Finding Space and Place in a Caribbean Cottage
In earlier posts, I’ve shared what it was like to come to the decision to downsize from a ten-room house by the ocean to a mobile home, which isn’t mobile, in outer Cape Cod. Part of that decision was motivated by a thirty-year desire to spend winters in St. John in the U.S. Virgin Islands, where we had vacationed for decades. We’re just about to return to the “tindominium” on the Cape after our second winter here in St. John. We are not living in a luxurious villa in St. John. We live in a sweet one-room cottage with a separate kitchen and a “bedroom area” next to our “living space.” There is a covered porch that runs the length of the cottage and overlooks Hurricane Hole. And there is a community pool for our tiny community of five. Our winter cottage is in Coral Bay, where the bumper sticker, “We’re all here, because we’re not all there,” was inspired. We live among artists, writers, musicians, activists, and environmentalists, some of whom are supposed to be retired but you’d never know it. I’ve met real characters here that defy imagination and beg to be placed on a page. They don’t have to plead with me. The transition to smaller quarters has been easier than we imagined, but we were really only living in three rooms in our former home in the end. The other seven were occupied by “stuff” now long gone, or at least most of it. Living in a warmer climate in the winter and on Cape Cod in the summer allows us to do most of our living outdoors. Our porch is where we perch most often when we are home. I write there, but also often take my laptop to a quiet shady spot on a beach where the fresh salt air seems to enhance my word count. There is a rooster who frequently visits me when I am writing. Sometimes he will sit on a branch and take a nap, occasionally opening one eye. Whether he is checking to see if I am still writing or that I’m keeping an eye out for him while he has his siesta, I don’t know, but it seems to be working for us. How has life changed? We find that downsizing the size of our living quarters has made our lives huge. We have met many new wonderful friends with whom we share food, music, and island festivities. We don’t worry if we should be “working on the house” because we rent the cottage, which hasn’t diminished our affection for it as our little island home. There have been some challenges. We have one car and one bathroom, but we’ve adjusted. Our kitchen is tiny but that didn’t stop us from cooking a kick-ass Bolognese and berry clafouti for friends the other night. Steve works part-time a few days a week at the local recycle center where he gets to meet lots of island folk and tinker with items they bring in to donate. We’ve created individual space for each other even in a tiny cottage. The sunrise each morning seems as if it were meant just for us. But soon we will be fluttering those wings we rediscovered and will return to our tindominium on the Cape with adventures planned in Provence, Dublin, and Virginia. Writers often talk about “place” and how important it is to a story. I’m finding that it is the space I have cracked open within myself that is opening me to places I only dreamed about and letting me write my own story.