Young as eight seems now, it’s when kids begin to separate themselves by their ability, especially in sports. Most of the rest of my team already had a couple of seasons beneath them, not to mention the countless games they played on their own during recess, after school, and during summer vacation. But, from the first drill, it was clear to me that I could outrun them all. And once we got into the season, I outran almost everyone else, too.
I wasn’t the tallest kid. I didn’t look all that imposing in my shoulder pads and helmet. And the game didn’t consume me, like it the rest of my team. Still, I applied myself. And by the end of that season, I was one of the best players in the league.
Looking back, I think that was my first brush with the energy.
All that meets the eye
In hunting down wood, I’ve come across a lot of interesting personalities. Meeting them and becoming entwined in their lives for a couple of weeks is always a welcome departure from crafting custom furniture, which can be an isolating experience. They pull me outside of my head and remind me of a world that never stops impressing me with its nuance.
More often than not, they have something they want to show me beyond the tree that brought me to them. They’ll lead me up to the attic or out to the garage where an heirloom or a precious flea-market find sits covered by a dusty sheet. They’re things they always imagined doing something more with, but they never got around to it.
When I take it off their hands, I’m bringing that dream with me, too. Their vision will become part of mine. Which is, in essence, how my creative process works for every piece of custom furniture I’ve ever built. What I do, it’s a contribution in the continuum. Sometimes I’m incorporating other ideas. Others, it’s more a matter of maintaining the integrity of the materials. Either way, I’m pulling from and feeding the very essence of life.
Everything in this world has an energy coursing through it. Natural or manmade, it was brought into being by a life-force. Once you pick up on that energy, suddenly, you notice it everywhere. And, just as quickly, it becomes clear that so much of what we take for granted in our lives is remarkable. A tree, for example, lives on even after it’s cut down. When I read a slab, I’m asking for it to inform my next decision. Sometimes, the pattern of the grain will pull me in, or the live edge. If I can honor that tree, draw out its best features, it elevates the design in a way that I wouldn’t be capable of doing on my own.
It’s kind of like when you bite into a late-summer tomato and you think, How is that possible? It’s just tomato, olive oil and a little bit of sea salt? But that’s all it takes as long as you’re taking the time to read each component and allowing it to guide you.
A life animated
An exquisite dining table is more than just a piece of custom furniture. It inspires a distinct emotional reaction. Likewise, a well-designed home is more than rooflines, and brickwork, and floor-to-ceiling windows. The architect labored over those blueprints thinking of the home as the centerpiece of a rich experience, not as an inanimate object.
As I’ve touched upon in recent posts, flashes of that existence are what I see when I enter a home. A kitchen warmed by the scent of something that’s been cooking slowly for a long time, laughter echoing through the dining and living rooms. In the bay window in the master bedroom, a woman sits, book in lap, watching the dog bark at the mailman on the other side of the front-yard fence. That’s the home’s energy. That’s what the architect brought into being and I’m concerned with restoring.
My ego would have me say, “I built this.” But I didn’t, not really. I paid close attention and I tapped into something that was already there. And by doing so, by allowing myself to listen rather than dictate, a piece of custom furniture was transformed into art.
That energy is within each of us, too. And it carries the same potential. I’d like to say I was keenly aware of it when I was a kid out on the football field. But, at that point in my life, I just assumed it was something that was a part of all of us. I didn’t think of attuning to it any more than I thought of ignoring it. It was only as I got older that I realized how easy it was to be driven to distraction and forget that it was even there.
But it is. Have no doubt. It is.