It is so quiet here. I got up at dawn as I heard the rooster crow. Went back to sleep and woke up again at 6AM. There was a rowdy bunch swimming a few kilometers from where our hut is, and they were already singing at daybreak. Now the sun is so high and I’m hoping the neighbor has not beaten me to the hammock. I was planning to write there today. But I haven’t budged. And except for a dip in the ocean, nothing else beckons. There’s no phone that beeps or summons. I needed to switch that off. Can’t waste the little battery I had and it is such a trek to the charging station. There wouldn’t be any space for my phone anyway. Every other modern invention was securing a surge of life there, beside oxygen tanks and the resort’s only WIFI.
Two days ago I wondered how we were going to pull it off. No air conditioning despite the damp air or sunburn. You bathe in briny water. They ration off a fresh water bucket, so you can take a final rinse and brush your teeth. The mosquitoes here are savvy. They find ingenuous ways to infiltrate your white net cocoon. There’s no ice cream or mango shakes. And you escape the midday heat by napping under a Talisay tree.
I now remember how a beach feels like. The last beach vacations were too pretty, embellished. Sun, sand and salt but with a well-managed 18-degree cocoon nearby and hot showers to rinse off the sand or brine. And everyday, someone sweeps the sand.
But this is in the raw. You arise at first light because there are no block-out curtains or thick walls to muffle roosters or neighbors. Besides, your sheets are damp and your sunburned body wants to find solace in sea. You wander out and the beach isn’t perfect. There were no attendants to comb the shores or tidy up driftwood or dead leaves. So you catch sight of stark naked nature. You notice what the waves brought in last night and how the wind mantled the white sand with debris. You wonder if there were bonfires and booze last night as the bottles are still there. There are no breakfast buffets, as gourmet calls for a motorized trip to town or that a freezer guzzles the little power on the island. So you rely on coffee, scrambled eggs and fried rice, and that there’s always the day’s catch for dinner. Your drinks are not chilled, and yet they remember to cap it with a cherry. You’re now convinced you could live like Robinson Crusoe, long as there is rum. You mumble thanks for the fully stocked bar and the sight of Don Papa.
This feels like 30 years ago, when the beach meant being marooned on an island (except that our aunt made the best scrambled eggs, adobo and fried rice.) We didn’t have beds, not even assigned cots so we would slumber like sardines in tents or under stars, and arise with half our tent at sea, or half our body burnt. There was nothing there except the ocean and a one-room bungalow that could magically fit 50 people, cot to cot. We occupied days with sand ball fights and water polo, scaling the Kissing Rock and discovering why it was named so, devising card games and kindling the biggest bonfire.
And so, just like 30 years ago, we beachcomb, chase waves and dream up games. I now have a shell collection to rival your best. I am schooling my girls on card games and magic. They finally recognize the cobalt blue or the yellow striped fish, and will tell you how there’s a parrot that’s also a fish.
There are 10 turtles feeding off the seagrass here. One went up for air and my daughters pestered me because I didn’t capture it with a photo.
Nothing competes with the stars at night and so they are learning how to spot Orion and the Bear. Christmas comes early, as trees light up with fireflies at night.
I have finished two books and have capped it off with a poem. Just snorkeling, I have seen a school of barracudas and 2 turtles.
Soon we’ll be back home savoring 18-degree temperature rooms, hot showers and a 24-hour concierge.
It is 10AM and my 8 year old has beaten me to the hammock. She’s on her 2nd book. My 6-year old has just tagged 5 hermit crabs, certain that crabs have distinct personalities.
Now I’m going to comb the shore beside me. Find myself a crude, rough and perfect one of a kind shell to bring home.
One cannot collect all the beautiful shells on the beach. One can collect only a few, and they are more beautiful if they are few…Gradually one discards and keeps just the perfect specimen; not necessarily a rare shell, but a perfect one of its kind. One sets it apart by itself, ringed around by space- like the island… For it is not merely the trivial which clutters our lives but the important as well. We can have a surfeit of treasures—an excess of shells, where one or two would be significant. -Anne Morrow Lindbergh