So This is New Year’s

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2016 has been quite the year. Americans have come to find out that we have a nasty underbelly. In all our years as a nation, we’ve become more cynical and less loving. (You may disagree with me but these are my thoughts.) It has saddened me to hear how hateful, racist and the rest of the list, many of us are. The election exposed these biases and the fact that patriarchy is still fighting to keep the upper hand, in both politics and religion. The alpha male stomping around to bring women, genders, sexual preference and anyone who is not like himself — into submission. The threat of the loss of power has had, and will continue to have, dire consequences for us as human beings, a nation, and the future of the planet. My hope is that women will become recognized to have a more important contributing voice as we go forward. Right now it feels like we are going backwards.

Enough with the political front of the year. We’ve sadly, had to say good bye to many artists. Sitting here on a hill overlooking Orient Bay, I recall doing the same thing last year. The island was all a buzz, with the news, that Prince was celebrating the New Year on St. Barths. I tried to picture what that looked like and who was invited. We usually are very low key for New Year’s. Sushi and champagne while watching the ball drop is our pace, if we can stay awake. Last year we were here on SXM, the first time doing the holidays on the island. We watched, from our hilltop perch, the fireworks over the bay and listened to the party music below. That’s our plan for this year. We were still on the rock when the news of David Bowie’s passing began the long list of sad losses for 2016. Then in the spring, Prince, too, made the list.

Woven through these two contrasting stories is an underlying theme of human frailty. There is a delicate balance between life and death, love and hate, hope and despair, faith and doubt, confidence and fear, safety and crime or war. We consider the rich and celebrity worthy of respect while humiliating others. 2017 will be more of the same unless we are willing to change. Many think the US is a Christian nation, yet are not following Christ’s example, rather, a religion that aligns itself with patriarchal views of controlling others. Until we see each other as equals, there will be no peace or real success personally or nationally. The world is becoming a global neighborhood with all its diversity. We must learn to embrace our differences instead of tribalistic individualism. What are we leaving behind for future generations? Much of it is a tale of woe. We continue to teach those younger then ourselves how to behave within our surroundings. It is frustrating to see the perpetuation of such destructive systems. Doesn’t even religion teach, we are all brothers and sisters? Did not our founders state “all men are created equal”? Brothers and sisters, all equal with many gifts to bring to the table. And yes, artists among us, inspired to bring beauty to the rest of us. I think I’ll just reflect on that.

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Saba-tical

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Part 2
Mt. Scenery’s visibility kept on changing. A mist covered the peak then hurried past revealing its shape. Even here in town lush vines, plants and trees with large leaves and beautiful flowers sprouted everywhere. The temperature so fickle, changed moment to moment, causing the need for a light sweater.

All the houses here have the same color scheme. They are painted white with green trim and red roofs, some have ginger breading, giving Saba unique charm. All of the different aspects of the island were so much to take in. It was a sensory overload! We boarded the taxi, waved good bye to our friend and winded our way back to the ferry.

The Crossing back to SXM was long and rough. We sat squeezed in-between hot sweaty people. Windows closed to air and sea spray made it difficult to breathe. With home in sight, we stepped outside of the back of the boat for some fresh air to revive us. We couldn’t wait to get off the vessel. Once back on land we sat on the nearby beach to enjoy the sunset.

What an early, long, busy day it had been. There was so much I wanted to see here. Good hiking shoes are needed for the trails. It would’ve been nice to try out one of the restaurants and get a feel for the peaceful pace. Deep sea diving another draw to Saba, is not an activity we participate in. The day ended up being expensive between the ferry and taxi, all just for one day.

As I reflect back, it was perplexing to simultaneously feel how incredibly large Saba is while it is in actuality a small, five square mile island. Soaring heights set in the grandness of ocean and sky. I sure would like to go back and stay a bit longer, but only if we fly!

Saba-tical

Part 1

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I have wanted to visit the “unspoiled queen” for years! Bill prefers beaches and was reluctant to go. Thankfully, friends of ours were staying in a house over there for the entire month of December. This was my big chance! Twenty years coming to SXM without ever making it to Saba, another first!

