All the photographs in this article are of the same piece of redwood.
On the Spring Equinox the sunlight came down through the skylight at just the right angle to illuminate the large piece of driftwood that has been the centerpiece of my living room life since the spring of my first year in Mendocino fifteen years ago.
When I first moved here, I was wild about collecting rocks and pieces of driftwood, nearly all of which I have subsequently returned to the ocean. My first winter here was incredibly rainy. We got eighty inches of rain. The most we’ve gotten since then is forty inches, and this year we’ve gotten twenty-one. In any case, that year Big River was in constant flood and a whole section of Big River Beach was inaccessible for several months.
Then in early spring there came a big negative tide and I was determined to get to that previously inaccessible stretch of beach before too many other peeps beat me to the driftwood goodies we hoped would be waiting there.
I took my backpack with me, got down to the beach in the early morning, and waded through knee-high surf to get around a point of land jutting out into the bay to reach those happy hunting grounds. And as I came around the point to the unsullied beach, here before me, standing on the sand, was this piece of wood that looked from thirty feet away like a sculpture by Rodin. It was very heavy, and as I was wrestling it into my backpack, three other people with pack frames made it around the point to where I was.
One of the people, a woman wearing all black, her hair tied back in a ponytail, asked politely if she might see what I was stowing in my pack. So I got the Rodin out, and without missing a beat she offered me a hundred dollars for it. I said No thank you, and she said two hundred.
By the time I got the Rodin loaded into my pack again, there were several other prospectors scouring the little caves and inlets that had been receiving driftwood throughout the winter months. But I didn’t do any more hunting and carried my prize the mile back to my car.
And the funny thing is, once I got this piece home and situated on a living room table, I was done collecting driftwood forever. Oh occasionally I’ll see something I’m tempted to bring home, but the pieces I’d like to have are too big to lift, let alone carry.
This piece stands up without any other external support, and each orientation is equally beautiful.