Monday, June 29, 2009

Reflections on Thirty Days

I have been on Saba a little more than a month. 


In the past four weeks I have become a certified open-water scuba diver, hiked a few of the numerous trails on the island, gotten to know (by face and reputation) many of the local characters, helped backstage at the school play, volunteered at the local HIV community center, and acted as an additional hand here at El Momo.  I know when I hear the conch shell being blown down in "The City" that it's 6 A.M.  I’ve even gotten so I can tell the difference between the wild goats’ bleating and the caged parrot down the road imitating the wild goats’ bleating.  And I've developed a deep and luscious SPF 30 tan.


What a time I’ve had!  It’s inevitable that a long-term visitor would become quickly known in such a small sphere, and having the added advantage of Patrick and Sophie around to introduce me (those two are due for a blog entry devoted just to them) I have met and befriended many people on the island.  There’s a joke on Saba that the most difficult thing about driving here is waving to everyone you pass.  It’s how it’s done—every driver acknowledges pedestrians even if with just a lifted finger.  But walking into town, chances are when someone waves to me from a passing car I actually know who they are.  Add to that the fact that many island residents work at multiple jobs—the bank guard might show up as your waiter on Saturday night—and one begins to feel “of the community” very fast.


As you might expect, things are very casual here and social and business transactions have a pleasant “whatever” quality to them.  More than a couple of times I’ve finished a meal in a restaurant or bagged up my groceries only to discover I had no cash on me.  “Just come back,” is the response.  I finally had to strong-arm Lynne, at the dive shop, into letting me to pay for my lessons.  And when I applied for a library card the librarian took down my name:  “Tom…”   “T-O-M,” she wrote.  “Jud…”  “Oh, just ‘Tom’ is fine.”   


The greatest example of that lack of urgency is right here in my own back yard.  One of the stipulations to my spending the summer at El Momo was that I would design and build an additional cottage.  (That project will also have a blog entry of its own.)  Back home this would have been—at most—a week-long project but it’s just now being completed.  That’s due, in part, to the fact that work has to be done so as not to inconvenience the other guests, but also because Pat and Sop insist that nobody works too hard.  One o’clock will come around and it’s decreed that sufficient work has been done for the day and lunch is in order.  Followed by a swim.  Followed by a nap. 


But last week this philosophy reached new heights:  as much as I have been scribbling away on this blog, I had not written a word of the “Canned Ham” script, which is—in my mind—the principal reason for this trip.  That was partly due to wanting to finish the cottage and several other smaller projects.  Hemingway purportedly said he was unable to start a new book until he had cleaned every closet in the house.  I know that feeling.


So last Monday Sophie told me that I had to, simply had to, take the next week off, move up to Cottage In the Sky (which would be vacant until the 1st) and “start work on your play!”


So here I am, up from the main office area the equivalent of about four storeys, ensconced in what feels like a treehouse with the view of all time, and with a finished first draft of my play and a good chunk completed of a second draft.  And what’s more, I like what I’ve written.


I’m here on Saba for a while still.  There are more trails to be hiked, the advanced diving certificate to be earned and a few songs left to be sung at Friday night Sabaoke.  But if I were to get on a plane bound for New York tomorrow morning (which I have no intention of doing,) I would call my summer in the Caribbean a complete success.


To be continued…



  1. I'm's so hard to come up with words for a comment for a post like this. I can tell you appreciate this experience very much, but for those of us stuck here in uncivilized society it's comforting just to know that a place like Saba actually exists out there. Enjoy it while you can.

    I look forward to reading more about your gracious hosts Patrick and Sophie.

  2. what a beautiful experience. to enjoy life and friends from a pace unimaginable in most other places. The cottage is adorable and the view seems breathtaking. I wonder how much of this experience is going to seep into your work...and your perspective on the rest of your life.

  3. A perfect entry-- the photos, your beautiful prose. And as for the writing, I'm sure you will hear the words even when you are not at the keyboard-- perhaps they will come to you on a hike up a new trail or as you watch the sun set.

  4. No doubt in my mind, due in total to your sharing this experience with us all, that our next warm weather vacation has to be to Saba.

    Thanks for sharing,

  5. I have said it before and I will say it again, the way you write your posts, convey your feelings and you can almost hear, feel what you are feeling, and thats a great talent.

    enjoy the rest of your time there..... thanks so much for keeping these updates...

  6. Oh Tom, you are just the coolest thing on two legs! I mean, you make your life on Saba seem like a movie: Casablanca, if it had been made by Frank Capra.
    I want to be there! It has rained everyday (not all the time, but still EVERYDAY)this month, in my part of Vermont. The slugs need their own zipcode! Yuk!!!!
    Your inspire me to sit my ass down and write.

  7. Amazing! What's next? Rollerblading "The Road"?

  8. My jaw almost hit the keyboard. In a week you finished the first draft and are on to the second. Amazing. What a gift this summer has been for you. What focus one must be able to achieve in a place like that. And still jog and eat and nap and socialize! I'd say "I hope you know how lucky you are" but it's clear you do. So happy for you.

  9. You never cease to amaze me. A writer after my own heart. And you can bet I'm going to be seeing this play.