EDITOR’S NOTE: Christine Burns Rudalevige writes the weekly Green Plate Special column for Source, which has been adapted into her first cookbook, “Green Plate Special” (Islandport Press, May 2017).
Thanks to Central Maine Power Company, Source writer Mary Pols and craftsman Jeff Raymond, a stunning turned maple bowl spends its days decorating my sideboard and its nights housing my family’s seasonal dinner salad. The bowl reminds me of the 125-year-old tree that stood in our yard until early January. It reminds me of that tree because it used to be part of it.
We (as well as our insurance company) have watched this particular maple closely since moving into the house in the summer of 2012. We’d argued among ourselves about whether the few green leaves sprouting each spring about 30 feet up were a stronger sign that the tree was alive than the big branches that rained down on our driveway during winter storms were a signal that it was dead. The electric company deemed the dying tree a menace to their service in our neighborhood and this winter made the decision to cut it down.
Once the deed was done, there were a dozen massive chunks of maple too big for us to move ourselves, let alone cut into usable firewood on our own. So we hired Tim Vail’s Tree Service to help us with the job. Before he hauled his gear over, Tim suggested we find a local woodworker who could put the bigger pieces to good use. Enter Mary, a Facebook as well as real-life friend, who responded to my social media query about local artisans looking for local mediums with which to work. She recommended her childhood friend, Jeff Raymond, who now lives and turns bowls in Richmond.
He spent an afternoon cutting the chunks into cross-sectioned rounds he could load into his truck. He explained how half the tree was still alive. All the more interesting the bowls will be, he said. I can attest to the fact. My bowl – a thank-you for the gift of natural material – is slightly oval, has stripes of honey amber, deep brown knots and even a few worm holes.
This story takes one more interesting turn, the bowls presented to the 2017 Source Award winners in recognition of their work in sustainability in Maine came from the selfsame tree. Life in full circle.