- What is your favorite word?
- What is your least favorite word?
- What turns you on creatively, spiritually or emotionally?
- What turns you off?
- What is your favorite curse word?
- What sound or noise do you love?
- What sound or noise do you hate?
- What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?
- What profession would you not like to do?
- If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates?
Those are the questions that James Lipton asks the famous actors who appear on the show Inside the Actor’s Studio. The questionnaire is based on one proffered by a French TV personality, Bernard Pivot; a name Mr. Lipton enjoys pronouncing with reverence. Most people who watch the show aren’t so concerned about Mr. Pivot. They just want to hear celebrities respond to the questions. Specifically, they want to hear Johnny Depp utter his favorite curse word. It’s “shit,” by the way.
While I enjoy the expletive recital, the question I find most captivating is, “What sound or noise do you love?” My answer is the sound of rain. Unfortunately, for those wondering what it is about the sound of rain I love, I will not explain my answer here. Instead, I will pose a different question that Mr. Lipton and Mr. Pivot fail to ask: what aroma do you love or hate?
I presume this is not part of the questionnaire because odds are good everyone would say they love the smell of bacon and hate the smell of poop. That’s certainly true for me, but if the question were rephrased to exclude bacon (or poop), I would tell Mr. Lipton that I love the smell of freshly sawn wood.
I spent the better part of last weekend building shelves in my garage, and the process involved sawing wood. My weapon of choice is a 15” handsaw. While I’m not averse to power tools, the handsaw is a blessedly simple and effective device, akin to a santoku kitchen knife. For my shelf project, I cut a half dozen 1 x 10” boards to length. After reducing the boards to their proper shelf width, I stepped away from my efforts to consume calories. When my hunger was satisfied, I opened the door to the garage and breathed deeply the perfume of freshly cut pine. It was the incense of craftwork, toil, and accomplishment. I am no finish carpenter, but I have spent many hours in my makeshift workshop cutting and joining pieces of wood, and those are some of the most satisfying moments in my life. Whether a simple shelf, a storage cabinet designed to look like a Marshall amplifier, or an Adirondack-ish lawn chair, I love to build things from wood. The smell of fresh cut lumber calls to mind the time spent creating and enjoying these objects. Deeply satisfying.
Perhaps the only aroma I love more than freshly sawn wood is the intoxicating smolder of fruit wood wood as it kisses food on my grill. Breathing in the lingering smoke of Saturday’s barbecue feast was how I ended my weekend of carpentry. I tended to the roasting feast while standing beneath a looming 75-foot cedar tree and wallowed in the satisfaction of my newly-shelved and exceedingly organized garage. Yes, I do love the smell of wood. And bacon.