I bought a bowl yesterday.
It’s 4½ inches in height and 9¼ inches in diameter, so, much bigger than a soup bowl or a salad bowl. I might use it for a serving bowl sometimes, or maybe it’ll sit on the table keeping a few apples. (It’s nice to have art you can use everyday.) It’s turned from burl maple that was sourced from a local (Mitchell County, NC) forest and allowed to air dry.
Those are its specs, but they’re not the reason I bought a bowl. A closer look at its inside reveals the reason I chose this particular bowl:
It’s easy to see its imperfections. The grain has grown in an irregular manner due to some kind of stress – maybe injury from insect infestation or a fungal infection. The discolorations in the wood suggest mold – yes, mold can have some pretty interesting color. The irregularities are part and parcel of a “burl,” an unsightly, bulbous malignancy that often is attached to the tree’s roots, though sometimes is attached to its trunk.
Oddly, among artists burls are highly prized for their beauty and rarity. Burl wood can be very hard to work with; because of its twisted grain it can chip and shatter unpredictably. But the very thing that makes it difficult to work with is the thing that makes a high-quality end product: the twisted grain makes the product resistant to splitting.
The burl can probably be a metaphor for many different aspects of human life, but I don’t really want to overthink it right now.
I’ll just content myself with admiring it as something beautiful and useful that came from something initially devastating. Maybe from time to time it'll symbolize something I am experiencing in my own life. Either way I’ll bless the kind, gentle, and imaginative soul who was able to recognize potential, and then use his talent to fulfill that potential.
I bought beauty and function and life lessons, all in the shape of a bowl, yesterday.