#115: Driftwood

Finding hope in an aimless existence

Driftwood is one of those objects where its name describes its very existence: a piece of wood or branch which now drifts aimlessly in the sea, being pushed along by the currents. It has a slow and aimless existence, but a long one. Who knows how long this branch has been drifting across the seas in its curious shape, looking like a partial outline of a viking ship. Once, years ago, it was part of a larger tree, living and growing, but now it is separated from its past life as it pauses on the edge of the Pacific Ocean in this lonely and desolate beach in the smog.

Now, of course, it has probably drifted out to sea again, back on its aimless voyage around the world. It will follow the currents and be washed up on some other beach in some other unknown location, repeating this process with the ebb and flow of the sea until it either finds itself caught and stuck on land, or it has eroded away completely into the water.

Beaches are strange places, a weird mixture of life and death. There is death in this driftwood, an object which was once living. Shells and tiny dead crabs litter the beach, and old seaweed becomes tangled in itself and the sand. Yet there is also life, as the sea-birds fly over head, swooping down to feast on the crabs on the beach. People will visit, bringing children and dogs and games while admiring the vastness of the ocean in front of them, itself teeming with life.

There is even possibility of a new existence for the driftwood, a material which is now commonly used as part of the popular rustic style in modern decor. People will walk along the beaches in search of this aimless object, picking out pieces to become furniture or decoration in new creative and artistic ideas, adding a certain style to houses or restaurants.

Why is there this obsession with the rustic, the unvarnished and scarred, lost like this driftwood? It is part of another of our recent obsessions: “you do you”. “Be yourself”, accept and embrace everything that is ‘you’, including your flaws and your imperfections, because nobody and nothing is perfect. Instead, we are encouraged to find beauty in everything, in the rough and time-worn driftwood of the world, because there really is beauty in it if you look.

In fact, we are all, as individuals in this large world, at risk of becoming driftwood ourselves. We are at risk of losing our aim and giving ourselves up to the current of the world, drifting aimlessly at a loss of where to go. We are at risk of finding ourselves lost in the middle of the ocean, where every direction looks the same and just as bleak. And so we drift some more.

Yet eventually, driftwood finds a beach to wash up on, wherever that may be. And on one of those beaches, someone will come along. They will stop and consider it and, rather than leave it to the sea’s devices, they will pick it up and carry it home with them. It will become a new art piece or be up-cycled into a new and unique piece of furniture. The possibilities abound, aims are in sight, and it is no longer drifting.

Katie writes a weekly blog post about random objects that she finds in her everyday life. If you’re interested in reading more, check out her blog Object, a collaboration with fellow Medium blogger Eleanor, and sign up for the monthly newsletter below.
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