Hard Wood Flaws

Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything
It’s how the light gets in.
— Leonard Cohen

I love old wooden floors. They have a depth and resonance to them it is impossible to recreate with new boards; a seasoning which only comes with time, and traffic, and wear. They splinter, sure, and they crack on occasion, but in general? They hold fast and firm, even, as is life’s wont, the house they are a part of ceases to become a home.

They are much like the wondrous and patient people who put up with your shit on a daily basis. The keepers of your heart’s key; the ones who see the pain, the darkness and the fear, the tendrils that escape from your mind’s eye at three in the morning.

The rest of the world around you – well, it’s not the same. The lustre under the surface is missing. Search as you might, the grain, the give, and the ability to handle stresses – it just isn’t there.

But those beautiful strong lengths of oak, and lime, and jarrah, when you transpose them to those you care most for – they are a type of hard wood flaw. If you don’t recognise this, you are not seeing them for what and who they are. Human. It’s part and parcel of the whole deal. Messing up, making errors, hurting others without thinking; these are all basic ingredients in the weird recipe we call humanity, to mix very odd metaphors. Where the cookie dough starts to crumble is when we try not to see the flaws, and instead, press others into a perfect cut-out image we create of them. Instead of accepting them as perfectly imperfect, and cutting them the same slack we allow ourselves, we expect them to behave to a certain standard we have decided they should meet.

This inevitably gets messy as hell, particularly if they have spelled out in black and white what they know very clearly about themselves and their ‘weaknesses’ — and I do use that word advisedly — and we choose to ignore what they say.

It’s easy enough to do. Think about it. You get to a level of intimacy, whether it be physical or mental (or both), and go off into ‘once upon a time’ land, creating a picture of someone in your mind… and in the space of a heartbeat, reality goes out the window. It may only be momentary, but it is unfair on them – because it means you are busily playing Pygmalion, with false expectations for both yourself and them of cold, precise, non-tactile stone, rather than the realistic, but imperfect, and real, warm timbre of tone and touch.


They are no Galatea. Nor should we want them to be. Trying to stuff others into hero-shaped marble moulds is not life, it is fantasy. Cracked bells, dented drums, pianos with a few missing keys… they still make music. Just like seasoned timber boards, they still give a resonance, hope, and a tympany of sorts, which if we listen carefully is the music of our hearts.

And those scratched, half-waxed wooden flaws? They retain a beauty hidden deep inside the grain, which is far more precious than any cold perfect marble, slumbering for a thousand eternities, locked in an infinite sleep of incomprehension and carelessness. Once, they lived, and understood pain, and mud, sweat, blood, tears, and noise – and they accept us, boots and all.

No matter how heavily we tread.