Despite the Seattle-like weather the northeast has been experiencing as of late, temperatures are slowly getting warmer and the sun is returning, even if only in brief interludes. Soon, cargo shorts and tank tops will be my go-to work attire of choice.
In the colder months, we all seem to go into a hibernation of sorts. Fire pit gatherings every weekend cease and more time is spent indoors. Bodies are clothed in multiple layers. And people seem less likely to want to talk to each other when out and about.
Because of this, I’m shocked when I first venture out in a tank top, temporarily forgetting my life’s marks.
“What happened?” People stop me in stores to ask bluntly. It’s usually store employees at the checkout counter.
This always throws me, whether I have just emerged from my winter hibernation or not. Maybe because I don’t initiate conversations with strangers, but I also think it’s really forward, especially if you just meet someone and you’ll probably never cross paths again.
My body’s been through a lot for its age. One of Chris’s favorite phrases is, “It’s not the age, it’s the mileage.” My mileage is high. And my body reflects that. But I thank God daily for a body that is still able to do a majority of things I love to do. Perhaps it’s a bit of pride or an unwillingness to accept my limitations, but the more someone tells me I can’t or shouldn’t do something, the more I want to do it, and then I’m faced with the conundrum of whether I’m doing something good to stretch my limits or doing something detrimental because of my own stubbornness. I still haven’t accepted that I won’t ever be able to do a real pull-up again. (Yeah, the chin-up bar in the kitchen will tell you otherwise. A girl can dream.)
Working with reclaimed wood has a lot of symbolism to me. I am drawn to the oldest boards, the ones with the biggest knots, the most rings, the roughest parts – but only recently did I realize why.
There’s an odd sort of empathy that I feel for the wood. Barn wood boards and pallet pieces are bound to have their imperfections. They are old. They are weathered. They are beaten. They have existed for perhaps a century or two, or maybe traveled across the ocean from the other side of the world. As a result, they will at times show that natural wear and tear of life.
As an artist, I create custom pieces that highlight irregularities and unusual knots and random wood grains. In turn, products are a bit whimsical, wonky, and embrace the quirkiness of the wood in its golden years: weathered, old, and having lived a good life.
Last year, when someone at a store looked at me and said, “Wow, betcha wish that miracle scar cream was on the market when that happened to ya,” I managed to excuse myself without showing any emotion, other than turning bright red. I didn’t know how to respond to him. Society puts so much pressure on women to look a certain way. Countless media sources bombard us with messages that scars and imperfections should be hidden. Covered. Altered with surgery. It’s sad when our unique features aren’t always embraced, because they are what make us…unique. The old tree with the strange growth on the side that makes a slab irregular also makes it precious. Will you ever find another table just like that? The 200-year old piece of barn wood that is brittle and crumbling at the edges has seen more history than you or I will ever see in our lifetimes. And you have the chance of having that be a piece in your home to pass down to future generations. When I run across old wood, it’s a gift – one I don’t take lightly. I can’t wait to showcase it to a customer, and when people share my enthusiasm – like when a customer jumped up and down and clapped her hands with glee when she saw the big ol’ knot in the middle of the board that was being used for her piece – I LOVE that.
A stranger in a makeup aisle recommended a specific concealer to help mask my scars. Why hide them? I thought after hearing her unsolicited advice. These are my life’s tattoos. Each scar is a symbol of something that has healed me, helped me, humbled me, or necessarily harnessed me. I look at wood similarly. You can tell a lot about what a tree has been through if you look at the grain. The scars. The ridges. The imperfections. And where there are scars, the tree is stronger.
Every person we meet has been on a life journey that has shaped them and scarred them. Outward and inward scars remind us that we’ve lived. Loved fiercely. Lost deeply. Because, if you live, you are bound to get scars. Some are just more visible to the world than others.
“The Cabinet” is made out of the most weathered barn wood boards I have ever seen and is finished with an original barn door. And every wood plank has nooks and crannies carved by extremely determined carpenter bees. And yes, I’m aware that this sorta looks like an outhouse. (If you want to use it as such, by all means…) I didn’t think of that until I put on the door. Hm.
The finished piece after lugging it outside once the rain stopped:
Please email me if you are interested in purchasing this piece! It’s tall, as you can see. (I’m tall.) Like 6′ 4″ tall. (Not me. The Cabinet.) Perfect height for a privy, come to think about it…