January 2008 Archives

This journey towards a dream has included some winding roads and cryptic messages-puzzles that have had to be solved in order to move onto the next level like some not-so-virtual video game. Thanks to a new found contact gained through Deltec... another dear soul who is building on our very island, I was given an answer to a question that not even my attorney in the bahamas could answer. Like passing secret code via email, my new partner in crime, a pediatric surgeon from michigan, fed me valuable information that he had obtained along his own dream journey. I, willing to receive such nuggets of info like they were some sort of insider secret felt like I had won the mother load, or at the very least the golden key that unlocks the tower to save the princess. Today's particular piece of the puzzle...

How to obtain a police record.

Or more correctly in my case, how to obtain a police record if you don't have a police record.

I know, it confused my too. Welcome to my not-so-virtual world.

Among the many hoops that must be jumped through (some of them flaming) in order to continue the ongoing process of creating our bahamas retreat is a list of documents needed by those good people that run the government of the bahamas. They want to make sure you are good people too so they require a document that says so...

sounds reasonable.

But again... If you have never committed a crime...

So, thanks to my fellow journeyman in michigan who gave me the necessary hints to obtain the magic mushroom...

I found myself being fingerprinted.

This friendly trip to the state police office where every wednesday from 9-11 they print all those good folk looking to obtain their records would hopefully get me to the next level. After entering the precinct and signing in, taking a number and a seat I tried not to feel nervous.

After all it's not like going to a police station makes you a criminal.

After denying my more impish self to lean over to the person seated across from me and whisper,

"What are you in for?"

I instead surveyed the room while pondering the people who, like me, waited for their numbers to be called.

The room was filled with dreams.

Faces from many nationalities sat waiting to accomplish the next step in immigration that would allow them to live in this country. I could only imagine the gauntlet that many of these people had already been through.

Faces of hopeful, would-be parents, seeking the next piece of the puzzle to allow them to adopt a child.

Faces of those climbing the ladder of their careers, government workers needing a simple piece of paper to add another rung.

There was a face of a idealistic young man on his way to teach english in Korea.

And me.

All of us in our various real-life video games in pursuit of something, ironically, some in opposite directions, but all looking for that next piece to help get us there. What was at first a scary room full of strangers became a place where we shared something in common, a place of intersecting at this particular point in the game.

I found myself hoping for the best for each one of them, silently cheering them on.

After all, we really all want the same thing.

"Number 46!"

My turn. I entered through a door guarded by a white haired gentleman who had been kindly giving out instructions on filling out the right forms, being patient with the non-english, and informative to those like me, interjecting humor all the while...

bless him.

Passing him and going through the door to the printing room, which was more like a hallway, I was greeted by another elderly man, short and chatty instructing me on how to ink my fingers. The surreal nature of the paradox of having him place my blackened thumb on the paper while asking me where I went to school made my knees a little weak. I cheerfully made small talk while he finished my fingers, feeling a little awkward like I might say the wrong thing and thus trigger hidden sirens and flashing red lights.

Then he was politely folding my card and giving me instructions of what to do with it, where to mail it...

"You're all set".

Leaving the precinct with card in hand I send up one more prayer for all those fellow travelers still waiting to be called. blessings on your journey.

On to the next level.


anime octopus or exnihilo site plan?


Bryan and I had fun this weekend playing with our little dream. Using the round-house model as our guide we started to work up a design.

But we each took a slightly different approach in our method. And if you know us well you would laugh while simultaneously shaking your head.

My approach was with pencil and paper. What emerged was something that will look interestingly like an octopus from a passing airplane. Wanting each cabana to have a view of the water and wanting to create privacy without distance this is what emerged. Like in our home the objective is to have visual focal points everywhere to create a sense of well-being and to inspire. The cabanas are 300 square feet with a loft (and potentially a kitchenette) all connecting via boardwalks to a 2 story "mother ship" that will function as a gathering place for dinner, house studio space(with ocean views) and the gallery, as well as our living quarters. This only uses up the front half of the property. If it wasn't for the fact that we are required to have the buildings connected(we are using trellises for that) I would probably plunk them down all around the property as long as we could achieve an ocean view with each. What isn't shown yet is the outdoor ceramics courtyard.


Bryan put a more techie spin on his. Taking the weekend to learn "sketchup" he mocked up our little cabana cabins and plunked them right on the property using Google Earth.(yes, Bryan can do anything) It will be really cool to see the larger building done this way as it is much more complex. This will be a great tool to help see what we think might work by doing a virtual walk through.





