"[These days], when an American turns on the water and the lights in his apartment, he has little awareness of where these things come from; the greatest pity, however, is that he says, 'Who cares where it comes from, as long as it keeps on coming?'
In 1765 everything a man owned was made more valuable by the fact that he had made it himself or knew exactly from where it had come. This is not so remarkable as it sounds; it is less strange that the eighteenth -century man should have a richer and keener enjoyment of life through knowledge than that the twentieth-century man should lead an arid and empty existence in the midst of wealth and extraordinary material benefits.
That century of magnificent awareness preceding the Civil War was the age of wood. Wood was not accepted simply as the material for building a new nation - it was an inspiration. Gentle to the touch, exquisite to contemplate, tractable in creative hands, stronger by weight that iron, wood was, as William Penn had said, 'a substance with a soul.' It spanned rivers for man; it built his home and heated it in the winter; man walked on wood, slept in it, sat on wooden chairs at wooden tables, drank and ate the fruits of trees from wooden cups and dishes. From cradle of wood to coffin of wood, the life of man was encircled by it.
One of the remarkable things about wood is its self-expression. Whether as the handle of a tool, as a dead stump, or alive in a forest where every branch is a record of the winds that blew, it is always telling something about itself. This is why man has an affinity with wood not only as a mere material, but also as a kindred spirit to live with and to know. The children of a century ago were expert at knowing trees and their characteristics; they grew up thinking of trees as having human qualities and, almost Druidlike, they tried to acquire the qualities of the trees. A man might be as 'strong as an oak,' or 'bend like a willow'; if he had proper 'timber,' he'd become all the stronger from the winds of adversity."Life was harder then, yes; but man's knowledge in the age of wood was a more deeply ingrained, and more richly experienced, knowledge than what we learn and live today.