Some time ago, I was called upon by a friend to fell a silver birch tree. A tree often characterized by the fact that its timber has no use for anything apart from logs for the fire. My friend, a skilled carpenter, took the largest log from the base off to his workshop. The story of this ‘useless’ tree has some interesting parallels with the contemplative journey.
The Cup of a Carpenter
This birch tree tall and straight, is now consigned to fall
And so it yields to chainsaw cut and the shout of forester’s call
Its silver bark as ghostly white lies dead upon the ground
It falls again through chainsaw cut to brush and log and round
This life has faced the feller’s cut and smith’s refiners fire
Cut out and freed from strangling weed and overwhelming brier
And as this tree lies on the ground with no apparent use
It always seems to be in the way and the subject of abuse.
So what to do with all this wood that’s only good for hearth
As it’s too soft for any use, for tenon, stake or lath
But the biggest log is taken by my friend to turn on lathe
And set to form, with spinning cut of steel a curving swathe
So what to do with this old life, no medal, book or hoard?
It has no strength for fatherhood or seat on director’s board
And so it took one slicing cut with tongue of sharpened steel
To start the Master Carpenter’s work, upon His spinning wheel
Now my friend has finished his work, a cup of golden wood
A simple chalice cut from the log, from where the tree had stood
But it will never hold a drop, as the grain would soak it up
It must remain for all its days a simple empty cup
But empty is a marvelous thing, as full is fixed amount
This life has found a love so great, beyond meter, weight or count
From atom through to universe, it’s simply beyond all measure
This cup will always empty be, to speak of endless treasure.
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