Friday, October 22, 2010
It is good
I am the early riser of our group. First up -- but never first to bed -- I come downstairs, open the doors wide so that inside greets outside and outside enters in.
After five days, it has become part of the flow of my morning rituals. Awaken. Turn on coffee. Open doors. Sit outside. Meditate. Pour myself a coffee. Log-on. Read. Write. Sit back in wonder at the beauty of the day.
At some point, Andy arises.
"Good morning," he calls out from the far side of the living area.
"Coffee's on!" I reply with a smile.
"Ah good. The necessities in order," he replies before walking into the kitchen to pour himself a cup.
I keep writing as he walks to the front porch to grab the Globe and Mail. He carries it to the sitting area at thefront of the patio where I sit at the table writing, ensconces himself on a settee under the porch and begins to read.
I hear him murmuring to himself, commenting upon headlines and copy. Sometimes, he'll share a tidbit he's garnered from today's news -- like the fact, Bob Guccione, the founder of Penthouse magazine has died. "He started 'the pubic wars'," he laughingly tells me before going back to reading about the man who took on the Playboy empire.
And I go back to writing. And when I'm done and Andy is not yet finished his reading, before the others arise and the day begins in earnest, I go for a solitary swim in the ocean. Immersed in the tug and pull of its ebb and flow, I suspend my body upon its surface and let myself drift -- not too far -- there are buoys that mark the distance we should go out. Beyond their yellow bobbing spheres, jet skis and sail-boats scoot across the water. Safety is here, close to shore.
It is all part of my morning rhythm.
Soon, the gardener appears, sweeping fallen leaves and grasses from the patio, trimming hedges, perfecting perfection. His eighteen daughter has just finished her training to become a lab-technician. She takes blood, he says and understands its workings. He's proud of her. It is obvious in every word he speaks. He glances at my laptop. I'm going to buy her one of those, he says, so she can work anywhere. And he smiles and nods, humming to himself, he continues to sweep.
And then, the 'ladies' appear. The full-time staff who keep the house running even when the owner isn't here. With their lilting voices and gentle ways these two lovely ladies pander to our needs, doing laundry, cooking meals, cleaning spaces not really in need of cleaning but doing it anyway so that everything is always perfectly in order.
It is the rhythm of their day.
And through it all, they hum. Like so many people I've encountered on this island. Humming and singing to themselves as they go about their work. Like the woman walking in front of me yesterday when Tammy and Lia and I went shopping. A large woman, hips squared on a squat body, she walked purposefully towards the shopping centre. I wondered how hot it must be to wear support hose in this climate. But she didn't break a sweat. Short cropped hair like a bathing cap against her skull. Blue flowered shirt she walked a hummed and sang to herself. I wondered if she was happy or if the singing was simply a habit.
This is an island founded on slavery. On lives being captured and ripped from their roots across the seas, dragged her in the holds of sailing craft where concern for the 'niceties' was non-existent. Sometimes, a craft would dock and 95% of the human cargo would be dead or close to dying. But those who survived, they were the strong ones. "Owners' fattened them up auction in the hopes that those few remaining souls would save their wallets and guarantee their futures.
Sad thing is, it isn't all that long ago that slaving was acceptable. If you look back at the history of humankind, slavery existed much longer than this period of its abolishment.
Just as they were the pillars upon which so much of our democracies were built, the Greeks were one of the first nations to abolish slavery in 1823. In historical terms that's not so long ago. Less than 200 years.
Here on Barbados, where British rule was in place until 1966, slavery was abolished in 1833 when Britain declared it unjust and unlawful. I asked a man the other day if he had always lived on Barbados and he replied yes. He couldn't remember a time, or place, where his family was not of this island. His roots run deep and strong, no longer shackled to the white slave traders who once brought his forbears here.
In Wikipedia's, The History of Slavery, it says, "slavery can be traced back to the earliest records, such as the Code of Hammurabi (ca. 1760 BC), which refers to it as an established institution." It is good the institution has been abolished.
It is good that our thinking has evolved to recognize the inhumanity of one human owning another.
And it is good that this morning the sun shines on paradise. Somewhere in the distance a lawn mower whines, pushed no doubt by a man humming to himself a tune with roots buried deep in the soils built upon the labours of his ancestors. A man whose forbears came to this island in shackles, unwilling victims of another man's greed. A man who has won the right to be free.
It is good.