Driftwood; 1965

‘According to Norse mythology, the first humans, Ask and Embla, were formed out of two pieces of driftwood, an ash and an elm, by the God Odin and his brothers, Vili and Ve’e.’ (ref 1;https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Driftwood)


Perhaps true, although I’d not heard that information at school, with other items likely taking up the classroom time. I was working that summer in the kitchen at Camp Wise, on Lake Erie’s shore, with enough free time to hike through the woods, study physics for my upcoming 12th grade class if raining, and enjoying time by the beach that was sheltered by the two long cement block piers.

Rolling waves, near-by-cliffs, the city of Fairport Harbor just to the west, seagull family get-togethers and occasionally finding some driftwood that I’d sit and carve during that most special summer.

A small piece safely made it ashore one July day where I rescued it from the upcoming nightly campfire, gently sanding it since the form was already quite to my liking, and as I did so I thought back to the conversation I’d just had.

Earlier that day, when walking back to the cabin after serving the campers their lunch, I saw Dr. Weisberger getting out of his car, visiting his daughters who both worked at the camp that summer, one as a ‘JC’, and the other as a counselor.I recognized him as a well-regarded doctor in Cleveland, and recalled being told that he was on the staff of, or actually the chairman, of the University Hospitals of Cleveland medicine department.

I politely introduced myself, trying not to interrupt him more than necessary and asked him a few questions about how one decides on college courses in preparation for medical school applications.  I was looking forward to applying to Western Reserve University soon, a visit there planned with an ‘early decision’ application possible.

He stopped walking, patiently answered my questions and advised me of some of the critical courses that I’d need to take confirming my plans, with these few moments of conversation being most helpful.

Indeed, who gets personal advice from the Chairman of the University’s Medicine Department just outside the dining hall of a summer camp..? I thanked him, he continued on to visit his children, and I continued my walking down to the beach with a few hours between lunch and setting up dinner for the campers, later that quiet summer’s afternoon.

I sat down in a partly shaded area, and looking down saw the small light-brown colored driftwood that had just washed ashore that I decided to spruce up; a tree somewhere off in the distance making this free donation.

With my small pocket knife and some sand-paper I slowly, gently worked with the woods’ natural shape and grain, from the blunt back to the pointed front end, like a boat prow sailing forward towards a land that was beyond the horizon.

As I sanded it down I thought about my upcoming ‘Early Decision’ application that I was about to send in: 12th grade starting soon, with the doctors’ advice being of help, adding to my confidence in this uncertain enterprise by giving me some needed practical guidance regarding taking courses at the institution he was familiar with, and congratulating me on my working to allow me to pay for this private University’s high tuition cost.

This verbal ‘pat-on-the-back’ being a most valuable if unexpected bonus.

The summer ended, and I put this well cared for small object into my suitcase and it accompanied me home, being awarded a safe harbor on my shelf, and when I look at it some 50 years later, I’m reminded of what my hopes were at age 17, the horizon now being just outside my home window.

– Stuart Terman

We’re all a bit like driftwood, occasionally going where nature sends us, our goals indeed often beyond the horizon as we bravely or reluctantly sail forth.

I’m a physician, previously Assistant Clinical Professor/Ophthalmology/Case Western Reserve in my home city of Cleveland, and am now retired. I’ve had publications in Medical/Literary/Poetry/Surgical/Ocular Journals, including the ‘Annals of Plastic Surgery’, the ‘Annals of Ophthalmology’, ‘The Ohio Family Physician’, www.consultantlive.com (June 7, 2010) (about accidental ocular instillation of ‘stomahesive’ https://www.cathexisnorthwestpress.com/birthday-wishes www.litcleveland.org/cleveland-stories.html (‘THE SINGER’) …about my grandmothers sewing machine.. the ‘Consultant for Pediatricians’, and your Spring, 2019 issue also, that you kindly accepted my poem ‘JULY LIGHTS’ into.