January 5, 2010
Nevis, West Indies
Greetings from Paradise
"Yikes, Another Decade! Wishing You and the Universe Well"
Before I begin, let me share that this dispatch was written before the Haiti earthquake occurred which has changed so much in the world and in my world view. I will touch upon that horrific catastrophe in a later dispatch, but I wanted to honor the spirit of this email as it flowed from my heart.
Lee and I have been here four weeks today and are as in love with the people, island, its beauty and peacefulness as always. My mind runs to you (as they say here) often as well as I didn’t leave the US behind in my heart or mind.
After our 20 hour trip, we arrived home December 8th to find Vannessa’s home-cooked-meal, baked cake, welcome note and fresh flowers awaiting us. She was at the school Christmas program with her daughters, so we collected and shared our hugs the following morning. In ten days, Lee, Vannessa and I quickly whipped our home into shape, unpacked the six suitcases (two of them food) 12 shipped boxes, had assistance in setting up our new computer systems, shopped for and food, prepared some meals and threw a small Chanukah party for the high school boys in our village, one we have known since he was two.
We welcomed our son, Greg, Karen, Rebecca and Hannah 10 days later and continued partying throughout their two-week stay. We began celebrating shortly after their arrival on my birthday, December 19thdipping in water with a new moon overhead while the sun set in purple hues as Montserrat abrupts 30 miles to the south. We had a Chanukah party for Hannah and some children her age which she has known since infancy. I enjoyed some lovely alone time with Greg, a great lunch with Rebecca who took along my camera and shot some amazing pictures during our ride around the island; she has quite an eye, a wonderful companion to her creative writing skills. Lee, Greg, Rebecca and Hannah climbed to Nevis Peak--no small feat in the mud, often pulling themselves up on ropes of the steep ghauts (canyons). The guide said he has never before taken someone Lee’s age (72) and few as young as Hannah aged 8, though Rebecca was 7 when she first made the climb.
Generally, I throw a couple of parties between our return in November and New Year’s Eve, but this year with our delayed arrival, we forgave the entertainment and partied instead. Usually the Four Seasons Resort has fabulous firework displays which we used to watch from Sunshine’s Beach Bar and Grill then adjacent to the Resort, but then switched to parties at our home with viewing the fireworks from our verandah. Two years ago, we at home celebrated with Greg’s family, Orville, Ernestine, and Jovie, Vannessa and Vaughn and later Brian, Dede and Tari who stayed till 3:00am. Last year Tamar’s family was here and we again celebrated with Orville and his family, Vannessa, Faron her friend and Vaughn.
This year, in lieu of a birthday party for me, we decided to spend New Year’s Eve or Auld Lang Syne--as they say down here--at Sunshine’s renowned Beach Grill with our family and Infatari or Tari, our neighbor and one of our island grands. Lee and I had the most fun of almost any New Year’s Eve ever. The food was delicious, Greg and Karen enjoyed the music reminiscent of Greg’s youth and Rebecca and Tari chatted as they had in earlier years. Hannah took a bowl from behind the outdoor bar put it on her head and ran around in the rain on the beach with Mandela, Sunshine’s son, a boy from Corsica and some of the other local children charging full speed ahead until after midnight when Karen and Greg carried her home. Lee and I stayed with Rebecca and Tari, dancing almost the entire hour until 1:30 in the morning and connected with many friends we hadn’t yet seen this season. It rained most of the evening, but was clear enough to see the New Year’s Eve full blue moon peak through the clouds awhile before midnight. It was during that time that Lee and I stepped out on Sunshine’s patio and peered up to watch the moon. I paused in deep gratitude and silently gave deep thanks to God and the universe for our blessings and prayed for our children and grands, friends and loved ones and President Obama. If you receive this email you and your loved ones crossed my mind during this time as well.
