Publisher column Feb 29

“Like a hand
from the dark house
came the intense
aroma
of firewood in the pile.

The aroma was visible
as if the tree
were alive.
As if it still breathed.”

Taken from Ode To the Smell of Wood by Pablo Neruda

When I was in my teens every morning, we rode our bikes to the Pither’s Point Park for swimming lessons. Swimming lessons for the higher levels of swimming always took place July mornings. One might suggest that riding our bikes the two miles to the point would be considered the warm-up and muscle stretchers. Swimming lessons were never cancelled, and we swam regardless of rain or wind.
From several blocks away one could smell the sweet odour of the logs that had been pulled under the Rainier Bridge and boomed in the bay along the highway. The sweet fresh smells of the spruce and pine logs that had been jostled and roughed up on their trip from points north and east on Rainy Lake made those early morning rides most enjoyable. Only after the next boom arrived would the fresh smells of pine would the smells return. You could believe that the wood had just been cut that day. Those smells have long left the community, but on an early summer morning you can still imagine the logs just resting in the bay filling the community with their wonderful smell of prosperity.
There are hundreds of different varieties of wood and each has its own scent. Some are pleasing. Others are not. It might be that cedar is the most pleasant aromatic scent from all the woods found in the Rainy River District.
I hadn’t thought about the smells of the different types of wood until recently. At Christmas time I make solid pine toddler rocking horses. I look for relatively clear white or red pine and then begin the cutting, sanding and gluing until they are finished. Pine is the smell of Christmas and the pine smells fill my wood shop with the wonderful smells that seep into the whole house. A fresh cut on a board is all that it takes to fill the shop with Christmas smells.
I have planed rough boards of apple and cherry wood and the wood leaves a sweet smell in the air. Perhaps it explains why both apple and cherry wood are often preferred for smoking meat.
Recently, I was planing cedar and as each board passed through the planer the cedar smell grew in intensity. Charlene Mallory sells an intense cedar bar of soap, but the smells from those fresh shavings is even more intense. A week before I was reducing some oak and ash by planing it from a half inch to a quarter inch. The hard wood almost burning, passing through the planer as the planer removed only 1/16th of an inch on each pass. The local ash left a swampy odour in the wood shop and the red oak was acrider.
It is one of the pleasures I find making things in my work shop.

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