Even in all my travels to places foreign or remote alike, I have never been too far from the circuit. Work, family and friends were all push of a button away. For the first time, well… ever, really, I am literally on a deserted island with no way to communicate to the outside world.
This far off little island is one of several in the Bahamas–an escape called Highbourne Cay. We have been here once, before it became ‘developed’ as of late. And by that, I mean there is one restaurant now–Xuma’s Place. And a very delicious idea that was! Here they make daily specials based on what comes in fresh from the sea. It was a lovely addition to an island of about twenty workers, a fishing guide, perhaps eight cottages and one convenient store.
A good friend lent us his beach house for spring break as a wedding present. We learned quickly that Wi-Fi, although an option, didn’t work with any of our computers–PC or Mac. Our cottage didn’t discriminate. It didn’t like any form of computer. Our iPhones could approximate some form of spotty communication, though. At least, mine could until I accidentally hooked Jonathan’s foot with a lure, at which point he yelped, fell and took my phone/camera with him into the shallow waters of a mangrove.
I write this now as my phone sits in the oven at 170 degrees Fahrenheit–apparently a remedy for the sea-sick iPhone (preceded by a bath of fresh water). You probably think I am nuts. I suppose I do, too. But there’s little to be done. I might as well give it a go?
Part of me wants to never revive it again. To stay out here forever, drink overpriced cheap Maxwell House coffee, overprices cheap Concho y Toro wine, eat conch and ceviche at each meal, and never set an alarm. But I realize even that gets old (probably quite old… very fast).
Simplicity is not something that we can force in life. We are only too fortunate to be caught in a specific time and place when this is the only option— so loud and obtuse, one would have to be hell bent to complicate matters. Here, the tide is one’s focus. The wind gets extra attention and a place in conversation. When we return to docks after a day out on sea, the few people we see want to know which fish were hungry–if any? Sunblock ranks high on importance and and invasions the largest of our concerns from day to day. And so the tortilla chips must live in the fridge next to the milk.
We must learn from these rare moments the feeling of simplicity. Revel in the suspension of anxiety that comes from work and schedules. However, we shouldn’t feel we are returning to chaos. Rather, we are returning to many opportunities to try to get it right–try and recreate that solace just a few realistic minutes each day.
It’s funny to think… a mass produced, soulless wine here tastes just fine… a luxury almost. Back home, it seems, we try to find meaning in just about every object we come across, whether that’s wine, coffee, crackers, books, or television. So our tastes and preferences vary, becoming more precise. We search for a more soulful way of living, quite often, through materials. I’m hardly advising that we stop celebrating the true artistic effort behind such wines as Lopez de Heredia, Leroy or Nikolaihoff to name a few. But it is a valid realization to consider. How do we find balance, if that balance requires us to create meaning constantly to off-set our stress and unreflective day to day activities?
I don’t want to lose this tranquility. Back home, I always feel the gentle, yet persistent force ticking of the clock propelling me to do more…faster. Meanwhile, I am missing it. Life, really.
I need to take more walks. Read more New Yorkers. Sleep in without an alarm once a week. Take a nap every now and again just to feel the distortion, the glorious disorientation of coming out of it. Take hikes that reveal beauty in my own backyard. Dust off my birdwatcher’s field guide. Drink more water (but not less wine). I should stay on top of literature. Make time for novels. I should give my time, when there is a half day free, to someone who might value it more than me. I need to sip wine more slowly. Chew my food carefully. I can’t take life for granted. It’s too short. Too brief.
The phone needs to be turned off, once I get it back. I simply cannot let my life evolve to the point where it is always within reach.
And so, Bahamas, thank you. More precisely, my gratefulness goes to the small island of Highbourne Cay. Your yellow-bellied warblers and infant seaside conchs remind me that what matters is that which remains so simple and natural. Lacking is luxury.
But don’t worry. I will ever seek out inspired bottles of wine. That too is a natural luxury I take great pains not to have go unnoticed.