Now if we can just find some investors or grant money to get the thing off the ground. Any body want to lend us half a million dollars?;-)

back to artist date

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I promised myself that I wouldn't let this slide. It is a tough thing to do this setting-aside-time business. Just watching the news this morning in all its frenzy might make me shun this sacred time due to "more important things", and yet the contrast of the last few months of 07 with just ten days on the island and I am reminded of the importance of this ritual.

Last week's friday I managed to paint. First time in months and the painting is really really crappy.

But I love it.

Because it is drenched with my desire to go, and stay in that place that those scrappy brush strokes depicts. And the exercise was good, even as a reminder of the importance of honoring a soul feeding ritual. Even if the painting is bad, it felt good to be back.

Last night I felt the anticipation... looking forward to a day set aside. Maybe that is the key. Knowing that there is something to look forward too instead of everyday stretching into the next which can lead you to dread instead.

So today I will ignore the shirts that need to be ironed and the other chores that would be so responsible to do(and boy it is hard to do that)...

and I will feed the well.

really bad impressionistic painting of our beach.

last night on jon stewart

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While chilling on our couch last night on comes the Daily Show (ok they are calling it "A" daily show because of the strike) and low and behold who is Jon's guest but...

Jim Wallis.

So I snapped these pictures of our tv. Probably not legal to put them here on my blog, but whatever. It felt kinda weird seeing him on tv when he had sat in my dining room for his photo shoot.

And now his book is out. The Great Awakening; Reviving Faith & Politics in a Post-Religious Right America.

So check it out. I can't wait to see how the picture I took turned out. Too bad amazon isn't showing the back cover yet.




road trip

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A little over a week back from the island and we jump in the car for a little road trip.

To North Carolina.

A little research on what to build (and how to build) on our site pointed the cosmic arrow in this direction.

Three things converged.

One prefab developer that has outrageous success rates for homes surviving hurricane climates.

Another that has that going for it, plus its green building practices.

And finally, the architect that I had contacted months ago.

All in the same general area.

So, me wanting to let no moss grow under my feet (at least for now when I can still feel some momentum from our trip) I contacted all three for meetings and in the case of the prefabs, tours of the factories.

Although I had a great phone conversation with the intern at Frank Harmon's office, with the promise of an email with all their pricing info, and being left with the hope of potentially meeting Frank on Monday ("I'll check and let you know", she said very positively), I got neither. And no reply even after I sent another email reminding her that we were driving seven hours (ok I didn't say that, but I did make it clear where we were coming from...do the math).

Oh well, two out of three isn't bad.

Now that the modern/all green/super cool/prefab building is all the rage (or back in with better design) I have been looking at this option for our building. The problem is that now that it is so in vogue, what once was an economical way to go is now costing just as much as a custom built home.

So much for the prefab/everyone should be able to afford a home revolution.

But there were a couple of companies that have been doing the passive solar thing before it was cool. In fact one of them started in the sixties. And since then they have fine tuned their process and perfected their product. And one of them seemed to not hike the price in the process.

So sunday Bryan and I threw a bag in the car and drove to North Carolina. A lovely night in eclectic Asheville with the promise of more info the next day.

Monday morning we met with a kind rep from Deltec, Dave. Sweet and chatty, he showed us around the factory explaining all the benefits of his product.

But really, seeing is believing, and that is why we went there.

When first encountering this as an option I was not excited about the dated look of a round house. In fact I had almost expected to hate it in person, and then at least we could check that option off the list and move on.

So much for that.

The advantages started to stack up as we got more and more info.

• They are hurricane resistant and built to code as standard. It is just what they do.
• Once your foundation is poured, the shell goes up in a few days with a crew of six.
• Having shipped all over the world, the product is built for a shipping container. Shipping paths are in place.
• They have built on Long Island.
• We could erect a shell and then do all the finish work ourselves.
• Because of their special truss system they have no load bearing walls which allows for some really creative options with designing the interior.
• Several round structures might just lend itself well to the vibe of an artist retreat.

Some of the challenges we are facing with building in the bahamas include not being able to oversee the progress. If we were to build a conventional structure we run the risk of things taking a very long time, costing more than expected, laws changing, or any number of things that can spin out of control. That is why this option has some appeal.

The disadvantage in my mind is the perception of this kind of "kit home" for the purpose of resale. The thing is we are not just building a home, but more of a compound. So I may be trying to accomplish one thing while considering another. The people that bought the lots down the beach from us (one doctor, one lawyer) will probably be building big contemporary custom homes, or the traditional bahamian style. It's a guess. What will our artist colony seem like?

