The first night we were in Guadeloupe, January 4th, we kept hearing different drumming occasions sometimes with call-and-response singing and what sounded like gunshots—all of this sporadically in the evening until 10-11 at night. In each place we anchored as we moved south, the same thing happened, but a little different for each location—and not every night but most, and weekends especially.
Finally, after Desiree had traveled back home and I had been anchored in Point-à-Pitre for some time, it dawned on me what was going on: Carnival, celebrated throughout the Caribbean from January to Ash Wednesday, depending on the local traditions. In PP, there were posters out advertising the various local communities' celebrations: what and when. Each night starting around 8 o’clock until 11 o’clock or later, some local group would start up with a marching drum cadence—but with a Caribbean twist—and move through the streets, or wherever, since it was hard to tell.
I admit I was curious as to what was happening but not that much since it started near my bedtime, and I’d have to find them, which meant a dinghy ride across the channel in the dark and then hoofing it to wherever they were. Well, forget that. I’m no eager young anthropologist anymore, ready to ferret out what the locals are doing just out of curiosity. I need a little more reason than that now, with convenience, comfort, and safety more pressing in my decisions. They will all have a great time without my presence, and I can get some sleep…as soon as that endless drumming stops.
(The day after Ash Wednesday…a good night’s sleep.)
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Occasionally in the morning, before I start my exercise routine as the sun is coming up and I lay in bed absent-mindedly going over what the day may bring, the gentle rocking of the boat and the gurgling, swishing sounds of wavelets against the boat sides brings up this question to my awareness: What the hell am I doing here?
Of course, one doesn’t have to be out in someplace like this to face the question—an ordinary day back at home frequently brings it up as well. But sometimes, being in some rather different circumstances brings it full face more easily. And how to answer the question?
After a few thoughts and growing awareness of my surroundings, I always come up with the same answer: What would I be doing if I weren’t here, anyway? And I go through the list. Well, I’d be waking up around the same time: early, then drowsily in and out of sleep for a bit, and at last awake and out of bed. I’d then set to my exercise/stretching routine for 45 minutes and watch the daylight bring the rest of my immediate surroundings to life. Then, time to eat breakfast. No difference there.
I’d start up the computer and check the weather forecasts and charts, and analyze whether yesterday’s forecasts proved accurate and how to do my judgments as to what I now see for this day and a few in the future. I’d check emails and catch up on some news as relayed by the New York Times and Washington Post—keeping clearly in mind that it’s all quite tenuous and not worth emotional commitment at present but is to be added to my running evaluation of historical importance. Yup, the same.
Then it’s time to walk. I go for about 45 minutes or an hour, depending: at home, that means taking my little 16-year-old Chewy at a speed and distance he can make, timed between possible rain showers I noted on the computer weather radar scans earlier, and routes that aren’t the same every day. On the boat, that means getting out before the sun gets too high and hot, timed between possible rain showers I noted on the weather radar scans earlier, and routes that offer shade at the time and a variety of things to see.
After that, there’s always some small or large project to engage with—there always is, at home or on the boat—since something always needs fixing or maintaining. I work through lists, whether here or at home. Destiny, it seems.
Of course, there’s some type of shopping to do at least every other day, if not daily: hardware and grocery stores or a Walmart general at home; a marine supply shop and grocery store here, with an occasional trip to a specific store if available (my dinghy doesn’t work as a car on the streets very well, so I’m sort of limited as to where I can shop). I like to time my shopping with my dinghy trip ashore to get in my fast walking, which means buying and carrying stuff back has to be planned a little more carefully than at home.
So, as l lay in bed facing the big question, I have to conclude that there is truly not too much that is different—with two big exceptions: I’m warm and there are chances for some different things to see and small adventures to be had. Those are the first and second of my priorities for currently being in bed, on a boat, and awakening to the day.
This summer after I come back to my non-floating home, I’ll shift over to the land-based daily routine, and then plan how to continue looking for small adventures to be had in the warmth of the season and my wheel-based camper van home. So, again, I can have those two criteria met for my lifestyle wherever I am. I just can’t do them in the wintertime in Washington anymore—just not up to it. And for now, I’m still healthy enough to make the shift, so why not?
And that’s how I answer my daily question: I’d still be doing my daily routine, which I like, but warmer and with more possibilities to keep my mind and body active… OK, time to get out of bed.
* * * * *
Speaking of mornings and nights, I do enjoy being able to step outside in the evening—as I’ve mentioned previously—and see lots of stars. Even if clouds are floating by, they rarely cover the whole sky. I had been watching Jupiter getting closer every evening for weeks now, marching down to greet Venus every night, (I have a great view out my back porch of the western horizon) and finally decided something big might be happening and checked on the internet. Yup, it was a big deal.
By March 1st, it was clear that they were going to be very close, a conjunction of planetary alignment that put them 0.5 degrees apart, from our perspective, and then Jupiter goes right on past Venus. It's interesting to think how the planets have their own sequence of what they do. No wonder the ancients ended up mythologizing them. And of course, the moon is a big thing up there, doing its bit too, and fun to watch.
So, I was highly primed for the next night when they would be side-by-side. Of course, that evening... it was too cloudy! I mean, every night it's always clear, or at least they would peek through big openings. But, oh no, not on the big night! A total wipeout.
So, how momentous was this in our lifetimes? Well, I figured that this conjunction wasn't a common thing, but actually, it happens about every year--we just don't get to see it from Earth. Just a few years to wait until it happens again--at 0.2 degrees apart! Yay! The problem is, that doesn't happen until 2039... I'll be 97... I guess that means I'll have to make sure I'm around then. Hmmm, more reason to stay healthy… Hell, I can do that!
I did manage to take a photo of them the next night. It may not appear so special, but in person, to see those two hanging out there in the sky so brightly was memorable. It’s a broad perspective over my stern solar panels. It was also a bit of a challenge on a slowly rocking boat. Maybe one of you also happened to catch sight of the event—I hope so!
If not, they are still fairly close together after sunset in the western sky for a while longer.