The ties that bind the War of 1812 to chainsaw grease to a peach pit.
Tonight at dinner, I sliced a peach and put it in a bowl on the table. My husband is camping on a glacier in Alaska this week, so dinner at our house has been casual. In addition to the peach, my kids and I ate garlic bread and hotdogs.
“Please pass the cherry bowl,” I said to my son.
“It’s a peach bowl,” he countered.
He was wrong though, the bowl is a cherry bowl, even as it sat holding peachers, and it’s one of the few things I’d run back into my burning house to save if I ever had the opportunity.
The bowl is about nine inches across the top and two inches deep. The red rings of the wood spill out towards the edges like ripples on a pond. I’m not sentimental or spiritual, but when I put my finger on the center ring, it feels a little bit like time traveling.
Working backward, I know the bowl was turned on a lathe in upstate New York in 2017. I know this because the man who turned it signed his name with a woodburning pen and dated it.
Before that, I know the wood came from a cherry tree that grew on my grandparents' farm in upstate New York. For as long as I can remember, my family has harvested firewood from the flat, fertile woodlots that my family has owned for generations.
Growing up, everyone I knew heated their house with wood, so the rhythm of finding, cutting, splitting, drying, and stacking wood is ingrained in my senses as deeply as the change of the seasons.
One November, prior to 2017, we were visiting my hometown. My daughter was a toddler my husband was still new enough to my family that he was eager to ingratiate himself. Also, he loves chainsaws.
Everyone in my family loves chainsaws.
My dad suggested that we spend the afternoon using big chainsaws to cut down a dead cherry tree in the back lot behind my grandpa’s barn. Grandpa died several years before, but my grandma still lived on the farm. So the blades were sharpened, the gas tanks were topped off and we all headed out into the field.
The tree was enormous. Two grown men together couldn’t fit their arms around it. It towered above the neighboring trees…