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May 13, 2024

A Visit to St. Thomas

By Mark W. Swarthout

Roads and planes go ever on,
Over rocks and under trees,
By ocean waves where sun does shine,
On paths that wonder by the sea;

Away from snow by winter sown,
And to the tropical flowers that bloom,
Over grass and volcanic stone,
And mountains in the new full moon.

The cold March winds blew through the front door as we loaded the van in the early morning hours. The driver chatted for a minute or two before we all lapsed into the silence that comes in the early morning to humans that dare to rise that early. An endless stream of lines, seats, instructions, small drinks and little bags of chips paraded through the traveler's brains. Finally, a cold drink in a tropical sun soothed our nerves as we shuttled into a van and arrived, after winding through ridiculously steep hillsides and narrow roads, at our home for the next ten days. We ended the day in shorts and t-shirts with the waves splashing nearby, the full moon illuminating the fresh seafood served up before us and the lights of St. John glowing in the distance.

For ten mornings, the sun welcomed us to a day filled with azure skies and blue-green seas. Colorful fish and corals greeted us whenever we dared to stick our be-masked faces below the constant waves. Long sandy beaches compete in our memories with bright colors and sand accenting clear skies and green hills. Mongoose play in the tropical underbrush, darting between the cactus and aloe. Termite trails trace black lines across the paths and up the trees. Hermit crabs roll down the hillsides, hummingbirds dart from place to place and trees with strange shapes and curious textures cross above our heads.

Memorable meals with new and old friends treated our palates to new experiences and wonderful variety. An old thick stone walled farmhouse yielded a gourmet chef of the highest caliber. Heavily spiced shrimp served by the bowlful in a restaurant tucked behind shops and passages. Even a poolside feast of fish freshly caught by the waiter, and accented by a solo guitarist butchering familiar tunes in a cacophony of noise will remain fixed in our minds.

The stars and planets came down to visit with the aid of an 18 inch reflector, manned by an elvish astronomer. Jupiter and Saturn shared their moons and galaxies spun before our eyes. Dragons walked the earth here, gobbling up the food brought by trembling supplicants of all ages, spitting their displeasure when disturbed. Practiced fingers wove hair into long braids decorated by colorful baubles. Muscular men harnessed the wind to their will, dancing and spinning on the ocean waves. Long haired sirens walked the beaches, pulling the focus of eyes away from their tasks. Others soared in the wind, hundreds of feet in the air, the colorful wings of nylon blossoming out behind them.

The alarm clock brought us back to reality, shattering a relaxed sleep with its beeping insistence. Fewer bags going back, the food for lunches and breakfasts having been consumed. A solemn ride back to the airport, customs and security working its way through the fog of sleep, while we attempted to snatch bits of sleep. Turbulent skies and rain buffeted us as we returned to the Northern climes. A shoe went flat, causing me to limp through the last two airports. The seemingly endless wait for the bags to return to us, all arriving, just one minor sacrifice to the baggage handlers serving to placate the randomness of misadventure. The familiar house still sitting in its now greener surroundings opened to the key.

Roads and planes go ever on
Over clouds and under star,
Yet feet that wandering have gone
Turn at last to home afar.

Hands that work too oft have seen
And tired of talking to ears of stone
Look at last on a yard turned green
And trees and hills they long have known.

Mark W. Swarthout
aka Aggie80 and Blackwood

Originally appeared 2005-02-06.

Article © Mark W. Swarthout. All rights reserved.
Published on 2014-06-09
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