Tag: Coral Bay

Coral Bay

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.     

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The Adventure Begins- Tales of a Tindomium #4

And we were off to the races, or at least to Logan Airport at 3:00 a.m. on that December morning after what felt more like a nap than the catch-up sleep we were both craving. But we had sold our house the evening before and were flying to St. John to spend an entire winter in a lovely home we had rented. Let the adventures begin.            Although my suitcase with my summer clothes was missing and I was still wearing the clothes I had been in since the day before, I felt grateful for all that we had enjoyed until now and for what I knew would be our future. We didn’t have our favorite aisle seats on the plane and weren’t even near one another, but I felt a unity with Steve as we soldiered toward a new life.            I plopped into my middle seat, expecting that I would fall asleep before takeoff. I was about to apologize to the two women who flanked me. One appeared to be about my age, the other a speck younger. They deserved to be warned I would soon be serenading them with my infamous snoring. I noticed the younger woman in the window seat was vigorously marking up what I recognized were not just legal pleadings, but family law pleadings. I immediately felt sorry for her, guessing we were both trying to escape from the same stressful profession.            “Oh, are you another family law attorney trying to go on vacation?” I said, without thinking.            “No, but if you are, I’d love to ask you a few questions.”    I stifled a groan, knowing I had walked right into a situation I might likely have avoided if I weren’t exhausted and without my filter functioning.            “Shoot,” I said, and started a conversation beginning with questions about a custody battle my British flight mate’s boyfriend was engaged in and moved on to multiple topics so naturally, it was as if we’d known each forever. By the end of the flight I knew I had made my first new friend. A great start to a new life.            I also received my first text message from an island realtor just as we landed. “Showing the house this afternoon at 3:00.” Although we had a year-long lease, our landlady had reserved the right to list her home after the first of the year, any sale subject to our lease. It was a week before Christmas. In my sweaty day-old outfit, I could feel the stress that had been the inspiration for making radical changes to our lives returning to my body.            When the landlady arrived for a stay in her unfinished unit below us in January, we already had the full flavor about what our existence would be like in a house on the market. Her offhand remarks that she wished she had never rented to us, that her realtor had told her it was a huge mistake, and she’d even considered giving us money to leave, confirmed what we already knew. The house, although lovely, was filled with negativity. After thirty years working in the field of conflict resolution as a lawyer and mediator, I knew the best way to deal with conflict is to avoid it.            I took to the Internet, reviving old contacts I had made while initially searching for St. John housing. December is the beginning of high season and I doubted I would find anything in January, but ever the optimist, I reached out. I received an email from a woman telling me she had a unit available, asking would we like to see it that afternoon. Would we ever.            We took the money Landlady One was willing to throw at us and gladly gave it to Landlady Two for a darling studio in Coral Bay on the other, “wilder” side of St. John overlooking Hurricane Hole. Steve’s slogan was, “Just part of the adventure.” Our living room, dubbed a “living porch” because it was room with no screens and hurricane shutters perched high where we shared it with the birds. We were intoxicated with fresh air and the sounds of the Tradewinds blowing through the lush green treetops.            There were a few accommodations we had to make in order to adjust to our tiny quarters. Just six weeks before, we’d left our ten-room home. Now, we had a queen size bed, a large flat screen television, a desk for me to write on, and a corner with the kitchen appliances, counter, cabinets, and sink, all in one room. In the morning when Steve would first wake up, he liked to ask me, “Is our kitchen in our bedroom or our bedroom in our kitchen?”          It didn’t matter because we made living small fun. On the evenings when we wanted to watch the primary returns, we would cook dinner, just as we had in our over-sized gourmet kitchen for thirty-three years, and serve it on trays, eating on our bed. We had been campers, we reminded ourselves, and this was living high.          When the tiny freestanding cottage below us in the same complex became available two months later, we jumped at the chance to grab it. With a twenty foot long covered porch facing a more expansive view of Hurricane Hole surrounded by greens which provided total privacy, we were living with the bananaquits, who frequent the coconut feeder Steve made and watch hawks and frigate birds soar above. Our efficient, tiny U-shaped kitchen is no longer in our bedroom, although our sofa and living area are at the foot of our rattan bed, which is covered with a mosquito net.         Our living space may be small, but our lives are large, filled with new friends, including my friend from the flight down and her charming boyfriend, a former restaurant owner and chef who cooked us an unforgettable meal at his home.        The mysteries I have set on St. John have been well received by its residents, who are constantly providing me with information and new material. Writing about paradise in paradise is sublime.        May came before we knew it and it was time to go meet the tindominium in Wellfleet where there was no shortage of adventures and writing material waiting to greet us.  

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