Ok, I am regressing into random thoughts. But, reality is that we are not rich folk with cash to burn. We need to get creative, do a lot of work ourselves, so our options may be unconventional.

is that so bad?

little model of a deltec prefab structure


back to school

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This is what it looks like when the three of us are all at home.


It was a wonderful break, but all good things....

well you know.

Daniel goes back to MICA. Classes start after the long weekend. Between the Christmas holiday and our time on the island, I think we are all rested and ready to tackle the new year. It was good to be together in this new stage of life. Navigating the nuances of being parents of an adult, wanting to act like teenagers ourselves and attempting to remain respectable parent figures in Daniel's presence was interesting. Interesting too was Daniel attempting to be "the good son" while exercising his individuality in the presence of adult/peers simultaneously with parents present. This became interesting when we were socializing on the island with other people staying at Pierre's. I guess the time has finally come...

it was bound to happen eventually...

it is uncool to travel with your parents.

But I guess as families go we handled it pretty well. Attempting to make space for each other when there was no space was tricky. It was impossible to avoid social overlap which created some tension when either Bryan and I said something that sounded parental. As much as I tried to be conscience of it I know I let things slip.

And even a compliment generated out of pride can sound wrong or condescending when spoken by a mother.

It can be embarrassing.

I know. Not until much later in life does one covet those compliments regardless of who is in the room.

Anyway... the stages of life and relationships are fun.

All in all the month long break was a good time.

welcome home

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Weather today:

Snow...then rain...

which makes slush.


last night on the island

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Last night to enjoy Pierre's wonderful cooking. Our heads are straddling island life and thoughts of work back home. Travel day tomorrow which we are not looking forward to, but most of all...

we just hate to leave.

More confirmation that this is the right place for Exnihilo. It is one thing to go to a place and come home with big dreams returning to find that it wasn't quite what you had remembered. It is a gift when you actually go back and are reminded of all the reasons that the place is perfect. I have to admit that before coming back I had my fears. Questions and doubts are often encouraged by the distancing of time...

i won't let that happen again.

Because of a new little piece of info that we have to legally build in six months (we thought the start date was when you get title, but it is actually when you sign contract) we will be back in order to get things going. I don't know how, or what that is going to look like, but a trip is in our future this time in june.

So there will be no dulling of memory or questioning of a dream.

One way or another it is full steam ahead.

Oramae on our last night.

rocky beach

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Doesn't it look like the sand is beginning to return?



Here we marked the tree that "establishes" Exnihilo. Assuming the sharpie doesn't rinse off in the rain this will help us find our nursery when we come back.


Although we face the east with the sunsetting behind us, taking in the view we marveled at how beautiful it was. It was good to just sit there and imagine the next few years of the process in light of what there is to be gained. The idea that someday we could look up at this sky everynight was new motivation for me. I had realized early on that we needed to come back just to remind ourselves of the dream, but until now I hadn't known the degree of importance of it.

This place feeds our soul.

We watched breathless as multiple rainbows filled the sky. A couple of crabs scattered across "our rocks".

I was struck with the fact that what would become our home was actually a "thin place".

Garnering strength and encouragement from this trip will help propel me through the next steps which will be challenging. Right before we left I was chiding myself with how frivolis this trip seemed to be all the while instinctively knowing that it was still necessary.

Now I knew why.

It is easy to have a dream.

It is much harder to sustain it.

Like anything, the start of something is the easy part... the process in the middle is probably the hardest...

at least for me.

Even when you are nearing the end of something you have the momentum of the finish line to pull you.

So the middle can "get stalled".*

This visit was important. Not logical, or seemingly practical...

but completely necessary.

Next trip we will have make a point to see the sunrise.



"stalled" is a term that the bahamians use when you have eaten too much and you can't finish your plate. ;-)

oh what a lovely bunch of coconuts

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After lunch at Max's Grill we drop Jimmy at his office and then head back south toward the property. We still have to meet the shipping people and hopefully find some coconuts to plant. I am feeling a strong sense of ritual about planting a coconut palm. So much so that while in a small market to buy a soda, I picked up a Sharpie to write with. We may not be breaking ground this trip, or finalizing design plans (all things I had hoped for) so we needed to do something to "mark" this trip. Much had been accomplished in meeting new friends and I felt that we needed something to remember that.


So all along Queen's highway(the single road that slices the island in half) I kept watching for coconut palms that

1. didn't seem to be on someone's property and
2. had dropped some of their fruit.

