I wonder if they just packed a few things and left. Was the departure forced, desperation, or escape? Why was the house not purchased and repaired? Why are these ghosts left behind to decay? These relics of the past all have stories to tell but remain still and quiet. Did most of these dreams perish from the depression of the dirty thirties? Each one is a reminder of hope gone by and the grapes of wrath. Will our home suffer this demise or persevere with someone’s tender care? We have labored for forty-five years with blood and sweat to build it.
Lord, I am a builder, not a polished builder, as I am not a polished writer or photographer. Yet in their coarseness, the things I build, write, or photograph are testimonies told. I pray the work I do honors, You Lord. The ceiling we installed under Your supervision is beautiful. The Cedar is harvested, used, worn, removed with distress, and reinstalled with every imperfection and wound. One small piece has a tire print on it. The tongue and groove cedar of the ceiling becomes a historical document. Every blemish, every nail hole, tells a timeless story, seed to the tree, material for building, and for the eye to enjoy. The wood has been used and reused again. I love the smell of fresh-cut cedar.
Cedar is a tree that holds significant value in the Bible. Cedar was the envied tree in Eden; it built Solomon’s palace,
Now Hiram king of Tyre sent envoys to David, along with cedar logs and carpenters and stonemasons, and they built a palace for David. ~ 2 Samuel 5:11
once a cedar in Lebanon,
with beautiful branches overshadowing the forest;
it towered on high,
it’s top above the thick foliage.
I made it beautiful
with abundant branches,
the envy of all the trees of Eden
in the garden of God.
God, You love the wood. You created and placed the tree in the garden for man to steward and use to build. The reason Jesus was a carpenter, the son of a carpenter, becomes evident. Jesus, the only begotten Son of God, is the tree’s creator and loves the wood produced by the tree. God placed the Cedar tree in Eden. The Cedar became the garden’s envied tree. So the Cedar could be the tree of life in Eden.
I often think of how Jesus built from wood. For the answer, I go to Exodus 25-27. God gave detailed instructions on building and the materials for building The Ark of The Covenant and The Tabernacle. Jesus would be an exact builder, not an “it’s good enough” one. Because Jesus came into this world as a simple man: he must have designed elegant, effective, simple, practical items.
I love how wood feels and smells as I work it. All manufactured things feel cold and lifeless as I use them. I find it impossible to become passionate about drywall plastics and metals. I love wood! The perfect house for me is made of all-natural materials. But modern building codes driven by insurance companies limit the use of natural materials in house-building.
We have become a throw-away society. Most people consider the labor required to deconstruct a building with care and repurpose the wood and stone as not worth the gain. The house we built has brick from the Great Northern Railway Roundhouse built in 1902. The bricks tarnished with smoke from the steam engines in it. Before the wrecking ball destroyed the old hospital nurses’ training building, I begged to go in and collect doors, door hardware, and trim. The sink in our laundry room sat in the iron pile on the farm for thirty years, a patina of rust and tarnish making it one of a kind.
North Dakota is populated with abandoned buildings left to rot and fall. The Yellow Pine in our old entryway is sourced from an 1800s cabin.
My wife collected wood siding from the family farm barn before her brother razed it. She asked me if I would reconstruct the front door of Grandma’s house. It had sat out in the rain for forty years—it is now the slider to our bedroom toilet.
We have plenty of projects awaiting our time: Grandma’s wood cook stove, the buffet from Grandma’s cabin, Cabinet build using the leftover trim from Hawaii, finishing the old garage into a woodworkers shop using materials collected from the dumpsters at other build sites, Fixing the dining table and chairs from the family farm, Using the trim from the hospital to trim the doors and windows of what we call, “The Crows Nest”—I could go on, but I will save you.
I want to use the new wood shop to build art from some of these abandoned Dakota prairie structures and share the history with those who could use a table, chair, door, or other Dakota antiquities. I also plan a Photo coffee table book called forgotten dreams, the story of abandonment. More on the book later. For now, please enjoy the pictures and the stories they tell. Next time you are about to throw anything away, think, “is there anything I can repurpose this into?