Birds on the island of Antigua come out to feed in the shallows of the mangrove roots, just as the sun sets. Yesterday waiting for the grey blue feathers of the bird, an adult little blue heron. Camera in hand focused upon a spot I’ve seen last linger, always leery of my presence on the dock but more intent on fishing blessed with clear golden evening light I capture my first photo of him. Another tall bird walks out of the mangrove, an adult yellow crowned night heron and looks right at me, as if to pose. I capture the moment. A flock of Royal Tern roost every evening in the mangroves to the left of my anchor, I can sit on the bow with binoculars and study them. Cattle egrets seem like cartoon characters as opportunity feeders, I see them in drainage ditches as cars wiz by, atop of the backs’ of critters like goats and name sake cows. A pair of Zenaida dove or turtle doves play in the water reserve bowl of the hot tub and drinking daily from the roof eves a white crowned pigeon visits his handsome silhouette stately against the bright sun.
Eurasian collared doves gather mid afternoon under the shade of the mango tree. I’ve taken to putting food out for the banana quit crowd and brown trembler, and another I’ve yet to identify maybe a thresher? Mostly brown with a patch of red at throat and tail. Inquisitive and bold the first to taste whatever daily offering I’ve added to the tree on the back deck.
I’ve lived for years with a good camera as my best friend, always within close reach. Travelled a few months in Europe at age 20 with a small bag and a large camera and now close to that goal again, travel light with a good camera. Taking the time to see life through view finder, helps with seeing better.
There’s a lot of good photographers out there, everyone with a camera in the pocket and social media to post them. It’s mostly good I think, but I look at the thousands of images I walk around with and unless there’s a way to categorize it’s a bit pointless. Folders help sort.
I’m not sure there’s any reason to worry, every phone I lose tends to take its photo journey to its grave.
I’m likening the time signature of patience and awaiting, mostly anticipated birds but the heron was a complete surprise.
I’m never sure where I’m going, but I know it’s typically not the direction everyone else heads toward. The idea of making my way, looking at other ways to experience the world hold wider appeal. I’m looking at adventures before I polish off the one I’m currently enjoying. And as adventures go, this is an epicurean bite to experience during pandemic pandamonia .
Wishes for this non sense to blow out to sea like the trade winds that blow warm over the bow of my boat.
It’s tough to find others’ that understand the draw of these flights of fancy that I go on. I’m a creative, it’s my default switch. The wide world of my imagination is my best muscle. Stealthy concepts creep into my gray matter and won’t dislodge easily, like my current concoction of Central American bird watching as birthday gift to myself, explore a part of the world again that I haven’t experienced in almost 27 years. Last time I visited Costa Rica and celebrated my 30th birthday there I arrived by sailboat. I’ve been back to Panama a handful of times, boat transits through the Canal Zone mostly, and exploring the Las Perlas islands, a beautiful patch of pacific Panama.
A vivid memory of howler monkeys and wide swipes of color in flight reminders of raw nature, my kinda place. If you think of pleasant memories, you’ll spot yourself in the plot and how happy it was. I remember the good, mostly.
My severe optimism superpowers most things I endeavor to do. It’s this polish on most things, applied heavily gets me off to the next spot on the planet. Okay what’s next: The Leewards was a two year pandemic plan, maybe a bit more to experience and adventure/dive/explore all the way down to Granada. Maybe get a few boat things addressed, see what there is between here and there to discover.
The world is always amazing from the vantage point of afloat.
A digital nomad visa gave me the ability to be on island for two years, my boat went on the hard last May for the hurricane season and was re- splashed after some boatyard attention and lastly bottom paint In November. Living aboard on a sailboat is a pioneering move, hanging on the hook with my new zodiac offers transport to plenty of dive sites to explore. The reefs are healthy and fish, coral, sea sponges proliferate in the warm tropical waters.
Nothing is really local on the island, nice cannabis and maybe mangos, black pineapples and a cousin of the spinach plant that is a vine that grows while you admire it. Every thing else arrives via container ship. Groceries magically reappear Tuesday’s, so a Wednesday shopping day usually plays out. No one talks about the carbon footprint of feeding the island. The tiny island here is also listed with other gross polluters globally. Costs for goods and services are triple normal shopping stateside. As I dingy here and there making my way across the bay is it’s own adventure. News from reality is island life is a small bubble.
