The Soul of a Tree

11 03 2008

Instead of unpacking boxes yesterday afternoon, as I should have been, I settled into a chair in front of the west window and started reading George Nakashima’s book, The Soul of a Tree. As if the title alone isn’t enough, part two of the book is entitled just, The Tree, and part three is, get this, The Making of an Object. Then, it’s filled with Nakashima’s pencil drawings, photographs of trees and wood and furniture, and his thoughts on the whole thing.

Although he waxes a bit poetic at times, such as when he explains to us that “trees spring from tiny seedlings only two hands tall”, he turns around and compliments his mentor, who taught him through “hundreds of small acts of perfection”. I understand that. It is the small acts of perfection that produce a beautiful object. It’s what I love about a piece of furniture made by a real artisan like Rick Stein. He recognizes the tiny little details that his customers may never notice individually, but that add up to a lovely thing. I like to think that at least some of Walt Hull’s (my blacksmith employer) customers also see or sense it.

I always enjoy building something out of scrap materials from the junk yard next to the forge and I think George Nakashima felt the same pleasure. The crotch of a tree would be abandoned by the lumber companies looking for evenly figured logs to be sliced into veneers, but Nakashima built his finest pieces from these cast offs. As he saw it, he was simply creating a new life for trees that had provided us with shade, food, fresh air and beauty for hundreds of years.

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2 responses

11 03 2008
thebee6

What a wonderful post! It’s thoughtful and observant, and a pleasure to read. Great to hear your voice again!

11 03 2008
foghorn

Yes it’s great to have you back, Egghead Jr.

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