August 19, 2008
Baker Co. -- Peaceful homes doesn't show up on a map, and if you hear about one, you can bet it's well off the beaten path. They exist in some out-of-the-way places like the one built by Richard Klias.
Some people might call it his Garden of Eden, with beautiful flowers he mostly rooted and nursed to adulthood, and he used driftwood to make big flower decorations that seem to touch the sky.
"This land has been in my family for at least a hundred years," says Richard as he stood near a hand-carved sign that says, "Klias Korner" cut in a piece of driftwood.
All types of birds sing, crickets chirp and butterflies flit leisurely from one flower to another without worry. Inside Richard's driftwood outlined place is a peaceful, close-to-nature feeling.
"It's so peaceful here, so peaceful," says Richard as he stands in what he calls the most peaceful place surrounded by plants, especially a banana plant with leaves as big as an umbrella. "Be around the plants from all angles. Hear all the bird sounds."
Another place he enjoys has great sentimental value. A canoe filled with peanut hulls and potting soil makes a great place to grow all types of plants in all their beauty.
"It belonged to my son when he was real young. He used to fish in it," says Richard.
Only about a foot or so of the yellow colored front sticks out, just enough to show that it is a real canoe. Flowers grow over all its sides.
He has at least two-dozen huge flower arrangements that he changes occasionally, and the vast majority have driftwood as big component.
"I've loved it (driftwood) all my life and I collect it because you can see something different in each piece. You see a lot of beauty in God's creation. It's just something I love," says Richard as he stands on the bank of the Ichawaynochaway Creek that gently flows southward behind his house.
The other side of the creek shows promise.
"I see future driftwood like a lot of those roots over there on the bank. A future flood will wash it up and they will end up in the creek one day, and I'll pick-up some of that stuff," says Richard who doesn't appear in a hurry to row over and get before the high water comes and pushes the decorative items downstream.
He's been known to wade into the creek and pull pieces of driftwood to the shore. He remembers one piece that weighed more than a hundred pounds, and took him more than an hour to get. Richard's persistence won.
Driftwood makes up just about everything in his paradise, with pieces sticking 20 feet into the air. It's as plentiful as gnats on a summer day. He often hangs fishing nets on the wood. It seems the nets and driftwood were made for each other.
"The nets go with the driftwood perfectly because it creates a beach scene," says Richard. The closest beach is more than a hundred miles away from his Baker County paradise.
Richard believes most of the driftwood he collects goes back a-hundred to a-hundred-and-fifty-years and perhaps earlier.
"See that hole in that wood," says Richard. "The wood came from an old bridge. The hole was drilled by hand and a peg was put in to hold another board to it. This was before nails were invented."
Almost every piece has a story.
Meticulously organized flower pots sit at attention, with green sticks to make sure the flowers grow straight. He uses mostly cuttings, instead of seeds, to grow his hundreds of flowers. He plans to open his nursery soon, but when people come to look at the flowers, they may remember the peacefulness more than his flowers.
A pole barn makes up one side of his paradise with a two-person swing hanging a few feet from its tin roof. A gentle breeze blows through just about all the time, and he says he doesn't feel the heat from the tin roof. He can see his whole paradise from the swing, all the driftwood, all the flowers many with huge leaves that he loves so much.
"I see a lot of natural beauty," says Richard.
A 50-year-old table sits in front of the swing and he props his feet on it occasionally because once you've seen paradise, you don't get in a hurry to leave.