Life is good here in Summerhaven Florida. At least, it’s been good to me. I live in a wonderful little bungalow by the sea that was once a part of a motel and restaurant built in the 1920s. The history of this speck of land perched between mainland St Augustine Florida and the Inland Waterway goes way back and there are lots of fascinating tales of folk who called this place home over the centuries.
Very close to this place the Spanish of St Augustine massacred the men from Fort Caroline (near current day Jacksonville) who had planned to attack the city from the south. That’s another fascinating story, but even to this day scavengers with metal detectors walk the beaches hoping to find buttons or coins from that long ago event. Some of the homes on this tiny barrier island were built before there were bridges and visitors came by sailboat down the Matanzas River. Most are newer. Like mine.
In the 1950s one of the rooms in the motel was used in the filming of the movie, Return of the Creature from the Black Lagoon. The creature supposedly fell in love with a female diver trying to train him and escaped from the Marineland pool, swam north and came ashore to kidnap the lady from her bedroom. In the 60s the place was converted to apartments and still later, into three homes. One of them is mine.
The largest of the homes is two stories and fenced off, but the smaller two, my home and the one next to me share a courtyard and our corner lot with a fantastic view of the ocean. I rented here first while I was househunting, but the longer I lived in Summerhaven getting to know the neighbors and the beach, the less I liked anything else my patient real estate lady showed me. I got lucky when the owner offered to sell it to me. So here I am.
The gate to the courtyard My place is the green one Duff at the gate
But as I said, I share the lot with the rental next door. A friend of mine has dubbed the folk who come and go my “neighbors de jour.” Most stay longer than a day, of course, and some return again and again. And I have been privileged to meet some of the most interesting folk. I’m often asked if it’s not a pain to have new people coming and going all the time, but it’s not. Not really. Once there were a bunch of college kids on break who apparently sat out front late into the night drinking beer and tossing small stones at the sign on the corner. Bothered my neighbor who said the plinking kept him awake, but I can sleep through anything. The rental is one of few who allow dogs and I’ve met some really fun pooches, too.
Duffy loves to keep his eye on the corner and greet friends with a toy in his mouth. He’s often standing with his front feet on the fence checking out our neighbor of the week or their dog, most often with his tail awag so I think he enjoys the constant changing company as well.
I’ve met teachers and nurses, retirees and engineers. Young folks just starting out, families on break from the busy years of life, soldiers relaxing on well deserved leave and parents learning the joys and sorrows of an empty nest. Everyone has stories to tell and many of them are fascinating. I’ve been invited to family cookouts, and included in heavy discussions about books. And occasionally even a free-for-all about politics. As a writer, having neighbors de jour is a fantastic resource for new ideas. While I write fiction, I never write specific people into my books, but every story has characters to build and back story to create and the blessing of so many fun and funny people sharing so many interesting tidbits of life and experience is just wonderful. I’ve even sold a few of my books to my neighbors of the week or the month.
SO thanks to all of you who have come and gone over the years I’ve been here. All of you have been blessings in my life. You’ve brought color and change and challenge and character to this little corner of the world. Y’all come again sometime.
Sunrise to the left - me to the right our shared courtyard