Hikes and swims, snorkeling with turtles. Healthy reefs and bananas from the Island of Dominica.
The rain is soft upon the deck. An early morning gust swept through the Harbour this morning and a quick run around and close hatches an early wake up. It’s a Sunday morning hanging on the hook in Falmouth harbor. My back yard these last two pandemic seasons. The world feels to be loosening up again, the island feels full of happy adventuring types. The sun is hot mid days and I hide in my hammock off the sail locker/art space I’ve carved out here. I’ve been arm wrestling old short stories, the beginnings of a prose piece. Words and metaphors rest and wait for me to rediscover. It’s almost the best way to do this, a pay attention to this, each morning, give some energy move it along and remind myself of my true tribe of proof readers. Round robin styled under the wing of poet Robert Sward while in Santa Cruz.
I’m a terrible editor. My friend Nancy was patient and genuine in her skill set as wordsmitthing monitor of story, voice and content. I miss her, in all her crotchety old Jewish lady shtick by way of Orange County. She was dealing with the indignities of cancer taking her daughter and husband. The sole surviving son, off in the Northwest and busy with his life and battling his own health issues, she was a reader and gardener. Opinion offered freely and typically without a breath in between thoughts.
Big Pharma and it’s long tenticals of protocol kept her at arms length of full chemo, she was loathe to be back on that tether so stopped taking the tamoxifen after telling off more than one Stanford oncologist. I said nothing. My job was to listen and listen some more. Never my strong suit, it was a place of science project. She was leaving the promises behind after loosing her husband and daughter. Quality of life issues witnessed first hand offered a magic wand of empowerment to her. Admirable and brave.
Things you can’t do become a focus when the world narrows. Her recipes of beloved meals no longer cooked but puréed in the vita mix that son John mailed. I was a fan of my own hand me down vita mix technology. All things veggie, fruit, protein powder, chia seed ; any thing.
In solidarity in part because that’s how I ate already. Big protein based veggie smoothies powered my construction in the Redwoods of California project. It was an adventure to get there, making it remote and silent. Her too late advancement of esophagus cancer closed off avenues of gourmet but our shared appetite for books, single pot stews that could be mashed beyond recognition smoothie formed could be vita- mixed and drank with a fat straw.
She literally vanished, pounds shed and voice softened her energy sporadically available to offer a walk in her relocated apartment in Oregon. We now had another thing to bond us. Refuges from California. I’m not a proponent of measuring sticks, the raw natural abundance of California was where we both grew up and considered home. She in conservative Pasadena, then Orange County. I in San Diego. We talked of the power of a garden. Plants, and personality of sun ratio to drought friendly to likening pinks and a purple ranged of well behaved plant.
Such contrast to grey scale skies of an Oregon fall to light on a clump of beloved redwood gave filtered evening light to the front window of the home Nancy had after she lost her partner.
In the solitary lonely place of depression and self medicating with fine Local wines we shared these trials too. I stayed on the wagon, she would have a few glasses of rose and I would sip peppermint tea. Craigslist was our match maker, when I advertised forming a book club based upon the booker prize winners of a certain period of time. Nancy reached out to me, and as the date for the book club approached it came down to her and I, the sole base of an idea. Our book: The Giver. The year and book both forgettable. She forever bemoaned the loss of time from reading THAT book she’d remind. There’s a thread to her rants, books and American football. I’m a decent listener. I know not all books are amazing, the ones that are we hold dear until palmed off on the next person.
This thread was hours of friendship.
The kvetching gave me a glimpse of how not to be in old age. She had lived in Michigan, attended school at an age of teenaged kids under foot to be latchkey. Outdoor summer stories of Michigan were shared, I mostly always on the listening side. I’m glad I could be that. Someone to bear witness and see the merit in.
It’s been a year this month since I lost my friend Nancy. I see her in the dog eared book trade books I encounter, her conversation in my head and I’m here in the Caribbean giving homage now to our shared beloved author ( Jim Harrison, Michigan based novelist and fine poet.) departed. Joan Didion was another we put upon a pedestal. She too is now gone.
