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  • Kim Van Sandt


It seems that the theme at the beach yesterday was ‘layers’. In so many things I saw, I noticed layers. It started with the log to the left where the layers were so pretty and fragile looking.

I pick up driftwood for my art projects. Probably entirely too much (especially if you ask my husband who has lost use of most of his real estate in the garage due to driftwood). But I do leave some behind, mostly because they are too large to pick up (i.e., they are bigger than my sled, or too heavy for my arms and the distance back to my car. Often those huge, heavy pieces contain the most elaborate systems of layers. And the lake will wash out the filler between the stronger layers, so the layers are often separated and defined. Sometimes I have found them in a spiral or circular pattern in a large pole. Other times it is layers of boards in relationship to how they were cut. And then other times it is in the layers of the huge logs like I saw yesterday.

You can see how some of the layers are stronger than others if you check out the knotty bird sculptures ( I’ve done. It is so cool to me how whatever else of that board or branch has washed away, but these knots are all that is left (I don’t do anything to shape them, only a little polish added). These are a little hard to find sometimes.

At the one beach where I visit frequently during the off-season, I found shale there, and it has lots of layers. Although it is fragile and not as pretty as some of the other stones, so I only pick up a small amount of it. Some of the layers are a little more deliberate, I just happened to notice a little cairn stack of stones on the beach, 5 flat, smooth black stones and one tan one. It was cute, I almost missed it but was happy I noticed it before I knocked it over or something. Some of the other layers I saw were a little more dramatic.

The hidden layers that are underneath us can be really surprising. The lake (Lake Michigan pictured here) and the waves will often wreak havoc on the shoreline and show us the layers that we were just previously walking over. These reveals are always interesting. After spending 3 or 4 summers at Weko beach, a couple years ago, the winter really tore up the shoreline we were accustomed to, revealing a whole different beach. Previous attempts from the CCC (or maybe some other agency, historians can you help me out?) to protect the shore that had been hidden for maybe a generation, surfaced. So then, far below the beach we were walking on, were several large cement blocks a few feet tall, stacked and lined up and we had no idea about them being there. It was just so strange to not have any idea of what was there.

Most of the time the lake reveals more natural layers. Some are different colors. Sometimes the layers are just different consistencies depending on the weather at the time. Other times the layers will include plants, especially beach grass and roots. Other times a tree is hidden and revealed by the waves. During my walk yesterday I saw several sets of stairs that the lake was claiming for driftwood, and which would possibly end up as layers of beach later. There was also a deck, and a rolled-up section of plastic hurricane fencing. I’ve included pics of one section of the beach where someone used the wall of layers to carve out a peace sign. Apparently, they were making ‘peace’ with the layers (pun intended).

It just made me think about how much we are layered. We are emotionally layered with years, good times, traumatic times, good life decisions, bad decisions and consequences. We walk around with only the surface layer visible, and often no idea what might be underneath others’ layers. Unfortunately, we're even a little blind to what we’ve buried on our own layers. And with social media now, we often live on delicately constructed surfaces, presenting a representation of us, but so often leaving all the most interesting or important layers hidden.

I’m thinking that as I face so many people and situations, I can only imagine how much better my interactions would be if I thought about what is hidden under the others’ layers? And it might help if I remember I have things hidden away, that might be more helpful revealed? Maybe opening up a little will help us help each other and make peace with all our layers?

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