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July 31, 2008 Peeling Poplars

Did you know that bark peels right off trees? I mean *right off*. Get a piece started, and you can strip a tree naked.

Maybe not all trees. But definitely poplars. I spent all morning peeling the bark off of poplars – sfsaf – and was stunned at how easy it was. Sure, it takes work (and did a number on my fingernails, which I was using in conjunction with an adz), but I had never dreamed that a tree would so readily surrender its protection.

Also, it was fascinating to see how many of the scars, burrs, knots, etc, visible on the outside of the tree, are only bark-deep. Once you strip away the outer layers, the core of the tree is clean and smooth. I had plenty of time, peeling away with my nails and adz, to think about this as a metaphor. How much time and emotional/mental effort do we lavish on thickening our skin, toughening up, protecting ourselves from the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune? And how little of that is actually needed? The stripped poplar trunks – most well over 20 feet long – will serve as roof beams in the hotel that Baba is building, up by the lake. But it’s the naked beams that Baba needs for construction, not the gnarled, toughened tree trunks. How much of our protective shells actually get in the way of our usefulness? How much more could we accomplish if we left ourselves open and vulnerable? Also, the ease with which even the toughest knots gave way to smooth wood gave me hope that human hearts are as easily uncovered. The wood seemed to want to be laid bare, to show its pure, whole, useful self to the world…

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Think local. Act global. Learn more about the Peace Corps