Home  >  Magazine  >  Issue 27 : Mar/Apr 2009  > Columns  >  Driftwood


By Mitsuharu Kume



The cold beaches of winter lay silent except for the pounding waves on the shore. I don my hood and race through the oncoming walls of water as my body finally begins to warm itself from the inside. The distance between me and the natural world shrinks and my spirit is honed and sharpened.

My internal radar observes all of the surroundings, a feeling much different than the five senses, as natural instincts rise up from within. The alpha rhythm of the waves relaxes my soul, and I find a new level of comfort, as if my heart, mind and body are in balanced interaction with each other.

I notice a piece of driftwood and think about all the things that wash ashore and the distances they travel to get there. That piece of driftwood has a tale to tell. It began with countless seasons experienced on a mountain somewhere.

A strong wind blew it down and sent it tumbling along the high waters of a raindrenched stream. Years tossing in the sea with an occasional visit from a seagull seeking rest or small fish seeking shade. And finally thrown ashore by a strong wave.

The tale of the driftwood is a good reminder we sometimes are sent to places under a power separate from our own. We are given an opportunity to start all over again.

One such example is on the far side of a nearby pocket beach where there stands a tree completely different from those surrounding it. It is smaller and crooked in comparison. The seeds of this palm tree found their way here from some southern island from which they likely came.

There was a piece of teakwood, not found in Japan, but drifted to her shores to be used as a grand beam to support the roof of a family home for decades. It could be this beam was tossed from a ship carrying timber from far-off lands.

Chance and coincidence come together to bring a new chapter and a new start to our tales. The pounding of the waves during the journey may take its toll and dull the edges, but that’s what gives the driftwood character. There is an old Japanese saying, “Taking off the corners,” which means to temper someone whose heart may be a bit “rough around the edges.”

Traveling is often a “drifting” experience. We find something that draws our interest and sends us on a journey as we ride the tides and winds of our ideas. I try to loosen up and “take the edge off” which allows me to drift more and more and float to places far and wide.

The waves continue to pound the shore and, as they do, the edges of my footprints are slowly smoothed away and drawn back into the ebb and flow of the tide.