Trees may live for hundreds of years, but though they add to the beauty of nature they do not as such enter into human life. Though the life may have been long, finally they die and nothing is left. This is sometimes taken as a representation of human existence when it has no real purpose outside itself.

There is another kind of long life, where the tree is cut down and reduced to sections of wood. These are meticulously shaped to form furniture in patterns both useful and beautiful. Polished and polished for generations these can become treasured possessions. In some countries such as Japan the beauties of the grain are studied and those who can afford it have the ceilings made of thin planks specially chosen and matched for there exquisite grain. (This was not always understood by the troops of the occupying forces during the years after Japan’s defeat in 1945; the commandeered attractive Japanese houses but found these ceilings bare and unattractive. They put white paint over them to make it more homely thus ruining the grain forever). Again the wood may be carved into effigies of Gods and thus become a stimulus to the worship of the devout. Even a whole five storey temple such as Horyuji may be made entirely of carved and polished wood. In this way the wood takes on an imortality and a meaning far greater than any natural tree; Horuji, dating from about 700AD is the oldest wooden structure and one of the most beautiful.

© Trevor Leggett

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