We had made it all the way down to Deadman's Cay where we were told we would meet the shipper. This is the man who get's your container from Miami, or Nassau, to Long Island, and then trucked to your property. He is also a customs agent. Very important to make contact with, and as before with so many things, face to face connections with people here are so important.

In the office we meet Marsha. I am not sure if she is wife or secretary or both but she greets us warmly and yells for "Mr. Carroll". He is outside working on a forklift. So we walk out and he greets us. We talk of island things, ask him some questions and let him know that we will be needing his services. back in the office we go to leave and Marsha gives me a big hug.

Yea...I know. You don't believe me. That is because it is pretty unbelievable that a person that was a complete stranger ten minutes before can accept you and welcome you in such a way just doesn't exist in back home.

But that is the way it is here. In fact if you ask an expat that is living here now you will get the same answer to the question, "why here"...

its the people.

Down the road still looking for coconuts as we drive we check the potter's house (still not home) and step into a market for a bottle of wine as a thank you gift for Pierre. Having fulfilled most of our errands we head toward the property to plant Joyce's seedlings and seeds, but we are still without those elusive coconuts.

I really want some coconuts.

As we get nearer to the property we drive by a little restaurant called "The Forest" (which I think is kind of funny for an island). We had eaten here once and now we spotted the owner just outside the left of the building. The front of his building there is a row of coconut palms... with

you guessed it.

a coconut laying on the ground.

So we park, get out of the car and approach him with a greeting. He is filleting three big snappers with a huge machete-like knife. As we greet him he turns with the menacing knife in his hand, big smile and greets us back. His name is Dudley (The contrast of his smile, friendly nature and the big knife almost makes me laugh). We mention the we have a place up the road and so we will be neighbors (sort of) and by the way, do you mind if we take one of your coconuts.

"Oh, no problem Mon. Help yourself...there is more over there behind that wall." And then he goes further by explaining the best way to plant them..."You have to put them face down", swinging the menacing knife the whole time.

Thankfully he shows us which end of the coconut is its "face". More island knowledge.

We thank him...say goodbye, and go check out over the wall...

a pile of coconuts.

So we take what we can carry and put them in the back seat along with the other palm seedlings and the christmas palm seeds.

At the property we look for a spot that would make a suitable nursery for the baby trees. We simply want them to grow while we are gone to get a head start but to be moved later when the real landscaping happens.

We find a spot, and I pull out the Sharpie.

Genesis 1:1

Honestly neither Bryan and I could think of a verse that was befitting or profound... so why not start at the beginning. And of course "Exnihilo" means "out of nothing".

So after "establishing Exnihilo" by the ritual planting of our "Exnihilo coconut", Bryan suggests we go sit on our beach (ok rocks) and watch the sunset.

Lovely idea.

Dudley filleting the snapper.

planting seedlings.


planting coconuts.


Exnihilo coconut.



In total disbelief that this is our last day we still have stuff to do. Jimmy, our real estate agent has offered to go out to our property with us and make recommendations as to how far back to build, and to allow himself another round of us bombarding him with questions. So we are meeting him at 11:00. We had hoped to meet with the people that have the shipping company too. Maybe even step into a bank and also see if the potter that lives on the island is home (we have tried to see him on every visit and keep missing him).

Lots to do.

In our previous meeting with Jimmy and Turnquest, Jimmy had recommended getting a couple of coconut palms to plant, so I was wanting to take a walk after breakfast in search of coconuts. At breakfast we were trying hard not to think about the fact that we were leaving tomorrow.

Walking up the beach from Pierre's we turn left into mr Miller's property (he has some coconut palms doesn't he?). The goats are here again and there are two more new kids since a few days ago. We walk past the herd and down the road.

Half an hour and we still haven't seen a coconut. Funny, when you don't need them you see them everywhere.

We walk back to Pierre's to get the car... Soon we have to meet up with Jimmy.

Once we collect Jimmy at his office we are off for the long drive to our property. Long drive here is the other side of the island which from Jimmy's office takes about forty five minutes. To drive the whole island from top to bottom would probably take an hour and a half. Amazingly some folk who live in the north have never been to the south and visa versa. "Its too far", we heard.

Different world.

so in the car with Jimmy we start talking island stuff and then conversation shifts to spiritual matters. We had heard that he was a pastor and so we asked the question...

Yup... instated a year ago...senior pastor of a church near the center of the island with a thriving youth program. He explains that there is a slight divisiveness between the north and the south, and so by reaching the youth on both sides their goal is to keep the island unified.


