During spring break, at my childhood home on the North Florida marsh, where my mother still resides, Gabe and I visited Rock, two doors down. In marsh world, Rock’s dock is just a quick canoe ride away. By way of the street, his house is a five minute flip-flop walk. At five, I was old enough to make the short trek to his house and we’ve been friends ever since. Rock is my golden friend. He and his wife Sharon have been a part of my life since those first memories. Rock employed me to clean his pool in high school. Rock and Sharon and their daughters were there when I married my husband. They’ve been a part of each of our kid’s lives, and vice versa. We love them as family.
Most times when we’re at Mom’s, we make the 5 minute walk to see what’s happening at Rock and Sharon’s. One of my favorite things is that not much has changed there in 50 years, except they brought in sand for a beach on the marsh front about 3 years ago and a few decades ago, Rock built a second shed to accommodate his wood working hobby. Other than that, it all seems about the same and I love that.
The flip-flop walk always produces a decent amount of sand between the toes. So, the first thing I do when I arrive is take a minute to clean off the feet. Then, we head for the shed. As we approached, an earthy reassuring scent of bark and oil drew us inside. There, we glimpsed a good look at the wood working operation.
Rock is an amazing carpenter and wood technician. He built boats for years and even convinced my husband to buy one or two. Now he makes beautiful bowls from exquisite pieces of drift and fallen wood that he finds in his marsh travels. On this particular day, he was showing us a cedar bowl he fashioning on the lathe from an old tree that had washed up near the St. John’s River. I love hearing where he finds all his specimens.
“Hurricane Irma brought up some nice pieces,” he told us. Plus, he has friends that bring him spalted wood. So, he has a goodly supply. Spalted wood is wood that has discolored from rot or fungi. Shaping and polishing spalted wood reveals fabulous patterns and colorations which is highly sought after by woodworkers. The rounded spalted piece in Gabe’s hand in the photo above has been cut and if you look closely, you’ll see the holes and patterns in the wood.
Half the fun of going over there is seeing the colorful signs on the shed, the piles of wood shavings, the tools, the saws, the umpteen hundred hanging cords and the dogs. Much of the eclectic shed decor came from the marsh or the street. He told us the story of the horse at the apex of the roof, and the helmet covered skull just below it.
“That’s the alien,” he said. “Don’t you think it looks like one?
“Well, maybe,” I said. “What kind of skull is that?”
“It’s a sea turtle skull,” he poked. “Can’t you tell?”
I brought my hand up to shield the glare, “Heck fire! That is a turtle,” I said.
Gabe smiled at my revelation. I guess he’d already figured it out.
We spent a little more time in the back yard messing around with the slobbering dogs and then we walked the short space back to my childhood home. The tide was rising and there was fishing to do. But, this was the first and most important stop on spring break. I hope never to miss it, never to miss it just as it was this day.