When I encounter a stretch of Oregon Coast beach where driftwood is plentiful and I don’t see a single driftwood fort, something seems amiss, unsettling.
If I have the time, and I usually do, I will gather wood and begin a fort by thanking beavers in the upper watersheds for providing much of my favorite building materials. A fort never really is completed so I can’t say I’ve ever finished one. At some point, I just stop building and walk away. Sometimes, I just gather three pieces of wood and frame a tepee or form a corral. I’m inviting collaboration from people and fort fairies I will never meet. I have made art or shelter or sheer fancy. I might be signaling an old fort friend that I dearly miss her. Occasionally, I leave a trinket behind or a pen with a little fort notepad. In the notepad, I ask visitors record their impressions of the fort. Someone always responds and the stories are often gold. Sometimes people leave behind their fort tokens, beer cans, booze bottles, doodles, shells, feathers, a little cairn, even an orange dildo once.
When someone comes across my fort, they can proceed with more building or not. They just might crawl inside and go back to the womb. I see it on the beach all the time. Perhaps no other person will see the fort. The wind and waves might collapse it, which is something I have never witnessed after building 500 or so forts in 20 years of living on the Oregon Coast. Think of that: I’ve never seen one destroyed. That’s an interesting fact to consider and possible metaphor to embrace. You only see what you create with your hands, not what is destroyed by unknown forces outside your own creativity.
I might also say that when the waves and wind destroy a fort I build, it is perfectly natural destruction. I am never angered about it.
It is my sincere hope that one day I find a great of Fort Scout Dog as Sonny the husky. I miss our building together. There is another beach dog for me though, I can feel it, and I will train him to fetch sticks for forts.
There is one fort on the Oregon Coast that very well could last forever. I like knowing that because I had a subtle hand in its construction. Yes, I know there is no place for ego in fort building. Just this once. Oh yes, and that other time when I collaborated on building the biggest driftwood fort in Oregon history. And I almost forgot: when I helped set a world record for the number of driftwood forts built in a single morning by fifth graders—19.
Over time, building driftwood forts transformed me into a visual artist, something I never thought possible of myself. The next phase is to write something precisely in the manner of how I build driftwood forts. This musing is perhaps the beginning of that method.
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