Christmas Eve evening, shortly after I returned from diving, the proprietor here came up to my room bearing a message that I had been invited to Christmas lunch at the home of the parents of one of the women I met on the flight from St. Maarten. Because the rumour mill is small, and the magnifying glass is large on an island this size, everyone knows everyone, and “oh, she knows where the house is; lunch is at 11” was all that was needed by way of invitation. It’s nice and welcoming, when you’re on the friendly side of the looking glass in any case. In my case, I was booked on a dive boat (fish always trump Santa!) and so I walked down to the house (indeed, I did know where it was, having been greeted profusely from the driveway my first day here) to acknowledge the invitation and pre-excuse myself for being late.
I dove Christmas morning, on pristine walls and through fabulous coral formations. Saba is proof that ocean conservation works; its teeming reefs and coral as healthy as any I’ve seen in years is testament that when you curtail pollution, prohibit fishing and limit the number of boats in a marine park, you win. I thought about that diagram we all see in grade school: where the ocean feeds the rain which provides the water to the land… and somehow we humans, in our need to build and grow and super-size everything, forget that the sea is at the beginning of the entire process of our existence. Plainly: without healthy oceans, there is no healthy rain. Coral is a living, breathing thing. It is being bleached and killed off with our warming oceans. It is being choked by pollution and stomped on by inconsiderate tourists. It is a filter for our seas, it provides shelter to the smaller marine life and food to some of the larger. And it is the bottom of the marine food chain that feeds up through the top.
Banded Coral Shrimp
And as I dove and marvelled at the life going on all around me, I was hoping that maybe this is the year that people start to get it; that maybe this coming year will mark some kind of turning point in conservation and appreciation for the natural world. That maybe rabid consumption turns into something more like conscious consumerism. To quote one of my favorite doctors, “UNLESS someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.” (Dr. Seuss, The Lorax)
After the dive, I found the best bottle of wine I could on Christmas Day on a very small Caribbean island when everything was closed, and walked down the road to join someone else’s Christmas. And though I had missed most of the festivities and all of Christmas dinner, they had made me a plate for later and treated me to Saban fruitcake. And with that very small act of kindness, coupled with the power of the Internet to bring me closer to those I’d like to be with, I went to sleep Christmas night feeling really lucky to have found this weird little island that nobody really knows about. There is a cat that visits me in my room (and slept with me last night), and a hermit crab with a broken shell (like a sunroof) that lives in my bathroom, and two hummingbirds that fancy the tree outside my door; and giant iguanas and peeper frogs and tropical rain and a marine park for me to explore in the coming days.