Let me clarify. We avoid the path most of our contemporaries choose, frequently. If the tourist horde on Grand Cayman is lodging in the resorts along Seven Mile Beach, we’re inn lodgers down Bodden Town way. We’re also perfectly content, when the opportunity arises, to follow an old path, as we did in Nevis, hiking in Nelson’s footsteps as we tread the stone stairs climbing to, then from, his lookout. How many officers, enlisted, planters, and slaves climbed this path to watch for French invaders? Before Nelson, did Arawaks or Caribs spy from this vista for a thousand years, watching for war canoes? How few travelers tread the vista nowadays? How little concern for unexpected approaches? S & I spent half a Nevisian day exploring Philippa’s tomb, the old fort, and Nelson’s lookout and do you know how many other humans we spotted during the peak travel week of the year? None. We expected to stumble on other hikers, but there were only bugs, lizards, birds, goats, monkeys, and us. There may have been ghosts, and us in their haunts disturbing their rest, but they never said boo. There was only the restless wind, the snickering hum of insects, birds quirking, each after their fashion, through the scrub, and, above us, the monkeys shaking branches as they shuffled through the hot afternoon’s dense shade of trees. Compared to pictures we’d seen, the scrub around the tomb was overgrown, untended. The fort was crumbling under the strangulation of the figs, a doomed Laocoön writhing against a dozen entwining serpents, against gravity, against time. Once we found the lookout, we weren’t competing with other hikers to stand on the summit, or to gather the best views in our cameras, it was just us, surveying the sea for signs of an impending invasion. There was nothing, except a pelican drifting in the currents of air below us and far away islands beckoning through the haze. Three more islands that we’ve seen and have yet to visit.
I’ve been flying to the Caribbean since I was about seven or eight years old. That’s four decades of spotty visits and into my fifth. Getting old. There was, I regret, a lean pair of decades where all I could do was pretend I really didn’t want to be back in the tropics. Starting a business and a family will do that to you. Outrageous fortune can slow you down. Slings and arrows, baby. As I tell the kids, usually when they’re bleeding, what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. They smirk through the wincing, but they’re starting to believe me.
We’ve been going south with the kids every other year or so for the past eight years. Grand Cayman twice, British Virgins, Turks & Caicos…and now two of the wee beasties are temporary residents in the space defined by the Caribbean Sea. My wife and I go tropical as often as we can, which tends to be about every six months. My list includes The Bahamas, Puerto Rico, Grand Cayman thrice, the Dominican Republic, BVI (Tortola, Virgin Gorda, Anegada) & USVI (St. Thomas), T&C, St. Lucia, the Keys, Curacao repeatedly, and nearly Nevis (now S & I have been to Nevis, and briefly touched on St. Kitts, as you might have guessed from the new intro paragraph to this post). Not in that order, and many, many more islands are on the short list, which has become quite long. Clearly we need more travel time. On my second Caribbean trip I became, briefly, a smuggler of anoles. I was eleven. The horror, the horror. I’ll explain later.
These days our family is becoming more and more enmeshed with the island life, or the life between islands. My oldest son, Angus, is spending his Fall 2018 college term on board the Ocean Star, a Sea/Mester sailing yacht. He’s between the islands, on the water, or under the water, earning PADI certs, advancing his seamanship, and suffering through the academics. Angus is thrilled that the Ocean Star has bunk space and a flushable head; his first stint at sea was in a much smaller vessel off the Maine coast, sailing with Outward Bound’s Hurricane Island program, upon which the nearest gunwale was the poop deck for all participants. My younger son, Drake, is taking classes at the University of the Virgin Islands, St. Thomas campus. Next semester he’ll be sailing to Tahiti with Sea/Mester. He’s getting short shrift here, but only because he plans to help me with blog management, so you’ll soon spot more of him. Since I’m up here, Lancaster bound, and between islands in an entirely different sense, it seems like a good time to start documenting our explorations past, present, & future. Kindly check over your shoulder; if not ghosts, there will be spirits!
The ladies in our family are not to be forgot as they keep us well fed, organized, and moderately respectable. Our oldest daughter has a natural name, but here I’ll be referring to her as The Mackenzie; find her page to discover why. The Mackenzie may want to study marine polyps, if she goes micro, but if she goes macro, there’s a distinct appeal to studying marine strandings and, when possible, rescuing the odd porpoise or turtle. She is torn between the biology of the seen and the unseen, but meanwhile she centers herself by cooking (Italian Wedding Soup, from scratch, was a recent highlight). Alex is our youngest – she’s short for Alexandria, the Egyptian city, feminized yet eponymous, and she’s great, too. In nearly every moment I’m not forcing her to learn from books – poor homeschool girl – she’s whipping up a froth in the kitchen. Alex will be a sugar artist and already has plans to study pastries and chocolatiering in Europe. My wife is simply S. My wife has a first name, and my wife has a last name, but she fears this blog is a bunch of baloney and is quite concerned it might, like a mayo-slathered, force-meat sandwich on an equatorial day, spoil. Spoil what? Well, unlike me, who has remained self-employed so that I needn’t bother with social graces, dear S is my opposite. She’s female, and I am male, but that’s the least of it. She’s fine looking, while I’m a brute. She’s domesticated; I have had rabies. She’s educated, several times over, and letters dangle after her good name, while I’m, at best, a grad school and seminary drop out. She’s organized and methodical; I’m not. She runs, marathons; I watch her, often walking no-where to get from the starting line to the finish line, as they are frequently two sides of the same coin, and I sit, book in hand, savoring four hours of unencumbered time to read. She’s also a modest public figure whereas I am a troglodyte. Please be kind, don’t doxx my dear S. She won’t cook or bake for me anymore, and she is a master of the culinary arts, who manages to rarely eat. She’s skinny; I’m snug in my britches. – Oh, yes, you noticed, the women have received more attention than the fellows. Shouldn’t it always be thus?
If you want to know more, then delve. If, while delving, you spot something familiar, don’t berate me for plagiarizing. I’m not cribbing by the paragraph, like a Principal spouting Wallace’s Water, but I might very well lodge an Easter egg here and there, a little literary hat tip, a movie reference, a lyric fragment, which may or may not be intentional. Cryptomnesia happens. So do bookish upwellings, if you’ve read too much and forgotten only half. So, if you see something, say nothing, nothing at all. Smile to yourself and mutter to no-one, “oh, I recognize that, that’s from…” Shhhhhh. Finger to your lips, or we’ll have to duct tape your mouth shut. If you read quietly, you might learn something that will benefit your next Caribbean adventure. Unless you go in for cruise ships. If you do, please, go find another blog because this one will be an entire waste of your time.
A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds… —Ralph Waldo Emerson
What Ralph is getting at, at least for my purposes, is that if you think I’ll be sticking to the single topic of island travel, you’d be wrong. We’re going to discuss goat meat comestibles, homeschooling, smuggling, skull boiling, dancing, fine gin, rummy punches, swimming with the fishes, our man in Curacao, homestyle amputations, ceding the gardens of memory, a non-existent bar called The Stuttering Raven, and always and ever, at least one more thing than the previous bit, until it all comes to a full stop.
Caption (in case you suspected otherwise): Summer sunset from our seaside villa in Cas Abou, Curacao. It was only ours for a week, which allowed us to keep the memory of this sunset while leaving the feral cats behind.