Monday, October 12, 2009

A little piece of driftwood...

No paddling this Thanksgiving weekend but we did find some time to "chill" for a bit on our favourite Gulf island. Sitting on a log and grazing on some mixed, dried fruit (recently "harvested" from the dehydrator), some hazelnuts, some dates, and some prized, fresh (yesterday anyway) cheese curds, I focused long and hard on a metre-long piece of drift wood. Oh, I should say that the cheese curds were "prized" simply because we don't get this treat very often! Anyway, the smooth, weathered, and well-travelled piece of drift wood rested just inches above where the high tide had just left its defining line along the deserted Gabriola beach.

I thought its "placement" along the beach was quite ideal. The ocean was relatively calm and the tide was receding which meant that the piece of wood would likely stay where it was for a least a little while. So much as driftwood can, it would enjoy its oceanside location and know that it was secure until a higher tide, or waves driven by increasing winds, drew it back into the sea to be washed up further down the beach or perhaps even on another Gulf island. Until that time, it was secure in its resting spot on the sand. It could look out towards the mainland and enjoy the magnificent British Columbia coast ranges that rise behind the city of Vancouver, Howe Sound and the Sunshine Coast. It could glance behind and savour the wooded bluff, with bushes covered with bright red rose hips. It could look down the beach, to the left and to the right, and nod a greeting to the hundreds of other pieces of drifted wood, large and small, co-located on the crushed sands and shells of this beautiful, windswept landscape. It would enjoy the intermittent sunshine that warmed its surface and the winds that picked up grains of sand that brushed gently against its surface, and settled to create a small "drift" in its lee.

Ahhh, "location, location, location", at least that's what the real estate folks say is a big selling point! Well, in terms of location, this piece of driftwood had it all. Unlike the huge log we were sitting on while having lunch, this little log could anticipate that its journey would continue, perhaps as soon as the next high tide or when some small child or playful adult transformed it into an imaginary ocean liner and launched it into the waiting sea.

It seemed there was a message here, about life. The more massive logs, high on the beach, floated ashore, years and perhaps even decades ago, most likely having escaped a passing log-boom tug boat. And they will remain there until the most violent of storms wrestles them from their resting place in the sand. I suppose what struck me was the relative permanence of the largest logs on the beach - such a contrast to the adventuresome spirit of the little piece of driftwood before us.

Now I know that a piece of driftwood, large or small, can't think and make decisions as can we humans, but they can, with marvelous eloquence, suggest a "story line". The little piece of driftwood spoke to us of a readiness for life's adventures, of a willingness to be moved by the energy of the tide or the ocean waves, or the serendipitous imagination of a passing beachcomber. It radiated an openness to whatever experiences life had in store. When the time was right, it was ready.

I've never felt that we should simply "go with the flow" or "fly" in whatever direction the wind blows us but I do feel it is important to be open to expanding the boundaries of our living and to the new possibilities that come with each passing day. I can only imagine, in my mind's eye, the deep frustration of the massive logs, too long entrenched in the sand, subject to an interminable and enforced passivity. They, perhaps, had long since lost the power and grace of imagination, of dreams, and of visions of what could be. Only a tsunami could free them, and we won't wish for that!

Openness to new experiences, as unnerving as that can be, is surely the foundation of the life well-lived. Just as the universe continues to expand, we need also to explore what awaits us beyond the oft self-imposed horizons of our existence. Surely, the little piece of driftwood, if it only could, would feel deep excitement in anticipation of where it will find itself in days to come. Life can be all too short and there is so much that awaits us on neighbouring shores, and amidst the vibrant energy of the ocean waves, that promise to deepen and enrich our living.

Godspeed, little piece of driftwood, my adventuresome new friend.



  1. Hmmm, well it would be nice to be that little piece of driftwood but it would take courage to leave the shore never knowing where one was to land...another wonderful beach, someones garden or the dreaded camp fire.The little piece of driftwood doesn't need to have courage because it doesn't have choice. We live with hope that all will be well but in reality things will be just as they are. I guess we do need to be open to new adventures and ideas. We need to have hope and faith that we will land on a beautiful sandy beach and not become someones camp fire.... and yet.. think how much warmth and happiness that campfire gives to others.

  2. Some very good points, L. You know, I've admired some of the driftwood art in gardens around here - I think it would a kind of cool way to settle down if you were an itinerant piece of driftwood looking for a little stability in its "golden years". OK, now I'm off the deep end!