I remember hearing a story once about an old American Indian elder who went into the forest with his grandson to choose a tree branch that they could carve into a flute.
After selecting the right one, they cut the branch from the tree and brought it back home. The boy prepared his hand tools, eager to begin crafting the branch into a musical instrument, but the old man stopped him, saying:
"wait, we need to let the wood rest a while".
When I heard that story I was much younger, and to be honest I just figured it was one of those Native American spiritualism things. Over the years though, as I've spent some time getting to know wood and it's many personality traits, I've realized that there was a much more practical side to what the tribal elder said to his grandson.
Wood grows, solid and strong as part of a living organism.
It is well hydrated, maintaining a certain amount of moisture.
Then, when the tree comes down and the wood is cut into boards, the whole world changes for those tightly knit cellulose fibers.
When wood comes to Venice and is delivered at a squero, the boards are laid out carefully to "season". The squerarioli who use them want to make sure the boards have gotten any movement out of their system. When wood is immediately used, it can sometimes do strange things. It can have a mind of it's own, bending or splitting in ways that could affect the bouyancy of a vessel.
Visit any squero in Venice and you're likely to see wood "resting", before it finds new life as part of a beautiful boat. In english speaking circles some say "let's allow the wood to weather a bit first".
The wood you see in this stack may very well be the same wood you see a few years from now - fashioned into different parts of a magnificent gondola, all black and shiny as she glides down the Grand Canal.
I wonder if it will miss being part of a tree then.
perhaps I'm attributing too much personality to the wood.
Or maybe it's that tiny sliver of Chippewa Indian in me coming out from high up in my own family tree.