There are four teak tables on my deck that have been exposed to 24 years of sun, wind, rain and snow. They’ve never been cleaned – I’ve never cleaned them. I meant to clean them this summer in the open air on the deck – soap them, scrub them with stiff brushes, hose off, soap again, scrape, hose off, let them dry, then sand and oil them.
The summer of 2013 was inhospitable in Northwestern Connecticut. It rained for two months straight, then went into the high 80s and 90s for the rest of the summer
So, this summer, I never turned on the outside water, which requires stooping around in the crawl space, careful not to kick up or knock down or crack my head on pipes, electrical wiring and beams, to find the lever (or is it a wheel?) that turns the water on. I didn’t bring the umbrella up from the crawl space, and I didn’t sit on the deck. When it’s 80 degrees here, it’s 100 degrees on my deck, but even that temperature and 7 hours a day of full sun don’t dissipate the mosquitos.
I put off cleaning the tables until next year.
Today, because I was procrastinating other household chores, I brought two of the tables inside for an experiment. I spread a tarp, got out sandpaper and the vacuum cleaner, and mixed up a cleaning solution from vinegar and grapeseed oil.
Half an hour into sanding – top, sides, underneath – I began seeing the original wood. I could sand for a long time and there would still be a lot of wood in that table.
It’s kind of a miracle, to be able to sand away so much wood and still have so much wood left.
It’s kind of like life.
But then I start to think too much.
- Wood doesn’t regenerate after it’s cut from the tree.
- Trees grow back thicker when they’re pruned.
- A tree will generate a small bud which will grow into a limb when pruned in the right place.
- A tree won’t regrow bark.
- A tree’s new limb won’t grow in the place where the old one came off.
- Only one percent of a tree’s volume is made up of living cells – just under the bark, in buds, leaves and root tips.
- All of the human body is made of living cells.
- The human body regenerates, cell by cell, a thousand times, until it doesn’t.
- Which parts of the body are bark, and which parts are cambium?
- Maybe we’re lucky we don’t regenerate limbs – arms growing out of our ears, legs sticking sideways off our hips.
What does it mean? There must be a relationship among all of these physical, natural facts.
Oh crap, don’t think too much! You’re too old to figure it out. It’s been a long, long time since you believed you could find a formula that would explain all of life. (You who hated math…)
What you do know is that you lost all your leaves and a big chunk of bark and most of your leaves grew back.