As part of our worship installation for Greenbelt festival I have been working on a station called ‘history’ which uses tree rings to bring to us a sense of being part of a larger historical context. I mentioned this before- here, and the sense of worshiping God with my hands as I have worked the wood has been deep and powerful.
I obtained a slice of Scots Pine from Benmore Botanical Gardens– it had been cut with a chainsaw as part of the ongoing maintenance programme, and the slice I chose was a rough quarter of a larger tree section. It was heavy, rough and dirty, and was intended to be split for the fireplace.
I then spent many hours planing the surface as smooth as I could, then sanding it with different sandpapers in order to reveal the grain and rings of the wood. Later I oiled the surface with teak oil.
The more I worked, the more beautiful the wood became.
In counting the tree rings, the tree was planted around 1920. At that time, Benmore was owned by the famous music hall star Harry Lauder who planted and landscaped much of the land in the wake of personal tragedy- losing his only son in the first world war, then later his wife.
Walking below big old trees can be a wonderful peaceful experience- the shelter of their branches is almost parental. But they can also bring to us a sense of our own emphemeral mortality…