“As I drove my iron wedge between the past and future, I heard a deafening crack of the fibers splitting, and the sharp tearing as each half parted from the other. Yesterday fell away, while I took tomorrow and gazed at its unbridled splendor. So beautiful, I decided we should keep it, and so I left the past behind and kept the future for us. I wanted to make sure it was perfect so I sanded and planed and planed and sanded. But the future was much rougher than I thought, and there were suddenly many more knots than before. I tried very hard to smooth it over, but I could not keep the splinters from surfacing and entering under my skin where they festered and pussed and swelled.
When finally I made it smooth I gave it to you, but you cried when you saw it. You said the future was ugly, and that it looked just like the past. I went back to find the other half to prove this wasn’t so, but by then the splinters in my hands had grown and I could not lift the iron wedge to cut them out. And so, I left you with the future and did not return.”
I wrote this text the winter of 2019. I had acquired the birch section from a mill in Escanaba, MI, a place not unfamiliar in it’s state of declined industry, soft beauty and jagged past. As I pondered how to acknowledge the rampant deforestation of the white pine, the brutality of indigenous genocide and the economic cavities left in these places after all the resources were tapped, I realized that as much as we would like to bill the present as different, the future as new, they are inextricably tied to the past. It’s a multi-layered truth. Metaphysically, historically, personally, there is no way to severe oneself from what has happened. Perhaps it is most visceral in relationships, this reality bites the in all of our encounters. I think that, at this moment, most of us know it’s essential to acknowledge the past, see it, touch it, know its story. It is the only path to honestly repair the built up scars of our interior and exterior landscapes.