I have been looking back through old photos recently in a floundering attempt to organize (and delete) thousands of unnecessary snaps, including accidental photos of my foot, 20 different versions of a sunset, and 18 million photos of my dogs. Perusing through these photos reminds me of events that happened just yesterday, or so it feels. And then I look at the date and I'm reminded that some of my first photos in The Bahamas were from winter and spring of 2009 - over 8 years ago.
I lived in Harbour Island from summer of 2013 until almost exactly one year ago. Harbour Island is a tiny community of about 2000 people - on a busy day. The 3 mile long by 1/2 mile wide island has a beautiful stretch of pink sandy beach on the ocean side, and a peaceful harbor side protected by "mainland" Eleuthera (just another, bigger island). The island is fairly crowded with houses but everyone moves at a slower pace, driving around in golf buggies and taking in the serene surroundings. No one ever gets too fussed about traffic and it always feels like vacation-land, even when you're trying to hustle and earn a living.
The island is probably one of the most expensive places I've ever lived, but the lifestyle can't be beat. Because it's expensive and it's difficult to just "move there" and find a place to rent for the long term (good luck trying to buy anything unless you have a few extra million laying around), there's limited competition for good project managers and owner's reps. Homeowners battle with attempting to build and remodel in a difficult environment and professional help can be slim pickings on a small island. What started out as a 3 month temporary project management stint on the island, steam-rolled into one project after another and lasted 2 1/2 years. We'd probably still be there if we hadn't taken another job in the Exumas and finally ended up back at our house in Nassau. Anyways, during our time on Harbour Island we'd chip away at construction projects, but we would always find time to sneak out and go fishing on a Wednesday afternoon or go kiteboarding on a Friday morning, knowing we could make it up some other time when the weather turned inclement. It was a pretty good life.
However, it was a small town. Everyone knows everyone's business. You pass the same people over and over and over again, sometimes saying your hello's 4-5 times per day. There's not a lot going on in the way of healthful living; no yoga studios, juice bars or ethnic dining. It's cracked conch in styro or a $55 a la carte steak.
I had happily lived on an island with a population of 7 people in the past, but on this island, loneliness plagued me. I felt as though I didn't fit in. I was an island girl, but this island had a sort of luxurious, refined and downright pretentious feel. The kind of vibe that a fashion and lifestyle blogger dreams of. I'm not fashionable, nor do I exude anything even remotely luxurious, and I don't bother trying. Give me a down-home dive bar any day. Unfortunately, the "dive bars" on the island charged $10 for a beer and most of the female patrons are decked out in designer resort-wear making me look somewhat like a hobo in my surfer-girl boardshorts.
I became tainted, drained and disheveled, and I was ready for a change by the time I left in April last year. For the past year I have held bitter memories of the island and have been hesitant to go back. I nearly went once, but my emotions got the best of me and I backed out at the last minute. But then my husband got a phone call that his project management duties were required for a short stint, so he left me and the three dogs in Nassau and went to go work 7 days a week in Harbour Island. It was settled. If I wanted to see my husband at all, had to go.
I packed my bag and flew over. I had a sick feeling in my stomach. As I got into the golf buggy I pulled my hat down lower and adjusted my sunglasses. I didn't want to see anyone. But then I started getting hailed. Familiar faces waved and smiled. The bartender at our old local haunt saw me on the dock and gave me a big hug. Friends stopped in the middle of the road welcoming me back. One friend grabbed me and said "We NEED to catch up, let's go get a glass of wine," so I waved goodbye to my husband and off I went. Later we found ourselves pumping up our kites with other friends and heading out for a kiteboarding session on what I remember to be my favorite place to kite. 3 miles up and down Pink Sands Beach, with an audience of tourists cheering us on. Even when I left, the Pineapple Air agent smiled warmly and said "I haven't seen you in a while!"
It was like nothing had changed. And everything had changed. Time hadn't blinked, but where was my sour attitude?
I picked up right where I left off. It was like I had traveled through a wormhole. One year had passed, but it might as well have been one day. A few things looked different, a few face-lifts on buildings here and there. But idle conversations carried on just as they had one year ago, and I was caught up on the local sip sip before I knew it.
My husband had to find temporary accommodations while he was working on the project. He ended up renting the first place we lived together during our first three months on Harbour Island; a modest apartment on the quieter southern end of the island, with views of the ocean. AC is hardly needed because the constant ocean breeze refreshes. The linen curtains billow softly. The only sounds are of birds and roosters and the ocean crashing. I was instantly reminded how soundly I slept when we were there. It was my most favorite place we lived on that island.
We were right back where we started. Maybe it was life's way of giving me a second chance. I don't have to be miserable. I don't have to have a tantrum every time the power goes out. I can detach myself from the things that at one time gave me so much grief and angst.
A year ago I had been sinking further and further into the depths of negativity, reaching out in desperation for salvation. When I came out the other side I realize that it wasn't so bad. I had created it for myself. Sure, it didn't help that I felt alone, but sometimes being alone is OK. It's a great time to turn inward. I know that now. I wonder how I could have convinced my then-self that.
Looking back, one of the positive events that occurred during my time there was that I started Out Island Life, this somewhat disorganized blog about living life in the islands. I also got involved with writing for Women Who Live on Rocks. Both of those were necessary outlets for the trying times I dealt with on the island. These blogs have since opened doors I didn't think were possible, and connected me into a world where I'm truly not alone in this crazy island existence. It's allowed me to delve into cultivating my underlying affinity for writing. It's always been there, and it's been exciting to watch it prosper and grow over the past few years.
Sitting in that same apartment from many years ago, I revisited one of my very first blog posts on Out Island Life. A magical recap of the optimistic mindset I was in at the time. I have held these words in my heart since rereading them. I'm not going down that same road again. Life is too short. Time goes too quickly. I'm thankful for a second chance and a new outlook. Even if it's the same outlook that I've held before. Perhaps I'm just looking at it all through wiser lenses.
September 10th, 2013
Oh, will the lightening stop? It rumbles and careens across the sky. My linen curtains which normally dance gently in the breeze through my wide French doors now blow in fury, whipping into the room in a torrid rage, tangling and encompassing me as I pass through the room. The sky is white, the rain pours freely and fiercely. The bolts flash just off the seashore and frighten me. I am not able to count one second before the thunder clatters, all-consuming and earth shattering. Little Barley, my protector, who would stand up to the most menacing of characters, cowers under the bed. When she gets the urge to peek out from her safe haven, she huddles over my feet. Not leaving my side. The lamp flickers and dims until it finally ceases. The back-up surge protector starts its annoying beep...beep...beep, reminding me that it in spite of the loss of power, it continues its duty of charging our precious electronics. Boo to the electronics. I switch the beeping off.
The rain lets. The sky breaks. The wind dies to its leisurely breezy state. The air is cool and clean, and the sand and soil of the outdoor living spaces are washed away.
Late into the evening the power goes in and out. Thank heavens for the ancient propane stove. I cook dinner with my trusty headlamp strapped to my forehead. Candles are lit and flicker in the breeze. Do not depend on power or water, not in the out-islands. The quiet is soothing. No refrigerator humming, no fans whirring.
At last the power returns. AC is cranked for a cool night's sleep. Fans cut through the humid air. Our modern comforts march on.