This is the view from the home where I lived the last week of July, on the Caribbean island of St. Lucia. I have been to two other Caribbean islands (Barbados and Turks-and-Caicos), but neither of those was as lushly jungled nor as volcanically mountainous as this one. And on those islands, I resided among other tourists and met few natives, aside from those who waited on me in restaurants or my hotel. But here, at the home of my daughter-in-law Sharla St. Rose's parents Gertrude and Tony St. Rose, I was warmly welcomed by many folks who call this forested mountainside home -- and have done so for generations. Just about every colorful house I could see from the St. Roses' porch housed the descendants of Sharla's great-great-grandmother, whose French-landowner lover granted her all the land between two ravines. And here, in the far northern town of Balata, their descendants still call this richly forested mountainside home.
Not only was food available free of charge, so was hot and cold running water, depending on the source of the the waterfalls we visited. (Although we did have to pay a modest admission fee to some of the sites.) If a river supplied the water, it was cool and refreshing to shower in, as grandson Sean is doing here. I was happy to stand beneath its cooling spray, myself, for I have never sweat so much in all my life as I did on this trip. As we traveled the island, I hardly ever had to look for a ladies' room, since most of my bodily fluids were escaping through my skin's pores. Yes. The weather was HOT! After all, this island stands quite near the Equator. And it was late July. (I was assured that the temperatures dropped a bit in January.)
Here was another spa treatment of a remarkable kind. We sat on poolside benches with our feet in the water, waiting for our pedicurists to arrive.
Although Gertrude and Tony's home was located in the far north of the island, far distant from the resort hotels that line the Caribbean Sea beaches in the south-western region of St. Lucia, we did get around. I was certainly impressed by the presence of mountains everywhere we traveled, mostly in the north.
Of course, we went to the beach. There are two lovely beaches close to where Gertrude lives, and this one, called Rodney Bay, has a soft sandy shore that is lined with several hotels and nice restaurants. In this photo, Sharla's elder daughter Tayla helps her small cousin Rylee enjoy the gentle Caribbean wavelets.
Several days brought brief torrential rains, coming down straight and fast, obscuring our view of the surrounding mountains that circle Balata. The rains were so warm they did not bring much cooling to the air, while they also increased the humidity.
Of course, as an amateur botanizer, I noticed the abundance of gorgeous flowering plants, gigantic ferns, and fascinating foliage. Ah, if only I'd had a field guide to help me identify these tropical beauties! I knew the names of none of them, nor which might be native plants or horticultural inventions, but that did not prevent me from being awed by lush and colorful splendor everywhere I looked. Here's just a sampling:
Margarita also showed me how she stripped curls of bark from her cinnamon tree (useful for treating diabetes) and handed me a plant of a blue-flowered vervain to take to Gertrude, who could steep its leaves to prepare a tonic for just about anything that ailed you. The brown curled leaf was from the cinnamon tree, and even such dried leaves smelled faintly of that sweet spice. Just a few more of the holy gifts of this Edenic island!
When I found these tiny purple flowers, which grew along dusty back roads where chickens and homeless dogs freely wandered, their resemblance to asters I find back home triggered a longing to return to the floral riches of my own home back in Saratoga County, New York.
So I am back home now, and will soon return to my local woods and waterways as soon as I settle back in, after washing my sweat-stiffened clothing and replenishing our larder and answering emails that mounted up during my week away from my laptop. But I will continue to glow with memories of this marvelous island and the generous and loving hospitality of its native people. How happy it makes me feel to know that we are all family!