Spalting

Over the past two months I have been back into theology, worship, and the practical work of sustaining life-giving conversations in our church. And so nothing suitable for journaling has been showing up in my mind.  

I hope that the writing, at least, will eventuate in something to share, but right now you don’t want to hear about the deleterious impact of the filioque in the Western Church’s Nicene Creed. (If you do, send me a note separately…)

However, for the sake of sanity and life I continue turning. We recently cut a dead limb out of an old sugar maple in our yard and discovered that it was laced with early stages of rot, what woodworkers call “spalting.” Enough of it was still solid enough to yield a set of bowls that people find unusually satisfying, so I thought I would share some pictures with you.

And, of course, spalting reminds us of how we old folks are spalting as well. The lines of care, loss, and fatigue begin to etch our face and hands. Our society seeks to hide them, but in nature you can find in them a special kind of beauty.

Each set of lines tells a unique story. Each gnarled cavity contains a secret that must be hidden from the world if it is to continue its silent work of reminding us how dependent we are on nutrients that come from far beyond our reach.

7 Spalting bowls on white linen

And even as those nutrients fade we still can yield up a beauty that escapes the casual control of the world. The lines trace their own itinerary, each turn a new negotiation with invisible blockages and pathways. The bowls appear like palms whose lines reveal a memorial to a life lived in usefulness and beauty. We only have to pay attention and be patient. Let the spalting tell your story.

3 thoughts on “Spalting”

  1. Thank you for putting aging in perspective. As we age our appearance may change, but our purpose and usefulness continue to evolve. A green tree branch provides a perch for the woodpecker, but would not have been ready to be harvested and transformed into bowls.

  2. Morning 🌅, Bill.
    Thanks for this perspective – true and affirming!
    PS: might you save a ‘bowl’ for me?
    Blessings & Peace. RogerD.

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