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A Special Place for Work and Inspiration


There is a stretch of the Potomac River that is special to me. Within a seven minute drive of my home, I often go to collect materials, create ephemeral sculpture or simply enjoy a calming and regenerative natural setting. Parking next to the Mount Vernon Parkway, I can walk down to the shore of this magnificent river. Since it is affected by the Atlantic tides, I usually go during low tide, when the gravel and sand beach is exposed. There is roughly a quarter mile stretch, one can walk, with an abundance of Nature on display. Blue Birds are seen at times flying from one tree to another and eagles often cruise there for fish or perch in a tree over looking the water. Great logs and trees with root tangles wash up on the beach as they make their way down this mighty waterway. A tremendous amount of smaller driftwood is revealed in amazing shapes, textures and degrees of hardness. Hardwoods are the most durable and seem to have endured the longest treks. Thousands of snail shells litter the beach, many still concealing their lodgers. There are times when boaters plying the river hear the staccato racket of floating shells hitting the hull. Large timbers from washed away piers and docks appear as do other floating debris and refuse. Even arrow heads have been found there, artifacts hinting of the early civilizations that lived and fished along these shores.


A few anglers and beach combers know of and like this spot. It is mostly below drivers' eye sights from the parkway, so unless one stops and walks down the bank through brush, the beach is isolated. That few go there is part of its attraction. It is quite peaceful. An occasional military "chopper" makes its way up or down the Potomac as do airplanes approaching or leaving National Airport, depending on the wind. These do not annoy me as I am fascinated with flight. They simply are part of the movement of people around me, on land , on water , and in air.


When I'm inspired to assemble a sculpture, the materials are close at hand and the beach is my platform. Working here is a Zen like activity akin to a religious experience for me. Picking up pieces of wood that interest me, I put them together instinctively. Each piece seems to reveal a relationship with other pieces in the assembly. Sometimes I try different positions until the conjunction "works" or just "feels right." This is an organic evolution that often seems like play. As the project is ephemeral, I am not attached and am quite willing to let Nature have her way and erase this assembly in her own time. I even enjoy coming back and seeing how it falls apart over time, sometimes quickly, others over several days.

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© 2020 by Marcos Smyth