Greetings from Paradise
"Touched by Humanity"
Dearest Friends and Family,
With Lee off island for a few days, one of the ways in which I reward myself is to go on a leisurely trip around the island. If you drive around non-stop, you will find yourself where you started within less than one hour, unbelievable, isn't it??? Anyway, one of the pleasures of meandering around the island is that each journey holds new surprises for the soul and senses: the coolness or warmth, softness or harshness of the breeze, the fluctuating light illuminating the mountain, the bright bronze hues atop of Mt. Nevis, the jade green, turquoise, and blues reflecting on the sea, birds chirping or screeching, donkeys braying, goats and sheep baaing, gospel music flowing from the churches, or reggae or calypso music reverberating from cd's all join the kaleidoscope that pierces the heart and soul. The sweet aroma of a West Indian plant, the dew on the grass, the cool moisture of the forest and the clean, fresh rustling air combine their mystical magic also penetrate the heart and soul. But just as moving is the gift of humanity that dwell on this enchanted isle.
I never know when I leave on one of my journeys what I will find, but I always know I will feel calm and peaceful with a deep sense of gratitude and blessing when I return. For once, I decided not to take my camera, but just let what may stir my soul. My first stop was on the other side of the island to Gingerland a favorite side of the island in the cool, green, lush verdant mountains. I stopped at the parent's home of a good friend of ours. Their son, our friend, and his family are in the United States where he is pursuing his Ph.D. His parents have raised more than a dozen children and have thirty grands. The Mom (She did not want her name to be used) has toiled the soil and so there is always an array of colorful fresh vegetables and fruits in the many pots that are continually simmering on the stove. No matter what time of day you drop in to chat, there is enough food ready to feed a family. The Dad, a retired fisherman, is perpetually plagued by the monkeys who eat more of his crop than his family consumes. He told me that the monkeys eat all the mangos and pull off immature unripe mangos from the tree to throw them on the ground. The only plants the monkeys don't like are the hot peppers, but the monkeys destroy them as well. Nevis has 20,000 monkeys and 9,000 humans and guess who is winning? Food isn't the only nourishment that the seven grandchildren receive on their first stop after school. There are many afternoons when tales from the Bible are read and the"grands" are given their first reading lesson while spoon-fed love for humanity and the kind way to live with one another. I rarely hear children squabbling with each other in this home. On this day, I stop and chat with just the elder parents as the children are in school. Only one grown daughter who works in the village is at home fixing herself a salad for lunch. The Mom shows me yet another way to use the land and reuse what others would throw away. Beans which are already too ripe are taken from the pods to be cooked with rice and a BBQ grill made from an old tire rim will cook many more meals. While the younger generation does not recycle, the older folks recycle to find a use for almost everything. Seeds are always thrown back into the earth to bring forth food for another time. After chatting with these dear, older, wise, people who told me that they could get me a BBQ grill and make me a bag of charcoal, I was off to my next stop.
When our granddaughter, Rebecca was here in December, we took her for a day around the island. One of the places that we stopped was at the local wood carver, Kennedy, who is deaf and mute. The government had sent him to one of the other islands for a four week course in woodcarving by which he now supports himself by carving animals or whatever you want. Since we don't have streets here, many people name their homes. As you probably know, Lee and I named our home "Nevisian Paradise." Lee, Rebecca and I on an island tour brought a piece of left-over mahogany, a picture of our beloved Mt. Nevis which we see from the backyard, a picture of the flowers on our hand- painted purple mailbox and the letters printed out from the computer for Kennedy to carve. (We are up to receiving an old fashioned letter, you know the kind that takes three weeks to get here and has stamps on it.) Anyway, when we took Rebecca, there was an older woman who was blind, Blind Eileen of Zion as she wishes to be called, who told us that if we wanted, she would call us when the sign was ready. (Remember in Nevis, "when" doesn't usually mean too much, "when its gets done" has a lot more meaning.) As we were leaving, Blind Eileen--in dignity--said something about being blind to which I responded, "You may be blind, but you are also special." Rebecca said, "She can't see and he can't hear, together they are one."
