Friday, June 3, 2011

Seaspray by Joanna Campbell Slan

Joanna Campbell Slan is the author of the Kiki Lowenstein Mystery Series that began with Paper, Scissors, Death, which was an Agatha Award Finalist. Her most recent book is Make, Take, Murder. Next year will see the debut of The Jane Eyre Chronicles by Joanna. These will feature Jane Eyre as an amateur sleuth.              

Visit Joanna at

By Joanna Campbell Slan

Seaspray. We named our house Seaspray.

You can’t see “her” from the road or from the beach.  She’s tucked away on an island off the Atlantic coast of Florida. When we first saw this small cottage, she was nearly overwhelmed by the straggly hibiscus that towered over her windows and the sea grapes that blocked the view of the ocean. She’d been empty for three years, abandoned and left to her own devices.

But I knew I was home. That tiny white board and batten structure plucked at my heartstrings. We were meant for each other.

“I’ve never asked you for anything,” I said to my husband David, “but this is what I want. More than anything. This is the place I’ve been dreaming of my whole life.”

It took some doing. Getting a loan these days is hard. There were so many hoops to jump through. Inspections. Appraisals. Going back and forth with the bank.  And on the day we closed the listing agent didn’t want to take down his sign. “You never know,” he said with a smirk.

“Yes, you do. This is ours,” I said.  I wanted to add, “Take it down or I’ll put it out in the trash.”

Seaspray sits at the end of a winding driveway full of overgrown trees. When we bought her, she had rats in her attic. Her windows don’t close tightly. Her decks are rotting. But she’s mine. I’ve wiped down her counters and washed her windows. I’ve scrubbed her floors. Slowly, she has revealed her secrets to me.

That strangely pitted siding on her interior walls is Pecky Cypress. A fungus attacks the wood and causes those enchanting grooves. That odd room upstairs does, indeed, have superior light streaming through the big sliding glass doors. In fact, one of the former occupants used it as his painting studio. That Mexican tile floor is Santillo. The tiles are handmade and then put out in the sun to dry, where the occasional animal crossing over it leaves a lucky footprint. That orange flowering plant isn’t a weed. It’s a butterfly bush and it attracts Monarch butterflies as they make their annual migration. And yes, that sound you hear is the surf. It is extra loud here. The waves crash up against the rock formations along the coast. The small pockets in the rocks make the perfect repositories for seashells, so I try to time my walks to take advantage of this natural gathering at low tide.

Seaspray came with an odd assortment of furniture the previous owners left behind. In our garage, I found a sagging dresser. I had it stripped and refinished.  It’s handmade, which explains why the drawer fronts are a little larger than they should be. That refurbished dresser sits proudly in our guest bedroom. Perhaps I’m prejudiced, but I think it absolutely divine, even if it takes a bit of effort to close the drawers properly.

Under a cheap decorator table cloth, I found a charming wicker table that I repainted navy blue. I glory in the weave and shape of it.

A ladder back chair with a woven rush seat was hidden under a chair cover. I fixed the frayed rushes on the seat with glue and clamps. I think its chipping paint tells a story, one that I love to “hear” again and again. At night, I pile my bed pillows on the chair, but I don’t like folks to sit on it. It’s too fragile.

I sleep with the window curtain pulled to one side, so that I wake to the sunrise over the ocean. I find the natural light much superior to any alarm clock, and the layered sherbet hues never fail to inspire me to get up and going on the day.

And yes, I still find time to write. My heart is full of joy; I think that happiness is spilling over onto the pages as I work.

I’ve come home, home to Seaspray.


Evelyn David said...

Wow! What a beautiful place. Thanks for sharing!

Peg Brantley said...

Oh, to live on Big Water.

I'm a mountain girl (Colorado) whose dream it is to live someplace where the sound of surf is a constant soother.


Joanna Campbell Slan said...

You are so welcome! I loved writing this post.

Dru said...

Your place sounds divine. I can picture everything with your words. It must be peaceful and beautiful at the same time.

Patty said...

I'm jealous -- it sounds divine. I love going to sleep with the sound of the surf. The house sounds wonderful as well. Now, keep to that writing schedule!

Allyson McGill said...

I am so happy for you! I especially love the thought of hearing the surf at all times.

Margaret said...

What a wonderful description of your home. Glad you found the place of your heart.

jenny milchman said...

This brief post is as good--better--than any writing in a travel article or memoir about place. I read every word twice--and blog posts tend to be easy to scroll past key points, at least for me. Not this one. Your sense of coming home took my breath away. I have yet to find that myself--but after reading your post, I'll know what to look for.

Emilie Richards said...

Hearing you talk about it, then seeing the story with photos was a joy. I'm glad you found Seaspray, too. And this post has nearly convinced me we ought to at least "look" on the Atlantic side of Florida, despite being a dyed in the wool Gulf Coaster.

Neil Plakcy said...

Lovely post, Joanna!

Joanna Campbell Slan said...

Gosh, thanks everyone. I am so very, very happy here. I wish that all of you find a spot you love so much. And Emilie, you know I want you as a neighbor here, too.

Linda Gordon Hengerer said...

Joanna, the pics are lovely, and do the house and view justice. I love your office; being able to turn your head and see the ocean is priceless.