Why is it that so many people love wood? Whether it be fine wood furniture, wooden vases and bowls, hardwood floors, barn wood beams, reclaimed wood bar tops, butcher block countertops, we seek it out. Perhaps we love wood because it connects us to the natural world and allows us to bring a bit of the outdoors inside. But for me, it is more than that.
First, I love the forest. I grew up in Sherwood Forest, with a huge wooded area right across the street from my house. I spent most of my youth exploring the forest and playing with my siblings and neighbors from sunrise to sunset. We built forts, went on treasure hunts, and played hide and seek in the woods. As I grew older, I found that I was drawn to the forest as less of an adventure and more of a peaceful escape. A place to get away from all the hustle and bustle of the city, to regroup and re-energize. Fortunately, I live in Arizona and can venture to Oak Creek Canyon often to hike and just sit and look at the trees. I am just amazed at how they grow, how much history stands before me, how they survive with the weather, and how beautiful they are in aggregate. I could stare at them for hours, gently blowing in the breeze. Forests have continued to be a part of my life’s story. My husband actually proposed to me in the middle of the Coconino National Forest 27 years ago. And I just now returned from visiting my favorite place on earth, the Bamboo Forest, at the end of the road to Hana in Maui, Hawaii.
The reason I love wood is likely a natural extension of my love for trees. Wood can overload your senses, from the look, feel and smell of it.
Wood has a feeling of life, because it came from something living. And wood seems to have a story to tell. Certainly, the grain indicates the years of its life and the character of the grain can show a bit about the conditions it was grown under. Wood grain has a “visual texture” to it that I am drawn to. Some wood species, like hickory and ash, have such pronounced and unique grain patterns. And walnut has these delightful twists in the grain and significant color variation between dark brown heartwood and creamy blond sapwood. There is much character in the feel of wood too, such that I find myself always running my hand along the top of wood, regardless of its finish. I like to feel the rough texture of weathered barn board, the curves and dents of hand-scraped planks, the silky surface of finely sanded raw wood, and the smooth surface of fine furniture. And wood can have some glorious scents that evoke special memories: cedar wood’s unique and powerful aroma reminds me of my parents’ cedar chest and fresh cut pine always takes me to Christmastime. In Arizona, the smell of burning mesquite wood in the winter months is very common and brings back memories of camping in the woods.
Finally, I love wood because it can be crafted into functional and beautiful homes, pieces of furniture, tools, art, décor, and more. Because wood varies so much, no two pieces of furniture are identical when made of the same wood species. And so much of what we build from wood can last lifetimes. What a wonderful tribute it is to a tree, that can grow for centuries and then be fashioned into something else that can live on for another century.