When I renovated my kitchen I had planned to replace the 86-year-old existing cast iron radiator with a sleek new wall-mounted modern one. But because of incompatibility with my building’s heating system I couldn’t install the radiator I had selected, and reinstalled the existing one. So in the middle of my sparkling new modern kitchen there’s my ancient radiator, big, battered, and encrusted with layers of paint. Yet it feels right. It’s almost as if I needed to retain something old to anchor the room.
In the same way, through forces beyond my control, I’ve come to understand that I needed something handmade to personalize the room. I learned this last weekend when my friend Karol, an architect and teacher in Vermont, came to visit and brought me a beautiful wood cutting board that she had made especially for me.
Karol knew that I was remodeling my kitchen. One day she was in the model shop at school and saw some scrap wood, narrow lengths of a beautiful walnut board, that were about to be thrown away. To rescue the pieces, and to make me a gift, she cut them to a uniform width, glued them together, sanded them down, and trimmed them to a 24″ x 18″ board.
Although Karol didn’t know what finishes I had chosen for my kitchen, she must have understood telepathically. The tones in the walnut perfectly complement the colors in my cabinets and countertop. The striped pattern of the wood feels fresh; I’ve never seen a cutting board like this before. And the grain and knots in the wood feel old-fashioned. So far I haven’t done any serious cutting on the board. It feels too precious. But Karol told me that if I treat the surface with walnut oil regularly it will last a long time.
It’s always fun to receive a gift, but it’s especially exciting to receive something that fits so perfectly into your life, something that you didn’t even realize you needed. I keep the cutting board propped up against the back wall near the sink, and it’s the first thing I see when I enter the room each morning. It warms the whole space, and reminds me of Karol’s talent, ingenuity and generosity.