The Caribbean – Part 2

Margaritaville, the song, is a lot of fun. Margaritaville, the resort on St. Thomas, is even more fun.

My husband and I spent four nights at Margaritaville. That was just enough time to see everything nearby as well as to have some time to play at the beach.

We booked our room through Airbnb and it was much less expensive than other area hotels. The room was gorgeous and immaculately clean. We had a full-size refrigerator, microwave, and even a dishwasher. There was also a blender for those frozen concoctions and the king size bed was extremely comfortable. Our second story balcony looked out over the pool and beyond that out to the bay.

Margaritaville Poolside Bar

The pool-side bar was very comfortable and did a great job of serving food from the kitchen any time we wanted. There is also a hill-top infinity pool which has unbelievable views out across the bay. It has a sit-down/swim-up bar up there, but they don’t have access to the kitchen, so no food.

Live music in the restaurant was great fun in the evenings and the pavilion next door hosted lively music and dance shows.

Margaritaville sits in Water Bay and while it is possible to swim there, the seaweed continually washes up onto the beach. It’s not too bad, easy enough to step around and they do rake it all up every several days or so. For swimming, Coki beach is a quick walk up the road. It has soft sand and beautiful turquoise water. We did a little snorkeling, but that day there was not much to see. Coral World Ocean Park is on Coki Point as well. They have an aquarium with quite a variety of sea life. We had great fun watching them feed the fish and even train the sharks. The touch pool was lots of fun to play in and the huge sea turtles had their own pool. The little pond turtles were cute (lots of babies) but watch out for the many iguana lurking nearby trying to steal the turtles’ food. The tower in the bay is the perfect location from which to watch the wild sea life. It was fascinating. And when they brought the food out—the myriad of huge fish went crazy! The diver had to wear chain-mail gloves to prevent becoming part of the fishes’ lunch!

Lots of wild iguana hang out with the small turtles.

Their dive tours are popular, as well as snuba and their underwater trail. We also enjoyed watching the trained parrots. The sea lion show was said to be excellent, but we missed that one.

It was back to Coki Beach to swim on our last day, but it was a Sunday and several cruise ships had arrived on the island. It didn’t take long for the beach to be overrun with all those tourists covered in oil!

Amazing Coki Beach

The meals at the restaurant were delicious! We had fresh sea food dishes and the rice had the most incredible flavor. The ribs were also wonderful. Don’t miss them! Though the meals were fantastic, they did make quite a dent in the pocketbook. We walked down to the local market (10 minutes) and bought some milk and cereal for our breakfasts. They had items that we were familiar with, so we bought those, then we bought a few things that were completely new to us—just to try and see. One thing we bought was a plantain. I had heard that they are very similar to bananas. We bought one and tried to eat it with our cereal in the morning, but it was hard and crunchy, not a pleasant taste. I should have googled it! Apparently, you have to cook it. Later in our trip we greatly enjoyed some fried plantain.

The pool/bar had music going most of the day. They even had some games sprinkled throughout the week as well.

All in all, we had a great time and would definitely go back. Yet four nights was enough and we were excited to head on to St. John.

The Caribbean – Part 1

We just returned from our yearly get-away-from-the-cold trip. This year our trip was to the soft, warm sands and turquoise-blue water of The United States Virgin Islands of St. Thomas and St. John. This once in a life-time trip was courtesy of an airline voucher we received in exchange for giving up our seats a year ago on an over-booked flight. Free airfare! Where would you like to go? Not a doubt in our minds.

The flight took us to Houston (raining), then Puerto Rico, then finally to St. Thomas. I was mesmerized by the tropical ocean, so many shades of blues spreading out in all directions!

A major surprise for me was Puerto Rico. Through an occasional news story, I have only heard about Puerto Rico’s poverty — how destitute they are. Unfortunately, I have never delved deeper than surface knowledge about the people nor the land. Flying in to San Juan, I saw a beautiful city with palm trees, blue ocean, beaches, tall hotels and office buildings. It reminded me Honolulu. Why have I not heard about the beauty? I asked myself.

Yes, I did see a number of houses that still had blue tarps spread across their roofs. I recalled scenes on T.V. from the two 2017 hurricanes Irma and Marie. Bridges and roads were ruined, cutting off whole communities. Electricity was out throughout the entire island. Exhausted people stood in long lines to receive food and clean water.

