Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Homage to Vieques



From 1941 to 2003, the US Navy used it for target practice. I remember walking into work in 2003 and seeing Panama and others who had spent years fighting the bombs dance in a circle celebrating the end assault on the little island just off the Puerto Rico mainland.



Today the bombs are a memory, leaving shells and undeveloped land behind.  This tiny island   is not just a space surrounded by Caribbean and the Atlantic, just East of Cuba, Haiti and the Dominican Republic. It is a place in between ideas and worlds.  Sitting North of Valenzuela and Southeast of Florida, today it thankfully feels like a part of modern world, though for ages it was a first stop. 

After a week sitting in your lush hills, it is worth saying thank you for all you are and all you shared.

Thank you for your banana flowers, mangrove and mango trees, lush and lyrical out of time, or a line from a Gabriel Garcia Marquez novel. 

Thank you for the 375 year old Celba Tree born well before Jefferson or the US still overlooking the Atlantic and the Mosquito Pier where kids found star fish.

Thank you for the Gringo Beach where horses roam, families revel and we found green, brown, white and blue sea glass.

Thank you for the Green Beach where we snorkeled and played in the rocks overlooking the boats and the palm trees. 

Thank you for the windy roads with potholes and wild horses wandering, roaming free, friends with space to revel in their own self determination, unlike the US plains where such activity is considered a nuisance and horses are seen as a problem to be taken care of.

Thank you for the old dogs who wander, making friends in the streets and the years.  One particular friend used to sit and smile meandering to and from like he owned the place, ambling up to us like a king from another age.

Thank you for the old church with lush trees, overlooking the ocean, with horses rushing up and down in between the trees and pasture.

Thank you for your beaches, Playa Caracus (Red), Pata Prieta (Secret), and Playa Plata (Orchid Beach), some of the most blue tiel, warm and lovely spaces I have ever dipped my toes.

Thank you for the lobsters we steamed and the grouper we cooked wrapped in a banana leaves.

Thank you for the Paella and stories in Esperanza, the beans and rice where we jumped off the pier with the families hanging out.

Thank you for the salty, international Mar Azu, a watering hole facing the water along the ferry in Isabel II.  There we drank El Presidente, ate fish fries, looked out at the sea, talked, and reveled in being alive.

Thank you for La Finka el Caribe, where we swam in the pool, BBQ’d, read books, watched movies, ate pancakes, napped, fought flies, slept with salamanders, learned chess, and lazed in our hammocks looking down at the hills, at the island. 

Thank you for the wildlife refuge, the windy roads lined with the lushest trees and vines hanging in the distance with an occasional mongoose running to and from.
Thank you for your waters where my family and I reveled, Caroline and I looked out and swam, Dodi and I snorkeled and surfed, and Scarlett and I played imaginary games.  I was Rick Van Winkell floating from Puerto Vallarta to Vieques, lost at sea for 28 years only to find my  daughter on the beach and regain memory as we reveled in the father daughter reunion, imaginary captain and first captain sailing across the pool from Florida to Vieques.
“I see your soul,” Scarlett explained as we swam, a little fantasy, but in play there is a degree of experimentation with reality, with who we are, or might be.

Thank you for your skies where I sat thinking about my life and my story, remembering Bob and Panama my other friends who used to come here.

No teaching or activism or bike rides, just a place to imagine as a humming bird floats outside my window, while their friends chirp in the distance.

Today, we sailed back to the big island, where we explored old San Juan, drank sangria, ate paella, and played chess, looking down the streets at the lonely vines handing meandering through the curvilinear distances once again.

When we arrived in Puerto Rico, we saw an iguana in the airport.  Tomorrow, we’re headed back there.  Perhaps we’ll see the same iguana. 


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