I’m flying straight into a tropical storm, my plane is shuddering violently, and all I can think about are bucket lists.
Of course, I’ve never been one for bucket lists myself. By definition, they simply postpone the most wondrous experiences life has to offer until “some random and unlikely moment sometime before I die.”
Normally, that seems so far away… As for today…
But even without the threat of impending death, I prefer to use my “patent-pending two-step process to achieving anything in life“:
Step 1: Decide to do it.
Step 2: Do it.
Normally two steps are enough, but this time I’ve decided to do something which will actually require a few more:
Become a better Caribbean man
Growing up as I did in the more developed corner of the Caribbean that is the United States Virgin Islands, I can’t help but feel like I missed out on some quintessential aspects of West Indian rearing. Not just bathing in the standpipe, busting bamboo at Christmas time, or fixing up supper in a coal pot. I mean a few things that are so integral to the inner workings of the West Indies that for me to continue posting to these pages, I feel like I need to incorporate having had those experiences into my life.
So, that was Step 1. For Step 2, I’ve broken it down into a list of four activities:
Step 2a: Learn to sail
Often, it seems like there are two types of West Indians: the ones who embrace the sea as a life-giving resource that binds the region together and those who fear the depths that divide one island from another.
I wouldn’t necessarily say that my family was extremely fearful of the glittering blues surrounding our home, but I should probably point out that our parents couldn’t swim, which is not at all that uncommon in the West Indies, especially on larger islands like Trinidad where they grew up.
Early on, our parents wanted something different for us, so Steve, our other brother Peter, and I learned to swim at an early age. We even competed internationally representing St. Croix and the USVI during our tenure as members of the St. Croix Dolphins Swim Team.
Still, while I may have grown up without a fear of water, I never really had much opportunity to explore its reaches either.
Step 2b: Learn to fish
Again, this task returns to the bounty beyond the beaches, but this time, I want to explore what comes from below.
I have this memory, colored by time and skewed by childhood eyes I’m sure, where my father wakes me before dawn and we head out under cover of night to fish.
Who knows how old I am in this memory, but my father, who is by all measurements a large man at 6’7″ seemed to be towering over the horizon—a massive black silhouette against the orange-yellow first rays of day.
I remember him prowling the surf attuned to the inky waves still laying in the shadows of night with netting dangling from his fingers. He was wearing a t-shirt, shorts, and sandals—his bare brown legs were like two tree trunks.
Noticing something, he’d stop.
Then in a one fluid motion, he’d twist his body into a coil, then release—spreading the net across what seemed like the whole sky.
It’s one of my most spectacular childhood memories… One I couldn’t possibly hope to star in without learning more about fishing in the islands.
Step 2c: Learn how to play cricket
I’ve listened to stories from Paul Keens-Douglas of what a day is like at the oval. I’ve watched as Bajans played cricket on the beach with misshapen driftwood as stand-ins for… well… whatever you call those three vertical sticks that seem so important are called. I even remember this time in St. Lucia where a clutch of old men had gathered around the entrance of a bar to watch a game on a tiny, old tv.
All these cultural moments were lost on me…
This must be addressed.
Step 2d: Experience Trinidad Carnival
Speaking of glaring omissions in my life: I’ve never played mas in Trinidad Carnival.
Like rock salt in this long open wound, Steve’s accounts from his attendance in 2013 had me 10 shades of green with envy.
Well, this year is my year!
Sailing here I come!
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: my “patent-pending two-step process to achieving anything in life” works! So after deciding a month-or-so ago to learn to sail, as I mentioned, I’m writing this while braving tropical storm force winds on my way to Barbados. From there, I’ll hop a quick flight to St. Vincent.
Once on the “Land so Beautiful,” I’ll be meeting up with Chris and Crystal of LTD Sailing School. How did I pick these American transplants now living in Grenada as my guides to a new life on the azure waves of the West Indies?
Simple, LTD stands for “Living the Dream!”
Living the Dream? They sound like my kind of people!
Throughout the process of planning, they’ve been responsive, informative, and perhaps most importantly, encouraging. Through our correspondence they’ve stoked my desire to set sail with an enthusiasm for the lifestyle that’s infectious.
Now I just need some fair winds to arrive alive!