The Smell of Cedar

By , April 14, 2011

Our cabin is redolent in yellow cedar, and it smells great. While beachcombing the other day, I found a treasure on our north beach: an 8-10 foot long yellow cedar stump.

Red and yellow cedar are the two manufacturing mainstays of Southeast Alaska. These beautiful, fragrant, rot-resistant trees have provided the local Natives with wood, bark, and roots for tools, artwork, and food for thousands of years.

Yellow cedar ranges farther north than red cedar, which seems to have a northern limit around Juneau. maps showing the range of each tree varies, but most show yellow cedar growing in our area and farther north. I have not found any yellow cedars in the forests around Haines yet. This particular one may have come from somewhere up the Katzehin River. We find the wood on the beaches now and then, unexpectedly like this, and grab it whenever we find it.I cut the log off the root wad to lighten the burden, then Aly and I moved them up above the tide line. I don’t know what we might do with this log. It’s got a graceful curve to it that makes me think of some sort of sculpture. Not a totem pole—the shape is wrong, and I’ve never had the talent to create the proper formline artwork of the totem carvers—but perhaps it will lend itself to a standing work of some kind that might be erected at the edge of the beach. Michelle thinks the curve might be enough to make a bench from it, but I’m not sure it would be good for our backs.

Some good use will come to us eventually; in the meantime, it’s like money in the bank, riches stored up for later use. For now, the wedges from cutting the log fill our home with an earthy, sweet scent.

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