I went to the Virgin Islands with eithne_erin, cute_anarchy, and her Matt. We slept, woke up, went to the beach, snorkeled, hung out with some sea turtles, had lunch, swam in the pool, drank rum punch in the hot tub, made dinner, read some books, and then did it all over again until sadly we were forced to return to the real world where 4 p.m. is in fact not mai tai and bikini hour. The trip had something of a valedictory feel for me, as it was most likely the last one I'll make there before the sale of the house closes at the end of the year. And although my visits have not always been frequent - sometimes not even voluntary - I found it difficult to say goodbye. When I was thirteen, St. John was my private Neverland. I would lie out on the dock at night, stars spilling out of the sky above me while luminescent jellyfish patrolled the clear black water of Coral Bay below. The lights winking on the farther shore could have been campfires or fairy dust, and the sheltering mountains were paper silhouettes of darkness blocking out the moon. Tropical tradewinds trailed fingers through my hair, and I could have stepped into a rowboat and sailed to India or Narnia or the North Pole. Tree frogs and conch shells and sand between my toes, and the gentle swush of waves against the beach counted down to anything, to mermaids, to sirens, to pirate ships.
Fifteen years later, I spent my last night in my mother's house digging through boxes of old photographs, sifting through cupboards and closets for the few things worth taking home. Next year, some other girl will lie awake and listen to the tree frogs and the turning tide, and I will find some other ship to my dark continents, some other ladder that reaches up to the sky. If I go back someday, the slate floor will not remember the slap of my eager feet, and I will not know where to look for any mark I left upon those walls, those trees, that horizon, but all of them have left ice cream-sticky fingerprints on the inside of my skin, a haphazard treasure map pointing the way to Neverland. I was a girl there once, lying out on a dock at night, whispering stories to the hieroglyphics of the stars. They stared back and held their peace.
Five last days in the Caribbean and jetlag seemed to set in before we even got on the plane. We took the ferry from Cruz Bay to St. Thomas, and as the town disappeared in the glare of the sun reflecting off the glass-faced sea, its shape was already unfamiliar, the iron posts of half-built condo developments thrusting up into the skyline where once there had been wild goats and thorn trees. Life is change, but somehow it still takes us by surprise each time.
Then there was June. It was an uneventful month. I bought plane tickets to Moscow and began planning a trip to Russia and Uzbekistan, which among other things involved getting extra pages added to my passport. I moved in with c_a for a week while her Matt was in Peru, and there was giggling, and pie, and Disney movies, and a bit of rum punch just for old times' sake. We painted an accent wall in her kitchen and I realized that I don't dislike living with all people. Also I read a lot of terrible sci fi under the pretext of "research."
Now it's July, except that I seldom notice it, as my office is so severely air conditioned that the question I have to ask myself each morning is "Am I bringing a warm enough sweater?" A week ago I celebrated the marriage of my very oldest friend, Rebecca Rainof, up in the Sonoma wine country, which predictably involved a lot of wine (Sangria. Hot tub. Need I say more?) and not much sleep. It was an opportunity to reflect that in our fast-paced, far-flung modern world, there aren't a lot of people one knows continuously for twenty-one years - most likely because there aren't that many people one likes continuously for twenty-one years. But when you do have a person like that - a person who dressed up with you in your mother's old dresses, a person who remembers your long lost pets (my guinea pigs' exuberant procreation, her hamster's propensity for chewing electrical wires), who memorized Shakespeare with you and commiserated about prom dates with you and ditched pep rallies with you - then she will be with you always, like the wood rings of long ago summers locked in the trunk of a tree. But it is especially nice to visit face to face, and get to know her husband, and be glad that they have one another. Also it was fun to meet her newer friends and (briefly) sit at the smart kids' table again.
Another week has passed and July is tipping down toward August, when everything will be much like this except slightly warmer, and with fewer hot tubs. I shall try to report back before another two months have gone by, but in the mean time I offer my updated photos on flickr, which while not including any actual hot tub footage do encompass Christmas in Austria, Nevada in February, and Father's Day on Santa Cruz Island. Enjoy!