Tuesday, May 18, 2021
One day, while doing some
seascape photography at the beach,
As you can see I couldn’t seem to place the right words to end the last sentence. Perhaps, it’s because I find little wooden treasures from the sea worthy enough to call them art. Hm, I used the words ‘sea worthy’? Freudian slip? Maybe, or maybe not, but look what happens when I combine those words into one—seaworthy. Now I think this could explain why I questioned other’s act of haughty disregard. Unlike them, I seem conditioned to believe that driftwood has value because it’s seaworthy. That’s right, seaworthy enough to ride on the endless, and sometimes torrent, currents that our ocean waters have to offer. If their travelogs carried any similarity to the records of "message in a bottle" stories, then its possible a driftwood’s journey could have been going on for decades before the fateful moment that it might happen it get heaped onto a beach that it could finally call home. No longer a floater, a vagrant, a drifter—well, that is, unless some beachcomber spots it and decides the driftwood needs to move on, for its own namesake.
That can’t be the wood’s only value…
So, while mulling over this worthiness concept, I decided to reflect on an artistic experience I had had with one of these memorable fallen trees on the shores of Boundary Bay, BC. That’s the bay where one can stand on a shore in Canada, while at the same time enjoy the majestic landscape of Mount Baker, Washington State, USA in the background. It was a day like many in the Pacific northwest—overcast. Now for some this would keep them home curled around a fireplace, but for a photographer this lighting condition is perfect for getting out into the field, or I should say the beach in this case. When we arrived, the tide was out, which is also perfect because it gives one a good chance to explore the ocean’s floor. Besides kelp, one can often find interesting things lingering around until the tide returns, however on this particular day the main point of interest for me was to get close to a large piece of weather-beaten wood. And close I got. After the initial awestruck moment of admiring its size, it didn’t take long for my artistic nerve to start twitching. This was my cue to move in closer and get personal with the surface. No, not to start assessing whether I would be able to haul it home with a crane, then to carve or polish its surface into an abstract wood sculpture, if anything I wanted the surface to remain exactly as the weather intended—rough. No, I started analyzing it through my camera because I wanted to get lost in my imagination and drift beyond seeing a battered, lifeless piece of wood and start seeing the object’s real magic. Once my eye looked through the camera lens, I began seeing intricate strands of fibers that once gave the tree substance. I dwelled long enough to pick up on all the contradictions within the elements: Lines going from broken to straight; dark to light; solid to fragile... No wonder it was once seaworthy, it's perfectly balanced. Then I started to be drawn into what my logical mind often struggles with, the empty space between the matter. It’s here that I got that intuitive feeling I was looking at something beyond the obvious, but couldn’t put english words to it. It’s here that I immediately did what any photographer would have done, I seized the moment by activating my camera shutter, and in doing so I automatically captured what I feel lives in the nothingness, the wood’s inner essence—its spirit.
What’s that worth?
So, the next time you come across a piece of driftwood, or see some abstract wood art hanging on a wall, get in close, give your mind permission to become a drifter too, like the wood and get lost in your own sea of imagination. Who knows, you might just get a glimpse into the mystery of life and find out why you matter too.
Journal cover details
Close-up Image of a piece of wood.
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