“Oh, man, you’re living the dream!”
“You’re in Paradise, how does it feel?”
“God–six months in Paradise–you are so lucky!”
I am lucky, more because I’m alive to experience anything; and experiencing life as utterly unlike what I was living last year as could be possible. Well–almost as unlike, but I’ll get to that in a moment.
I’m intrigued by this notion of Paradise, because it seems universal that (at least Western, developed) people imagine a palm tree, warm seas, blue sky when they hear this word. Throw in a sailboat, a cute boy, and a fruity drink … god, it just doesn’t get any better, does it?
It is a good life; not the 9 circles of hell of a meaningless job, the drudgery of illness, or any other number of scenarios … we all have our own versions. But, you know, it’s not a
Utopia. And for me, the paradise–that is, the moments of the sublime–are small, unexpected, and have nothing to do with the magazine picture life that many imagine I am living.
Paradise, for me, is snorkeling naked. (Ok, yes–that is the life you imagine.) It’s finding a bag of spinach in the market, exchanging books with other cruisers, my first banjo/guitar jam session with Malcolm, the breeze that finally comes (because it is bloody hot here), chasing away flies, mosquitoes, and the smell of our broken loo.
Paradise is getting in the ocean every day, yes, because it’s a way to be so personal and vulnerable (esp. when naked) with Mother Nature. It’s watching the pelicans, the myriad of fish (even though their coral homes are much denuded), and looking out for my two favorites–big yellow spotted, small blue with black spots–though I don’t know their names.
A hint of sweet Pikake flower, some other fragrant vine. Cobbling together the random ingredients I’m able to procure and making something that tastes good.
There’s much that goes on in “Paradise” that is as far from the magazine notion as you can imagine.
I.e.: there is ONE pump-out station in the BVI, and literally thousands of boats. A pump-out station is when you get your holding tanks full of sewage pumped out into a sewer treatment system. In Paradise, the ocean is your sewer treatment system. It’s what everybody does. I just saw some tourists on a charter boat dipping their cutting board into the water to wash it. They don’t realize … but I’m sure their poop is going right through too.
I.e.: you can’t recycle anything. All goes in the landfill. That autumnal smell of burning that I detect this morning? The incinerator, burning trash.
I.e.: racism, poverty, oppression, addiction (90% of the tourism activities are oriented around booze), apathy . . .
I’m not complaining–well, I do, about the bugs and the heat–I’m trying to wrap my head around what it is that makes life a Paradise, and why we always think that being somewhere else is where all the good stuff is happening, the swag being handed out.
Mostly, this boat traveler life is about surrendering (tie in to last year’s experience, though a million billion times better, this is) and being in the moment. Weather dictates a lot; weather changes, so must the ones dependent upon it. Sails go up, sails go down.
I surrendered my food worries (yes! me! I know!) because I can’t get five different types of lettuce, let alone kale or chard. There are no free-range eggs, beef, chicken (well, the local chickens are free range, but the store chicken is from South America). There are 100 kinds of rum you can buy and one kind of bread. Surrender.
When I surrender, accept, get into the slipstream of the moment, then I glimpse Paradise.
When I stop, stay awhile, the turtle stops with me. The woman behind the counter shares a joke. The musician tells a raft of tales you’d never believe … but they just might be true.
More and more it seems that Paradise is not what you get away from, but where you are able, within yourself, to go.