Duncan man spends 7 years transforming 6,000-pound tree burl into massive art piece

The huge maple in the front yard was one of those trees that helped turn Glen’s house into a home.

“I loved the tree. My kids played on it and in it,” Glen says, showing me old pictures of his daughters smiling around it. “It was a very special tree.”

Glen says he tried everything to save the tree until he realized it was beyond repair and had to be cut it down.

“But I thought maybe I should save the burl,” he says, pointing to a picture of a large bulbous growth at the base of the maple’s trunk.

Glen wondered if he could cut part of the burl off and have the wood turned into a couple commemorative bowls or something.

But then Glen discovered it was just the tip of the iceberg; the burl was growing three feet underground.

“It took me a long time,” he says before smiling at his attempt to excavate the huge burl with a shovel. “I dug it by hand.”

Despite being a professional backhoe operator, Glen felt a strong compulsion to not damage the burl, and keep the 6,000-pound piece of wood intact,

“I have to try to do this,” he remembers thinking. “Everyone told me I couldn’t do it.”

Three weeks later, Glen did do it. And then — despite no previous experience — he started transforming its 350-sq-feet of surface area.

“I was just known as the crazy guy working on the burl,” he laughs.

Glen spent 20 hours a week sanding it and polishing it for seven years; revealing intricate patterns in the burl’s wood that he found mesmerizing.

“I would come out and just be – I wouldn’t think about my job, I wouldn’t think about anything,” he says. “I would just concentrate [on the burl] and it was like a therapy.”

It wasn’t just him. Glen shows me a guest book filled with signatures. He says he’s welcomed thousands of curious visitors who spotted the burl at the end of his driveway and witnessed their moods improve.

“I show it to them and the reaction I get, it’s incredible,” he says, showing me pictures of babies, seniors and people of all ages in between smiling around the burl. “It makes them feel good.”

Because of all the goodwill it seems to inspire, Glen hopes the burl will one day find a new home where it can be seen by even more people — like an airport, museum, or even an art gallery.

“It is a piece of art. [Although] I didn’t really think of myself as an artist,” Glen smiles, “It’s just a way of life for me really.”

Which brings us to the new life Glen found sprouting close to where the big maple was once growing.

“It was obviously a baby from that tree,” Glen smiles, before saying he nurtured the seedling for years before replanting it in the same place its parent had once stood — where it now towers above the yard.

I ask why he went to the effort to care for the baby tree. Glen takes a moment before taking a big breath.

“[It’s] giving back to nature,” he says emotionally, before gesturing to the burl. “For giving me that.”

It's an expression of gratitude for all the joy the burl’s brought to so many. 

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