Missive the Sixty-Sixth


DATELINE: Friday, March 30, 2001, at 2230 hours CDT.
Conway, Arkansas, USA

By D. Ebenezer Baldwin Bowles
CornDancer & Company

I'm sawdusty. Whatever wood last I worked, I can smell it hours after the saws and sanders fall silent.

At sunset tonight in CornDancer's shop, I was invigorated, engulfed in the pregnant moistness of early spring's cool air, and hot on the successful end of a fine day's work. I was racing with time, too racing like a terrestrial turtle against the May Fly.

I worked a few sticks of Ouachita Mountain sycamore, slicing it into crosscut sections with the carbide teeth of a radial arm blade, running its edges across the knives of the jointer, ripping it into slabs, and rolling the flat surfaces of the pinkish-gold lumber beneath the howling knife of the yellow DeWalt planer.

The rough cuts of kiln-dried hardwood, selected and purchased from the sawmill at noon, lay on a shop table at the day's end, ready to be shaped and smoothed and joined on the morrow into some utilitarian delight.

Hours later now, after the bath and dinner and deep gulps of water, the aroma of the sycamore lingers. I want to describe the fragrance, but how does one describe a fragrance? I can discern the difference between the mellow, red-winy aroma of cypress and the pungent, tart scent of yellow pine; between the musky, cut-hay richness of walnut and the bright, nutty fragrance of red oak but sycamore?

Have you smelled a fig? Blend the bouquet of a fresh summer's fig with the scent of moist, live roots.... And you might have it, the elusive perfume of the sycamore.

Three days ago I saw the high mountain pasture where sycamores grew beside the ash and the oak, but how can I describe the majesty and grandeur of my view from the pasture's gentle, southerly slope? It would take a chapter, one like Hardy's when he described the Egdon Heath, but I've nary a chapter to spare. Not tonight. I settle for the memory.

on Tuesday, April 3, 2001.
That's the plan.
Most times the plan pans out,
like gold from the mountain river.
Sometimes, however: nothing.

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| 2001 by David Ebenezer Baldwin Bowles |
| Send e-mail | 501.450.7989 |