Saturday, December 20, 2014

Taking it All In

This wasn't intended as a blog that would be only intermittent, but I haven't figured out how to stop myself in the middle of all this adventure to write regularly. It will come.  Today was so full of snorkeling and enjoying the Cooper Island Beach Club with its beautiful accommodations and great beach bar that I have quite forgotten how to maintain any semblance of work ethic. Paddling around all the friendly fish, even some barracudas, sting rays and again, turtles, it has gotten commonplace to feel surrounded by gardens below and above the water. Paradise is accessible.
Yesterday we visited a remarkable garden, the J.R. O'Neal Botanical Garden in Road Town, which had a bench donated by Laurance Rockefeller, so it was one more piece of evidence of Rockefeller's hand in preserving the islands, in addition to the 11,000 acres that comprise the National Park on St. John, which he procured for the Government in 1952. He was not as concerned about the fate of St. Croix's Carambola area in the 4,000 acres in the northwest of the island, a very sensistive historical area for the Crucians. It is slated for massive development. Then there is Denis Bay next door to Caneel Bay, which is so lovely, where he spent millions making a beautiful place to come to enjoy the island; this area, also known locally as Jumbie Bay, was attempted to be developed by our own W. Donald Sussman, Chellie Pingree's hedge fund billionaire husband, who wanted to put in a huge personal pier for private use on Park Lands. I think, so far, he has been refused but money talks and bullshit walks. I digress.
I have spoken to the writer and horticulturist, Eleanor Gibney, over on St. John, whose family still owns the area called Gibney Beach in Hawk's Nest Bay. She has acquired near legend status on the island, being one of the key people making Caneel Bay, (originally bought and developed by Rockefeller), into the lovely area that it is.
She is a conservationist keen on keeping what is lovely about the island as preserved as possible, including the West Indies people who inhabit it, and who regard her with great devotion, from what I can tell, calling her Miz Gibney.
She and I discussed a landscape project I may become involved with and she gave me some suggestions.
I went to Road Town, Tortola, with Bob, to extend our stay, and I continued to study the flora for this project. Now, as of yesterday, seeing the beautiful Cooper Island Beach Club and speaking to their head gardener, Neal, I have a bead on how to organize this project.
The tropical vegetation existing in its natural and mature states is lovely. Learning how a devoted caretaker makes it all work, and conserves everything so as to make the most use of the resources, on the island, is inspiring. Beautiful material, beautiful design, sustainable environmental use. I just wish they could figure out how to pay the people a living wage. That's another story.
We in the North are used to seeing horticultural specimens in pots, the tropical ornamentals, yet here you see things in tree form which never looked like more than tiny vines. It is much more impressive seeing soaring palms of tremendous variety, and to see agave as massive specimens, for instance. It takes a lot of maintenance to look so natural, but it is clearly worth the effort to have ecologically developed areas than to have the developers run riot, which they are doing in some places, such as St. Thomas. Hopefully I can make a positive contribution.
Neither Bob nor I thought we would settle into doing some work, but it is good to earn what the Pardey's call 'freedom chips' which are monies which give you the freedom to keep sailing. We are in this cruising life, full speed ahead.
On a sadder note, my Dad is in full throttle decline and my great black cat has been missing in the cold Maine woods for a week, which does not bode well. Try to splice these two worlds together. 

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