Greetings from Paradise
"Yes, You Can Go Home"
Hello and greetings from Paradise. As you may know, two years ago, I had to abruptly leave Nevis in April, 2006 to return to Los Angeles, believing I would never be able to return to Nevis again. Our home in Nevis was up for sale. In addition to overcoming my parasite, regaining my health and a challenging time with my husband, Lee, I was overwhelmed with deep sadness of never returning to my beloved Nevis. But, with the love from my children. grands and friends, good medical care, patience and lots and lots of prayers from within and many people, after three false starts, Lee and I arrived in Nevis in November, 2007--and here we are in April, 2008 already packing to return to California.
While still in Woodland Hills, before our return to Nevis, I often pondered whether my profound love for Nevis was an embellishment, could I really return and did I really love it as much as I remembered. I wasn’t even out of the airport in Nevis embraced with welcome hugs from Hilarena and Orville awaiting us, my seamless transition was complete and my soul was home again.” My profound love grows exponentially every day. Sometimes when Lee and I are out, stopping to look at my beloved Nevis Peak, the sunset, the clouds, marvel at the happy children or just breathing the air, I stop and ask, “Can you possibly fathom how much I love it here?”
This has truly been a blessing and so I share with you and remind you again, that when something very positive stirs deeply in your soul--no matter what your head is telling you--trust your instinct as I did in 1995 when I first put foot on our land. (On Lee’s first shopping trip to Florida after we broke ground in early 1999, he phoned and said, “Ruthie, some people will think we are crazy for doing this; you and I know, we are crazy if we don’t.”
I was fortunate that when we returned to Nevis, it was though I had never skipped a beat as if I had never left. When we entered our home all sparkling and clean with flowers from our garden and orchard in vases, I instantly saw that Vannessa had kept the house in excellent shape and Rickey had maintained our lawn, garden and orchard as if we had been here all the time. I found all of my dear Nevisian friends in great places which is not the case of many whom I left behind in California. So it has been a mixed bag, but life rarely is all roses without the thorns. (Webbo, the general manager of VON radio once said, “Every thorn has a rose.”)
Blind Eileen was beyond ecstatic when she greeted us on the phone that first morning after we returned (she always remembers the date without the aid of a calendar). When I stopped unexpectedly to surprise Ernestine in her new shoppe, $avvy $hopper, she said “Christmas has come early.” One of my friends, saw my straw hat on my head, said to herself, “I know that hat” and made a U turn to stop and give me a smile and hug. My island grandchildren were as joyful as my grandchildren to see us. And so the welcomes continued even into February when I was in town and a man from our village hurriedly crossed the street in town to welcome me back. I cannot possible express how humbled and honored I feel to be loved, cherished, trusted and respected as I am here, but the feeling is mutual.
We began the season with our annual Chanukah party–downsized in size and offerings by far–with local children and Chanukah cookies baked by an elderly woman on the other side of the island. We lit the lights, explained the holidays. But with television and memory of past Chanukahs in our home, many of the children remembered the meaning of the holiday. We played draidel and the hazelnut game passed down from Lee’s father which young and old just adore. (You use hazelnuts and a cutting board. Slant the cutting board against a wall on a room which has tile or wood floors, but not carpet as the hazelnut must roll freely. Each participant starts with ten hazelnuts and takes a turn placing one hazelnut at the top of the board to roll down and hit another nut. Because or the irregular shape of the hazelnut, it rolls down the board and meanders in one wacky path and often almost grazes a nut but not quite. When a person’s nut touches another nut, the person collects all the nuts on the ground. The howls and squeals in what looks like a win and then isn’t or visa versa is enjoyed by young and old alike as Lee and I can attest.. Even our granddaughter, Hannah, enjoyed this game at two and a half. I also participated in our village Christmas tree lighting where I was honored to turn the switch to light the lights.
As we age, Lee and I enjoyed our best season with very little friction between us, the strain of the last two years after my parasite and my painful return to Los Angeles became a faded memory. This season has been different as they all are. One huge difference was the chilly weather by Nevisian standards which impacted heavily on our outdoor activities and social life. Up until last week, we had only had four weeks of good weather, the week that Greg, Karen, Rebecca and Hannah visited at winter break. the week that Detta, Gayle’s Mother-in-law, came and the week that Gayle, Nick and Willa were here. (Tamar and family come God-willing next season and we will see them twice this summer in Seattle and LA.) During the short time the weather was warm, we could swim and go out in the evenings, but during the majority of the time, we could not. Some in my family thought my reaction was due to my suppressed immune system, but the locals all complained of the chill and wind especially in the evening. One of our closest friend’s sister who now lives in England, also didn’t go dancing or participate in evening activities because it was “too cold.” So for the first time in 17 years, I spent as much time as I wanted outdoors during the day time and my neglected flower beds sprang to life again. It was wonderful to sit in our ghaut (water course) in the late afternoon and watch the sunlight filter through out miniature jungle. The season gave me the time to further hone my photography which I share below. Enjoy!
Petra, a show of purple hanging on our west facing fence. .................................................................Coral Bougainvillea hanging on our east facing fence.
Haliconia in our orchard. (The grands and I call them flying fish) ...........................................................................Red ginger lily in our orchard.
All and all it was a wonderful season. Our friends continue to enjoy and thrive in life down here. Veronica was named “Person of the Year” in Nevis for her single-handed and endless effort in building with the help of Four Seasons Home Owners a lighted tennis court in our area and a Community Centre in our Jessup Village. Kenneth, her husband also helped with hours and hours of building the Community Centre.