Between business, family, friends and the weather, it was now their last week. Lucky for us the winds had died down somewhat when we rode the ferry over. Even so, the sea was rough enough that several passengers took advantage of the plastic bags provided. One and a half hours, twice as long as it takes to get to St. Barths! Waves splashed over windows and the top of the boat. Closing them made it warm and suffocating, which didn’t help with seasickness spreading among the group.

Finally, Saba began to emerge out of the horizon. As we drew closer, the sun revealed a menacing silhouette. The extinct volcano appeared symmetrical from our vantage point and looked like a giant flying stingray, ready to engulf us. We made our way, counter clockwise, around the mountain which dwarfed all the boats at its base. Shapes and colors started to define the deep fissures running vertically along the face. Beautiful green foliage contrasted with the stark bare rocks that cascaded into the waters. The sea was much smoother here.

The dock looked industrial and bland. Clearing customs, we joined the others who now were waiting to board one of the three taxi vans. We loaded up and ascended to Bottom, the first town. That’s right, we had to go up to get to The Bottom! Hairpin turns and steep pitches before us, as the taxi manually shifted through the gears. Catching our breath at the first short lived plateau, we then continued snaking our way up, around, then down and repeating. There were short cement guard walls between the narrow road and the cliff’s edge. Even so, cars and taxis beeped then passed us! Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride came to mind. We hoped the gears worked going up and the breaks too, as we went back down. St. John’s, so small it didn’t seem like a village, more like a sprinkling of homes on an out cropping. Then reaching the town of Winwardside, sharp turns were approached slowly, with the sound of blowing the horn to announce our presence to any oncoming traffic.

We made two stops, dropping off day hikers and a family who planned a few days hotel stay. Only Bill and myself remained. We told our driver we were going to Spy Glass House. Leaving town we veered to the right off of “The Road”, following along to its end. Here we reached our destination. Our hosts came toward us with warm welcomes.

What a beautiful spot! The house perched atop a flat precipice, infinity just beyond it. A haze hung in the air blurring the divide between sky and sea. Behind us arose Mt. Scenery, the summit of Saba.

We toured the lovely Carribean cottage styled home. All the doors and windows were open, inviting continual breezes. Carribean air conditioning at its best. Our hostess had prepared a spread of savory and sweet snacks, along with choice of beverages. With drinks in hand we walked from one vista to another. The perception of size scale was mind blowing. A passing tanker looked like a floating cigarette!

We had arrived at the port at 10:30 and had to return in time for a 3:30 departure. The day literally flew by. Our friend had so enjoyed her fleeting time on the Rock and wanted to share it all with us. We walked back to the village visiting shops and meeting all her new friends. The total population for the entire island is 1,900—small town for sure! Everyone knows everyone. We had enough time left now to check out the view from a local hot spot, find the entrance to the rainforest trail and have one last drink together.

(continued in part 2)

Afternoon Delight

After a busy morning, we chose to drive from Simpson Bay to Lotterie Farm for the afternoon. Just near the stadium by Marigot, the traffic stopped dead. It took us an hour from this point to arrive at our destination. A cement truck pouring a sidewalk, blocked the lane by the turn off for Colombier.

Once we arrived at Lotterie, my sister took her sons zip lining allowing Bill and I to decompress. (They have two different ropes courses, one of which is called extreme.) We opted to sit in the Tree House Restaurant with a bottle of wine and a couple delicious appetizers. The cool breeze soothed our tired minds as we lounged on the comfortable couches. Off in the distance, Iguanas draped large limbs and treetops catching the last rays of sunshine. We haven’t been here since the renovations that added the pool and zip lines. The pool looked so inviting surrounded by raised cabanas, like a secret garden. There were chickens roaming the grounds. I noticed giant palms interspersed amoung the woods. St. Martin’s lush interior contrasting the rugged coast line and beautiful beaches.

