(with gratitude to Mary Oliver)
ONLY … that.
Here’s what it is for me these days:
- Floating in the warm, turquoise waters of the Caribbean
- The sensual tingle of silky tropical breezes on my skin
- Walking in a sarong in the soft afternoon rain
- Falling asleep in the hammock, enraptured in the brilliant writing of Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s “Love in the Time of Cholera”
- Quenching my thirst in the sultry heat of the afternoon with an ice-cold cerveza
- Entranced with the ebony silhouette of the palm trees at dusk
- Feeding my hunger with fresh fish and lobster and plantains and papaya and whatever else the island offers
The challenge of getting here is long behind me now, both in time and memory. Within hours of arriving, I felt myself shift into the lowest gear I have known for some time. There is nothing to do and two weeks to do it in. Yes, I walk and swim and explore, all at the pace that the tropics demand … s-l-o-o-o-o-w.
My cabana at Cabanas El Recreo is perfect. Huge, simple room right on and facing the sea, a hammock on my lanai, a small frig for cold drinks. I arrive with no reservation and when I describe to my handsome cab driver what I want in accommodation, he takes me directly here. It is exactly what I want. We flirt, spend an evening at sunset walking one of the island’s beaches, and he suggests more, much more. I move more slowly. He is only the first who expresses such interest. Many others do, too. The men here are not shy and neither am I. An island romance? Anything’s possible; but for now, the flirting is fun and enough.
Isla Providencia: an island that time forgot, where the local people – Raitzals, as they are known, descendants of African slaves and English seamen – speak a Creole/Caribbean English as their first language, not Spanish, embrace their quiet lives, and chose recently to vote against an ordinance to enlarge their airport (and thus change the quality and pace of their island life irrevocably as has been done in so many places in the Caribbean). They don’t want more tourism, one man told me, they want a better hospital! No one here is living the high life, particularly, and no one here looks to be hungry, either. There are few hotels on the island, no American tourists I have yet encountered, and no buildings higher than two stories are allowed. The main beaches have almost no development on them, one with only one beach bar and otherwise untouched – just palm trees, mangroves, and soft, white sand.
THIS is what the soft animal of my body loves. Nights warm enough to stay in my sarong. Moving my body to live Reggae music at a nearby restaurant (I’ll head there soon). Only the sound of the lapping sea from my lanai, along with a star-filled sky and a crescent moon I could reach out and climb onto, with nearby Venus bright and bold guiding my way.
I swim. I eat. I nap. I read. I write. I walk. I explore. I dream. I rest awhile and then a little while more.
No other place feeds my soul and brings me the sort of ease and contentment that I feel when I am at the sea. A warm sea. A tropical sea. The Caribbean Sea. Like right here. Like right now. This is what the small animal of my body loves.