It has been full-speed ahead since last June so Lee and I are taking a breather for a few weeks. We started on Saturday evening and drove up to Hamilton on a quiet-less-traveled road where we often find monkeys. This evening, our desire was to go and see the sunset and of course I took my camera. As Lee drove, I was looking through the forest, when I abruptly shouted to Lee, “Go back!” I was awed by what looked as if the forest was on fire, but naturally it was the sun’s reflection. I started to walk down the mountain when Lee said, “Give me the camera!” Since he rarely asks to take a picture, I quickly handed him the camera and he snapped the sunburst through the trees which he later named, “Sunburst from Heaven.” I took the other shots. Lee takes one iota of the 40,000 photos I have taken, but he sure gets winners! Lee and I have spent much time over the years in the high Sierras and Alps and on this incredibly spiritual mountain, Nevis Peak, but I have never witnessed anything like this gift which I share with you in the fervent hope and belief for a good year and decade ahead. for all humanity!
Jungle road in Hamilton.
Sunburst from heaven.
Sunlight appears as fire on the tree.
Sunlight appears as fire bursting through the trees.
Montserrat, 30 miles to the south, is abrupting big time and showers us with ash every few days. As the wind pattern is currently very unusual this time of year--coming from the south instead of north, we try to avoid that side of the island. Finally the ash slowed down, so I drove over to the other side of the island to visit Blind Eileen. Fortunately for Eileen she was north of the wind pattern and not as impacted by the ash.
As always, it was wonderful to see her and while we keep in touch every few weeks by phone when I’m in the US, it is always so special to be in each other’s company. In her presence, I was again quickly aware of our beautiful 10 year friendship, love and bond woven between Lee, Eileen and myself. We have weathered her stroke, Lee’s injuries, my surgery and procedures, a hurricane and shared the joy of our five new grandchildren whom she always asks about and the common thrill that Barack Obama is the American president. At 92, she still takes interest in world affairs, the coming and going of our family and most recently the deep joy of Denbele, our most recent granddaughter, adopted at 18 months from Ethiopia last July. Eileen quickly learned Denbele’s name and there wasn’t a phone call that she didn’t ask how Lee and Denbele and the family were doing.
Once, Eileen and I cozied down in conversation, I realized our visit together was almost a replay of my first visit with her 10 years ago only the setting had changed tremendously. This time instead of sitting on potato sacks on her make-shift verandah in her very small and older home with few amenities, we now sat in her beautiful living room of her lovely-spacious-strongly-constructed two bedroom home with all the modern amenities, electricity, indoor plumbing, full kitchen and bathroom and pleasant furnishings. She still cooks a portion of her meals daily, cleans her home and washes the laundry. As she had 10 years ago, (See “Touched by Humanity,” February, 2001) she asked me to sit closely next to her as she wanted to share with me what one “can’t share over the phone”. The two topics had distinct similarities to what we had shared a decade ago and we haven’t spoken of during the years between. The request that she had asked of me then and I was unable to fulfill had been fulfilled. The other topic showed me that at 92 and visually blinded, this remarkable woman is truly blessed by God almighty. She unquestionably always takes the moral high, high, high (as they repeat here for emphasis) ground in her life’s journey. She told me, “You know the Lord and good book say you should not forsake the downtrodden.” And as situations arise that might cause loss or discomfort to her, she makes the choice to do the right thing and help others without question, concern or hesitation. Her strength and belief in God has truly been rewarded, though that never is or was her motivation. I was enjoying a wonderful visit with her, when her neighbor, Kennedy, the woodcarver who is deaf, loudly knocked on the door, came in, opened the windows for me to look out and see that ash was falling. He mimed that Montserrat was blowing its top and it best I leave quickly. I hugged Eileen good-bye, closed the windows, left a facial mask with her and drove in the direction toward our village on the other side. Again, the ash was worse where I was going than at Blind Eileen’s.
I was so taken by what we had shared and the impact of her goodness that I called the next morning to continue our conversation. She shared, “Sometimes, you have to give up certain rights to live in peace. I put all my trust in God; he has never failed me yet. The Lord knows every truth, fault before we do. I praise him for my length of days. Imagine Blind Eileen at 92; in all my family, I only heard of my great, great grandmother who lived to be 100, but nobody else.” Then she shocked me and said, “I feel 3,000,000 times better then when I became blind.” When I stopped to reflect on her words, I truly understood as she is blessed with health, peace of mind, sustenance, clarity of mind, and people who care for and dearly love her.
And so I leave you with love, friendship, warmth and inspiration.
Love and later,