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.

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.