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The Driftwood Mixtape
When music and and the wind take you where you did not plan to go, or maybe tried too hard to get to.
The Summer Mix. Made famous by the DJs of Ibiza, or, alternatively, the boombox in the California bedroom of my childhood home. Each spring, as my classmates counted down the days until summer, I counted up the songs on the music mix, rewinding the cassette player forward and back until the transition between Marley and Hootie was ever so right. Re-recording over Dave to add a new Petty and then shift it all again for the Macarena.
Each song had its place, and ultimately its ball point inscription on the inside of the cassette case. At the beginning of summer, Umbro, Speedo, and RipCurl-T clad, I would hand it over to my uncle who would proudly, or so I hoped, play it on repeat for all of us bouncing around in the Suburban no matter where we went.
Over the plays, my penmanship would begin to smear like sunblock on wet skin, one letter bleeding into its neighbor like the hot salty days flitting into the next. All the while, the transitions stayed the same, each track telling its summer tale.
For whatever reason, this morning my misted sunglasses reminded me of that ball point blue I worked so hard to perfect every summer. But today, the soundtrack was visual, an album of driftwood strewn ashore, one piece framing the other, their compilation adorning the horizon.
As I ran by, through, around, and over, I wondered if all the pieces I have dragged home over the years were actually akin to those cassette mixes from decades ago, their mangled perfection now spurring a sweatily imperfect introspection.
Historically, drift has meant to drive forward with purpose, not to list aimlessly as we attribute it now. In fact, its pie root, dhreibh, translates to drive, or to push.
Maybe these pieces of wood I have so delicately collected over the years have never in fact ‘drifted’ ashore, simply arriving to these sandy beaches, but instead have taken themselves here for us to engage with, to partake in, if we are so lucky. A layering of stories and souls, tales and winds, each burst, each note, each wave, each piece its own for us to decipher.
Like a next step in life, a new job, partner, child, or career, the kind we spend hours rewinding and fast forwarding to try and meticulously perfect, while all the while it is the subtle blur, that drip of damp ink or lenses decorated in salty mist, that uncontrollable, driven drift, that makes it all turn out so well. Each piece, each song, an anthology of identity and character. Of individual.
Wind and waves, driftwood and sounds - never even, always unique, each their own Summer Mix to take with us wherever we go. As today’s piece found me, I reminisced of the 1993 mix, where nestled between Ace of Base and a Cheeseburger in Paradise, Buffet sang:
There's a highway of stars across the heavens
There's a whispering song of the wind in the grass
There's a rolling thunder across the Savannah
A hope and a dream at the edge of the sky
And your life is the story of the wind
Your life is a story like the wind
I'm searching for the spirit of the great heart
To hold and stand me by
I'm searchin' for the spirit of the great heart
To hold and stand me by