Driftwood

Maybe it was growing up not far from the east coast, and visiting the sea there when I was a child and seeing and finding strange things on the beach. Sometimes it was an exotic… a dead porpoise or on one exciting occasion an old sea-mine which was roped off but we were able to stand dangerously close to it, staring in awe in a way no-one let alone a child would be able to do now in our health and safety conscious world. More often it was just odd bits of wood, bits of rope, strands of fishing net, cork buoys, unidentifiable rubbish…. but it was the driftwood which intrigued me, pale, bleached by salt sun and sea and often in peculiar shapes defying identification to my child’s eye.

As I grew older and read stories set by the sea, it seemed a wonderful thing to do to collect driftwood and make a bonfire on the seashore to sit round at night, sparks flying into the darkness… I never actually did this in real life. Then there were characters in books (and probably in real life although I never saw any) who made shelters from driftwood and lived in the dunes all year round. Quite recently I brought home a bit of driftwood which is now propped up in the garden like an elephant tusk ( a small one!)

The Vikings believed that the first humans were created from driftwood, ash and elm which had somehow washed up upon the ancient mythological shore. Being sea-faring folk they had many superstitions and rituals to do with driftwood, I can understand that.

Meanwhile, next time I go down to the beach, as usual I’ll be looking for anything of interest brought in by the tide, or brought down by the River axe, and no doubt if there is an interesting piece of driftwood it will come home with me.

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