I’m realizing not having a cemetery plot to visit, this place of our sacred fostered love of the written word on paper and in the storage shed styling of cast off books . It’s here that I worship at this alter and remember. A fine group of women of my Santa Cruz home port of the last handful of years formed with the poet laureate of Santa Cruz, Robert Sward would arrange the tables in a circle, and be attentive to each story, each reading, a shared idea that lived on paper being round robin style debated. This as primer. A place holder for getting an edit in, moving a story forward. I began to see the depth of story and strength of characters so bold to share, prepared to bring copies. A higher sense of the story, is shared then it’s living its own life. ( re edit 3/30/23)
The vantage point of boat to land is a rare glimpse into progress. Making land fall in say the Las Perlas Islands, a chain of mostly under developed jungle is like stumbling into a film set Jurassic park like in authentic land before time. A moonscape of Lanzarote something at the other end of that. My lush middle ground at the moment is seeing the change of it with earth movers, bulldozer style excavation from my floating zip code of Antigua in the leeward islands. Without a doubt landscape changes. The visit you may be enjoying now will certainly morph into something else ( the road into Sayulita mexico) my memory of cobblestones such poetic charm sharply contrasting the influence of tourist dollars friendly paving and curbs.
The last two magazines I’ve picked up were both found on coffee tables from events hosted at Nelsons Dock yard. Glossy tourism megaphones for the real estate market. I’m not begrudgingly against growth, it’s just the steady clip of it that is a current reminder each morning I poke my head above the companion way and see the flattened reality of the once green slopes. Currently the option to buy into the golden passport program here in Antigua sits at $250k us dollars. Tax free and loop hole laden promises crowd out the locals. Two years into the Pandemic with the basic tourism infrastructure coming back it’s a grim reminder of the delta between the haves and locally grown Island life. Although the political system rides the charge, I’m here with a digital nomad visa so I too by association am a part of all of these glitzy measures sadly.
I’ve turned to bird watching again. An easy way to only see the good in the world. This is a well worn rut in my personality, an easy fall back position with lots to learn and observe and if lucky capture with a camera. The reality check of real life seems too painful to fully embrace, feels too full form loss of something vs path of progress. In the way back machine of my life I rode my bike through what is now SF research and medical labs, thinking what might have been a place to live aboard a floating boat/home just at the creek was morphing into something very exciting. I drive now and only recognize my old Bay View Boat Club hang where a buck would land a sweating glass of Anchor Steam on the elbow heavy bar.
Nostalgia with a salty splash. Most of my best memories involve salt water based adventures. The linger of smile only to be dashed by the memory of far away it seems from now.
I’ve added to the adventure list with major boat centric seasonally sail centric. Mexico to meet a crew and sail to the South Pacific but bowed out just before the boat sailed, Panama Canal Atlantic side of the locks to the Galapagos then on to the Mindo Cloud forest for bird watching and coffee roasting adventures. New Zealand for a crew position then wwoofing with various project-art centric farms on the north island. This season sailing from New York to the Windward Islands, then back aboard my own sailboat in Antigua.
I’m back into my first true love of photography, with a decent camera that captures what I see as I sail, or liveaboard while awaiting boat parts so,I can plan and plot and hopefully soon sail off again.
Travel is a big part of my persona it’s my arm wrestle with fate, and to be out of America during the last two years a big gift. Island life is a lot like living in tiny town America. Everyone knows everyone and the chatter of gossip a funny drama to behold. I don’t know many locals but I can see the trend of attitudinal behavior and read between the lines mostly. The local Yacht Club here on the island is home to the veteran barstool crowd, if you seek the Rigger who didn’t perhaps get back to you a walk through the bar will find you in front of him if that’s the angle of conversation you may seek. I gave up on what’s app and a spin through the bar was the correct call. News of anything else one needs can be tracked down from the other local hang of Skullduggery, a decent stash of dog eared books reside here to, so it’s a two-fer..Two projects checked off the to do list, there’s half my week island time centric.
My go to app for weather this season is Windy. Last year it was predict wind. Maybe next year another contender will step up with more to lure me away. I’m sure where there’s weather and sailors there’s talk of what’s best when. A far cry from packet radio delivered weather fax deciphered like tea leaves before making another leg of a journey. So lucky to have so much for really so little- yachting isn’t a bargain hunters sport but sometimes in the light of shiny new technology it feels like I’ve scored.