My epiphany in lumber took place in a lumberyard off the Taconic State Parkway while searching for wood for my remodeled study. Pine is the common wood for building in the Adirondacks. The local restaurant lined its walls with rough hewn pine, covered with the skin of a black bear and a mounted trophy bass. My first home, nestled in a grove of white pine trees, was also finished in pine. Therefore, the architect who redesigned my study assumed I would use pine for the walls and the built-in desk. I had a different thought, reinforced when I visited the lumberyard replete with all types of salvaged wood.
Split beams from a barn made of hickory were neatly stacked in one corner, marks left by an adze lining the wood. Weathered timber from a rustic fence and a torn down old schoolhouse were waiting for a rebirth. The foreman showed me lumber that had been dredged from a river then dried in a kiln. Hemlock evoked memories of logs once hauled by steamer along Brant before the original stream was dammed to form Brant Lake. I considered wood that had been part of a bin used for curing mushrooms. A musty aroma still rose from the barrels. And, to partner with the mushrooms, planks from a Kentucky tobacco barn retained the slightest fragrance of the Southern tobacco fields.
After my visit to the lumber yard I decided not to build in pine. I wanted my study to be unique. On the walls I would hang pictures from Provence of poppies, cherries, sunflowers. The desk would be a resting place for the lavender I had picked on one of my trips to the south of France and the shelves would hold my prized collection of books, Hemingway, T.S. Eliot, a large 1720 folio of the works of Josephus, a Jewish historian who chronicled the wars against Rome. These items symbolized an important aspect of my personality.
After days of deliberation I decided on a fine oak from a schoolhouse that was built sometime in the 1800s. This would certainly fit my love of literature! After setting aside the most interesting planks for the desk top, I imagined the origin of the schoolhouse. Perhaps a rural town in Kentucky or Virginia? The wood might even come from a nearby Adirondack town. Tupper Lake, Inlet, Blue Mountain. I would never know the background of this lumber, however, when I enter my study, I can fantasize, create my own world, for there are many untold stories in the golden hued oak.
The wood may come from trees that died decades ago but the imagination can bring the past to life—in whatever form I wish.