The fictitious Locke character from “Lost” insisted: “The island changes you.” He sure does change — from a cripple who works in a box factory to a leader among men (and then into a smoke monster, but we’ll forget that part for the purpose of this analogy.)
Just as the island seems to have healing abilities, so too, does St. Barth. This place is magic. It’s transformative. Within the first five minutes of watching the rhythmic lapping of the waves and let the cool breeze blow over me I was changed — liberated and elevated. It could have been 15 minutes that we stared out there into the big blue waters, or 20.
Time is irrelevant here. We find food when we’re hungry, drink when we’re thirsty, take a swim when we want to feel weightless and take a stroll when we want to learn from these dreamy, almost whimsical people who call St. Barth their home. Each shop patron is as helpful and genuine and care-free as the last. And I leave each encounter more convinced that these French islanders have found the key to living fully, truly and deeply. Simply said, savor every moment.
These way-too-chill Frenchies will help you along the road to enlightenment too, if you’re willing to meet them halfway. I realized the folly of my ways our first day here, when I hesitated in remembering how to order “une salade et un hamburger,” and was given a reluctant nod and a bit a snarl from our dreaded bartendress. We’d gone too local too soon, I quickly realized. And I’d put us at a disadvantage by allowing my years of French study to fall by the wayside.
I vowed then and there that I’d take on the role this island was asking me to take — I’d be a translator, a guide, a leader…for mon nouveau mari et moi. (After all, I’d grown up knowing the island. I just needed to remember the way.) And just like Locke, I unshackled my consciousness and boldly stepped up to the challenge.
To brush up on mon francais, I started reading the French magazines we have around our villa, and I’ve been floored by the deep care the French take in stringing together sentences. There’s an astute awareness of the value of adding philosophilical richness to the exploration of our every day lives, and why not harness that in writing, even if it’s just for a travel magazine? It’s all part of the grand scheme in living more fully and thinking more deeply.
Tropical St. Barth is not just another ad-riddled publication to get us tourists to spend lots of money. It opens with a reflective editorial titled, “L’Ile d’une Metamorphose” by the publisher, Jean-Jacques Rigaud, who writes about complex predicaments we find ourselves in as human beings, with opening lines talking about “…the fundamental reappraisal of economic liberalism and the irresponsible behavior of financial marketeers, frequently legitimated by overly confident politicians and economists, whose short-term vision disregards the need for a profound, holistic thinking of the conditions of human existence on the planet.” (That was the English translation, which I’ll admit, I relied on quite heavily to make sure my understanding of the translation was accurate.)
Rigaud goes on, then wraps up by modestly admitting that the issue’s contents aim to showcase the development and added value to the island, with articles about biodiversity, a sustainable economy, local products and so-forth. He then concludes by calling on us all to take responsibility for promoting the quality of life we care about and working for the common good. Existentialism, to a tee. Oh, how I love it.
“La metamorphose est un phénomène de transformation lente, mais le seul qui puisse nous garantir une adaptation durable,” concludes Rigaud. In other words — English words, to be exact — metamorphosis is a phenomenon of slow transformation, but only then can one guarantee change that lasts. (Look at that, I did that one on my own — no guide needed!)
Yes, the French language is much more passive and circumnavigate than the English active voice I’ve been trained to write with — my spell check is going crazy right now with trying to autocorrect my passive voice — but it’s so much more beautiful and rewarding to read. To bask in the language, much like basking in the ocean, or in the local culture, or in the pleasure of one another’s company — now that, is true reverie.