Sunday, January 11, 2009

Why I Write About the Virgin Islands

My first blog about the years I spent in the Virgin Islands described my initial trip to the U.S. territory. In hindsight, I thought it might have been more appropriate to begin by explaining the importance of those ten years of my life ... and why it's important to write about that time.

Living there was both transformative and restorative. The experience was transformative because I was forced to rely on my writing to generate income. It was in the Virgin Islands that I became a writer (for real). Restorative because the islands' incredible beauty inspired spiritual reflection ... and truly restored my soul.

My surroundings affirmed the merits of: a simple life; the great natural beauty of God's earth; and the resourcefulness of the human spirit to prevail under exigent circumstances.

When I first stepped off the airplane in the Virgin Islands and looked around, I felt something akin to coming home; although I'd never been there, or anywhere in the Caribbean, it was still familiar ... and not "I saw this in that movie" familiar.

It was similar to the first time I'd heard drumming (authentic African drumming), as a young adult. I was in the park and four or five guys in African dress were playing to the delight of an impromptu audience.

I was surprised by the emotions those rhythmical, driving, relentless drum beats inspired: as if I had heard it many times before ... although I never had. That day, the drums affirmed a kinship with Africa that was both profound and comforting.

My arrival in St. Thomas had that same surreal quality. I sensed that at some long ago crossroads of time, one or some of my ancestors had walked, lived, loved labored, sweat and probably died, if not in this specific place, than one very much like it.

It was small wonder then that I took to the Caribbean lifestyle without preamble or hesitation. I claimed it good and bad.

Of course, that was my first visit to the Virgin Islands, and relocating there didn't enter my mind that day. But when I look back now, I know it did enter my heart.
The adventures ... and misadventures of a city slicker turned mellow islander.