Beauty In Wood

I've completed every official form and procedure necessary to establish qualification with FEMA to receive compensation via S.4186 for excess losses incurred beyond insured assets as a result of the Hermit's Peak/Calf Canyon Fire. It's not a given that bill will ever actually be enacted into law and its programs fully funded, due to politics, but it's best to at least be prepared to quickly move forward if it is. Too much has been lost to languish in grief and simply go belly up while governmental entities drag their feet. So with that bother of paperwork taken care of for now, recent communication from a guitar designer/builder creating fine functional works of art in Vilnius, Lithuania has deftly turned my attention away from such brooding thoughts and mundanities of bureaucracy toward sublime beauty in wood.


I've been fascinated by nature's ability to produce intense loveliness in its woods from the moment a tree sprouts from earth. Having built, lived and worked in a remote, off grid home/studio surrounded by unspoiled forestland over a timespan of twenty-two years, the experience of witnessing its slow, majestic growth opened my eyes and mind to how complex and beautiful both the process of tree growth and results of that prodigious growth are.


Rapolas Gražys is creating a fretted electric guitar using a single piece of Quilted Tiger Maple for its top even as life steadily rises and resumes, at pace, from ashes of the wildfire. This is my first glimpse of that top wood and it is a stunning piece of nature's art:


He is using Ash precisely tempered by carefully controlled heat for the sides of the guitar:


And a multi-piece, through-body neck with delightful opposing grain patterns in each piece:


Losses beyond the house and its contents include total destruction of twenty-five acres of lush, old-growth forestland surrounding it. That dense forestland consisted of mature stands of lodgepole, ponderosa, white and red pine, blue and Engelmann spruce as well as smatterings of white and Douglas fir, Gambol oak, aspen, apple, cedar, red maple and a bit of limber pine too. Through careful stewardship of this small spread of forestland it had flourished for decades and I had intended to responsibly harvest wood from it for various uses, including construction of fine specialty furniture pieces to replace aged, worn, commercially-manufactured furniture in the house. Since the fire was caused by a U.S. government agency, the President of the United States has promised all of its victims will be fully compensated for injury, damage and loss related to this prescribed burn gone wild. Politicians throughout recorded history are infamously adept at making promises never kept, so now I wait as patiently as possible, filling personal time with activities necessary for rebuilding the relocatable portions of my homestead, specifically: its music studio.


Things have changed a lot since the meager FLUXFAZE studio was first built and equipped with musical instruments and sound/recording equipment. Things are smaller and simpler now in terms of sound and recording equipment pieces. They're much higher quality and easier to use, too, in so many ways. As for instruments, a mix of brand new custom-made and higher-end handmade choices are replacing old prosumer stuff which served my purposes well for just over twenty-two years before the fire. Prosumer gear now seems inadequate for what I want to accomplish between now and the day I draw my final breath. Highest quality instruments are required. So I'm ramping up my game quite a bit this time around.


Replacements for fretted bass, mandolin and resonator guitar have all arrived and while waiting for sundry accessories for those three instruments as well as a new resonator 5-string banjo scheduled to arrive next week, I listen to recordings made by masters of these kind of instruments playing tunes like "Choctaw Hayride" and songs like "All The Lilacs In Ohio". Listening spurs dreaming and dreaming sparks composition ideas, making me eager to get back into creating original acoustic music again. Rapolas' Lava Drops guitars will become an integral part of the electric side of music creation process in the studio when they arrive.


Destruction of the house and everything in it I couldn't carry away before wildfire swept through is irksome, to say the least, but even more so is loss of surrounding ancient forest. A rich, old stand of swaying, sighing, creaking, ultra-valuable, intensely living, beautiful wood. That loss is a deep pain impossible to shake off. The forest will not regrow to its previous magnificence in my remaining years of life. Focusing on gearing back up to make music again helps deaden that constant, heart-wrenching pain, some.


In the meantime Rapolas works away in his studio choosing and shaping fine wood into the PHOENIX Drop and into a fretless electric guitar called FLUXFAZE Drop, too. Anticipation of seeing and playing the completed instruments further distracts burned mind from thrashing over negative things which cannot be changed. Rapolas' appreciation of beauty in wood is as comforting as it is inspiring.

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