Gary Guinn

Literature of the Ozarks

Tag: Belize (page 1 of 2)

Caye Caulker Last Day

Caye Caulker to Belize City to Houston to Northwest Arkansas.

The things I’m going to miss:

The quiet, sea-smelling dock first thing in the morning, doing a little yoga. The pelicans.

Sitting under the palm trees reading, the ocean breeze brisk,  wind surfers, paddle boarders. The sun bright off the ocean. The palm fronds shifting gently overhead.

Street-food lunches–Chef Kareem’s grilled chicken, Otis’s pork chops, and especially the little red shed and their jerk chicken, rice and beans, grilled plantains, slaw, and onion sauce.


Sunsets from the dock with a glass of 1-Barrel Rum. How things got quiet and slowly dark. Bellikin Beer.

Wish Willy’s.

Our neighbors Chris and Wendy.

Frigate Birds.


And more than anything else, spending long lazy days with my lover, Mary Ann.





Caye Caulker Birthday

Muddling along on Caye Caulker, I woke up this morning and lay face to face with my sixty-ninth birthday.  I don’t do much about birthdays. I have never been bothered by the decade years–you know what I mean, the “Oh my God, I’m forty” or “Oh, my God, I’m sixty” thing. Today is a beautiful day, with a clear sky and a soft breeze off the ocean. And it has started perfectly. I slipped out on the porch as Mary Ann finished sleeping and the sun finished rising, and sat in the cool air and listened to the mourning doves calling. The yellow-orange blossoms of the oleander moved in the the breeze. An oriole fluttered around in the leaves, flashing its yellow and orange feathers.  An old Belizean man, his head wrapped in a white bandana, rode by on a bicycle and waved hello. The long fronds of the palm trees across the street waved slowly above clusters of coconuts. Frigate birds patrolled the air above.

When Mary Ann got up, we walked down to the dock for some quiet yoga. The dock was ours, as it is every morning. The peace of the wavelets slapping against the piers, broken by the occasional whine of a small boat headed out into the bay. A pelican or two gliding across the surface of the water. The two of us moving slowly through our sun salutations. A dozen sailboats rocking gently, moored in the bay, aligned with their noses into the wind.

A half hour later, our joints and muscles loose and warm, and our hearts and minds relaxed, we headed out for a birthday breakfast at a new little French cafe right on the beach, just around the corner from our cabana.  They make their own jam, sweet and a little spicy, on toasted french bread. Strong coffee.  Fresh orange juice and pineapple juice.

Now I’m back on the porch. Happy. Waiting for the day to come to me.

Back to those first waking moments this morning. As I lay there in the cabana,  watching the ceiling fan turn lazily, listening to the mourning doves calling back and forth outside the window, the question did cross my mind, What have I done in sixty-nine years? But I tossed that useless question and replaced it with, How have I lived my life? Who have I been? The questions that really matter. Much too big to answer here. Maybe later.

Aside from the obvious things that give life meaning–my wife, my kids, my faith, my friends (all of which give deep and true meaning to life)–the thing I felt intense gratitude for at that moment was the students who became part of me over the 35 years I taught at the college. Someday I’ll write an open letter to them all, because it will take a while to explain how it is they who make it possible to look back on a life that has no grand accomplishments and to feel a deep sense of satisfaction,  a sense of having spent those years on something worthwhile. And so . . . for now . . .

Being this age, on this day, at this moment, in this place, with my heart beating and the air sweet in my lungs, content, and a day spread out in front of me that holds . . . what? It’s enough.




Caye Caulker, a Day on the Island

Today. Here. Caye Caulker, a very small island off the coast of Belize. We wake up. The air is warm, comfortable. We walk fifty yards to a dock that pushes out through the mangroves into open water, old warped boards, greyed with age and uneven, and we lay out our yoga mats. The sun has not yet risen above the trees behind us. The water is clear, calm at the end of the dock and lightly rippling further out. The grey-blue of the water meets the grey line of the horizon in the distance. A half dozen sailboats are moored a couple of hundred yards away, resting in the still water. Grey-brown pelicans glide over in single file, big and awkward on land but graceful and beautiful in flight, skimming just a few inches off the surface of the water. White Sea Gulls glide, turn on a dime, dive for fish. The quick movement on the water of the diving sawbill ducks (Mergus serrator) disappearing under the water for what seems like an impossible time and reappearing fifty yards away.

Sun Salutations facing out to sea in the near silence, broken only by an occasional call of a gull or the sound of a small boat motor murmuring out into the day. Perhaps a voice from somewhere behind us on the shore. The smell of the salt and seaweed, the mud along the mangrove shore, the feel of light perspiration beginning on the brow. Back muscles loosening through Down Dog, Up Dog, High Plank, Low Plank. Blood beginning to reach the brain, the hands, the feet. The breath, the breath in the salt sea air. The Good Life opening up in this place on this day at this moment.

Mid-morning sitting under palm trees in the sand, reading in the cooling ocean breeze, steady out of the south-southwest. The sun bright on the ocean, grey-blue at the shore, turning to green-blue, then dark blue-green before the white line of the waves breaking on the reef a half mile out. Read and watch, read and watch. Put the book away and watch. Sailboats moored at the docks. A catamaran carrying twenty people out for a dive. Sail boarders skimming by. Palm fronds moving lazily overhead. The breeze like a soft hand stroking the face.

Lunch from Otis, his grill on the side of the street, the smoke drifting out irresistible, pork chops, jerk chicken, lobster. The street dirt and sand, no paved roads, no cars. Golf carts puttering past, bicycles swerving to miss the potholes, swerving again to miss the people walking on the street. Cold Belikin Beer in the hot noon shade.

Lazy afternoon avoiding the heat. Sleepy and sluggish. Thinking of swimming, but overcome by inertia. Watching iguanas move over the sand. They stop and look and wait. They crawl, awkward, their long tails dragging behind them, to a succulent plant, where they eat the leaves. They look again and wait. Then lumber under the porch and into the shade.

The sun sets on the ocean. We carry our beach chairs down to the dock and sit. A little Belizean rum on ice as the colors grow on the horizon. The golden ball of the sun casting its orange and red and yellow tendrils out to the fleeting clouds, slowly consumed by the sea, taking the colors down with it. The pelicans, seagulls, diving ducks. The silence gradually absorbing the fading light.

Dark. The breeze lifts the curtains into the room and drops them back again. The ceiling fan’s shadow flutters on the wall above the door. Done.

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