Saturday, October 30, 2010

Forces of nature

Nature’s fury began to rise mid-afternoon on Friday. As Tammy and I walked back from downtown Holetown, we saw people placing bags of sand against doorways and low window sills. Stores were closing up shop early, the Spa, which had been our destination, cancelled afternoon appointments. As we couldn’t get a massage, we decided to stop at the surfside bar at the SandPiper Resort. On the beach, staff busily folded up umbrellas and pulled watercraft onto shore, rigging them up to weather the storm meteorologists had promised would be coming ashore sometime within the next forty-eight hours.

“Should we be worried?” we asked a staff member.

“Oh no ma’am,” he replied. “We’re just taking precautions.


We decided not to worry but to instead, sit outside and enjoy the sunshine that kept peaking through the grey clouds above.

Harold, the bartender, encouraged me to try the special MaiTai he had created a couple of weeks ago in honour of Patrick, the resort’s tennis pro. He rhymed off all its ingredients and I decided what the heck! I already tried Sex on the Beach, why not go for a Smiling Patrick Mai Tai? It was delicious.

Tammy and I sat and watched staff prepare for the storm, and chatted about life and love and living free. Tammy is one of my painting partners from the retreat I went to a few weeks ago. We share a love of many things, in particular, animals and art and going on adventures. We laughed and joked with staff. Tammy created a stupendous pick-up trick of flicking peanuts off the table. She meant to shoot it onto the ground to dissuade a little bird who kept landing on our table, hopping over to the bowl of peanuts and picking one up in his mouth. Instead, it flew straight at a man sitting at the next table. Fortunately, it hit the metal rim of his chair. We laughed and giggled and decided this is the life.

We also figured we’d best be getting home. It was four 4:30pm and a light rain had started to fall.

When we arrived home the house was a-buzz with news of the incoming storm. We laughed and joked, maybe we wouldn’t be able to fly home tomorrow? Haha. Another day in paradise. But still we believed, it was just a storm and would pass by as storms inevitably do.

Angela and Anne, the two house staff weren’t too worried. It might reach tropical storm force they said but it shouldn’t be too bad. Though they did ensure every room had lanterns and flashlights with fresh batteries and that jugs and bottles of fresh water were on hand.

We were expecting guests for dinner and had to get ready. Penny, the woman who visited on our first day here, and her partner Clarence, the bass player with Ebbie Gilkes were coming for grilled leg of lamb and we were all looking forward to an evening of deepening friendship and sharing in good food, laughter and wine.

And we did. Have a great time. Even though the rain kept falling heavier and heavier throughout the evening. When our guests left shortly after ten, we still had power. But, within a couple of hours, the power was out and the wind was up as nature let loose her power.

There is something humbling and terrifying about the ferocity of the wind and the power of the ocean in a hurricane. And, there is something daunting about being a foreigner in a strange land, isolated in a house on the beach where the surf is pounding and the wind is howling and the rain is pouring down.

All night long, above our heads we could hear branches and coconuts and other debris hitting the metal roof with resounding thuds. I arose several times during the night to look outside and each time was less reassuring than the last. When I finally got out of bed at 6 the balcony outside our bedroom was covered with fallen branches that I had to move out of the way to open the door to go downstairs. I moved tables and chairs inside, and battened down what I could as the wind was pushing chairs over and throwing cushions about as if they were made of feathers. There was no electricity -- but I was grateful for the gas stove because at least I could boil water for coffee.

It was a long night and a long day but, thankfully, we are all safe and while the world outside is a mess of downed trees and branches, inside all is well.

In the end, we couldn't leave Barbados today as planned as all flights were cancelled. We're booked to go out tomorrow and, as long as the airport is open, we shall be winging our way home, away from this island paradise back to the word-a-day world.

While our last couple of days have been rather dramatic to say the least, the fear and trauma of living through the storm pales in comparison to the wonder and joy we all experienced over these two weeks together. Outside, the wind still blows, the surf still pounds and the rain is still falling but inside my heart, I am full with gratitude and joy and love and pure delight in this holiday in the sun.

And, to make it better, we got electricity back this evening, the police came by to check on us and Tammy and I had a delightful time walking in the rain under the protection of giant palm leaves.

At one point, a vehicle with several Bajan's drove up, stopped and asked if they could take a picture of us with our palm leaf umbrellas. Tammy and I laughed and said, "Of course."

Funny, for two weeks we were taking photos of the natives. Now, they're taking photos of us!

What a topsy turvy world we live in. Inside and out.

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