More conversation about our journey with the church and what we used to do...Jimmy seems excited about this...


I have to admit there was a synergy in the car as we talked about "God stuff". He made it clear that when we came back we had an open invitation for a place to stay with the possibility of us checking out their ministry.

Once at the property even Jimmy is a little surprised at the degree of "beach loss", but like a dozen people at this point reinforce the "it will come back". We walk along the edge of the property (the brush is too thick to walk through) and we note the high water mark, and estimate the place where we should build. A giant agave plant will make a fine marker.

We then hop in the car and drive down to our neighbor's on the south. No one is home but Jimmy says that he knows them and they wouldn't mind us looking at their property and what they built. At this point we were still trying to put to rest what material to build with. The Baker's place is wood construction.

It was really helpful to stand on their deck, looking toward the ocean and getting a sense of what our building might be like. Because there is so much more wind on this side this was a concern. Standing there proved that the wind would not be such a problem. One more piece to add to the puzzle.

It is amazing how much of this process is intuitive. When information is connected with a gut feeling seems to be when our choices are turning into decisions. It is not an easy process and there are so many steps. I can't imagine how hard this would be if people here weren't helpful. Each encounter, conversation, and experience has contributed to the moving forward of our project. Jimmy gave us some more advice on building as we headed back towards his office, and some lunch.

Time to eat.

The Baker's house to the south of us


scoring the book

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about the book: It is the most comprehensive collection of information about everything Bahamas. In this book you can find anything from the current price of groceries to all the current laws pertaining to moving, building, or operating a business on the islands. It is the most current info, and it is very hard to get ahold of.

Today we were going to head south on a fact finding mission. Meeting people on the island is the key to everything, and everyone is so kind and wonderful, all wanting to help. We had planned on stopping by Joyce and Charlie's at some point and figured today was just as good as any, time ticking away.

Pulling up to their house we see Rudy who yells for Joyce who has apparently just gotten out of the shower. She sticks her head out their glass door, greets us with a big smile while simultaneously brushing her wet hair and waving us in.

It is hard to describe how welcoming people are here. And I mean everyone. We chat with Joyce noticing Charlie's absence.

Charlie is the kind of guy that you can't miss. Last Saturday night he and Joyce had brought a group to Pierre's for dinner and after everyone was finished Charlie pulled out this giant firework (and I am talking a 7 foot stick meant for major fireworks displays) and jubilantly headed out the door to the beach, with the whole restaurant in tow to see. He planted the thing in the sand, mentioned something about bahamian air space and police and then mischieviously lit the fuse with the smoldering butt of his cigarette. We all stepped back as the thing shot into the air with a loud pop exploding with a big beautiful star spray. Laughter and applause.

Now, asking about Charlie, Joyce informs us that he was flown to West Palm Beach with some annoying chest pains the following morning. He was fine, they were doing tests, and thought it might be connected to sleep apnea.


So we chatted about island stuff and I had noticed a copy of "the book" and asked her if she knew where I could get one. I had ordered it multiple times from amazon, and even the publisher for the last year, and kept coming up empty. A hard thing to get a hold of. At that moment I had Pierre's dog earred 1995 copy in our cabin on loan. Old info.

Joyce got on the phone and found one copy on the island (a 2007!) at the airport on the north of the island.

I guess we would be driving north.

Meanwhile, she gets a call from Charlie, and we wander outside to give her some privacy. A few minutes later she sticks her head out the door and says, "Charlie wants to talk to you".

Ok, I feel a little strange. The guy is in the hospital and all.

So I awkwardly takes the phone and he lets me know in two seconds that he isn't being rude, but he can't talk long but he thought that I had come by to ask him some questions so without pause he launches into instructions for the next thing we need to do, in Charlie speak...

"Ok, so there is this guy you have to go see (turnquest) and"...

I interrupt (not wanting to waste his time, and still amazed that he wants to be this helpful from the hospital...what a guy)

"Hey, I don't mean to cut you off, but we went to see "the guy", and things are cool and you should be concerned about getting well".

"Yea," he says, "They tell me I have to make sure I digest the red wine and chocolate before going to bed."


I thank him and tell him to get well and give the phone back to Joyce.

So nice of Charlie to be thinking of our project. What I didn't tell him is that I really came to talk to Joyce.

See, Joyce has a gift.

Her plants.

Born on Long Island she knows them all, and she has a green thumb. She proudly took us through her garden and named each tree for me so I could learn. And then she did something else.

She gave me some seedlings.

Pulling little trees to take with me, we filled a big ziplock with seed and seedlings to plant on our property. And she showed me the best way to plant a coconut palm.

