LOGS TO LUMBER
The school down in the village was growing
their fledgling gardening program for second graders.
They had a little greenhouse and needed a storage shed.
I worked with them to design it and volunteered
to provide the lumber.
I took the whole class on a field trip into my woods.
I showed my design and talked about what lumber we needed.
So these logs you see in the painting were selected by me
and the kids in the woods as live trees, standing timber.
I showed them how I cut a tree, and how I pull it out.
Some had been in the woods with their dad, or grandfather,
or mother, but for most it was quite novel.
There’s a rhythm to sawing. The log comes up.
First, you square it off: that can take some time
to get the surfaces flat. That feels like work.
Then the boards come off, and you feel you’re on
the downhill slope. And then you start all over.
That rhythm is interspersed with other rhythms:
maintaining the saw, moving logs, sorting logs.
I might spend half an hour, two or three times a day,
just getting the right ones lined up.
What shall I make with this log?
Is it too knotty to be structural lumber?
Should I make a beam?
Should I make siding boards?
You never know how each log opens up.
Sometimes it’s a wonderful surprise,
the quality and character of the lumber.
Sometimes, there’s internal checking, cracks and splits
you couldn’t detect from the outside.
Hardwood logs, it’s the grain, or the color, or texture.
Those can be wonderfully exciting, or not.
The flow occurs when there’s adequate time
and right mind, meaning every little task required
is a part of the whole, not some obstacle or annoyance.
Morning shadows. Hasn’t warmed up yet.
Ground’s probably frozen solid, just like today.
The peavey’s not in deep.
It’s spacious. You can see in the woods
forever and ever. In the sunlight,
I’d be turning back and forth, like a rotisserie.
I’m in the pristine air and brilliant light
and in my flow, and it’s April. We made it.
54, woodsman, sawyer,
After childhood summers,
bonding with neighbors,
and building on his family
land, Taylor made a
“conscious decision” as
a young man to settle
there and carve out a
livelihood. In foliage
season, Robert Frost
preferred this ridge as
Log to Lumber, 2009, Oil on panel 12” x 18”, Collection of the Vermont Folklife Center