10 years prior, we’d marched joyfully as a group past the rooms, main lodge and along the beach to the very end of Coco Point. Today the same route is no longer an option unless of course you want to get wet. The mangroves, stripped of their leaves, coupled with beach erosion prevent clear passage to the spot where Bill and I were married.
Having debated whether or not to have a burial for the dead hours old baby sea turtle, I carried on, wrestling with the callousness of my decision. But these circumstances were not ordinary- Post Irma is life at the extreme and in this environment, it just seems that you toughen up and move on. With the turtle left in the same spot, my path left the beach and headed to what remained of the pathways by the buildings. While the winds rustled the vegetation- and there certainly were signs of plants returning to life, the rest of the landscape and annihilated buildings appear halted in time. Truly, I’m unable to take in what I am experiencing, but I am propelled by a calling beyond me.
Along the walkway, now on the interior side of the property, away from the beach, there is rubble. Everywhere. Snapped cinder blocks and wood turned into matchsticks. Kayaks, wine bottles- some broken, some still as one. Broken glass, sheet metal, backgammon pieces, a postcard and still the stench of donkey. My eyes are looking and I am not seeing anything, but I can feel it all. Bill’s voice catches my attention- “Another umbrella.” Relieved, I respond “Another?!” I am filled with a gut wrenching sadness. These umbrellas- how can they have been strewn about and left intact in what was clearly a cess-pool of wretchedness?
My eyes follow Bill’s gaze, with hope and disbelief. How can this be the beautiful, amazing one of a kind place that provided 7 glorious days of joy and love? Somehow, the umbrella seemed to be the object that knitted the two realities together. The umbrella was open, handle intact. The panels rusted, and sand in every joint. Bill picked it up. The umbrella was ours again. We were official looters, carrying the hope of the past with the freeze of the present. We carried on, walking carefully in our bare feet due to the massive amounts of debris, broken glass and other hidden hazards. Neither of us spoke.
A path led across the remains of the rusted mangroves, and once we passed thru, before us, were the remains of the eastern portion of sand that makes up Coco Point. The sand on the beach was the same, but there was a layer of dead seaweed obscuring its beauty. The size of the point is greatly diminished and these facts are yet another suggestion of the deadening waves and wind that lashed Barbuda. My gut ached.
From where we stand, 30 miles to the south, rise the hills of Antigua, just as we saw them on our wedding day. The sun is now setting, the sky silver grey. No rain showers this evening, though we proceed with the umbrella. We are silent, attention deep in our heads, eyes working to take it in.
At last we draw close to one another. We place the umbrella between us, front and center as if it was a surrogate for our beloved son who is not on the journey. An impromptu photo shoot begins. Umbrella open: handle in the sand. Closed, point down, handle up- with us, without us and as the digital shutter clicks, our tears emerge and our hearts burst.
10 years earlier, on our joyful day, we stood on the point. Our loved ones created a horseshoe around us and shared our vows under a setting sun, storm winds brewing, six different rainbows, a flock of Sanderlings dancing behind us.
Pastor Moses a local preacher brought his daughter, and the Barbudan DJ, Mr Francis. They officiated a lovely service with song- and then Bill’s dear friend and spiritual guru Anthony Bashir officiated our vows. Anthony clad in navy blazer, had toted a Coco Point umbrella, which after his pronunciation proved useful. The skies opened and poured down on our crew.
Barbudans and visitors alike, witnessed what some might describe as the hot fudge on the wedding ceremony sundae. The deluge made sense given the natural show we had just experienced. For many, because of the beauty and drama we had just witnessed, it was impossible not to look to the heavens and smile in wonder at perhaps my father’s humor, or his tears of joy, or perhaps his frustration at no longer being physically present. Alas, mother nature had put on an amazing show. Most guests ran for cover in the mangroves or ran back to the lodge. Anthony, Bill and I stood rooted under the umbrella, laughing, taking it all in, the wind, the soaking rain, our vows, and more rainbows. They worked hard to prevent me the bride from wilting. Instead I stood radiant under the shelter of the umbrella until the rain had passed and then exuberance set in.
Into the future
And now we have the umbrella- a survivor that bridges the gap between then and now. We are comforted.
Part 3– Finding our friends, witnessing Codrington post Irma, and what a cat 5+ hurricane might teach a couple about 10 years of marriage.