Driftwood: A Philosophy of Art


I could think on this forever... what it says about the nature of art and artists... simply in story form...

But Grandmother sat in the magic forest and carved outlandish animals. She cut them from branches and driftwood and gave them paws and faces, but she only hinted at what they looked like and never made them too distinct. They retained their wooden souls, and the curve of their backs and legs had the enigmatic shape of growth itself and remained a part of the decaying forest. Sometimes she cut them directly out of a stump or the trunk of a tree. Her carvings became more and more numerous. They clung to trees or sat astride branches, they rested against the trunks or settled into the ground. With outstretched arms, they sank in the marsh, or they curled up quietly and slept by a root. Sometimes they were only a profile in the shadows, and sometimes there were two or three together, entwined in battle or in love. Grandmother worked only in old wood that had already found its form...

One time she found a big white vertebra in the sand. It was too hard to work but could not have been made any prettier anyway, so she put it in the magic forest as it was. She found more bones, white or gray, all washed ashore by the sea.

"What is it you're doing?" Sophia asked.

"I'm playing," Grandmother said.

Sophia crawled into the magic forest and saw everything her grandmother had done.

"Is it an exhibit?" she asked.

But Grandmother said it had nothing to do with sculpture...

Driftwood on Long Island, photo by L.L. Barkat. Excerpt from The Summer Book, by Tove Jansson, pp.14-15.

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Blogger Glynn said...

When I was little and we'd go to the beach, I always thought of driftwood as stuff that cluttered the sand. As I got older, I began to see the natural beauty of whitened, bleached wood, sometimes like the color of sand but often offering just enough contrast to remind you of the washing, cleansing effect of the waves and sun. This post brought all of that back.

Blogger Claire said...

there is a place that holds miles and miles of driftwood in south africa. we visited this beach just before moving to ireland. i climbed one of the larger pieces and balanced atop its scraggly edge. i somehow felt little and part of a forest with a grandma like this excerpt describes.

Blogger elk said...

the smoothness and roughness of driftwood is such a metaphor in my mind ~elk

Blogger Joelle said...

Me thinks I need to hunt up this book and discover the magic forest for myself. Lyrical writing! Thanks for sharing!!!!


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