Today my next stop was to pick up the carved sign with the hopes that I would have it hung up by our front gate before Lee returned the next afternoon. Blind Eileen had called me to tell me that the sign was ready and asked me if I could stop at her home when I was up her way; I said that I would. Shortly after I arrived, she came to remind me that I said that I would stop to see her. I told that when I was finished with Kennedy, I would come by and so I went to her home, two houses away. As I sat on the side-open, covered vestibule with a dirt floor that separates the house from her kitchen and bathroom, I felt a sense of peace, cleanliness and comfort. The inside appeared to have all the necessities, bed, radio, place to cook, sit, eat and wash. She got down on her hands and knees and with her blinded vision looked up to God and said, "Help me ask her Lord." After I sat down with her, she on the step, myself on a big bag, she shared two thoughts that she had kept to herself for along time. I can't possibly tell you how touched I was by her trust, the moment almost overwhelmed me. After we chatted for a few moments, I told her, "Did you know that I was Jewish?" She looked up almost chuckling as though talking with God and said, "Oh my, a Jewish lady in my quarters." And then we continued talking about life, about how she became blinded by two separate and bizarre accidents, each accident blinding one eye. I asked her how old she was and she told me 83. She was as limber as a 20 year old and her mind every bit as sharp. When I told her that I was leaving her with a small donation, she immediately told me that she was giving ten percent to charity. I asked her why she confided in me and she said it was because I had told her she was special and she heard God in my voice. I told her that I teach and write about that God is in each of us and we are all connected to each other through our souls and God within us and I call those connections "source-connection." It was truly a spiritual moment in the most meaningful sense as I was so caught up in our connection, I felt nothing else except the calm, gratitude and peace of mind this fellow human being had. Her trust and peace of mind are the awesome gifts that she had given me. I asked her if I could write about she had shared with me, without revealing l what she had shared. I explained to Eileen what a computer was and told her that I could type a letter and in seconds the person to whom I am sending the email--anywhere in the world--would receive the letter. (It sometimes takes weeks or months to receive mail that was posted right here on Nevis or email sent from abroad.) She said that I could write about her. So I left her with the promise that I would keep in touch and every time that I was on her side of the island I would stop and say hello.
It was now later in the afternoon as I continued my journey. The sun's rays were softening into orange hues on the mountains as I continued my descent down the mountain with the sea in various hues of deep blue stretching below me. I had a few more stops: at my friend Elvina, the snack shop across her house for lunch and the chicken farm to pick up freshly slaughtered free range chicken and humongous eggs. After my remaining stops, I drove down the mountain and headed home in the late afternoon; the sun was sending its soft golden light before it bid its day's adieu to disappear beyond the horizon far out at sea. The view of St. Kitts to my right was especially beautiful as its peaks projected out of the deepening blue waters. I was grateful for my journey, counted my blessings and sent silent wishes to many of my family and friends to find beauty in their surroundings as well.
With that I leave you, wishing you all well and peaceful days and nights.
Love and later,
P.S. Two months later, when Lee was in the States, I again drove over to Gingerland. I wanted personally to share the stories that I had written and make certain that it was okay with the women. As we sat in Blind Eileen's living room with four sitting chairs and sounds of a chiming clock, with humor, appreciation and wisdom this intelligent woman again shared life's experiences. She lives by the rule that God helps those who help themselves and often quotes the old testament to clarify her thoughts. By sharing about angels--in people form--who had helped her though life, I had been given an insightful gift to the source of her peace and calm. They come from God who made heaven and earth. What moves me the most is the unquestionable faith that she has in God. Without a flicker of doubt, she knows she will always have and be protected which gives her the peace of mind that she exudes.
From Eileen's, I went to our friend's Mom who was busy with her family preparing for Good Friday. This time, instead of all the cooking on the kitchen stove, three generations framed by Mt. Nevis' peak were outside cooking on open fires the labor-intensive dishes for the approaching holiday. Conki, a pudding of finely hand-grated potatoes, pumpkin, lard and flour seasoned with aromatic cinnamon-type spices were mixed by the Mom's aged, skillful hands--no food processor here--in a huge bowl. Sugar cakes were stirred in pots on the hot coals--attended by her children--and grandchildren singing in unison with her while she wrapped in art-form style the conki pudding balls to be tied in banana leaves and dropped in boiling water. The children's eyes were glistening with happiness as they sang together in the true sense of deep love of this extended family while anticipating the delicious meal ahead.