly pinkish
making the grey old skin look greenish
I took long snick-snick passes over the
ridges on the old plank gradually peeling
chips of old grey away revealing swirls
of rich pink and red wood glowing as if
breathing again longer and longer
became my strokes until finally I was taking long curls off the whole length of the plank
continuous curls reeled off the whole side of the plank was gleaming pink orange red
I turned the plank over and continued
peeling off the rough old skin revealing
the rich underlying dreams and all the while
the pungent aroma of the fresh wood
sang to me until finally out of the ankle-
deep layer of grey and pink had emerged
the gleaming rich simple plank that was to be
the top band of wainscoating in my home

I left the slight unevenness of the blade’s
progress on the wood, unsanded but smooth
and I waxed it and let it be





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About riverwriter

Poet, playwright, duplicate bridge player, website designer, cottager, husband, father, grandfather, former athlete, carpenter, computer helper for my friends, theatre designer, backstage polymath, retired teacher of highschool English, drama, art, a baritone singer in a barbershop quartet, who knows what else? wordcurrents is on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/wordcurrents/ Doug also has a Facebook page, "Incognitio", related to his novels.
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