The Caribbean is good for the soul.
It’s been far far too long. I have spent the last week on the beautiful Island of St. Thomas in the Caribbean. I was visiting and singing there with my choir, The Essence of Joy Alumni Singers. We are a rag-tag, amazing group of graduates who now live their lives all over the US and get together every once and awhile to share spiritual African American music with audiences around the world. Every tour I have been on with EOJAS has been amazing and unique in its own way. But this trip was very special. The location, the group of people, the synchronized time in my life all came together to make a beautiful experience I will always remember.
Although I had much to blog about during the week, the slow pace of island living, the balmy air, and frozen virgin daiquiris were calling me to CHILL OUT.
(This is the sign for the Virgin Islands)
I’m on my flight home.(This was written on Tuesday Night) Leaving the Virgin Islands is like emerging from the mists and looking back to find that Avalon has disappeared. I almost feel like, “Was that real? Did that just happen? Is that what I have been up to for the past week?” Weird. It’s like a dreamworld. I have never really desired to come to the Caribbean. I’m not sure why. I guess my family has more of a history centered travel style. We like to go where shit happened and imagine it and be in the culture that we learned about, etc. In that way, I’m much more of a seasoned European tourist. But The Islands are a whole new thing. The seasoned Island hopper doesn’t so much care about the history - or the quality of dinner - or the appropriate dress code - or catching the taxi on time. Being on island is about going with the flow. It’s about water.
And the water is the most beautiful site I have seen in a long time. Crystal clear. Turquoise. Glistening. Gentle. Warm. The beauty of an Island is not so much the land in the middle, it’s the crust. It’s the water that surrounds the land. I spent some joyous times in the water on this trip! Laughing till I literally ‘peed my bathing suit’ in the ocean with my friends, Night swimming and giggling at 2 am, pulling out deck chairs into the ocean and sipping fruit punch at the Soggy Dollar Bar, sailing around the sunset and singing with some of my oldest and most wonderful friends, snorkeling around a cluster of tiny Islands and spotting fabulously vibrant and fascinating fish, watching a mamma and baby humpback wale swim together through the deep blue, motor boating to BVI and swimming in caves. The Caribbean water officially courted me all week, and I’m head over heals in love. I knew I loved to snorkel and scuba from my little experience with it in Australia years ago. But now it is destined. I will be back. And I will be scuba certified. And I will spend my entire time ‘on island’ ON or IN that beautiful water. AMEN.
The other highlight of the trip for me was reconnecting with the people in my choir. I downplay the experience of living in a brand new city sometimes. The craziest part about it is that all of your friends are new. Everyday you are still feeling people out, getting to know them, learning new tidbits and defining your relationships. It is fun and exciting, but can also take a lot out of you. I had no idea how much I needed to be around a group of people who I knew and loved and who knew and loved me - no questions asked. It was so easy! The lazy island flavor fit perfectly with the effortless social connection with my mates. We sang songs, made up songs, made fun of each other, told inside jokes, remembered the old times, caught up on the new times, talked about life and love and philosophy, and generally laughed our asses off. It was just what the doctor ordered! I had been worried that showing up on an island with all the available booze and all my old party friends would be too challenging for me. It wasn’t. It was a breeze. It was breezy. Thank you to everyone on the trip for making it so memorable and so much fun!
My friend Mar and me on a BOAT.
I love these people.
Singing with the choir was wonderful as always. It was such a relief to get to sing my heart out in a genre that is not my day to day ‘work.’ I got to sort of put my singer/songwriter hat aside for a few days and take out my gospel shoes! We SANG. We wailed. We cried a few times. But mostly we had fun and connected to the audience the way that we do. This choir moves people. It is a channel of love through music that was written by African Americans to cope with life. Each song cries out to something higher. To God. This time my experience of singing was just as sweet as speaking with the audience after. They were so loving, so appreciative. Many of them shared little bits of their life with me: one little girl who likes to swim and sing had an eyelash on her cheek and blew it off my finger and made a wish, one early twenty-something talked about how inspired she was and how much she loved to dance and loved watching us ‘move’ to the music, another older woman told me about her bought with cancer and how joyful she is to be alive and how joyful the music made her feel. We cried together. This is what music does. It gets into the nooks and crannies of peoples hearts and alleviates the pain and boundaries that separate them from others. It allows perfect strangers to connect and love each other. It is a spiritual experience and practice and I’m so grateful that I get to be a part of this group and also my own path to bring people together through song. Hallelujah!
All in all, the trip was absolutely amazing. I feel uplifted and supported. I feel...very sunburned and very content. I feel like my itch for adventure has been quelled, at least for now. I feel humbled and fascinated by the beautiful earth we live on. I feel more inspired to take care of it. I feel inspired by the animals and nature I came in contact with. I feel loved. Most importantly I feel happy to return home. This is one of the first trips in a long time that did not make me want to reevaluate my whole existence. I feel grounded and confident that where I am is where I need to be. There where no full fledged fantasies of running off with my boat captain and island hopping for the rest of my days (well, maybe one that lasted like 5 minutes. He was cute!) But all in all, no one wants to live in Brigadoon. Reality beats fantasy when you are becoming not only comfortable with it, but accepting of it. Coming home from a wonderful trip to a life you are proud to be living is an experience I am grateful to have.
So, long story short. Next time you take a trip, consider something out of the ordinary. Go to a place you wouldn’t usually go. Go with friends that you love who you may want to reconnect with. Do something you are passionate about while you are there. Give back to the local community somehow. And enjoy the natural surroundings and culture around you. Then go home. Go to sleep. And wake up in the morning. C’est la vie. And Vie is beautiful!