Over twenty years ago, I left my friends, family, and some said my sanity in Ohio to migrate to a wild and beautiful Caribbean island. But where exactly did I want to hang my hat on this rugged volcanic rock called Dominica? My half-frozen, middle-aged, over-worked body cried out for sun and fun, so I landed on the coast. Living in my breezy little cottage with my sweet island beau, I thought I had surely died and gone to heaven. Time, which had always been so precious to me, lost all significance as I floated in a sort of tropical trance. I woke up late, went snorkeling after breakfast, and spent afternoons relaxing in the hammock on my veranda. Day after identical day, I watched as big seabirds soared in the puffy white clouds that floated lazily above the sparkling blue water. Occasionally a ship would appear on the horizon. Sometimes pods of playful dolphins would leap in its wake. But otherwise topside drama was pleasantly scarce. While enjoying yet another glorious sunset with rum punch in hand, I often found myself skipping dinner and going straight to bed. Never mind that I hadn’t accomplished much. I was living in paradise and I was in love.
Now I live alone on a farm which is located in the mountains on the edge of the rainforest. Well I don’t exactly live alone. Five hundred pounds (plus or minus) of dogs and a lot of other critters— domestic and wild—share my space. When people ask if I’m not afraid to dwell in such a remote location, I just laugh. I haven’t locked a door or window in fifteen years.
There are five micro-climates in Dominica, so the conditions here at River Ridge are very different from the seacoast. Unlike the hot, dry leeward side of the island, it’s cooler here, and there are two distinct seasons. A long rainy period usually lasts from June until February, and then there’s a shorter dry spell from March to May called kawenm in Creole patois. Of course the rain can get monotonous (250 inches per year!) but to my mind this is the perfect place to do the two things I like best: write and grow things.
During the wet season, I settle down and get serious about being an author. True, electronic equipment sometimes revolts because of the high humidity, and I often have to wait for my eyeglasses to defog before I can begin typing, but there’s always plenty to write about. When it’s raining, Mother Nature runs rampant in the rainforest. Fauna and flora go into overdrive, and I go overboard using all the adjectives and adverbs in my bag to describe the astounding details. For example: Dozens of blue-black swifts suddenly appear out of nowhere to chase invisible insects through the moisture laden canopy. Sweet guinea pig-like creatures called agouti dash madly about the forest floor gathering copious fallen seeds. Like red dots on an artist’s canvas, the crimson blossoms of African tulip trees punctuate the slopes of the adjoining mountains, which literally glow with every shade of green. Veils of creeping white mists float across ridges and ravines while iridescent hummingbirds vigorously go about their business and a double watercolor rainbow arcs over the entire scene.
Get the picture?
But when thunder rolls through the valley like giant bowling balls, and lightning cracks so violently that the dogs start to howl, there’s nothing to do but shut down the computer and wait. Then, just when I’m about to go stir-crazy, the sun pops out and my soggy world brightens.
The moment the dry season returns, I head for the garden. Crops that are drowned out at other times of the year thrive during the brilliant days and clear nights of kawenm. Drenched by early morning dew and kissed by afternoon sun, fruits and vegetables reach enormous size and bananas ripen to an unprecedented shade of gold. Yet beyond the fact that there’s plenty of crystal-clear water to drink and home-grown organic food to eat, there’s also a sense of peacefulness here at River Ridge; there’s the feeling of being at home. As I lay in my hammock on a clear night and watch the stars and planets roll across the sky untroubled by noise or light pollution, I realize that I’m exactly where I need to be at the present moment.
© Kristine Simelda 2016