What dear people.


coconut palm sprouting

After saying goodbyes we headed north in search of "the book". We find the lone copy on a shelf in the tiny airport at Stella Maris.



a meeting with the man

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Wednesday. We had set up a time to meet a very important person. On Long Island there is one man that will approve plans, and permits...

and he happens to be the building inspector.

oh yea, and he is the architect too.

Although we had pretty much heard that the way things are done is to have your designs done stateside and then he "redraws" them to meet island code.

yea... ok.

But we thought that maybe he could actually design something, and it was prudent to meet the man anyway considering how much power he seemed to wield on his tiny island.

So upon entering his home, we encounter a white haired man, roughly in his seventies. Pleasantries were exchanged and our conversation began.

It became clear that if he had designed anything it was probably years ago, and judging from what was on the island (other than the newest construction this year) was vary basic.

So we left affirmed that we needed to get designs in the states or do it ourselves. Sweet old Mr Turnquest would redraw what we give him and collect his fees. Fortunately he had no illusions about himself and didn't seem offended by the new fangled plans that were being built. He was fine with signing off on anything that was structurally sound.

Just another hoop to jump through, and another lesson on the process as it is here on the island.

something in the eye

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5 am and Bryan jerks up from his pillow. Scrapping his face with the back of his hand... a crunching feeling...

something had bit him (no it wasn't me).

I turn on the lights...

on his pillow lay a small scorpion.

"Oh, its a scorpion", I say, a little too matter of factly. Other couples had found them in their showers or other parts of their cabins, but never on somebody's face.

I lift the pillow and take it to the toilet to flush the little critter. It is dead, Bryan creamed it when he swatted it.

Now we are inspecting under Bryan's eye, and the small welt on the back of his hand. He seems fine and doesn't have any pain so we are unsure if he was actually bitten.

So we both try to go back to sleep.

yea... right.

adventures on the island.

breakfast at pierre's

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what storms can do

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Visiting the property today brought a shocking sight. I figure on some changes, maybe a little more overgrowth and such but what met our gaze was enough to make Bryan and I think we were in the worng place or somehow lost our minds.

The beach was gone.

No lie.

Surveying the view we found no sand where our beautiful beach had been. Confused we tried to think back on what we knew(or thought we knew) it looked like. The cove to the north was completely filled with churning surf. Below the rocks that once met the sand was now a bit of a cliff with churning surf. As the three of us tried to analyze what this meant, we kept our moods to ourselves. Of course looking at the bright side of everything we checked out the new tidal pools and the beautiful (new) nature-sculpted rock formations and surmised what this might change in our building choices. If any changes were needed.

Ok... we will deal with it.

The sky was still beautiful.

The sea was still its amazing tourquoise color.

But now we had a whole different kind of view.

So, after living with that notion for a while I got down to why we came. I was going to collect leaf samples and photos of the various plants so that I could educate myself on what grows how and how fast...etc. The lot has lots of small (8-10') palm trees, agave, sea grape, and some other trees I am not sure what they are. And a few dilly fruit trees(sopa dilla). So I started collecting and the guys posed for pictures to ad scale so that when we got home I could tell if a tree was three feet tall or ten.

After that we piled into the car and went for lunch, later we went shelling on what used to be the most beautiful beach on the island....

except now it was covered with garbage. Big stuff like chairs, rugs, and old vespa, and lots and lots of clothes.

Had this place changed so much in a year that the locals are dumping their trash here?

Feeling a sense of disappointment we collected some shells (still huge and beautiful) we went back to our car to go take one more look at our sand before heading back. (maybe high tide and low tide made a difference...yea right).

Of course it was still the same rocky, churning surf, only the sun was starting to set.

So we drive the hour back to chez pierre's for dinner. Pretty quiet in the car as we each consider the change in our beach. Our friend Presley happens to be waiting when we get there.

"Presley... Our beach is gone!", we express to him couching our mild disappointment in humor.

He says, "Oh that happens all the time... don't worry mon, it will come back".


At dinner we mention this phenomenon to our waitress (which happens to be Oramae, Presley's wife)...

"Oh yea, don't worry it will come back. It is the way of the island".

Ok, now we are all starting to feel a little better. And Bryan reveals his relief, as he had been concealing how deeply disappointed he actually was. Now we start to laugh about how someone "stole our sand" (and we are talking tons of sand).

We mention this to Pierre.... same response, only in a french accent....

"Oh it will come back. I lost part of my beach a couple years ago too... it always comes back."

wow... the power of mother nature.

