Burls

Burls

The first time I went to the Redwoods I became fascinated with the redwood of the Redwoods.  The grain of the wood was broad.  The weight of the wood seemed to be lite.  I liked what I saw.  In fact, on the way home after that trip I purchased two piece of the wood.  From one I made a clock.  First time I had ever done something like that.  From the other I made a coffee table which was another first.

One of the elements of a Redwood I enjoyed this visit was what are called “Burls.”  A burl looks like a overgrown knot on the tree.  They stick out showing that they are not the norm.  The beautiful straight lines of the bark have been interrupted by this swirling, gnarly, weird looking thing that is called a burl.  That is what a burl looks like but, what is a burl?  Where did it come from? 8aTo answer that question I turned to the authoritative source to
which so many turn with their questions in our day and age: Wikipedia.  Here is what is shared.

‘A burl results from a tree undergoing some form of stress. It may be caused by an injury, virus or fungus. Most burls grow beneath the ground, attached to the roots as a type of malignancy that is generally not discovered until the tree dies or falls over. Almost all burl wood is covered by bark, even if it is underground.  Insect infestation and certain types of mold infestation are the most common causes of this condition.’

So, a burl is a tree’s response to either an injury or a foreign substance that attaches to it. Most of the time those fights are unseen.  Other times they are visible to all.  Sometimes burls are relatively small.  At other times they grow quite large (The largest, at 26 ft (7.9 m), occur in coast redwoods and can encircle the entire trunk; when moisture is present, these burls can grow new redwood trees. Wikipedia).

The place where most people see burls is not on the tree but in the beautiful wood products made by a variety of craftsmen.  Sometimes burls are made into bowls or other household art.  The most common place for me is when the burl has been made into a veneer and used on furniture or some form of paneling.

Burl wood is very hard to work with hand tools or on a lathe because its grain is twisted and interlocked, causing it to chip and shatter unpredictably. This “wild grain” makes burl wood extremely dense and resistant to splitting, which made it
valued for bowls, mallets, mauls and “beetles” or “beadles” for hammering chisels and driving wooden pegs.  I love the intricate and tight swirling patterns.  The wood is beautiful and catches my eye.8

There is a wonderful verse in the Bible that I believe reflects this natural pattern of a Redwood that turns an injury into something beautiful and good.  It is found in Romans 8:28.  It says: “And we know that in all things God words together the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purposes.” God works “In all things,” not just the good things.  God works in the tough things not just the nice things.  This is also the wisdom found in Ecclesiastes 3:11 where the writer affirms “He has made everything beautiful in its time.”

For me, the burl is a sign in nature that reminds me of what God wants to do with the injuries in my life and soul.  Few of the injuries are seen by the masses of people.  Most of them are hidden, deep within, deep in the roots of my life.  But they are there.  I know them.  Most of us know those injuries we care alone or share with only a few.  But, the Lord will take those injuries, and, when we allow God to do the work that only God can do, will take that event or that character flaw and will transform it into a work of beauty that can be used for God’s glory and the greater good of all.

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