My sister and the boys enjoyed their adventure and joined us for a snack. We so wanted to linger in the glow but the parking lot was emptying out for the day alerting us that it was time to head back to Simpson Bay. Next time we will spend the whole day there.

(After having such a wonderful time we again ended up sitting in traffic….for another hour, right in Simpson.)

Come Now and Let Us Reason

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I think this is my favorite Bible verse. Reasoning, discussing with thoughtfulness and respect. To me it assumes both parties are qualified to participate. It is an inclusive invitation.

Sometimes I think that in the discourse, someone maybe hiding a motive or is ashamed to reveal their true thoughts out of fear of exposure. This verse has always been a gentle reminder of the love and safety between the two parties. Our humanness can thwart any progress without those ingredients. Lack of trust and fear of retaliation snuff out hope of any understanding.

The approach, as well, indicates whether there is a true willingness to enter into honest dialogue. Once again the verse is a warm and open invitation to understand one another’s point of view.

Amazing that a resolution or space to agree to disagree can save the relationship. Coming along side of one another, finding love in eye contact, affirms not only our humanity but our brotherhood, our sisterhood. The realization of our Interconnectiveness is the goal.

So come now and let us reason together, says the Lord. Put pride aside and be vulnerable. Find the “other” to be an extension of you.

My Happy Place

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Picture Gilligan’s Island, the way your mind would see it. A beautiful undiscovered island cove that seems to be uninhabited. Easy to find by boat, way too easy! Thankfully on foot, trails still need to be taken. Happy Bay has become a popular spot for everyone. I’m spoiled because I remember when no one else was on the beach. Now it is frequented by nudists during the week and by clothed locals with families on the weekend. (I’ve spotted a few naked natives over the years!)

Danny’s Beach Bar provides barbecue and drink. Place your order for chicken ribs or combo upon arrival. It takes time to cook and supplies are limited. The boats however do not bring him any business. I think I loved it more before everyone put this beach on their must see list. There are so many people on the beach it is difficult to claim my favorite shady spot under the sea grape tree. Boaters all stop, even bringing crowds ashore. Although I’ve never felt safer, is it becoming another paradise lost?

As evening draws near, the beach is once again abandoned. The nearby cows gather to frolic on the sand leaving presents behind. Early morning brings local fishermen to cast their nets well before the first wave of the day’s visitors. It’s beauty always makes me happy.

Cain and Abel Revisited

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Two bothers, one land
Somehow only one way will stand

In the Bible story, the two brothers bring God a sacrifice. Cain brings crops of the land he’s been farming while Abel hunts for an animal. I was taught that the. Point of the story was — God was more pleased with Abel’s sacrifice because of the blood. Cain’s was rejected because it was out of his own efforts. Cain, out of jealousy, kills his brother Abel. God confronts Cain and lets him know that Abel’s blood cries out from the earth for justice. God edicts Cain and causes him to forever wander. He was certain that he’d be killed, so God, in the story, “put a sign on Cain” (KJV), which when our son was very young said that the “sign” said “Don’t kill Cain”.

I want to retell the story from the perspective of Abel being a hunter-gatherer and Cain as the farmer. Cain is the white brother. Abel is brown. Cain came across the ocean and found his long lost brown brother Abel. He looked down on his brother and judged all his ways. He called him a heathen, barbarian, and primitive. Cain began imposing his farming ways and privatized the once fence-less land. Abel had to move away from the permanent structures to clean lands. Cain’s ways of progress used up the trees for fences and houses, killed the wild animals for their fur until they were no more. Cain’s footprints could also be seen in the rivers, dirtying the drinking water with bodily waste. Drinking and fishing from life giving rivers were now polluted. Cain forced Abel into smaller and smaller parcels of land. He farmed without resting the land, until it no longer had any energy to yield crops. Everywhere Cain went he made a mess with no regard of consequences. His family raped both land and women forcing both into submission.

Abel’s wise ways barely left a footprint on the land or all its resources. There was always enough for all. This way of life was efficient and sustainable. He took care of his needs, not his pleasure. They understood plants and their uses, making medicines from herbs. When hunting they honored the death of the animal and thanked it for sacrificing its life for their own. Every part was used. Nothing was thrown away.