But still… Why have I not heard about the beauty?

I began reading what I could find about being a tourist on Puerto Rico. They have amazing beaches, surfing around the whole island, hiking through the mountains, and beautiful gardens. They also have a rich culture and a complex history. And the food! Mouth watering pictures floated before me.


Picture courtesy of: crazyjamie.wordpress.com. Crazy Jamie has many delicious 
recipes on her website. Check them out!

I can’t wait to visit Puerto Rico someday!

Then we were on to St. Thomas. We had done our homework on St. Thomas: beaches, restaurants, shopping, museums, driving, taxis, ferries, all of it. Yet I was not prepared for the physical size of the island. Very small! Thirteen miles long and four miles wide. As we dropped out of the sky I scanned the numerous other islands as well and got a sense of what thirteen miles by four miles really means. I am accustomed to living in Montana, Big Sky country with lots of wide-open spaces. Yet this tiny island was surrounded by picturesque beaches, green hills and sailboats galore.

I had reserved a car at the airport and we were excited to get to our first hotel. I stepped up to the rental car counter and the lady said, “No cars. They are all gone. Come back tomorrow at 1:30 and I will get you a car.” I stood there confused for a second then handed her my confirmation number. The line of tourists behind me were frozen just as I was. So the lady explained. “No cars. They are all gone. Come back tomorrow at 1:30 and I will get you a car.”

The taxi men were hovering.

By the time we were loaded up and headed down the road it was dark. The taxi zipped in and out of busy traffic and zoomed up and down and around the crazy corners that make up the road system of St. Thomas. I looked at my husband and said, “I sure am glad there was no car for us!”

The taxi van was full of young people from the States. They repeatedly told the taxi driver that he was not going the right way. They said they knew of a shorter road. A quick check of the map the next day showed that the taxi man had indeed taken the shortest route. The patient taxi man had been kind, but I was embarrassed. Those of us from the States are guests on their island and in their towns and in their taxis. Guests should show hosts the respect they deserve, not be demanding and act as if they know it all.

Nevertheless, our room was beautiful and the bed was very comfortable. We woke in the morning and immediately opened the curtains to look outside for a peek. A sparkling swimming pool lined with palm trees, lounge chairs and umbrellas greeted us. The sun shone over everything. Behind the pool was a bluer than blue bay, sailboats lazily bobbing at their moors. We slid open the balcony door and warm tropical air enveloped us. “We are not in Montana anymore Toto,” my husband grinned.

Have you ever been to the USVI? Share your thoughts and/or web page.

For Heaven’s Sake “Keep the Soil Covered.”

Guest Post – My friends Wayne and Connie Burleson travel the world teaching people everywhere to grow their own food. 

Find them here:  http://farmer-to-farmer.org/volunteer/stories/wayne-burleson

And herehttps://www.amazon.com/Gardening-Life-Required-Illustrated-Growing/dp/0989286304

(Excerpts from NAKED LAND NO MORE articles)    By Wayne Burleson

Let’s wakeup everyone, especially gardeners, ranchers and farmers.  Poor soils equate to poor life. No soils, no life. Healthy soils, healthy life. If you look out your windows or walk on the land and see naked soils, these soils are dying, and economics are dropping.

The words “Naked Land” comes from a trip to Tanzania, Africa.  An elder African fellow that has a very interesting museum at the base of the famed Mount Kilimanjaro made the following impacting statement to us:  For 2,000 years after the invention of iron; “Man has been making the land naked.” (meaning no cover).  Impacting statement, but true!

An African shepherd leads his goats across a large dusty plain, a few scraggly trees and bushes are the only green for miles.

Bare soil leads toward death.  Covered soil leads toward health.  It’s that simple.  Dust kills – Covered heals.

If you have trouble understanding this biological law, just try laying out flat on the ground, with no clothes on some warm day and see what happens to your skin.  Your uncovered skin will start to burn immediately. Stay there all day with no sun protection and you will cook yourself into the hospital.  This same principle applies to the land, your flower beds, vegetable gardens, croplands and even pasture lands.

