We are always in search of new bag materials or components that can be sourced locally in Southern Louisiana and tell the story of our rich culture. When we discovered GoodWood NOLA was purchasing sinker cypress logs from the estate of Greg Guirard, we had to strike up a conversation.
For those of you unfamiliar, modern logging of bald cypress trees in the Louisiana Atchafalaya Basin is highly regulated after much of its old-growth forests were depleted in the late 19th & early 20th century. In Greg Guirard's book Atchafalaya Autumn II, he wrote about "the tragedy of the destruction of the great cypress forests of the Atchafalaya Basin. Every last cypress tree that was big enough to make lumber economically was cut down. No-one seemed to have the wisdom or the power to put an end to that process before it was too late."
Guirard's own grandfather owned a sawmill used for processing this lumber taken out of the Atchafalaya Basin. He questions why someone who so actively enjoyed and depended on the swamp forests didn't try to step up and stop this deforestation. "By the end of the 1920's, the destruction was all but complete. Nobody cared enough or had the wisdom, or the vision, or the power to stop it. A million-acre cathedral had been converted into million-acre graveyard - the land of the giants - and hardly anyone noticed." Spending time in the basin today, it is easy to spot the affects of this damage, and see this symbolic graveyard imagery of Guirard's writing first hand.
Cypress lumber is very dense, resilient and stunningly beautiful so it's easy to see why demand was high in the old days. Today there is an alternative that people like Greg Guirard have worked hard to provide. Greg wrote "When I can find them, I pull old cypress sinkers out of the basin and saw them into lumber. It's beautiful, meaningful wood, and many people regard it with a certain reverence." He was only pulling out trees that were felled in the logging days but never recovered. The reddish heartwood is so dense that some of these trees sank straight to the bottom. Fishermen helped Greg find these logs when water was low in the basin. They flagged them and tied them to barrels that pulled the logs toward the surface once water levels rose again.
The sinker cypress is especially stunning as it has much more depth of color and variation after so much time absorbing the rich mud of Atchafalaya Basin. GoodWood NOLA is using Greg's recovered sinker cypress lumber in their handcrafted furniture and custom interiors. We collaborated with them on our new sinker cypress toggle to further use every scrap of this wood that was so painstakingly salvaged.
Dean Wilson and the folks of Atchafalaya Basinkeeper (the recipient of this year's Tchoup Industries Giving Green donation), help to monitor and report illegal cypress logging in the basin. We are so excited about this timely launch of our sinker cypress toggle and the connections and bonds that are being established in our community to help protect our natural environment.
I'll end this entry with a plea from our late fellow environmentalist Greg Guirard, and a recommendation to order a copy of Atchafalaya Autumn II to help share the spirit of preservation for our unique landscape.
"Don't let anyone make you believe you're wacky because you care deeply about the physical world we inhabit...We can't live without a healthy environment, no matter what our political views may be. If it goes, we go with it."
Now, get out and hug a cypress tree - that's where you can usually find me : ).
Photos are from Atchafalaya Autumn II and GoodWood NOLA.