i wrote the ending.

i wrote the ending, but accidentally deleted it somehow.

i suppose that’s just right.

love.

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i must finish this. #saba

In the past few days, when I know my mother wants to read more, and people are messaging me telling me they are following this story, I feel resistance to write.  My journal sits open, but I’m clearly too busy, or don’t want to finish this story.  My friends are probably tired of my wide eyed stories that start with, “When I was on Saba,…”

All of the blog posts live on the blog (the last five?) , and you can scroll back.  I wanted a vacation with beaches.  Once I knew there were no beaches, (not one? NONE?) I tried to convince myself that I was going to love the iguanas and hammocks at my cottage.  That the view would be worth it. (It was)

Here it is.  The end of this story.

It’s Valentine’s Day.  There is a woman diver on the boat the day before, who asks me to join her for dinner at Scout’s Place, because it’s her birthday.  And, her friend, a  strict vegan won’t eat in restaurants.  I agree to join her.

However, that day.  Something magical.  My friend J. and I meet with the Dutch Mental Health nurse in town.  A meeting she has planned for awhile.  I just so happened to be on the island.  We have a very long meeting with two of them, while we explain that the anonymous program cannot be connected with their mental health, but that we do cooperate with professionals.  The upshot of it is, that next Wednesday, March 1, there will be a meeting on this island again.  Oh, how I wish I could tell you how big my God is.  She kept saying, God sent you to me, but she has no idea that it’s the other way around.

I walk up to Scout’s Place, and see another diver, and my friend K.  D. is a radiologist from Austin, who told me the day before that Saba is the ultimate bucket list of diving.  They have ordered salads, and I order one, while we all three share.  And just for a moment, I’m transported to a time when people sit on their porches, and weave tales.  No one is on their phone; we don’t Instagram the meal.  We talk for three hours.  I ask them if we should order entrees, and he says, “Why don’t we simply enjoy our salads?”  This is a suggestion I embrace, as this is my last night on the island.  We eat a magnificent Greek salad, and he turns to me later to ask if I would like to split a burger. (It’s phenomenal.)

K, the woman diver, is a photographer from Missouri.  Me, from California, D. from Texas. We watch the sun set, and the sky turn orange, then black.  She has decompression sickness, and had to go to a clinic that morning.  We walk her home.  He walks me home, all the way up the road to El Momo.  I asked him what about a taxi to the Queen’s Garden, where he is is staying, and is quite the hike from Windwardside.  He says he enjoys walking. He walked here, and he will walk back.  The three of us share a goodbye, this moment on the Caribbean Sea, that can never be replicated. Again, I turn, and I will never see these friends again.

That night, I meet Joan.  Joan and J. are friends, and she has been painting the murals in Saba.  She is there from the states.  She tells me about how she fell in love and married on this island, that she has a daughter who was born in St. Maarten.  I have seen her work, and it is lovely.  You can tell that she is in love with this place.

February 15:  I wake.  To pack.  I have mixed feelings.  On the one hand from the 3am torture and the Gift From the Sea, to the eventual falling in love with this place.  The people.  The Sea.  The cottage that makes my legs scream with 70 steps to the sky, then 30 more to my Kokopelli Cottage.  I go see Jo, a Glass Blower on Saba.  We have made a quick friendship, and she lets me get the bead I’ve blown a few days ago.  I have spent so much time with her.  We vow to stay in contact.

The taxi driver comes to get me.  Joan gets in the car.  The night before, she laughed at how I found this place.  By googling “Beaches For Women”, and by the end of the conversation, it is clear that I did not get to Saba by accident.  That somehow, that night in December, I was supposed to go here.

And she hands me this print of hers.  She writes:

For Linda with love and beaches in your future. ~Joan Bourque 

I pack it gently as I head to St. Maarten.  I never saw an iguana.  There were no hammocks. But oh.  This island.  It seeped into my heart, and as we drive to the airport, I feel a familiar tug in my chest.  I look back to see Windwardside, but I am on The Road.  There is nothing for me to see.  Saba, it’s people, it’s fauna and flora, seem to be whispering to me.  I can’t tell what it is, but  I won’t hear it until I get to St. Maarten.

Think you’re escaping and run into yourself.

It’s 3am on Valentine’s Day.

This is the day I did not want to write about.  It’s not really about Saba.  It’s about meeting myself.

I leave the meeting of like minded fellows, of which there are four of us.  I had gone snorkeling that day.  Swam with a Sea Turtle.  A barracuda, who eyed me suspiciously.  I had done the whole “leave your phone behind” thing, but now wish I could have captured the BLUE BLUE BLUE of the Caribbean Sea surrounding Saba.  I couldn’t look away from the COLOR.

