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Beneath the sands of the beach at Gallows Bay, near the pier of our primary port Charlestown, lies the wreckage that time has buried on our shores; the iron, steel and heavy wooden timbers of the ships and the ruins that describe another age. It’s a field of debris that’s only exposed when the big waves erode the coastline in a quick glimpse of the past that appears only briefly, between the storm and the returning tide.

This is the bay of our beginning. It’s where pirates were hanged from gallows and Africans were brought ashore; marched into the town square for auction as slaves. But the footprints of slaves though not forgotten have washed away with the tides. The scaffolding built for the pirates was buried in the sand. The tall ships of old days gave way to flat bottomed island lighters and the vessels of modern times.

When I was young, I swam in this bay with other island boys, watching the lighters sail into shallow waters to unload their cargo by the pier. We climbed the lines that wrapped from the bollards to the bows, hanging and swinging and dropping into the water, then swimming to shore. The boats were unloaded by hand with chains of stevedores, throwing crates and boxes to each other. Block and tackle were strung from mast heads to lift bigger things, like livestock, pallets, and machines. This is how the first cars were brought to the island and hoisted ashore, with many ropes and many hands. Tourists also alighted here, welcomed by the laughter and cheers of children.

This past year, our developing travel trade was put on hold. We saw very few visitors. The ports are quiet. The harbor has just a few fishing boats bobbing on the sea. It feels like we are existing between that brief moment after the storm and before the returning tide. The cruise ships and the cargo boats are still gone, leaving a noticeable void. But in the rum shops in town, there are still old men with gnarled hands remembering old times.

Island life continues through unexpected changes. We are still a growing nation. Lately, our focus has turned from the sea to the mountain, from busy beaches and ports to the hills and the valleys. When our ports closed for the pandemic, we began clearing the overgrowth of bushes and planting new crops. Fields now grow acres of fruit trees and ground provisions; sea grapes, avocados, cassavas and yams.

Nevis has a long history of surviving hard times. Our shores have known gallows and shackles and from that, we have built ports and industry. Though there is wreckage buried in the sand, we cultivated a proud nation. Again, our harvest is growing from the soil and one day, soon, there will be another tide and this pandemic will be another tale.

Gardening joys

Joys of a garden   I wanted to grow a garden but the rain would not fall. I drew water from the well every day but the ground stayed hard, so I waited for the dry season to pass. Six months went by. When the rains finally came it took two weeks before the hard...

Winged Dragons

When the Winged Dragons Come We live on the mountain, where the cool winds blow and the Zenaida doves fly home to roost. We see pockets of villages and houses scattered across the long sloping green that leads down to the sea. From our elevation it's as...

Anansi

A spider crawled across the lawn, delicately treading on blades of grass that bent very slightly beneath his weight. Silent as a shadow, but not hard to miss, a fist-sized grey form upon the green, what we call a Donkey Spider. He lives in the ground, in the holes he...

Rainbows

We have gremlins in our midst. They are little creatures that like to cause trouble; tinkering with water pipes and chewing on power lines. From the corner of my eye, I have seen them burrow into the garden with mischievous and dirty hands. We do our best...

The Old Pier

The airport runway on Nevis runs directly along the beach, and halfway down the middle reaching off into the sea is an old wooden pier with a rusted crane. The pier is locked in a bay, bound by a reef, and inaccessible by car or by boat. It stands in the...

Jumbie Table

When we returned to Nevis after our honeymoon my wife and I moved into our house with a peculiar feeling of being followed. There seemed to lurk a prickly cloud of cold by the front door. Little things seemed out of place, pictures on the table kept...

Pantyhead

We speak our own dialect in Nevis, it is a version of English that is filled with its own rhythm and cadence, and rife with its own sublimated context.  We speak with vagary and ambiguity because in a community of 11,000 it is easy to follow subtle...

Water Fall

We have months of drought, when the earth bakes and cracks. The grass stops growing, turns pale and dry. When the rain comes it falls with an explosive reaction, raising up dust from barren fields and steam from the hot tar macadam until a mist settles...

The Tree of Life

Next to the oldest wooden house in the Caribbean, in our garden grows a sapling called The Tree of Life. It is Lignum Vitae and from it comes the hardest wood we know. It will neither burn, float nor rot. It is a medicine tree that can cure the sick and...

Field Trips

The children had a field trip last week and were taken from their schools down to the beaches to learn about conservation. They were released like a kindle of kittens to tease the water's edge, scattering across the sand while being reminded to keep their...

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