Five days ago, Jim and I woke up at 2:00 AM to catch our flight at 5:40 AM from Austin to Miami. The last day at the farm was bittersweet.
We sat by the creek at dusk. That slice of life is reminiscent of some Jurassic era where ferns grow as tall as trees and the murky water lies peaceful, barely moving but for ripples created by silent turtles. Sometimes when we approach, we catch the heron taking flight from the bend in the creek just ahead of us.
The flight from Austin to Miami was uneventful, I slept a lot as I am wont to do while Jim reverberated with energy next to me. From Miami to San Juan, again, I slept. When we landed in San Juan, we ate terrible/yummy airport food: pizza turnovers and a wilted salad while we waited for our flight from San Juan to Vieques in a puddle jumper.
There were five of us on the plane: a stylish older couple, engineer + accountant, from Houston visiting family, Brenda who was escaping the mainland U.S. to wait out the pandemic hunkered down at her brother’s place on the island, and us two. I sat directly behind the pilot and watched as she pulled out a laminated piece of paper that was a cheat sheet of the controls for the plane. Um…
As we flew over the Caribbean, the views were beautiful despite the few rain clouds. And as we flew, we spied a rainbow, and then, another one! A double rainbow en route to our next adventure – good omens ahead.
La Isla Nena
The flight was short, about 20 minutes, and when we landed, it was drizzling. We waited for our host’s son to pick us up and bring us to our new home for the next 2.5 months. During that time, we chatted with Brenda who was also waiting for her ride.
When our ride came, he gave us a quick rundown of landmarks we passed: the W Hotel that was damaged by Hurricane Maria in 2017 and was left abandoned since and Gringo Beach- aptly named because back in the day, the gringos, including his parents, cleaned up the beach, and the town center of Isabel Segunda where events were held pre-COVID.
The roads were narrow and windy, only one car at a time, which was charming and a breath of fresh air. It presupposed a level of awareness of the drivers to move with the changing environment.
My first impression driving through the streets was how unexpectedly run-down everything looked. I wasn’t expecting the Florida Keys, but the spaces looked tired and battered, perhaps due to being hurricane territory.
Despite this, the buildings were colorful pastels of a Caribbean-style. I could see the Spanish influence in the architecture and there was a quiet simplicity available. The opposite of “busy” is what I felt in the air. I didn’t see many people out and about. Quietness hangs in the air like the heat of the day.
Beat up SUV’s and trucks are the norm. When I saw a new Benz, it stuck out like sore thumb.
When we approached our home, there was a steep ass hill that to my left. Our driver turned towards it and started driving up in the Tacoma. It was probably the steepest grade I’ve ever driven in a car, I’d wager it was just about a 70° angle incline.
“Great for hill running,” I noted to myself silently. I saw myself at the end of the 2.5 months a sexy, sleek running machine
There was more hill to drive up before we arrived at our casita. Thus the view is incredible from our new hilltop home. On clear days, we can see the main island quite well.
Our apartment is very simple: one pair of French doors open up into the living room, which opens up into a small section as the “bedroom” which leads into an alcove that has dressers and space for hanging clothes. From there, the bathroom has the only doors in the entire apartment. And on the other side of the bathroom is the kitchen that opens back into the living room. The kitchen has a pair of French doors as well, but they’re kept closed for an unknown reason.
Arriving at our home, I suddenly felt like a stranger in a strange land. I didn’t feel comfortable. The apartment didn’t feel homey and the thought that I would have to spend the next 2 weeks in self-quarantine here was bumming me out.
The next day, I cleaned the apartment, washed all the linens, and created an altar with all my special mementos, pictures, and incense. We saged the space. It felt anew.
Every day, I sweep our little patio. It is a task that brings me great joy. It reminds me how much of life requires these small, “mundane”, maintenance tasks that never end. From relationships to health, the effectiveness comes from doing something daily, rather than one big gesture every now and then. So every day, I grab the broom and swish-swish the dead leaves and debris, clearing the patio and keeping it beautiful and clean.
On the property, horses roam free nibbling sweetgrass and neighing at me as I pass by. This is one of the wonders of Vieques, horses wander everywhere, it’s just a way of life. They like to graze on the hill where I run. They look at me curiously. And with each run, a few get closer and closer to my path.
The sunset here is beautiful and with the horses and the palm fronds silhouetting the sky, it is absolute perfection.
Around the property are banana and plantain trees, coconut trees, a generous mango tree, a papaya tree, a guanaba tree, and an avocado tree laden with bulbous fruit. Already, we’ve picked and eaten the ripe fruit available. On our kitchen table, we have an array of tropical fruit ripening and getting ready to be gratefully eaten.
I’ve never enjoyed smoothies quite like I am enjoying them now. Breakfast today was a mango and papaya smoothie. For a treat, I like to quickly blend up a banana with water and some ice to make cold banana milk, like chocolate milk but cuter because it’s banana.
Banana and guanabana smoothie was probably my favorite. Guanabana is a breadfruit. It has a spiky exterior and a cream-colored flesh with large seeds like shiny black buttons. It has a wonderfully demure sweet flavor but its texture is similar to a coconut because it’s a dry meat rather than a juicy pulp.
The mangoes here are effing delicious!!!!!!!!! They have a dark orange flesh that’s quite stringy and fibrous, which could be bothersome, but the taste is so worth it. It’s a deeper, rounder flavor than any other mango I’ve had before.
Yesterday, Jim hacked open a coconut and we drank the nutritious water and ate the yummy flesh.
I am very happy with this arrangement. I am a little monkey, climbing trees for fruit and eating them right then and there. It makes me smile.
Yesterday, we went for a walk at night, after dusk. Below us, the lights of the towns still sparkled and above us, the lights in the sky twinkled. I could see the stars so clearly, they shone so bright. The Milky Way was right there.
From the hilltop, there is no obstruction from trees or the like so it becomes my very own planetarium, a 360° view of the sky. Incredible.
We watched as a star fell across the sky. Stargazing may become a new hobby of mine.
The best thing about life here are the sounds. When I awake in the morning, sunlight filters in through the French doors. The first thing we do is open up the doors and the breeze begins playing her song. She rifles the palm fronds that bristle their tune.
There is no A/C so we turn on the one fan. Its white noise adds to the slow symphony. Just air mingling with air and trees. One can hear lizards and geckos dart between crispy leaves. And occasionally, an airplane passes by overhead. This is the sound of island life.
At night, the insects come out and play; it’s a cacophony of ribbing and bellowing, a chorus and a medley that sounds the same as in Elgin, Texas when I slept in the woods behind the house.
Attitude of Gratitude
The days drift by lazily. I can’t believe it’s already been 5 days since we’ve arrived. I spend my time cleaning and cooking. Reading and writing. Yoga and meditation. This is the perfect ambiance for these practices.
It certainly is a bubble up here. It feels more remote than the farm in Texas. I don’t worry that I should be doing more, which is typically running in the back of my mind always, and am quite content with the pace I’ve set up and the daily goals to complete.
Pondering this now, I acknowledge that I actually accomplish more and with way more ease than before. Perhaps there is something to this island life. It calms my soul. I am gratefully here.