Gary Guinn

Literature of the Ozarks

Tag: Caye Caulker (page 1 of 3)

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.

Mika.

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

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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.

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Frigate Birds, Part II

Okay, remember those Frigate Birds I was so fascinated with? So I told my next door neighbor here in Caye Caulker how much I liked the frigate birds. He says, you want to feed them? And I say, what do you mean, feed them? And he says, just a minute. And he gets on his bike and rides around the corner and buys some sardines–but these were not the sardines we buy at IGA. They were sardines the size of perch. And we walk out onto the pier, and he waves a sardine/perch in the air, and the frigate birds drop out of the sky and snatch the sardine/perch right out of his hand. So I had to do it too. Like a half dozen times I had to do it. It was amazing. These magnificent birds with wingspans as wide as I am tall swooped down and took the sardine/perch out of my hand without touching as much as my finger. I loved it.

So then my neighbor, Chris, a Canadian and the best possible person to live next to, says, come on. And we follow him across the island (which is only 165 yards wide  here) to a pier on the other side. And he waves a sardine over the top of the water and about twenty tarpon, fish that look like GIANT carp, or maybe baby shark, come swarming around under his hand, and one of them snatches the sardine. Now, the only problem with ME feeding the tarpon is that a half dozen pelicans (I know, I know, the pelican the pelican its beak holds more than its belly can) come flapping over and refuse to let us give sardines to the tarpon. So hey, I like pelicans better than tarpon anyway, so I feed the pelicans.  And one pelican got a little overzealous and snatched my hand AND the sardine. (See video here: IMG_3059-2) Which was actually a little funny, even if it did draw just a little blood. But there were no hard feelings. And Mary Ann actually petted one of the pelicans. And all things considered, it was one of the best afternoons we have had.  And I say, Thanks to Chris and

“O Canada!
Our home and native land!
True patriot love in all thy sons command.
With glowing hearts we see thee rise,
The True North strong and free!”

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