The sea, once it casts its spell, holds one in its net of wonder forever

Jacques Cousteau

The Driftwood Series (Menorca)

Driftwood of My Body, Mind and  Soul Driftwood of My Body, Mind and Soul

I began the Driftwood Series in Menorca when hiking around the perimeter of this beautiful Spanish Mediterranean island with my partner from 30 Sept to 9 Oct 2021 on the Camí de Cavalls hiking trail. I swam every day, often multiple times, in the enchanting aqua waters. 

Huge quantities of impressive driftwood on Menorca's north side drew us in and kept us company. A post-swim chair, a resting spot to watch the sea, a drying rack for hiking clothes, something comforting to settle into on the warm sand or off the rocks, a potential fort and sculpture, a reflection point, a very long story, an impermanent watch tower.... I found my imagination sparked and I began interacting with different pieces of driftwood that struck my eye. Jose, a driftwood artist, eyed the feast he could enjoy but not take home!

Post-swim warming, posidonia grass decorates our feet

Driftwood roam the seas in a constantly evolving odyssey. They come and go, drifting here and there, destination unknown; floating to distant shores, awaiting new adventures and even carrying new life. Or perhaps these forest remnants get stuck, or picked up by someone to be repurposed, or become part of a bonfire for a beach celebration, the ashes soaring into the night sky; or perhaps they finally weather away to nothing under the constant beating received from sun, parasite, salt, air, rock, and sea.

Looking at the impressive logs I couldn't help but wonder about their pasts as trees with roots growing in forests. Each log had a story of its own, once planted and growing and living in the Earth, solid, stable unmoving. What happened to them? What a dramatic turn of events for a tree - to be a rooted, stable member of a community and then to become an uprooted, solitary wanderer!  What events set each one off on its course downstream, to the Sea and to live another life (in death) upon a distant shore?

Driftwood offers many reflection points on impermanence, letting go, renewal, transformation, cycles of life and death, the ecology of wood and water, forest and ocean. Here are a few reflections from my week with driftwood and the azure sea.  Enjoy!

The Driftwood Series 1: The Joy of Being Silly

Jose and I usually walked together but sometimes I walked and swam sections by myself. On one such morning, I came over a hill and I spied a gorgeous bay. Arrested in my tracks, I said to myself,  'I'm going to swim there!'. I spied a piece of driftwood from afar at the far end of the beach.

As I approached the corner of the beach, passing a huge swath of mounded Neptune's grass (Posidonia oceanica, a vitally important Mediterranean sea grass), a curious 'man' came into view. Someone had dressed a stunning log with the ridiculous waste we humans throw into the sea: a jacket, sunglasses, a walking sticking and adorned it with various colorful plastics.

This driftwood figure of human waste called out to me and begged to be interacted with. I happily obliged and began to do my thing. As you can see, we had a good time together. We laughed, contemplated the sea in companionable silence, listened to each other's stories. Then I went to have my lovely swim and he kindly watched my things for me.

When I emerged from the sea I found a small red buoy washed onto the sea grass about the size of a heart. AAH!! Just what my new friend needs, a heart. After I dried and redressed, I tucked the red heart under the jacket's breast and we bid each other farewell. Maybe someone else who comes along will smile at the token of love and hope?

Such a lovely time together being silly, ridiculous, joyful. It still makes me laugh now. Make time for these things as shared happiness tends to produce more!

The Driftwood Series 2: The Watch Tower

My driftwood watch tower - "People who establish communication with the light from the fire...who also wish and dream."
Walking along Fornells' inviting seaport, enjoying views of its expansive and impressive natural harbor, we ran across an abstract humanoid sculpture set at the edge of the Sea in perpetual contemplation. At its base on a metal plaque the poem Watchtower (Vigies Mallorquin /Vigías - Spanish) accompanied this solitary giant on its eternal vigil. As my imagination roamed, taking in the feelings and sensation conjured by the visual and literary art, I thought back on the driftwood of our journey and how from these wonderful thrones and towers had served as bases and watch towers for our own thoughts, wishes and calm observations as we gazed inward and outward upon the wide open horizon.

The Watchtower
by Amador (Mallorca)

Human and architectural organization
People who look far ahead
People who look towards an uncertain horizon
People who don't know what they are waiting for
People who are always attentive
People with a sense of protection
People who establish communication with the light from the fire

People who also wish and dream. 

Gazing out to Sea and the far horizon....such an universal human practice. Of course, watch towers are not just viewing places of the soul but places of vigilance, guarding against the enemy arriving upon the high seas, or the danger the sea brings, or the bounty of the whale harvest. Over time, watch towers have served many functions of defense, protection, knowledge and hope. Whether standing on my rocks at home or sitting on a driftwood watch tower, I find myself contemplating the sea's beauty, losing myself in its infinite mysteries, colors and rhythms, admiring its power, enjoying its soothing resonance, and respecting its infinite capacity for danger. I'm one of those people who watches, imagines, wishes and dreams and I would like to be one that communicates with the light of the fire while protecting my shore. What a marvelous thing to imagine! What about you? 

The Driftwood Series 3 : Upon the Shore of My Heart (Poem)

This third story came to me as I was drawn to this stunning framed rock sitting in the aquamarine sea on a beach heaped with rotting posidonia grass. A large driftwood log, lodged deep inside a hole in the sandstone rock face and sticking straight out over the grass, demanded attention. I wandered down into the depression, observing the log, the sea, the beach. I imagined the wild sea that must have brought this huge log in, now stuck until another huge sea, perhaps, managed to dislodge it from its temporary resting spot. As I sat there interacting with this impressive specimen, the poem's title came to me and began to unfold. 

Upon the Shore of My Heart
by Nancy L. Frey 

In the throes of a heavy storm,
driftwood landed upon the shore of my heart.

Despite being old and worn,
it arrived grandly on a wave of high seas energy.
Charming the piled high posidonia grass and rounded rocks, the
log admired my comforting shore, and
lodged itself in my small, welcoming cave
sculpted by season, sand and sea,
firmly and deeply.

At first its company brought pleasure to my shore:
Sea birds visited and chatted upon its weathered limb.
Tides brought soothing, refreshing waters
buoying it up and down.
One day a turtle climbed onto my beach
Resting in the little shade the log offered.

But after months of immobility and inactivity
Bound to the beach
I sensed driftwood's restlessness.
The charm wore thin, the stories repeated, the
Log keenly eyed the alluring azure waters
So close and yet so far.

Driftwood became an unwanted guest,
feeding off the heart of my shore with greedy hunger.
Hearing my whispers, Sea launched a tempest.
With a great raking, shaking jolt the log slipped from the cave
Obeying Sea's implacable call of return.

Driftwood must continue its erratic, rootless voyage
Doing what driftwood does.
Floating in, it came from who knows where.
Launched back into the sea
It now goes, again, who knows where.
But, destined inevitably, to
land upon the heart of another shore.  

The Driftwood Series 4: Driftwood Soul (Poem)

Driftwood Soul

Driftwood soul swims
in the chaotic sea
of his own creation
destined to fall in
and drown
over and over 
again.

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Wednesday, 30 November 2022

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