Le Dernier Mot: Wood you Believe it?
Kristin’s driftwood collection goes from treasure to poison to art
My obsession with driftwood began, oddly enough, at a barbecue. Seeing my husband dash around the garden, gathering dry sticks for our brasero, I realised he needed a good stash of kindling. Noticing some brindilles scattered beneath our pepper tree I reached down… when the thrill of wood scavenging bit me!
Around our neighbourhood, I discovered an endless supply of free wood: pine cones and little fallen branches peppered our streets for a veritable wood feast. How rewarding to clean up the neighbourhood while building a supply of petit bois. I returned with handfuls. When those poignées grew to armfuls I brought along a tote. Then a bigger one. Finally, I brought my husband!
Armed with a granny cart (Mom’s four-wheeled shopping trolley), we were ready to collect some of the logs that had landed on the local seashores after a storm.
Here in the sparkling bay of La Ciotat, these outings became a treasure hunt when we ventured to la plage and encountered driftwood. With its rounded edges and smooth surface le bois flotté is a work of art, the salt water, ocean waves and time combining to make a marvellous sculptor. As we gathered another load, my conscience cleared its throat: “Ahem. Is it ecological – or even legal – to carry off driftwood?” A web search revealed that, in France, gathering coquillages or galets carries a €1,500 fine. (And six years in prison for the couple who tried to cart home 40kg of sand from their vacation!). As for driftwood, Le Service Public notes it is OK to take. But now another dilemma arose: these shapely pieces of wood we’d collected were too beautiful to burn!
Back on the web, I watched a documentary on driftwood artists including the exotically beautiful Karine, a furniture-maker who harvests wood near Biarritz, and the no-nonsense grandmother who drags home driftwood from the beaches of Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer. Sigh! From lamps to outdoor seating, such beautiful creations these artists make!
But the last thing my family needs is another obsessed artiste – and all the paraphernalia that goes along with making art. No! By burning this wood we could eliminate a possible hoarding situation – and heat our home instead. This was a win-win outcome, surely!
And then i twigged…
But was it, after all, OK to burn driftwood? A few more taps on the keyboard and the results were in, via this terrifying headline: ‘Driftwood – the Deadliest Firewood in the World’. Yikes if that didn’t stop me in my log-marked tracks! I don’t want my family breathing in dioxins when those salt-saturated logs release toxic chemicals as they burn.
Mais quelle dommage! The idea of lugging all this wood back to the sea was killing me until my conscience piped up again: “All is not lost when you view things from an artist’s perspective. Keep the treasure. Make art, not fire.”
LE BRASERO = brasier, fire pit
LA BRINDILLE = twig
LE PETIT BOIS = kindling
LA POIGNÉE = handful
LA PLAGE = beach
LE BOIS FLOTTÉ = driftwood
LE COQUILLAGE = shell
LE GALET = stone
QUEL DOMMAGE! = what a pity!
Lead photo credit : Kristin and her driftwood collection
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