“Tides and Chance”

St Marys River Cordgrass

Northeastern Wind Over the St Marys River

Jay Griffiths remembers time “by the sea” at her grandparents’ place as a child:

“We learned about tides and chance, storms and sun, the vicissitudes of what is lost and found, flotsam and jetsam, castaway luck, islands, sea-songs, rings, riddles and pledges. We learned the sense of a clear slate in the renewal of the tide-smoothed sand.”


The following stream of consciousness is an old journal entry scribbled years ago about a quarter mile from the boulder above:

I joined a fuzzy patch of flourescent green on the north side of a beech half-submerged into the forest floor like a splintered bridge across an inlet of clover with miniature fuchsia rafts the shape of campy cartoon gloves from the 1930s.

Under lime green umbrellas occasionally polka-dotted with complimentary pink mites a black-brown salamander crunched through the forest floor when fifty yards north over a small hill a large brown face with a black mustache and well-trimmed beard grew out of the distance into a tanned beer gut carrying the rest of a shirtless man through the forest over fallen trees and wild onions directly toward the mites clover and salamanders here on a soft log below an azure hole punch through the canopy.

The man had a leather tool belt around his waste, or so I thought.  Or maybe a pair of binoculars. He spotted me writing on a log.  As his girth filled my field of vision, I realized that the faded leather strap submerged below his stomach held an old revolver.

While student teaching in a first grade classroom, Holden taught me that moss grows on the north side of trees.  At the age of six, he had more energy than anyone I’ve ever met. He also knew that poison ivy has 3 leaves.

Tenacity near the derelict Gilman Paper Company.

The Gilman Paper Company was sold to the Durango Paper Company in 1998, which filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2009.  Recent talk of turning the site into a swath of high-end condominiums along the St Marys River was hushed when developers realized the scale of environmental cleanup necessary after decades of pollution.

When my family moved to St Marys in 1989, the majority of people were either employed by the Navy, or Gilman paper company.

Who knew that my little sister would eventually go bowling with Mikhail Baryshnikov, thanks to Howard Gilman?

An excerpt from Forbes.com describes Gilman’s “pet projects:”

The Fall of The House of Gilman

by Robert Lezner and Tomas Kellner

$154 million spent transforming the White Oak Plantation in Yulee, Fla., which was acquired by the Gilman family in 1938, into a dance center for Baryshnikov and other noted artists, a conference center and a home for 60 species of endangered and threatened animals, including reticulated giraffes, okapis, black and white rhinoceros, and cheetahs. Howard played host at White Oak to U.S. presidents and celebrities and their families, often using the company’s plane to ferry them to White Oak. The guests were fed meals prepared by top-notch chefs. Bill Clinton played golf on Gilman’s private nine-hole course.

A high school friend told me that rather than ceasing to pollute the air 365 days a year, Gilman chose to simply pay the annual fines.

The kicker for our high school football team made considerable hazard pay at the Gilman Paper Company wearing a hazmat suit, climbing and cleaning scrubbers.

Concrete Slabs in a Toxic Pool

Milky Toxicity

The greyscale stones are actually floating pieces of soiled styrofoam that shift with the wind.

For years, the air in St Marys’ historic downtown/riverfront area reeked of sulfur.  A friend had a four foot mini ramp in his backyard right on the marsh, and some days the stench was unbearable.

Judging from singed stacks of annual profit and loss statements scattered around the ashes, this house once held an accounting office for Gilman.  The shell of a home was later visited by anti-Christians, Crips, and squatters.

Squatter Remnants

Crip Graffiti

Oxidized Calculator