E Morte Vita

Summer is peak lake season. As the sun thaws the frozen Northern Indiana landscape in late Spring, you can feel the palpable energy in the air as the North Webster area comes back to life. Northerners only get a few months of endless warmth until Autumn starts making an appearance in September.

This last week, we’ve seen sweltering temperatures during the day, but at night, that’s when you can smell it – Autumn is finally here. For many people, Autumn signals the death of summer; it is the end of hot days and warm nights (the kind of nights where the sun doesn’t go down until well after 9 PM.


However, I am not one of those people that laments the arrival of Autumn. Chilly weather moves in and the leaves begin to change, bringing a new life to the natural surroundings through a brilliant display of fiery colors. E morte vita: In this temporary death, there is new life.

Fall is my favorite season. There is something unmistakably beautiful about the landscape as it metamorphosizes into its sleepy, winter state.

Fall gourds nestled in next to the fireplace in preparation for fall

This cycle of life-death-rebirth reminds me of my father – but not in the morbid way you probably imagine! He has been a master woodworker for as long as I have known. It takes a true master artist to turn dead, lifeless trees into magnificent works of art.

This past Spring, I enlisted his services to help build a set of floating shelves for the kitchen. While there were many other (easier) options that I could have chosen from (looking at you, Amazon Prime), I decided that these shelves should display the natural beauty of the wood, glorifying the life of the tree that was now reborn into its next life.

We carefully selected two live-edged planks of curly maple from his stash of aged lumber. Over the course of three weeks, we planed, sanded, and polished the raw wood, giving purpose to the death of the tree that had sacrificed its life for our art.


The end results were spectacular; the natural beauty of the grain glows from the delicate layers of shellac that we meticulously applied. Most importantly, we created an heirloom that has now become part of the cottage. Now every guest that visits gets to enjoy the splendor of the death of a tree, which, just like Autumn, is not all for naught. From death, there has been life – E morte vita.

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