“Do I contradict myself? Very well, then I contradict myself, I am large, I contain multitudes.” ~Walt Whitman
A colleague of mine introduced me to this beautiful quote last summer and I immediately loved it because my creative purpose is about helping people see the complexity, and yet also simplicity, of creation within them. The potential that lies within us is astounding. Our ability to see things from many points of view grows as our intelligence grows. And the polar opposite occurs as well: As we grow, our decisions get easier and we value the simple things in life much more…
A Beautiful, Simple Place
When my husband and I go sailing on our adventures to other ports, we explore like children would, with an open mind and a curious heart. Recently, we hiked practically every inch of an island that intrigued us. It was a small island not visited by tourists much because it is “dry” (no alcohol) and is the center of the boat building craft in the northern Abaco islands so it is more like a commercial center, than a tourist attraction. We had heard that beyond the commercial boat building town, the island itself was beautiful and quaint in its simplicity. We ventured into the small port through a channel that was so narrow and shallow that when we tried to go there five years ago, we got stuck and could not get into the harbor. This time, since we were in a smaller boat, and much wiser about the approach, we made it in and moored in for the night.
The next morning, we boarded our dinghy and headed in to shore. Beyond the busy little town, we walked as far as the main paths would lead into the woods, then kept walking until we could sense a new beach presenting itself on the other side of the island. We explored wide, white beaches with clear blue water, where there was not a soul in sight. We stopped to listen to the warble of a very small bird and chased it for a while to capture a close up photograph.
A Life Well-Lived in Grace
At one point in our exploration, we saw one of the places we’d been looking for from reading the Cruiser’s Guide. Before us was a sign nailed on a tree saying “Lola’s Bakery” so we turned to head in that direction and the path stopped after ten feet. We guessed we should keep on going, and chuckled about how different the world could be in another place. Naturally, on an island, people would not hesitate to walk on beyond the path! Around the corner we found a small home and smelled cinnamon rolls and the aroma of yeast rising, but we were at the back of the house and didn’t know what to do, so we tapped on the window. A deep voice inside said, “Go around to the front stoop..” so of course we did. Our stomachs were growling because we had hoped to find a coffee shop on the island and after an hour we had not found anything remotely akin to a food offering open at all. Rounding the corner, a small woman in an apron was hanging wet laundry out to dry on the clothesline and said, “Come on in and see what we have today!” Her cheery face was welcoming and kind. We loved her instantly. As I turned to greet her, I caught sight of a small shed next to the house, filled to the brim with the most gorgeous conch shells I have ever seen. All polished and displayed on every piece of available surface in the little shed were natural treasures of the sea of the Bahamas…conch, conch, conch. Some must have been ten inches tall and all of them were colorful pieces of sea-art in pinks, golds, shades of orange and white. Lola invited us to go on in and pick one and explained that her husband Martin had been a conch fisherman. She explained that he’d recently retired and passed this trade on to his son, who now found these treasures, but that they were the best source on the island because of their cleaning method that would prevent them from smelling bad once you got them home. She apologized that their inventory had dropped down due to multiple visits from some local boy scout troops who had picked them over recently. I couldn’t imagine anything more beautiful than what I was seeing. As my eyes shifted over the faces of Lola and Martin, I decided that their faces were just as beautiful. In the final stage of life, the etchings of a life well-lived on the face of a happy elder is one of the most precious sights one can behold. Martin and Lola had wise eyes, filled to the brim with love and peace and delightful grace. The wrinkles at the corner of their eyes and around the edge of their lips told me that they smiled a lot and had loved deeply.
They invited us into their cottage by-the-sea and apologized for not having any loaves of home-baked bread. Lola explained that a frequent visitor from Massachusetts had called ahead and asked her to hold the two loaves she had baked earlier that morning. She said things had been a little hard lately and they couldn’t take a chance on baking more than would be purchased in a day or so. She had taken a fall a few years ago and broken a shoulder, so Martin had to help her now. He showed us what he had to offer, explaining that they only had one cinnamon roll left and it was small, but he had some rolls and pie. We bought the cinnamon roll that was at least eight inches wide and shared it for two days! We bought a conch shell from Martin’s collection, which he packed carefully in newspaper, took some photos of each of us with them and we were on our way. As we walked away, I felt emotion rising up within me and recognized it as deep appreciation for the love of a good life, well lived.
