La Vida Simple
The other day, while waiting for the boat into town, I run into Señor Tino, the general manager for Coral Beach Village. I ask him about agua de coco, something fresh, thirst-quenching and delicious. At home, I tell Tino, I buy my coconut water from Amazon or when I'm in Grand Cayman from Fosters--I regularly drink several cans of Grace brand coconut water con pulpa. Ah, Señor Tino nods, he knows this. One, the fresh agua de coco, comes from the mainland, but has to be brought over refrigerated, and the Grace, is actually an import from Thailand and not available here. We talk about the logistics of bringing over a fresh case of agua de coco when he goes to La Ceiba for the weekend, and then Tino holds up a broad hand and says,
“I think I have a solution for you." When I come back from town later that day, there are ten fresh green coconuts on my screen porch and a dark-blade machete leaning up against the door.
I realize the wisdom of Tino, and smile at my slow transition to a life more simple. In our yard, in the hundreds of acres of Coral Beach, there is an abundant supply of fresh jelly coconuts. Funny that it took so long for me to make the connection between putting my mouth where my intentions are, closed over the sweet cool nectar of something accesible, local and utlimately, simple.
In the States we strive for or at least talk about aspiring to a life that is less cluttered, less frantic, more connected and elemental. Here, over the last week, I am finding it. Sometimes the struggle is as stretching and painful as the dreaded downward dog in yoga I am loathing as my runner’s hamstrings scream. Here, the simple life isn't a choice--it is essential. We wake up at sunrise, the rays flowing in through the ethereal light of our mosquito netting and start our day. Our dog Amigo stretches and pads outside to meet up with his island compadres, Lobster and Princess, Bundu, Foster and Trouble.
J brings me the simplest of pleasures—cold, fresh ice water or a jelly coconut with a straw poking out of the top. When the kids get up, they're hungry, and they eat well. Thick pancakes off the griddle or orange-yolked eggs cooked in farm-fresh butter that has a rich array of flavors.
We sweat, and we reapply a generous coating of homemade bug juice, since the sandflies are most active at dawn and dusk. The most ridiculous thing I brought here was not my flatiron but my perfume, because for the next few months, my scent will be an intense blend of lemon, citronella and peppermint.
J takes Hayden for a sunrise SCUBA dive—yesterday they discovered the octopus they have been visiting has laid eggs, which means the end of her life cycle is near. Our friend Brad Ryon, an underwater photographer and marine biologist caught this amazing photo of her:
After diving, J goes to work and we knock off a little schoolwork while everyone is fresh. In the heat of the day, we abandon the house for the beach. In our week here, I have been so proud of my kids and their tenacity, their huge hunger for the ocean, especially Piper, who has a reputation for being somewhat of a diva. At five, she is young to be so comfortable with equipment that can be frustrating, brave to snorkel in a drift current or swell, enthusiastic beyond my wildest hopes.
We are coming to know the coral heads of the South Shore like landmarks in a new neighborhood. A certain pair of red Christmas Tree worms on a dome of lime-green brain coral the size of a cocktail table signifies the start of the entry to our shallow trench swim home. We often meet a Caribbean whiptail stingray out by the dock, and there are two big-eyed squirrel fish hanging out around the elkhorn coral just in front of our house.
After the water, our appetite is huge. We drink thick smoothies—whatever is ripe and fresh. Even Hayden, my pickiest eater, is guzzling concoctions of mango, coconut, banana, lime and almond or powdered milk.
Utila Town is a fifteen-minute boat ride away, so we shop frequently, whichever one of us in town, J for work or me for yoga or errands. We go with little plan for exactly what we will eat, selecting based on what looks good and easy. I am learning to browse the various markets since prices for the same item can vary by as much as double. Some items are cheap, significantly less than the States while others, particularly imported American food, can be three or four dollars more per item. We buy only as much as we can carry, and load up the boat.
Afternoons are mellow. The wind often picks up. Sometimes I set the boys on caveman tasks, like burning leaves, moving rocks, or carrying food compost out to the crab pile. We are also fostering a pair of kittens and the kids have the job of gentling them and refilling their beach sand litterbox.
Mostly we lounge and read or paint or draw or play games. We have majorly severed our online umbilicus. Our internet connection is J’s iPhone, so unless he is home, we are untethered. I wash our clothes and hang them out on the line. Sometimes, by accident or intention, they get an extra rinse cycle because they stay out overnight during the rain. I rinse our dishes with water from our cistern and put them in the drying rack. I refill the seven ice cube trays with bottled water and make sure everyone stays hydrated. Because we are trying to minimize our consumption and output, I wash Ziploc bags and hang them up beside Piper’s watercolor paintings to dry on the porch. The first night we were here, our new neighbors came for dinner bearing the peculiar gift of a gallon Ziploc full of ice and Brad told me we would soon come to see what a blessing both items were.
In the late afternoon, we exercise on the porch. The boys are particularly fond of ‘mountain climber’—going backwards up the inside of our open staircases on hands and feet. Sometimes, depending on the wind or the weather, we swim again. Amigo is a game dock-jumping and swimming pal. With the incredible underwater reef life here, the kids are learning to bring a mask every time we go in the ocean. Earlier, they would insist, “No, I’ll just swim or flip off the dock,” but hearing siblings squealing through their snorkels because there is some amazing creature underwater--a peacock flounder, a lettuce leaf sea slug, a sunrise talon shell--you can’t see, it quickly got old.
In the evenings, we shower in water warmed by the sun, reapply our spray, and dress for dinner. We eat early—sunset—more of the same. Veggies roasted over a cardboard and driftwood fire, hot dogs or seasoned meat, and of course, rice and beans. Because our house currently lacks efficient solar power and air conditioning or sandfly-proof screening, once the sun has set, we turn the fans on high and settle into the darkness. Online time and before bed, a highlight of the kids day is reading Harry Potter aloud by headlamp. With Amigo and our kitties, the blessed night breeze and sounds of the ocean, we sleep hard.
Soon, things will be different. The kids' Spanish tutor and our air conditioner will arrive from the Mainland. Piper will be off on her playdates. Max will find his soccer games and Hayden has secured an internship at the Iguana Research Station. During Spanish class, I'll be riding into Town for yoga, work on my third novel and fruit smoothies at Munchies. But until then, we are here, living a life more simple.
To read Part Three -- First Trip Into Town, click here