Vannessa, who is more than our housekeeper to us has three children who continue to thrive. The girls are doing well in school and Vaughn, is now known as the village gentleman. Whenever Lee and Vaughn continue to do their “thing,” Vaughn always remembers to ask to bring something home for his sisters and Mother. Lee and I spent much time with them and Blind Eileen. Our other island grands, Infatari and Joivelle continue to grow and share. A young man, who was part of the team building our home and now owns his acre of land unbegrudingly and singled-handed supports his son, Mother and sister, won $US 37,000 in a drawing. Our friend, Lee, often drops in after church on Sunday with Spencer and Denrieke. Deanza, with whom we shared her Sweet 16 celebration under a tent in her beautiful back yard with Nevis Peak a close back drop and the night time view of St. Kitts–our sister isle--twinkling and looming unobstructed far on the horizon, is now in school in Quebec where she is mastering French. Deanza stopped on her visits home and we had long discussions about life, philosophies and Barack Obama. It turns out that one of the books that Lee and I read before we get up in the morning, is by Chief Dan George, a member of the Salish Band of First Nations Culture People in British Columbia, Canada, the band that Deanza’s roommate in Quebec comes from. Sometimes I get blown away how small the world actually is. (Lee and I either read from Chief Dan George’s book or A Time for Peace, by Mary Ylvisaker Nilsen, recommended years ago by Rabbi Stan Levy or a book from Thick Nhat Hahn, a Buddhist monk.) Three of our other island young people with whom we are very close are now in college and Universities in Manhattan, New Rochelle and Taiwan. They are all doing well and we continue to be involved in their lives on many levels. We are truly blessed to have the love and trust of so many Nevisians and they have our love and trust as well. Blind Eileen continues to be my guru and said to me recently before her 91st birthday, “Ruthie, I feel better in mind, body and spirit than anytime in my life.” How does that grab you? The incredible blessings of some of my dearest friends in Nevis continue to reaffirm in me their strong belief, if you only believe, you will receive. I have yet to see it fail. (I truly feel, if each of us step outside our bodies and look at ourselves, we will see tiny and huge miracles that have been given to us at one time or another throughout our lives.) . Our Nevisian friends believe that they will always have what they need. I now begin my morning with “Thank you God for the day you have given me. I will be glad and rejoice in it and I know you will give me everything I need.” Knowing that gives me strength and comfort where I used to feel fear. Years ago, I asked Blind Eileen, “Eileen, do you ever get scared?” She responded quickly and succinctly, “Fear grips me from time to time, but I immediately reach for the Lord.” I didn’t get it then, but I do now!
I wasn’t as active this season in the community, schools or on radio as I needed the time to heal spiritually and physically. Besides most of our socialization takes place at night meeting friends at Sunshine’s for swimming and chatting, Nesbit Plantation Beach Club for romantic dancing under the stars with a local band or at the Four Season’s listening to Caribbean Roots who know our favorite songs or the All Stars steel band. These are all outdoor, evening activities which even for our local friends was too windy or chilly. (Interesting how the weather standards in January are different in Nevis, New York or Washington state. What is too cold someplace would be delightfully and unseasonably warm somewhere else. It’s all relative to where you live and what you are used to) When I was in town I often stopped at Ernestine’s new shoppe where we discussed what’s going on in Nevis, the many books about life in Afghanistan or other parts of the world or Barack Obama.
Now it is April and Lee and I prepare to return to California with a deep sense of gratitude for all the blessings we have received and try to return those blessings to others. In this gratitude, I continue to write and share of my experiences in Nevis and hopefully they will touch your heart and soul as they have mine and give you the peace and comfort they have given me. Until next season, be well, have fun and be blessed.
Love and later, Ruth
p.s I will add a few lines about going home to Columbus Ohio as it follows the theme of this long-overdue email about our life in Nevis Yes, you can go home! As some of you may know, when I left Columbus 45 years ago and for many years thereafter, I carried a gnawing sense of an empty place within which began to fill during a Yom Kippur service with Bnai Horin many years ago–before Nevis--and has never felt empty again.
A few weeks ago, Lee and I returned to our hometown, Columbus, Ohio for my 50th high school reunion. While I sat at my parents’ and grandmother’s grave side one afternoon, I had a profound appreciation for the values and strength they had instilled within me and could feel the connections with their souls in a way that I had not experienced before. That moment along with profound blessings that I feel, in one fell swoop erased all the pain of my childhood memories. As Blind Eileen says and lives daily and I now understand and trust completely, “God Had a Plan All the Time” (see below). With my deepest hopes and prayers for all the weighty challenges that we face as one humanity, as American citizens and citizens of this planet, that you will be able to feel God’s blessings and comfort every day and life your life in that arena.
I hope you will understand that with our children’s visiting us in LA and our visits to them, our environmentally responsible (took much research) home update after 21 years and paint peeling off the wall, working for Barack Obama’s presidency, that I probably I haven’t seen or spoken to most of you this year. Who and what has seen my face the most is Lee, the children and grands, my garden, the painter and Barack Obama’s home page. But know if you receive this email, you have crossed my mind and are in my heart. And in that spirit my wishes reach out to each of you and your loved ones once again for peace, health, joy and positive coping skills for the year ahead. Please try and do something good for yourself each day, a lovely walk to smell the crisp air of a winter day or autumn night or watch the unfolding of spring, look at the night time sky and observe our fellow planets, take a nice warm bath, read a book or do whatever it takes to make you feel good and more connected with others and the universe.
Much love and later from Woodland Hills, Ruth