Cain brought strife and disease along with rules that made women somehow less than man. Abel’s family honored, respected and held women as equals. Cain didn’t like it and refused to respect the customs of his brothers descendants. No, he changed their customs, languages and the ways of Abel to the point of death.

We see this sibling rivalry still being played out today. Cain sucking all the oil out of the ground and spilling it. Fracturing deep into the earth to satisfy his hunger for oil, he continues his habit of polluting drinking water. The earth too, has grown weary of the way of Cain. She quakes to shake off his terrible abuse. She, in the end, will have the last word. As the ocean dies and becomes acidic and the land no longer produces sustenance, Cain will be brought to his knees. He will see that he has ushered in death where there once was life. His way of always taking, using, and abusing will come to an end. His ways of falsely placing honor, respect and dignity to only a few while never recognizing the equality and honor of all, will be why he will be judged by God.

Abel’s ways, male and female working together, worked beautifully before Cain. This way of life can work again when Cain is judged anew for his crimes against his brother and the earth. Harmony, once more, would be restored between earth and creature.

Change in Plans

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My sister wanted more than anything to take her two sons on a sail that included snorkeling. Plans in place, reservations for seven, when, oops, that ship sailed, literally! The meeting time had changed and now our plans as well.

We quickly did an online scramble looking for an alternative that wasn’t an all day event. We decided to go with the Rhino Safari. Great! The departure time remained as before! Now our group was down to five. I think my parents secretly were thrilled not to have participate in a sail. They stayed at the resort, hung out by the pool and got to relax.

Fins and vests were handed out. We listened to a briefing on the rules and signals that included a warning to not freak out when at Happy Bay. (Yes, we might see naked people there!) We then climbed onto our Rhinos and headed across Simpson Bay Lagoon. It was warm, sunny and windy. We passed below the bridge at Sandy Ground before heading out to sea. It was pretty choppy. The waves hitting us directly. We proceeded slowly hugging the coast passing Marigot, Baie De La Potence, Friar’s Bay and into Happy Bay. (Yes there were naked people, but you couldn’t see anything and no one freaked out!) We then continued in toward Grand Case before stopping at Creole Rock. Once again we listened carefully to our guide. We were told not to go climbing on the rocks and be careful about the urchins before we were able to launch into the sea. It was fun seeing not only the many different fish but the layers as well. Schools of fish just below the surface. Some were larger fish while others were minnows. Down below colorful fish of every size and kind…and yes, urchins, white ones and black ones. The water feels much warmer this time of day. Later in the day it’s too chilly for me.

The return trip was quick but so much more fun. Traveling with the waves allowed for faster speeds. We only slowed down for the bridge. What a great way to explore the lagoon and all the yachts docked in the marinas. After all our years of visiting SXM, this was our first time on the tour. It was a really great activity that took only three hours out of the day. Another happy diversion from our best laid plans!

Letting it go

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There seems to be so many processes at work in our lives. The proverbial hamster wheel is a real thing. Nature has its own ebb and flow as do the seasons and the sea.
Each one of us deal with stress in a different way. For me things show up in my body. Yoga and meditation work together to strengthen both body and mind. Taking a walk helps clear the mind and regain clearer thinking.

The beach bum within us chooses these activities in the sand. With each step my feet sink into the sand and surf. A seaside massage takes advantage of the background sounds of the waves rolling onto shore and the breezes through the palms. It totally enhances the experience.

This last time my therapist told me I had less stress. I told her I’ve been practicing letting go. Holding thoughts loosely, deciding to think another way have had a calming affect. It’s as if my thoughts are like that full closet. Sorting through the closet, I decide what to keep and what to give away. It is the process of letting go.

Happy Hour

Dismissed

Hun, are they pissed?

He never turned to look

We said hello

She said B-bye

Getting iced Jersey style

Wonder what we did

He’s acting like a kid

Have it your way

There’s nothing left to say

You snub

We smile

Time to drink for a while