There is no denying that living part of your life on a tropical island is, simply put, a dream come true. The sheer knowledge of knowing that each morning begins surrounded by water and only a few steps down from your patio, is the calmness of a sandy beach, along with the sight of a true caribe paradise. In the evening, we simply turn around and witness stunning vibrant sunsets, as the warmth of the sun slowly slips into the tranquil, turquoise waters of the Bay of Mujeres (the body of water that lies between Isla and the mainland). And then, as if washed in by the tide, the glow of the moonlight subtly lights the heavens above, as promised. And with that, we remember why we made a somewhat, nontraditional choice for our lifestyle. Many have asked me (with a sense of wonder), exactly how do you spend your days on a tropical island? I certainly understand the curiosity, particularly given the traditional life we have always led in Texas. Perhaps the following words will answer the mystery behind our tropical days.
Mornings begin early on the island, generally just as the rays of sun reach above the ocean’s horizon. This is, without question, our favorite part of the day. Living on the farthest eastern shore of Mexico, sun doesn’t hesitate to join us for coffee on the patio or upstairs under the breezy palapas. Coffee in hand, I delight in the playfulness of our rescue canine, as she frolics along the beach waiting for her friends next door to join her and also attend to “nature’s calling." No worries, sheer respect for our beachfront, not to mention Mexican law, I quickly follow her and leave the beach in pristine condition. Soon her buddies join in the morning frolic and the morning begins. Generally, a quick walk along the waters edge will reveal any beachcombers dream… glistening glass shards of various colors, honed to perfection by years of tumbling on the ocean floor. A favorite thrill is to spot a piece of driftwood, smooth and ready for an artistic project!
Adios to our beach buddies, I go in and refresh my coffee, check the front porch and the newspaper (noticia) has usually arrived. We have the abbreviated, caribe addition of an American newspaper, written in english, delivered to the casa daily for a small delivery fee. A challenging (at least to me) crossword puzzle keeps my mind alert, as I enjoy my last drop of caffeine.
Next I open a daily devotional or continue my work on a bible study, that keeps my life focused in an ever challenging world. The television is then usually turned on (yes..we have cable, WiFi and even Apple TV). I dedicate myself to an hour of spanish television, in an ongoing effort to improve on and internalize this romantic language. With a translation app in hand, I translate new spanish words (to me) and I aim to master three new words daily.
Midmorning and time to consider my breakfast options. I always have the freshest of eggs available on my counter (eggs are stored at room temperature here) and several fruit choices, selected the day before, at one of several local mercados. But then again, since breakfast IS the most important meal of the day, I might consider the half mile stroll into town and enjoy a beachside breakfast, while watching the small pangas (small fishing boats), return to the sea for their bountiful catches of the day. At this point, most lobster fishermen have gathered their bounty (I see them off our beach at sunrise unloading their lobster cages) and I’m always mesmerized by the depth of rich color in these beauties. Catches are sold to restaurants or an individual (like myself), can simply walk up to their boat or hut and buy one! If I have decided to start my morning in town for breakfast, I typically will now (as we say on the island), "take care of a little business.” That can mean dropping off some bath towels at the lavanderia, taking a quick stroll through the mercado or perhaps exchanging some dollars into pesos.
When my “business” is complete in El Centro, I typically return to our casa to work on an existing art project, or if my creative juices are flowing, perhaps begin a new one. I always have several projects in the works! Easy living on the island allows, at least for me, the opportunity to imagine new designs without the distractions of a busier life or perhaps pressures that I put on myself while in our Texas casa. While I always enjoy returning to Texas (with a list of must-haves for my next Isla trip), I allow the charms of the island to enhance my imagination. A bowl of glorious sea glass, a stack of collected driftwood, a handful of shells that simply MUST be glued somewhere or perhaps reaching for my ever-present La Catrina needlepoint, the island’s time allows me just that… TIME to create and allow my mind to be lured into a mindset to follow my simple obsessions.
By this time the sun, earlier shining through the beachfront windows, has traveled west, preparing for its farewell to the island. Ready for a late afternoon in town, listening to the sounds of acoustical jazz or the mellow taps of wooden mallets on a time worn, sea- salt covered wooden xylophone, I reapply a slather of sunscreen, pop on a wide-brimmed straw hat and I’m off to mingle with the tourists, or visit with my local friends at one of many beachy, family owned hangouts. I enjoy observing the end of the day routines of the fishermen, as they mend their nets with a weaving shuttle or wash their boats interior until they are free of sea salt, using only a bucket. This is also the time that I might take a stroll down “main street” to see if an embroidered purse or a tiny trinket, that I might use to embellish something else, catches my eye. A relaxing island cocktail or a copa of a Mexican chardonnay is the best way to end the day on this island, that never allows you to take life for granted. I might indulge in a grilled grouper filet, a freshly made salad or, yes, even an Italian pizza… supra delgada por favor (thin crust)! If I have planned ahead, which I routinely do, a fresh caught lobster tail or hogfish might already be in the tiny fridge of our casa, waiting for us to fire up the grill, while taking a quick dip in our small pool, lined with lush ocean hardy plants on one side.
Island life is full, slow or fast, loud or serene. It offers all the simplicity you can dream about or it can fuel you with creative possibilities. It means both for me. Tomorrow, if tropical showers arrive, I will be equally entertained within the solid walls of our casa embracing me. There’s actually nothing typical about life here… it remains full of possibilities. -E