Friday, February 13, 2009

Saving Long Beach

I’m new to the island. It’s our third year so I’m detached from the memories of the past. I can only relate to the Montserrat of today. And today’s Montserrat is still beautiful.

Those who have lived here much longer have memories to share. They see Isles Bay Beach the way it used to be, a golf course lined with palm trees, and a small harbor filled with boats and people enjoying the beauty of this sacred place.

Today paints a different picture, one that is not so exciting, yet beautiful in its own right. The volcano has created this new picture, burying the golf course and extending the beach further out to sea. It is a new beach; a very long beach that seems to have defied the rocks that often emerge at Lyme Kiln and Woodlands. Its soft sand is perfect for long sunset walks and the only place I’ve found where I can run a mile. The water is usually calm and warm, safe for an afternoon swim.

Fisherman dot the landscape early mornings and sunset evenings. Pelicans put on a show as the sun goes down, the most beautiful place on island for viewing the colors of the evening sky. A blue heron waits for the few scraps a fisherman might share.

The palm trees that once lined the golf course remain standing lost to the purpose they once served. Here and there along the beach, a young coconut has planted its roots and is beginning to emerge. Cattails are abundant creating an area of wetlands to house new life, and those of us who live nearby build fires on the beach in an effort to enjoy what nature has to offer. I have visions of what this beautiful place may one day become again, a place of calm and beauty not seen anywhere else on island.

So imagine my surprise when my mid morning walk was interrupted by bull dozers and dump trucks taking away the black sand of the beach. Other beaches are calling for more sand to bury their abundance of rocks. Here we are hauling it away.

With so few beaches left on the island for recreation, I am hopeful that Long Beach will take its rightful place amongst the other beaches that are loved and nurtured. It is my desire to help this dream manifest by planting a few more palm trees to the ones already provided by Mother Nature. A small contribution I am aware, but one that I feel is better than doing nothing at all.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

A View of Plymouth from Garibaldi Hill

From the top of Garibaldi Hill, we look down over the town of Plymouth which now resembles a ghost town of the old west. The houses that are visible sit among a garden of ash. The majority of buildings are buried 20 feet under. The most recent volcanic eruption seems to have completely covered the old church steeple that had become an landmark, ensuring the town would be remembered for what she once was.

Getting to the top of Garibaldi hill is an adventure unto itself. The road is mostly washed out and the bumps and crevices ensure none of our eyes ever leave the sight of what is in front of us. Steve is experienced in how to maneuver around the worst of it and he gets us to the top. It's the closest we can come to see the devastation of Plymouth, once a thriving town.

This area was home to the most fertile agriculture land, a beautiful harbor, and the center of island activities. All that is left is a memory of the distant past and hopes that one day, the volcano that haunts this little island will choose to fall back to sleep.

Friday, January 23, 2009

The Dry Waterfall Hike

It all starts with an e-mail from Keith and Eileen. "We're going on a hike; anyone want to join us?" Bill and I rarely say no. A hike into the rainforests is always an adventure in shopping! Yes.. I said shopping.

Eileen is familiar with the plants of the island. And more often than not, we find a young tree that wants to come home with us, allowing us to pull up the plant, roots and all. This trip was no exception. On route, when exhaustion began to set in, I watched as Eileen picked the leaves of a tree, crushed them and smelled their delicious scent. "What is it?" I inquired.

"It's a cinnamon tree," she explained. Not like the kind of cinnamon we use in the States of course. This cinnamon is used more like a bay leaf. When crushed, the smell of cinammon is emitted. She told me I could use it in any dish that I wanted to taste like cinammon. When I turned around, Keith presented me with a good size cinnamon tree that obviously wanted to come home with me!
On route, we came across "the lemon tree" which we had seen before, but never like this. It was covered in lemons that hung from every branch. The tree was so big we could place ourselves inside of it and enjoy the scent of lemon everywhere!

Two hours later we arrived at our destination, the dry waterfall, which was actually quite wet and running. Keith and Eileen had never seen such a large pool at its base before. The water was deep enough to wade into up to our waists, which Keith actually did!