On this boat were five divers, and four snorkelers.  We head out to the Bay, and for the first time in 25 years, I am underwater, and I cannot stop.  I cannot stop looking. I don’t want to come up for air.

On this ride, however, I had a can of Pringles.  That’s it.  That night, I had a bag of sweet potato chips.  That’s it.  And some herbal tea.

It’s 3am.  I have been battling ants and anger and bugs for 4 hours.  And hurting.  And lonely.  I called United.  I called my sponsor.  How do I get off this island?  GET ME HOME!  I was crazy.  Truly.  I need my people.  I need to re-engage with my life and my energy!! I finally reactivated Facebook, saying, listen, if these are fake friendships, then let me have them.  I don’t give a shit.

I am not alone.   But I am.  Then, this quote by James Joyce:

“Think you’re escaping and run into yourself.  Longest way round is the shortest way home.”

It’s the only way.  The long way.  I had to come 3600 miles to face the woman that I am.  I am not alone.  Here’s something.  I saw this beautiful piece of jewelry on my friend Jo, and I said, I can’t wear that, because I have a bad neck, and she says, “You don’t have a bad neck, you have a bad head.”


This is my thought running through my head at 3am.  My head.

I finally, gratefully, fall asleep at 4am.  I miss the morning rain that everyone is raving about at breakfast.  However.  I’ve had my own storm.  And just like the morning after.  I am at peace.

Finally. Peace.

I wake in the morning, and buy the necklace.

saba love letters

How is this my fifth blog post and only my second day in Saba?

From yesterday:  S and I find the road.  The road!  We are high fiving like we won the lottery, which is sort of true.  Because who wants to be stranded on a cliff overnight with black racer snakes?  These are things running through my head as I finally see a car.  We head down the road toward The Queens Hotel.  We decide we shall celebrate with something cold!

As we walk in, this beautiful girl points us to the bar.  We need to be at Steak Night at 6, for reservations with J, my new best friend on this island.  The two of us going over and over our last three hours! The bartender tries to call us a cab, but they are all at the airport, so S. and I must hitchhike to Windwardside.  We start walking, and put out our thumb.

This girl drives up–the girl from the hotel.  A man is driving.  Both of these humans are amazingly stunning.  They pick us up, and it turns out that he is the Island Secretary.  She is his daughter.  And because truth is stranger than fiction, just like that, we have our personal escort who tells the story of how he came to Saba with his beautiful family.  He takes us on a tour of the whole island, in which we do finally get to see “beaches for women” on Well’s Bay.  Simply. Gorgeous.  (Photo cred to my friend S, as I did not have my phone, remember?)

How is it that I am eating the best steak ever grilled?  I am on Diet Coke and Steak, in a bar with license plates from all over the world.  I eat. Every bite.  I sleep.  Deliciously.

Finally…it is day 3 on Saba.

I wake with this thought:  How could today top yesterday?

I sit here overlooking the Caribbean Sean and wonder how I ever missed this place?  How did I not know this place existed?  Then, I realize how many other places I am missing.  Today is Monday, and yesterday was the most interesting and wonderful day.  I am eating everything, but am filled with delight.

When I get back, there will be time for diets and workouts, but today is homemade yoghurt, and a massage and snorkeling and the pool, and an anonymous meeting. Or maybe the massage will have to wait (it did). I don’t think I can judge what will happen.

This homemade yoghurt with granola and honey is divine.  I am enjoying every bite.  The juice is some type of orange-pineapple. The little slices of fruit and the table all my own.  So peaceful.  But.  More coffee, and More coffee.  I am reading Wild today. I walk downtown and hear the new cover of Country Roads. And I realize I have not played music.  Not one time.  Me. A lover of all genres, and my phone has been silent.  But. The incessant chickens are music enough, I guess.  And I am getting used to the quiet.

Every day I should love all the way.  Blow through my entire reserve of love.

This is my thought and prayer for the day.  Saba is finding the way back to who I used to be.  I want to go shop, but I cannot imagine having to walk up and then go down The Road again.

I meet more Dutch people who want to know the names:  Plooy.  Vermeuelen.  I spell them out on my journal page for my new cottage neighbors who again ask me about my Dutch heritage (I’m not!) But. I give in.  Then this.

The Dutch! The Dutch!  I cannot miss my old life in Ripon, but I am flooded of memories of when I loved it there.  When I was raising babies.  And I have selective recall, but I am feeling love.  LOVE of a place that I ran from three years ago.

