Over a year ago a friend who harvests timber presented me with a freshly cut maple burl.  Soon afterward I roughed it out and put it on a shelf to dry.  This past week I mounted it on my lathe to finish turning it.  In addition to its beautiful grains, it yielded a valuable insight.

A burl is an unusual growth that results from a tree undergoing the stress of an injury, virus or fungus. While the burl may be detrimental to that portion of the tree, it is prized for its beauty and rarity by those who work with wood.  Its grain is twisted and interlocked, extremely dense and inevitably distinctive.  These same qualities lead both to its unpredictability – it can shatter easily – and its unique character uncovered by the gouge.

Turning the burl got me thinking about the gnarly bumps in my own life and the stresses that led to their formation.  With perspective from standing on the other side of them I also realized that without those injuries and setbacks, I would not be where I am today.  Nor would I have the wisdom I have experienced through their healing and the joy of the new opportunities that were opened to me.

What about you?  Are there some rough patches that are disrupting your grain?  If so, how can you gently turn them to expose their lessons and the possibilities they reveal?