By day's end, our backpacks were full of lemons and bananas ripe for the picking!

Friday, January 16, 2009

How I Got To Paradise!

Wintering on a Caribbean island amongst a live volcano was not one of the goals on my "to do" list before I die, and yet here I find myself... living in Paradise with an active volcano no less.. not that I'm complaining, mind you.

My partner, Bill, always wanted to buy a home on a Caribbean island, but who could afford one? As we were looking for a place to vacation in the winter of 2007, we came upon an article that mentioned Montserrat. It talked about the volcano and how affordable and easy it was to purchase property on the island. So off we went on a new adventure to explore the warmth of the sun, the breeze of the ocean, the beauty of the rainforests and intensity of the volcano.

Once we arrived, we knew we were home. From the moment we landed, the island was inviting and by the time we left, three weeks later, we felt safe and secure among strangers who would soon become friends. Our ability to drink from our tap with water that flows straight from the mountains was a huge asset. And the absence of corporate chains and stop lights suited both of us just fine!

By the fall of 2007, Bill bought our island home. In 2008, we spent our winter here. Would we be able to survive three months on an island of 3,500? Would we enjoy the simplicity of less is best when we actually had to live that realtiy? Yes, we survived and we enjoyed every moment of what Montserrat has to offer. It may not be much, but it is more than enough.

It is now 2009 and we have come back home. I hope to share with you some of our adventures on the volcanic island of Montserrat.

Day One in Paradise - Find Food!

Am I in the Twilight Zone or have I relived this memory before? Both, I think. I'm back home on the island. Is this where I want to be? The air is warm and the breeze is cool. Why do I feel so strange? It affects me like a da ja vue. I'm not sure if its good or bad.. or could it just be what it is? Then again,the problem is, I don't know what it is...

The first thing to do on island is try to find some food. We immediately head to Ram's Market hoping to find it full of produce. But no.. we are between shipnments and some of the aisles look bare and empty. The produce shelves feel old and abandoned.

But it's Friday. Yeah! The locals are set up along the street selling their fresh picks of the day. I want everything I see...scallions, spinach, carrots, sweet tender peppers and green beans. Have I missed anything? I buy what is available now because I know I won't see again until next week. And I do appreciate that which I am given. Thank you Lord for real food!

Someone tells us they have found avocados! Fresh avocados on island! Where did you find them? We must know! Come to find out, avocados must be plentiful this year as everyone on island has them on their shelves. Not the case last year when they were scarce and non-existent. We learn that everything changes from year to year.

My mind fills with all the recipes I might make with these tasty little morsels... tomato sauce, omelettes, salsa and pizza! It occurs to me I could make a fabulous pizza. Does life get better than this?

A Trip to the Butcher Shop

Oriel's butcher shop is nothing more than a make-shift shack. We've been told that Ariel used to have a shop in Plymouth. He's made due with a piece of land that has a perfect view of the volcano. The land is surrounded by fences and pens that house chickens, and goats and pigs of all sizes. The goats are moved from area to area allowing them to clear the field while they fertilize it.

Oriel moves his gardens with each season managing to get the best of the soil while confusing the bug population. It seems to work. Today I am in search of vegetables, whatever he might have available. He ponders what might be hidden among the fields and apologizes for the lack of lettuce. Last week's ashing took a toll on some of his plants.

He is proud of the new young sprouts he planted to replace what he recently lost and is hopeful that the volcano's lack of activity will give the land a reprieve.

He manages to scrape together two small heads of lettuce for the price of one. He finds two cucumbers, and to my surprise, asks if we could use cauliflower. Cauliflower! This was a first; I had never seen cauliflower grown on island before. And with a proud smile he manages to find me two heads for the taking. What a treat!

"Do you have any eggplant?" I ask. His mind starts thinking as he scans the old plots from the last crop. He disappears into the weeds that have taken the land back and within a few minutes, reappears with a bag of small young eggplant. Cooking is so much easier when there is variety of vegetables to choose from.