Seeing driftwood, with an artist’s eye  

Posted by Denis Haack in , , ,

In my office, sitting on the sill of the window directly in front of my desk is a piece of driftwood. It’s about a foot long, is fairly straight, contains a couple of interesting small knots in the grain, and like a lot of driftwood is bleached white. It’s utterly ordinary, but very precious to me. Several months after I brought it home friends stayed in our home as they traveled to visit family in Iowa, and the kids apparently played with it. At any case I discovered the stick was broken in two after they left. I never considered throwing it out, but got glue to repair it. The break can be seen, but the driftwood is in one piece. I picked it up almost a decade ago, but it still is meaningful to me.

I picked it up on the north shore of Lake Superior. It had been thrown up on the rocks by the waves, and was just one small stick of driftwood among many I saw that day. I chose it because it was handy, and would travel home easily. That week a year of spiritual dryness had come to an end for me. It had been a year of disappointment, sorrow, and pain, a year during which I never once sensed God’s presence, or felt myself moved by Scripture whether to comfort or convict, or in some way felt that my prayers were heard—nothing, but dryness. That week the drought broke, creativity flowed, and for a few days it seemed that God was speaking to me in the Scriptures. I went for a walk along the shore and picked up the little stick of driftwood so that I would not forget.

Today as I look at the driftwood I am impressed by the memory but not by the stick. It is very ordinary, nondescript really—to me it looks just like the rest of the driftwood the waves have tossed ashore.

One of the wonders of grace in this broken world is how differing gifts allow people to see ordinary things in remarkably different ways. I remember how my wife Margie once brought home a derelict old ruin of a chair she had bought at a garage sale. I thought it a waste of money, but Margie saw it with different eyes, and when she was done reupholstering and sanding and staining the wood, her perspective was realized. The chair still sits in our living room.

I see driftwood, and can see it clearly enough to find a single stick to remind me of a moment of importance in my spiritual pilgrimage. But driftwood to me is just driftwood, odd shapes and odd pieces that can be found in odd piles along the shore. That is not, however, how Heather Jansch sees driftwood. A sculptor who displays remarkable creativity, she sees beyond the separate pieces to how they can fit together to be more than mere driftwood. And when Jansch is finished, the works of art she has created seem to move, and breath, and be alive in stunning ways.

Look at the art of Heather Jansch, and wonder at the grace of creativity, the glory of art, and how the artistic gift can allow someone see something extraordinary in ordinary things—even in ordinary pieces of ordinary driftwood.

This entry was posted at Monday, November 29, 2010 and is filed under , , , . You can follow any responses to this entry through the comments feed .


What a lovely picture of life out of dry bones. They do really almost look like bones, those gorgeous sculptures. I love seeing how many different kinds of vision artists have been given. Some for music, some for wool, some for paint, some for words, some for food, some for driftwood. Very specific tasks and callings, wherein little makers call life and beauty out of the ordinary and broken, imaging a Maker who does the same thing on a grand scale, and lets us play at His side. Thanks for this picture, Denis.

November 29, 2010 at 5:28 PM

Thanks for such a thoughtful comment--you and Kenny know exactly how this works, as you pluck notes and words out of your imagination and give them expression in your lovely music. I hadn't thought of the image of calling life out of dry bones (Ezekiel had real insight there so many centuries ago) but that is precisely right.
May your day be blessed by grace.

November 30, 2010 at 9:36 AM

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