THE SMELL of wood, refreshingly sweet, greeted me even before I sat down at the round table. As if breathing along with the trees, I felt a simple, primitive joy when admiring those furniture and home articles shaped and carved out of cedar in the heritage museum village of San Antonio, an old-time riverside town down south in the United States.
The craftsman, Arnold, came from a family of carpenters. As a Vietnam War veteran, he related to me, a visitor from Asia, how he had fought against the Vietcong guerrillas in the jungle.
His dearest memory, he said, was that of a medley of tropical smells of the rain forest, in which he had to move with the utmost caution, trembling with fear that the lurking enemy would attack from anywhere, any moment. What calmed him down, he recalled, was the fragrance of wood as he, holding his rifle, was lying prone against the trunk of a large tree, sticking himself to the coarse bark.
After the war, Arnold started to live by working on wood, like his ancestors. Among his finest carpentry works was a rocking-chair, in which his daughter was now seated, reading. I picked out a tube-shaped pot with a lid. Chiselled out of a block, the objet d'art well preserved the material's colour in various shades, the clear annual rings, the original cracks and nodes -- what a reminder of the mystique of life!
Lifting the lid, I savoured the fragrance of wood, feeling the natural power that had helped Arnold overcome his fear -- fragrance in war, which sounds like a poet's nonsense.