Sun cooked soil becomes very hot, plus the ultraviolet light kills valuable microorganism that live in the soils.  Their job is to build and grow new soils.  The long-term effect of this affects all of us.  The big picture is that our weather patterns can go completely nutso.  Is this happening today?  Yep, just turn on the news and you will see it, someone is always talking and showing news clips about extreme weather events.

I listen to these climate reports documenting catastrophic fires, floods, droughts, and intensifying hurricanes that are killing people.  Most reports talk about global warming caused by industrial factories, carbon dioxide emissions, the burning of fossil fuels … carbon going up into the atmosphere.  Seldom do I hear that these devastating events are being caused by poor land management.  Farmers are making the land naked by plowing, tilling and severe overgrazing.  Plus, the millions of African farmers burning their croplands sending valuable carbon the wrong way – up, instead of down into or leaving the carbon (plant matter) laying on top of the soils surface, where it is badly needed. 

Naked land leads to death.
  • Loss of WATER            
  • Loss of SOILS
  • Loss of PROFITS               
  • Loss of HEALTH
  • Loss of PRODUCTION

    Even Leads to Civil Unrest & Wars

Try growing a crop on this naked farmland in Tanzania Africa.  It will cost a pile of money using “Chemical Farming.” Sometimes 80% of the farmer’s gross income. 

We have published a book Gardening for Life – No Money Required.  For those interested in more information, watch our YouTube video.  Just Google “Top 5 ways to grow food with no money

The point of this article is; Please do your best to keep naked land covered.  Our lives depend on you.

God Heard Me

Psalm 116: 1-2

I love the Lord, for he heard my voice;
he heard my cry for mercy.
Because he turned his ear to me,
I will call on him as long as I live.

Both verses make it clear. Because God heard me, therefore I love him. Cause and effect.

Love and trust grow between two people when they genuinely hear one another.

God Hears Us

When I feel that God is far away from me, that’s when I know I need to pour out my heart to Him. One time when I was going through a particularly difficult situation, I dedicated every evening to Him. I gave away my T.V. and spent every evening reading scripture and praying. Sometimes hours would go by when it felt like only a few minutes. Did God immediately solve all my problems? No. But I did feel His presence in powerful ways! I cried out to Him in pain for 18 months. Then He blessed me beyond my wildest dreams.

When you are in desperate straits, pour it all on God. He wants to hear it.

Speak to Him in the silence of the night.

Cry out to Him throughout the day.

Pray while you take a fast walk through a park or go for a hike. The added exercise will combine with your prayers and amazing things will happen.

We Must Hear Others

Love and trust grow between spouses when they genuinely hear one another. Listening to our spouses shows that we love them and that they are important to us. When our spouses feel that love, their love for us will also grow.

Friends also need our undivided attention. Our lives have become overfull of activities and social media which means little time is left for deep friendships. God created us for relationships with other people, face to face relationships. Texting is convenient but it will never replace loving someone enough to sit down and look them in the eye and say, “I am here for you.”

Listening is not an easy thing to do. Lynda D. Elliott, in her book The Counsel of a Friend, said, “Listening may appear easy or even passive, but really ‘hearing’ another person may be the hardest work you will do.”

How to Listen:

  1. Pray first – Ask God to help you truly hear that other person.
  2. Focus on them – Set aside your own thoughts and judgements.
  3. Watch – Look for body language that reflects their thoughts and feelings.
  4. Notice – Take note of their feelings. Are they feeling angry, sad, guilty, frustrated, hopeless or something else?

 

Listen beyond their words. What is in their heart? Don’t try to “fix” them or their problem. If they want advice, they will ask for it. Till then just listen. Just love.

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The Stillwater River, MT

April-May 2013 040

Standing beside the crashing river, I could feel the water pound throughout my whole body, landing in my heart. Deep in the water I could hear the pow wow drums beating the song.

The far side of the river was the shallower side. Boulders of various sizes made the water dance and slide in a way that carried my troubles and fears away – far down the mountain.

The near side was deeper, for no rocks showed. Rather than dance and slide, the water took one great dip, then rose like an ocean wave. The crest boiled over into a curve facing upriver. It dared the adventurous surfer to challenge it. The water then rushed on to the next wave and the next, splashing water to the sky.

