Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Fresh Cuts

November, 2011

After the storm, after power was restored, after the children were back in school and the husbands back at work, still the chainsaws droned for weeks, the air laced with a sawdust haze, as the work of removing thousands of fallen trees continued. Daily I was dazzled by the sight of so many trees rent apart, so many raw trunks, oozing sap, the exposed wood the hues of mushroom and egg yolk with streaks of charcoal, rust, chocolate, the demarcations of earlywood and latewood, the cornmeal sapwood, the burnt umber heartwood, the punctuating pith in the centers, and the centuries-old trees hiding for so long the secrets of their hollowed centers where for decades caverns quietly opened, supplanting the rotted heartwood—so many narratives of lives laid bare in rings and cavities, so much grain glaring, asking to be read, so much suddenly revealed to the eye that is normally hidden, internal.

On one such grain-filled post-storm morning I take my son to preschool, my mind so full of wood that I begin to read the grain of that day, trying to catch, in the weak autumn sunlight, the contours of its rings, but the cut is so fresh, the wood so commonplace and unremarkable, that it seems indistinguishable from all the other preschool mornings. Over time I know that the grain will grow more pronounced, darker, with a patina on the surface from the rubbing of hands, the rubbing of memory. What is merely today will then seem quaint, a relic, history: what we talked about, what we wore, what technologies we carried on our bodies, what crusades we were on, what toys we offered our children, what cars we drove, which five-point harnesses we secured our babies with, who we thought we were, what we made of our world. And also: how our minds were narrow and ignorant, what qualities we had in abundance, what qualities we lacked, which parts of our lives will become outdated, antediluvian, what kinds of new whorls and knots and kinks of structure hindsight will bring out, what kinds of innocence we brimmed with back before X and Y calamity occurred in the world, back then when we were all still living, back before the children, born and unborn, became the adults and usurped us and looked back at us with pity or disdain or envy or nostalgia. This is the raw wood of this day, my mind just wide enough to glimpse the surface of this new cut, and to see that every dawn is freshly cut wood exposed for the first time to light.

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