bjcharacterphoto © Bj Smith

by Bj Smith

Horseback on the mountain trail
That flanks the Brazeau River
Fragrance favors each inhale
And nature does deliver
Meandering in serpentine
Through tall straight growths of lodge pole pine

A forest fire passed this way
A hundred years or more ago
And how it started’s hard to say
Perhaps we’ll never really know
But like the Phoenix from the ashes
Elk now graze in lush green grasses

When pine trees grow uninterrupted
Tall and straight is how they stand
When life is simple, uncorrupted
They produce to beat the band
And then become our two-by-fours
That frame our windows and our doors

But trees that deal with nature’s strife
And brave the blizzards, nearly die
Who bare the scars of tortured life
But persevere as years go by
Are shinned and crafted true and sure
And then become our furniture

Because the burls and gnarly swirls
Are more than bruises from the storms
And like an oyster making pearls
Beauty comes in many forms
The character displayed in wood
Rewards a life, not always good

So if you’ve faced adversity
And maybe even felt defeat
But like the gnarled forest tree
You got back up and on your feet
Within you grit will register
The content of your character

© 2018, Bj Smith
This poem should not be reprinted or reposted without permission

Alberta outfitter Bj Smith has an endless number of good humorous poems, and he always puts on an enjoyable performance. A few weeks ago we shared one of his more serious poems, and when we asked for another along those lines, we were rewarded with this one.

He told about its inspiration:

As I watched him take the raw piece of tree trunk and clamp it into the lathe, I wondered to myself what was the point of this. I was twelve years old. My Father’s hobby was wood working, particularly with a lathe and he turned out beautiful
bowls, lamps and dishes he sculptured with chisels, sandpaper and centrifugal motion.

I asked him why he’d selected such a rough looking piece of wood and he began to tell me about character. He said that trees that grow without much stress in their lives, grow straight and tall and their grain is good for making lumber. The trees that are beaten and broken are not suitable for lumber usually because their grain is bent and irregular.

He said these trees are said to have character and the swirls, knots and crooked grain, when smoothed and shinned, are beautiful to behold. Wood with character is prized for furniture or in places where it will be displayed, while straight grained wood is often used for framing, trusses and places where strength is needed and hidden from sight.

Then he drew the parallel to the character that is found in people. He suggested that often people who do not suffer much in their life or do not experience much beyond their immediate community, can be narrow minded, intolerant and without much imagination. It’s the people who have endured hardship in their lives, traveled the world and experienced many different things that are the characters we admire like the wood that is pleasing to the eye.

So many years later, his words came back to me as I rode along the Brazeau River that defines the southeast border of Jasper National Park.

Bj sent along this photograph to pair with the poem.

Find Bj Smith’s schedule, videos, and more at his site, He also has a recent CD, books, and audio downloads at his site.

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