Fort Sober

I meandered a narrow strip of beach north of Newport at high tide. The last time I’d here I was a teacher with my students and we were making some kind of weird Oregon history with the most visits to separate Oregon beaches by high school students in a single day—nine. That record will never be broken. That was quite a day and fine memories of it gave me a pleasant vertigo.

Not long into my meandering, I saw what appeared to be a log jam at the entrance of a large culvert. I decided to investigate because there was nothing better to do.

It was not a log jam. It was a fort, one of the largest driftwood forts I’d ever encountered. (No photograph could do it justice because of the lighting and its behemoth size.)

Before entering I came across a fire pit with blackened wood and cans of fancy ice tea strewn about. That struck me as odd. Typically I find containers of alcohol of one kind or the other.

I also discovered a round of wood with writing on top in multiple colors of Sharpie. I read the writing. It was the serenity prayer from AA. That was a first in all my driftwood fort days.

The fort beckoned so I entered it. It was almost like a human beaver lodge in its construction, spacious beyond belief, 20 feet in length, three rooms, roofed, sturdy on sides, benches, shelving. It occurred to me that people may have been using it for a home.

Its makers left behind their names—Travis and Ashley—and the date of their creation. This was their third fort built on this beach. Travis and Ashley also decorated the fort with other colorful signage lettered in groovy typography.

I sat down on a bench inside the fort and wondered about its provenance. An instant creative writing lesson for students formed in my mind. I would show them a brief slide show of what I had seen and let them riff away.

Who were Travis and Ashley and how had they come to building incredible driftwood forts, drinking tea, and fighting for an announcing/affirming their sobriety? I truly wish I could meet them. I wanted to know everything and not just imagine their story.

My initial thought about Fort Sober was that Travis and Ashley had taken fort building in a direction entirely alien to me. A few minutes later, I didn’t think that. I think we are both doing the same sort of thing: healing, expression, creativity and activity for mental and physical fitness, and mind expansion/contraction through building, building, building something that won’t last, can’t last, but then building again and again, and understanding and accepting the Zen nature of driftwood fort building, and by extension, daily life.

And, of course, it’s damn fun to build! Joy is god. (That’s no typo.)