Cheryl writes:  I was ravenous for love.

I listen finally to U2 Joshua Tree, and am back in 1981 with my first husband. Where the streets have no name.  With or without you. I can’t live.

Today, I snorkel and swim with a sea turtle and a barracuda, who eyes me suspiciously.  I meet divers who come from all over the world to dive here.  I am tired, but filled.

in which i left my phone in my room

Everyone told me–leave your phone in your room when you are on Saba.  You must disconnect completely.  No texts, photos, nothing.  I think the last time I did that, it was probably an accident, or it was 2007.

The first blog posts about this trip live here:  the back story, one day in Saba, early day 2, and more of day 2.  I don’t know why it’s taking me so long to digest this trip, but suffice it to say, it was life altering.  I can’t believe I’m still on Day 2, but I am.  After spending time with my two guides yesterday, I realized that this trip moved me moment by moment.  One of them remarked when I walked in the room, that there was no heaviness in my energy.  Wow.

I walked to the house below my cottages, to find a woman who would be my guide the rest of the week.  I finally found someone with whom to share my story, and she hers.  According the her, there were meetings on the island a long time ago, and because it’s her story, I will just say that…there are no longer meetings for a variety of reasons.  We agreed to meet up with some other fellows later in the week, and she encouraged me to go and see the Windwardside of Saba.

I walked down a very steep hill. I rest in a little hut on the side. A fellow walking up the hill sort of slows down and we exchange greetings.  He says there is no snorkeling today, so he is headed up to get water.  And he is not hiking Mt. Scenery today, but the Sandy Cruz trail, and would I like to join him.  For a moment, I am on California alert, but I recall hearing there is no crime on the island.  We head to the Trail Shop and Sea Saba, where I overhear him talking with the proprietors, and his credentials check out.  He is not an ax murderer.


We take a cab over to Hell’s Gate for the start of the trail.  It’s beautiful.  It’s lush.  I keep stopping every few minutes to just take it all in.  He is ahead of me.  He has granola and Girl Scout cookies.  Because I hadn’t planned on hiking, I actually picked up a $10 backpack in the store.  My parents had given me a gorgeous pack for the trip, and I had wished I had it.  We had several options, as listed here.  On this map, we are hiking trail number 7.

trail-map-950x800.jpg

I have no phone.  He has no service.  I see two black racer snakes.  Luckily for me, I had read up on the wildlife in the area, and knew they were harmless.  All of a sudden, we are hiking toward the ocean, and not around the island, and for several minutes, we both were smallishly nervous that we had jumped the trail.  Ultimately, we found we were headed in the right direction, after orienting ourselves with a compass.  Remember, I have no phone, but he took and sent me pictures.

We finally see a car.  We get to a road.  We are high fiving as if we have just finished a marathon, which we really had.  The relief was palpable.

We head down to Queen’s Hotel to get something to drink.  He a beer, me a Diet Coke. There is a girl who is the hostess who directs us.  We ask the bartender to get us a taxi.  After several minutes, he comes back to explain that they are all at the airport, and we will have to get to Steak Night at the Swinging Doors by hitchhiking.  They say everyone does it on the island.  When in Rome…

We stick out our thumbs.

self reflection over. i venture out. (day 2 Saba)

A Saban dance hall, a pizza, a good night’s sleep and still.  This day 2 hasn’t even started.

When I was a child, I enjoyed rainy days.  Forced inside-ness.  While everyone was complaining about the weather, I secretly loved being made to play Monopoly, sit by the fire, and have my Mom’s grilled cheese-tomato soup combo.  My personality longed to practice cursive writing and play cards.  Everyone was excited that the sun came out behind the clouds.  Everyone, but me.

“But the afternoon is opening up (post 50 years old), intellectual, cultural, spiritual activities that were pushed aside…” I read this just now.

“Even between the closest human beings, infinite distances continue to exist.  A wonderful living side by side can grow up if they succeed in loving the distance in them which makes it possible for each to see the other whole and against a wide sky.” (I am still quoting and writing Gift From the Sea in my Saba morning, day 2.  My long story on Saba started here, and on Day 1 and Day 2.

“On this island, I have had space.  Paradoxically, in this limited area, space has been forced upon me.”

This is me this morning.  Forced space.  “We cannot afford the luxury of silence-we must exam every available instant with conversation.”