Garden of Creation
Continuing our journey, we headed toward the northern peninsula, where we knew another small harbor lay hidden in a circle of land. An hour later, after hiking down a long path that started in town and took us to the most remote part of the island’s windward side, we arrived at the end of the path. As we turned back, we started looking for a path that would give us beach access, so we could walk back on the beach instead of tracing the same return. Sandy paths winding off the main rocky walk up the north side of the peninsula lead to delightfully painted cottages in island colors. One, in particular, caught our eye because it was lime green and so artfully painted that we had to see more. We knew we were on private property, so we edged up the path slowly, hoping we could nose by un-noticed and find the beach. Approaching the homestead, we were welcomed by an archway labeled with the name “Key Lime Villa” and beyond the arch was the most amazing sight. An expansive garden filled with rocks, spices, vegetables, various fruit trees, lettuces and plants we had never laid eyes on before. In the garden, a man with long blondish hair under a straw hat was laboring in the garden and looked up. Caught snooping, we decided to say hello and he invited us into garden for a tour. Knox had been a sailor like us, was from the states and had decided to move there, so we had some interests in common and enjoyed a long conversation about their life on the island. He told of the nearly eight years of work he had invested in the garden and showed us the details of his work, building hedges of strong plants encircling the more fragile ones inside the garden walls. He had inherited his interest in gardening from his grandfather, he mused. The villa was small, he explained, but built well to survive the hurricanes that ravaged the islands every few years. It was very comfortable for he and his wife, Cheryl, who were both our age and this interested us, because it showed us a life very different from our own. We asked him about diving on the reef over the hill and his face lit up. He explained that he went skin diving every day of the year on the reef and often brought dinner home from his excursions. Fish, lobster, conch, crawfish and more. We told him about a close encounter we’d had a few days earlier when we almost dropped into the waters to snorkel at Sandy Cay Reef when someone warned us that a skin-diver had speared a sixteen foot Tiger Shark there a few moments earlier and that we’d better not go in just now. Knox laughed and explained that spear-fishing contained a serious risk of attracting that kind of attention!
A Witness to My Life
Approaching the end of the afternoon, we headed up the path Knox told us would take us toward the beach. I took my boat shoes off and ventured over the hill off the beaten path, looking for the isolated beach Knox had told us he walks to every day. As I topped over the hill the view literally took my breath away. A deserted, expansive, white beach with the most blue water I have ever seen in my life lay in front of us. Piles of brownish seaweed gave contrast to the while silk of the sand. My childlike parts wanted to squeal in delight and so I did and ran over the hill to the open space of ocean spreading out before us. The sun-baked sand between my toes, warmed me as I shivered in the chilly wind of the northern Abaco breeze. The sound of the waves crashing onto the beach lulled my normally busy mind to sleep and put me square in the moment with the most dear man in my life. The waves ventured for what seemed like miles up the wide, pristine beach and left a wet space for me to write a love letter to my husband of the best eleven years of my life. I had my iPhone in my pocket and captured a 360 degree video of the message in the sand, turning in a circle to capture the moment for us..taking in the beach, the waves, the sand and Dan throwing his hands up in the air and bowing at the end in dramatic closure. We marveled at the creative technology that allowed us to capture nature (such a contrast!) and some of the precious moments we shared that day on the island so that we could relive them over again later.
The evening was approaching, the sun was declining in the sky and the air was getting chilly. We headed back to our dinghy, which would take us back to our boat moored in the harbor. As we walked back to town and to the harbor, I thought about how I never wanted to forget this day. It put everything in my life into perspective and I was able to get a glimpse of what the next phase of our lives together might be like. I smiled inside and anchored into memory, the vision of my husband doing what he loves. Photography, sailing. diving, exploring..appreciating a simpler life. In that moment, I knew that our future is bright. No matter what we have or don’t have materially..we have each other, we have a world to explore, and we have creation to view. And most of all, we have a witness to our lives..watching each other do all of this.
May 2012 bring precious moments into the lives of many.
Copyright January 2012