But then the other thing that had been bothering me... the garbage on the other beach... so I asked Oramae...

"Oh that was a ship wreck... three haitian refugee boats crashed there. All those clothes and stuff are from the wreck... I had a friend get a really pretty scarf from that."

"So the locals don't dump their garbage?", I ask.

"Oh, no. In fact we may organize a clean up day for everyone to help...maybe a saturday."

Now I am feeling better. She makes it clear that not only do they like their beaches clean, but the haitian refugees get collected and shipped out... nothing illegal going on here. In fact she jokes that they would have been aiming for Exuma or Nassau and missed. Because the authorities are strict here the haitians have this idea that people "disappear" on long island...

Oremae, laughed and said, "They think we eat them". "Don't go to Long Island because they eat Haitians",...more laugher.

By now Bryan and I are in much better moods and we continue to joke about the disappearing sand. It is clear that depending on the storms and the tides our "paradise" will have an ever changing view which isn't all bad. Oremae comments that some of the advantages to the exposed "shelf" of rock is that the small lobster (they call them crawfish) will crawl up in this shelf and you can just pick them up. Bryan perked up at this idea.

It's all good.

The next several years will be filled with new lessons of what this island is like. Building will be a real adventure and promises to have some serious ups and downs. Part of what it costs to have a dream.


a year ago

baby lobster

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Dinner tonight. Pierre cooked small lobsters that were absolutely delicious. We always meet the most interesting people here. In the background (pic below) Bryan is talking to some people from Montreal, a film director and a fashion photographer.


new friends and goats

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I am reminded of the first reason why I love it here. Beautiful sky and sea.

This morning Bryan and I headed down the beach on foot with camera gear in hand with no particular goal in mind just to enjoy the sun and maybe take some pictures. We have spent the last five days doing nothing but eat, sleep, read, and eat and sleep some more. Sleep patterns follow the sun here rather than late night tv. A walk would be perfect today.

Up the beach we head for a little run down shack that has huge photo potential...

and goats.

lots of goats.

As we get closer with our cameras I spot a couple of babies. Absolutely teeny tiny we find out later that they are probably just hours old, one is still not standing.

True to form we start filming and photographing these cute and comical creatures. At one point while standing inside the shack framing up a great shot through a delapitated window we hear a car coming up the road.

I instinctively duck down suddenly concerned about tresspassing.

Bryan instinctively sticks his head out the door and waves, "We're takin' some pictures... I hope that's OK".

The man gets out of his car wearing a big smile, greets us warmly, and makes it clear that we are welcome on his land.

I am reminded of the second reason why I love it here. The people.

We ask his name... and think we hear Carnitas Miller.

I am pretty sure his name isn't "meat" in some other language, so I ask him his name again and thankfully he spells it C-o-r-n-e-l-i-u-s...

Oh, Cornelius!

Neely for short.

We talk further about his herd of goats (he is also a mason) and connect names to people we know and he knows on the island...

"We have a friend Presley..."

"Oh yea, We are cousins. He bought a goat from me to slaughter... said he had some good friends coming for dinner..."

"Was it sometime last year", we inquire, "around July?"

"That's it," he said.

I turn and look down at the precious baby goat and realise what that sunday dinner actually looked like.


After dispensing the sentimental notion of the cute and cuddly, I think back on how fabulous that meal was. And what an honor it must have been.

newborn kid

kid at my feet. it was about the size of a small cat.

Integrity; the island's currency

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Small reminders of what is of value here. A passing comment in conversation may not make you notice, but several passing comments and you can add it up. There is an underlying value placed on a person of good character.

Bryan apologizes for making the taxi driver wait (on our first visit) to fix a slight (in our favor-charged us too little) on our bill. I sit in the taxi and explain...the taxi driver Veronica simply says...

"honest man".


While eating at Max's Grill(on our second visit), I inquire to the waitress, Andrea if she remembers us...

Oh yea... you nice people.


While chatting with Neely while observing Bryan's camera he mentions that someone had lied to him... promised to film his goats and didn't.

heaven help him.

So obviously Bryan offers to give him some footage (not sure what he was going to use it for but no matter). We have made another friend and would not want to betray that trust.

We ask him about what he knows about the builders on the island. He gives us a name and makes it clear that he would never introduce us to someone who was untrustworthy, and by introducing someone of good character his character (Neely's) is uplifted in that act.


Many more slices of conversations from various people come to mind, and created the cumulative effect. They value honesty, integrity, and hospitality. And chances are if there is a dubious character on the island everyone knows about it and one way or another that person loses.