Out of the welter of life, a few people are selected for use by the accident of temporary confinement in the same circle:  So far:

  • Michael, an MIT grad living in San Francisco, traveling east to meet his love, whom he met in college.
  • The elderly couple-a gay funeral director and his partner, a court reporter.  Much loving conversation about our politics and our country, and I want to get in their suitcase and go to St. Maarten with them.
  • Florida man:  DISCONNECT! DISCONNECT!  OK!
  • Anguilla cranky old man who has to go to New York now, and shovel snow.
  • K-an athlete on Saba, a Doctor who teaches at the University, Edwin who has my ex-husband’s name.

And all the while, people greet me VERMEULEN!  Because my last name is Dutch, they think I speak Dutch, and talk to me in Dutch, and after awhile I give up.  I eat Stroopwaffles on the plane, and give in to my borrowed Dutch heritage.

I am not Dutch.

“Plenty of solitude, and a sudden panic at how to fill it.”

My host tells me about church, about steak night at The Swinging Doors. I ask him about a lady whose number I have as a contact.  He says, you’re in luck.  She lives right below us.

I leave my phone in my room, and venture to town.  I’m in luck.  She is right there.

It wasn’t even noon yet. Day 2, am.

saba

This really happened.  Day 2 in my Saba journey.

I want to be really clear.  Saba is wonderful, magical, stunning.  But.  I didn’t go there for anything but to find my core.  Initially, I wanted a vacation.  I wrote about Day 1 here. Then, when I found out there were really no beaches in Saba, I knew that I would be going to deal with the alone-ness.  I wanted to travel, but I didn’t want to wait for a relationship to do that.  I insisted that I could do this by myself.

I am in an anonymous program, and I called ahead to see if there were meetings there.  I heard nothing.  I didn’t realize I needed to call the Caribbean version, not the USA office.  Nonetheless, I emailed the owner of my cottage, and he said that alcohol is a way of life on Saba, and that there were no problems there.  I panicked.  However, being here a very long time, I knew that my people and God would sustain me one this one week in Saba.

The second day, I woke with sadness.  Like, this wasn’t the life I wanted.  The quiet.  That even though I was alone, I still wanted to share a fun life-either with someone or with friends.  But this ALONE time didn’t make me feel more connected, but less.  It also made me acutely aware that I missed people.  That I was having the same feeling looking at Instagram that I had in those weeks before leaving Facebook.  A separateness, not a togetherness.

So.  What was I going to do?  I don’t drink, I am not dating, and have shirked off all potential suitors.  (Weeks before I told my sponsor that I would really like a relationship, and she said, let’s first get you to commit to the same meetings every week.) I didn’t like my hair, I was beating up on my skin, and I was missing my son.  This is what I woke to on the second day of Saba.

And the chickens.  The roosters.  They had been crowing for an hour, and the moon was out.  The island was cool.  I liked it, from a purely hiking and activity point of view.  The Sea was magnificent as I watched it in the morning.  Watching the sun rise over the mountain was stunning.  I knew I was here for some reason. And then maybe the reason was simply not to have a grand plan.  That’s it.  Nothing more.  Just a trip.

That I was insignificant.

And. There it was.  I was writing, and the tears started to stream down my face.  That I didn’t matter.  That I was unimportant.  I started reading Gift From The Sea. I thought my feelings were different.

She says:

  • What is the shape of my life.
  • What is my obligation to man and the world?
  • How do I remain whole in the midst of distractions?
  • How do I balance solitude & communion?
  • I must retreat and return.
  • I shall ask in my shell only those friends whom I can be completely honest.
  • I am shedding hypocrisy in human relationships.

Then I stopped copying notes from the book, and wrote:  “I really like this pen!  Thank you to whomever designed it!”  I suddenly had the awareness that someone’s LIFE’S WORK was in this pen, and I should be grateful.  More Gift:

  • Existing in the present.
  • We are all, in the last analysis, alone.
  • How one avoids being alone. It seems to imply rejection & unpopularity.
  • We choke the space with continuous music, chatter, companionship.  When the noise stops there is no inner music to take it’s place.

I kept killing ants and apologizing at this point.

  • When is one is a stranger to oneself, one is a stranger to men.
  • The core can be found through solitude.

I was finding in the moment that all of a sudden I didn’t care about what others think I should care about.  The hiking here, or going in the water.  That I wanted to make this trip seem important by doing those things.  To please others. Again!  As if going in my core wasn’t enough.  Wasn’t big on its own.  And it was.  It is.

I ate dried organic mango, raw almonds.  I had my pen & paper.  I had water.  And I had this sunrise.

Solitude.  It wasn’t even noon yet.

It is Sunday on Saba, and I have written and read a whole book.  It is a true housecleaning. And I had no idea what was up ahead.