Redwood Bowls made from the stump of a giant redwood cut down one hundred years ago.
I was visiting my old friend, and chief chunk hunting pal, Steve Donohue in Scotts Valley. He told me about giant redwood stumps that remain among the trees in the woods near his home. It seems the whole area was once covered with virgin redwood forest. The story is that the forest was clearcut after the "Great San Francisco Fire" and the logs were milled in Redwood City then carried on barges to rebuild San Francisco.
Stump of an ancient tree amid much younger redwoods.
He showed me an ancient stump. I noticed they are everywhere throughout the woods.. Hundreds and hundreds of the giant trees had been cut down and their stumps still haven't completely rotted one hundred years later although the centers are gone or some are soft as loam in the center, but the shells are firm and when you cut into them they even have that redwood color. The charred sides of most of the stumps are from the many forest fires that rage through the area every so often. .
I had reservations about cutting up one of those stumps. It seems they are remnants of lore to me. Seeing these things put a lot of history: the conquest of America, and its bounty and glory into a new perspective. I had sung the words with pride: "From the redwood forests to the Gulf Stream waters...this land was made for you and me." But confronted with a reality I could touch and sensing the power of what was there. I wondered, why do we Americans assume it was made for you and me? Native Americans didn't assume that. I, of course, was willing to assume this stump was there for me. It had been discarded. The wood of the tree that had value and can be found in San Francisco houses. But what about this stump? It stands in such stark contrast to the the trees that have grown up around it. They too are redwoods but the wood in them has none of the quality of a virgin tree. Even after a stump has been decaying one hundred years--the fire was 1906--the quality of wood is apparent. The tight and refined grain speaks of growing up close to others and sharing light and water and supporting one another from wind.
Standing on the tailgate of my truck, I started up my chainsaw.
And plunged my 28" saw blade fully into the stump. I cut a slab that would just fit in my truck.
I climbed on top of the stump and pried a chunk loose with a wrecking bar.
I went ahead and did it. The stump was on private land owned by a friend who invited me to take some; expressed hope I'd make him a bowl. I'm glad I had the chance to explore the realm of redwoods and I'm proud to share a remnant of those ancient and awesome trees with you. I guess I'll even give one to my pal.
The slab loaded, clean shirt; I'm headed back to LA.