Watching the water rise into that huge wave, my stomach tickled – like riding a roller coaster…the excitement continued building and building till I had to look away just to recover.

The power of the river gives me strength. It clears my soul.

In John Denver’s song To The Wild Country he sings about Alaska, but his words ring true for every wild country and every person it touches. The chorus goes like this:

To the mountains, I can rest there.

To the rivers, I will be strong.

To the forest, I’ll find peace there.

To the wild country, where I belong.

 

The land has so much to give.

We must respect it. We need to care for it. We should enjoy it.

Nevertheless, it is vital that it speak to us – that it touch us.

We should not always be the subject of the sentence – the initiator of the action.

We are not complete until we have received from the land.

I came to this conclusion recently on my own, after years of being in nature and after many discussions with others who are not attuned to the wild. Then just the other day I was reading some Native American writings and was astounded at what I found.

The Arapaho have a proverb that says “All plants are our brothers and sisters. They talk to us and if we listen, we can hear them.”

The Huron say, “Listen to the voice of nature, for it holds treasures for you.”

We have much we can learn from the Native Americans (and from the wild) if we are willing.

If you are ever in southern Montana, stop and listen to the Stillwater River.

Sounds of Silence

“Silence is not the absence of something but the presence of everything…It is the presence of time, undisturbed. It can be felt within the chest. Silence nurtures our nature, our human nature, and lets us know who we are. Left with a more receptive mind and a more attuned ear, we become better listeners not only to nature but to each other. Silence can be carried like embers from a fire. Silence can be found, and silence can find you. Silence can be lost and also recovered. But silence cannot be imagined, although most people think so. To experience the soul-swelling wonder of silence, you must hear it.”

Gordon Hempton, One Square Inch of Silence

http://onesquareinch.org/

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“The soul-swelling wonder of silence.” What an incredible phrase! I have felt it but never knew how to put it into words.

Once, long ago, I was hiking through Silver Falls State Park and I sat down for a rest and a snack. No one else was around. After finishing my snack, I paused. Then I heard it! The natural silence. The pitter-patter of chipmunk feet behind me. The soft  whoosh  of leaves high in the trees. Yes! I could feel it in my chest.

When life gets difficult, I always find myself retreating to the forest. There are other beautiful places to hike but there is a magic about the forest that touches me in a way nothing else does.

Stress…worry…anxiety…burdens…tension…

My muscles are tight with it all. My mind stuck in an endless flow of negative thoughts. My temper on edge. My patience non-exsistent.

Then I reach the forest. I look for steep trails that lead to isolated water. I hike hard and fast. I push myself, allowing only small amounts of water periodically. My lungs feel it first. The burning. Then my thighs start to ache. Sometimes there are tears. I am not ready for the silence yet. The forest is only beginning its work on me. I feel protection from the trees. I feel the firmness of the trail beneath my feet. I feel the boundlessness of the sky above me. I feel the hidden animals aware of my intrusion. I feel much that I am not consciously aware of.

When I finally reach exhaustion, I stop and look around. I can begin to see again. A thousand shades of greens and browns. The view down the valley.

I find a place for a snack and sit, replenishing my energy and soaking in the feel of the forest. I am half way there.

My hiking is now slower and my thoughts match my pace. The negetive thoughts have stopped their insistent hammering in my head.

Then I reach the water. Just the sight of it soothes me. My thoughts and emotions settle. I need to touch the water, to feel its coolness slip over my hands. Next, I find a place to sit as close to the water as possible. Another snack and I am ready for the silence. I sit and listen. The tiny lap of water on the shore of the lake. The birds crying as they circle overhead.

How long have I sat there? One, two, three hours? I refuse to take a watch hiking. A glance at the sun tells me when I need to be heading downtrail so I won’t get caught in the dark. “The soul-swelling wonder” of the silence has nurtured my human nature. It is difficult to head home, but I do. I will be patient and kind once again. But not for long. Soon I will need to return to my forest and my silence.

Nature’s Peace

Multnomah Falls along the Columbia River

This is one of my favorite hikes. Thousands of people view the falls from the parking lot. Hundreds view the falls from the bridge. Few view the falls from the top.

“Deep calls to deep in the roar of your waterfalls.”

“Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature’s peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop off like autumn leaves.” John Muir