When a person's character is part of everyday discussion is it any wonder that there isn't any crime here?

unwinding takes time

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It took four days.


Four days to really "unwind". Ok, maybe three because Wednesday was a travel day, and a grueling one at that, getting up at 3:30 am to drive to the metro to catch a train at 5:30 to get us to Reagan International at 6:30 which would give us the recommended two hours wait/check/security time for an international flight that was scheduled at 8:30. If this hurry up and wait mentality doesn't make you crazy the shifting of gears from speed-dial mentality to island time mentality will. Our flight (US Airways) was late into Nassau by forty five minutes which meant we had approx 30 minutes to get through customs, get our bags, check our bags on Bahamas air's puddle jumper, go through security...


While waiting for our bags I checked the clock (which they have several really big ones at Nassau's airport, but none of the times match maybe this is some passive aggressive way to torture us time-locked tourists) and it already said 12:32 which was two minutes past the departure time for our flight to the island. At that point instead of getting really worked up I tried to resign myself to a night in Nassau (nightmare). But we picked up our bags and headed to the counter on the other side of the airport. Bahamas air having a notorious reputation for being late we forged ahead. Getting in the line behind two other people we tried to patiently wait our turn, not knowing if the plane had already left. Scads of Bahamas air folk were happily chatting with one another behind the counter without really noticing, so my sweet husband broke line and politely went up and asked a young man if we were in the right line for Long Island. The man nodded in the affirmative without cluing into the fact that the flight was about to or had already left. So we stood in line a few more minutes. Bryan broke line again to ask another, hopefully more responsive question. Has the plane for Long Island left yet... we are supposed to be on it. That got results. This is the kind of place that if there are three people that haven't boarded yet...they hold the plane. What a relief.

Thrilled that we weren't spending the night in Nassau I tried to relax. Travel uncertainties can stress me or thrill me but this time I was stressed. Mostly because I think it has been my natural state for the last several months that even when I think I am relaxing, I am really just on hold.

And it took four days. To relax, I mean.

We landed Wednesday afternoon and I am writing this on Saturday. I feel that the tentacles of stress have finally released their twisted hold on my body and I can breath in the salt air, enjoy the view and really feel like some healing is going on.

To be fair the delay to relax may have been caused by some nasty weather that the locals were calling a "terrible cold front". Staying in our open air cabin has little charm when the temp is in the sixties and the rain and wind threaten to blow you away. These cabins aren't heated and you are lucky when you can time the water heater just right for a warm shower. So Wed, Thurs, and Friday were chilly and uncomfortable which didn't help my mood of doom, gloom, and stress.

Why did I come back here?

Was this a complete mistake?

An artist retreat... impossible, I must have been out of my mind.

Not even Pierre's good cooking was jarring loose the funk that I felt.

Until last night.

I woke up (probably about three am) looked out our open air door and saw the most beautiful sky. Millions of stars.

At home I often check to see if I can see Orion. Here Orion was in its glory surrounded by tufts of stars that I had never seen before.

And the meteor shower was still on. Pure magic.

So, after standing naked at the door I rushed back to bed to nudge Bryan...

"You have to get up and see this sky".

So we sat naked in our porch chairs watching the sky. I spotted a shooting star and began to feel better.

This morning we woke to sunshine and a soft salt breeze. The threatening dark green ocean had turned to its magical tourquoise blue. The air was warm.

I started to relax.

But I have to tell you that something is wrong when it takes four days, good weather or not, for a person to totally feel relaxed. So upon reflecting about the activities and demands of the last year I noted a few things that I need to continue to be mindful of regarding self care...

This year I need to travel less. I know, the travel always sounds fun, but even if it is an interesting place, in the name of work it can be a strain.

This year I need to balance visitors with down time. We had lots of visitors last year, and I love everyone of them dearly. I just have to remind myself to not hit the ground running full tilt the hour that they leave, but take care of the introverted empty well and refuel. I was sick repeatedly this year.

And for some reason the last few months of 07 I did not honor the artist date which keeps my creative well fueled. I stopped painting, stopped dreaming, and...well just stopped.

Is it any wonder I felt completely bottlenecked in every way when I arrived here?



Of course we didn't know that until after I had eaten it. Lovely tasting meat with a sumptuous risotto.

Apparently considered food for kings, this pretty fish is mostly unavailable in the States.


Happy 21st Anniversary!

October 2010

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About this Archive

This page is an archive of entries from January 2008 listed from newest to oldest.

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