Each year since we began restoring Fish Hooks in 2014, Tom and I have spent more time on Green Turtle Cay. And the longer we stay, the more we make peace with some of the challenges inherent in island living.
Here are a few of the things we’ve learned from our time on a rock:
1) Patience – Having descended from a long line of highly impatient ancestors, this one’s been hard for me. But the truth is, getting upset won’t make the rain stop any sooner. The weekly mail boat won’t arrive any faster. And the job that was supposed to take three days won’t be finished for three weeks — if you’re lucky! Somewhere along the line, you just learn to shrug, accept what is and go to the beach.
2) A sense of humour is mandatory. Stuff happens. Or it doesn’t. People will want to come into your yard to pee while they wait for the ferry. The cable company will swear their technicians “couldn’t find” your little house by the ferry. (But the directions are right in the name!) The hardware store on the mainland will ship the wrong bath tub on the mail boat. Or they’ll ship the right tub – but to the wrong island. I don’t know who it was that first said, “Hey, it’s either laugh or cry,” but I’m thinking that person probably spent time on an island.
3) The joy of simplicity. After a few days on the cay, we find ourselves waking up and going to bed earlier. Even Tom, our resident night owl, soon adjusts to the rhythm of the sun.
And we realize just how little we really need to be happy. We don’t need a car or a TV or a hair dryer. We have books, the beach and walks through town — where nobody cares if your shirt is stained or notices that you’ve worn the same pair of shorts for three days straight.
Life on a rock illuminates the huge difference between wants and needs. You need water. You want a tall, non-fat, decaf, sugar-free vanilla latte. You need shelter. You want a 2,000 square foot condo. We always return to Los Angeles with the urge to downsize and purge.
4) Resourcefulness. Given their size, Green Turtle Cay’s two hardware stores are amazingly well-stocked. Still, there’s just no way they can carry everything. So you learn to make do. You get creative. You rummage for used parts at the dump. And you discover just how many problems can be solved with either WD-40 or duct tape.
5) Tolerance. It sounds like the premise for a sitcom. A tiny, relatively conservative and homogeneous community welcomes visitors from all over North America and beyond. In big cities, anonymity seems to give people license to be rude or disrespectful. Not so on an island just three miles long.
We’ve discovered a rare and refreshing degree of civility and kindness on this little rock. Nobody passes you on the street without a welcoming wave or a kind word. School kids greet you with a respectful, “Good morning,” as they board the mainland ferry. Random passersby will knock on the door to let you know you’ve left your wallet in your golf cart. Again.
Naturally, in any small town, there’s bound to be the occasional squabble. But this is a community that will pull together in five seconds flat to help someone — anyone — in need.
Tom and I have been on the receiving end of so much generosity and so many acts of kindness that I cannot even begin to list them.
As my Dad used to say – the world could learn a lot from Green Turtle Cay.