A couple of weeks have passed since our big series of storms, but the local beach is still littered with driftwood and other flotsam. Now, however, it’s taking on a new dimension, as people have begun building a variety of structures out of the washed-up branches.

The Cabana. Where are the umbrella drinks?
The Cabana

The Tipi, one of three in a row:
The Tipi

These sculptors have gone all Lord of the Flies:
Lord of the Flies

I am fascinated by our compulsion to build. A pile of wood, or rocks, is irresistible. We try to make order out of chaos, and along the way build a shelter or sculpture. These remind me of a day a few years ago, when Sarah-Hope and I drove up to her favorite beach at Waddell Creek. There, close to the highway, was a cone-shaped structure, made of pieces of driftwood. It was extraordinarily well-constructed: the branches fit together just so, and the shape was even and symmetrical. It was stunning! I loved the way it made us think about driftwood in a whole new way, transforming it from detritus to art.

(Picture a cone just like this, except made of random bleached wood, with the ocean behind it.)
A cone by Andy Goldsworthy

My fantasy was that it was made by Andy Goldsworthy, who has several pieces in the area, at the DeYoung Museum, and in the Presidio, and at Stanford. I like to imagine him taking a break from his comissioned work, and driving down to the beaches in Santa Cruz. Once here, just like the builders above, how could he resist that pile of driftwood?